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What I Learn from Marty: Blame
September 2012

When Marty first got sick I wanted to blame someone. This whole thing needed to be someone’s fault! Someone or something had to be held accountable. I blamed Marty, I blamed the doctors, the nurses, the hospitals, even God. I was angry at pretty much everybody and everything, including myself. I still get that way from time to time.

Blame has become part of our cultural mores for dealing with completely unacceptable circumstances. We want to hold someone accountable even if that gets in the way of sympathy and understanding. When you see homeless people, it’s their fault. When you see the overweight lady with the oxygen riding on her cart, she did something wrong. Tell me you’ve never thought, “If they did this, or if they did that, then they would not be where they are.” Too often I find myself wrestling with those same demons. It is all too common that we look at people with chronic illness and blame them for it, and somewhere in our mind our demons whisper that they are a burden on all of us.

But here’s reality, the hard truth. Marty did many things that helped cardiovascular and respiratory illness become a part of our life. Marty did not exercise, she smoked, and she often didn’t eat as she should have. Marty made some bad lifestyle choices. But she did not give herself a stroke. As much as I have sometimes wanted to blame her, it’s not her fault. Marty did not want this, did not ask for it, and certainly did not deserve to have so much taken from her so young.

Does this mean we can abdicate responsibility for ourselves? Absolutely not. We all have to realize that how we care for ourselves, how we carry ourselves, and how fate treats us impact a lot of people around us. We can’t go around believing that sick people are bad people or that a person with a chronic illness is somehow worth less. People with chronic diseases don’t want to be that way. I know Marty hates it every day.

For the most part I have quit blaming Marty, I have quit blaming God, I have quit blaming fate. I think our frailty is how God brands us as human. We get sick, we have accidents, we make mistakes, we break. God does not break us. God just doesn’t stop us from being broken. And hopefully God helps us pick up the pieces.

From time to time I still feel the need to feel angry. Now, if I could just find the right place to put that energy. In the meantime, going to the gym is not just for you. It’s for your spouse, your children, your friends.

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I am the chief caregiver for Marty, my wife of 30+ years. In our previous lives Marty was an Educational Psychologist, I was a call center manager for TXU. Marty has had two strokes since 2005 which have caused critical physical and cognitive deficits. We are both in our mid-50's and have two adult children. This is what I have learned over the last years, this is our life.


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