Seamus: Irish version of James. Meaning “supplanter”.
Supplanter: “one who takes the place of”–note: In common vernacular, it is also refers to one who uses an informal greeting to both indoor and outdoor plant life(….think about that for a minute……)
I hated Seamus.
Sure, there were times when he offered ridiculous, off-handed quips; he occasionally swept several
specific sections of the floor into neat little dirt piles(that he’d subsequently forget to scoop up and throw out,
thereby negating the whole point of sweeping in the first place) and he(to his credit) approached dishwasher-
loading with the adroitness of a Tetris Master to his very last days.
I still hated his existence.
Rather, I hated that he had to exist.
Seamus was the alter ego that I created for Jamey.
In a weird way, when I developed Seamus, I was exhibiting “Dissociative Identity Disorder Munchausen-by-Proxy”.
Yes, I just made up that diagnosis.
I have a background in psychology.
It’s what we do.
C’mon….you know the Holy Trinity has a sense of humor(or is it “senses” of humor????….)
So in layperson’s terms, I made up an identity for a person whom I’d vowed to remain with “in sickness and in health, in good times and bad.”
I never technically vowed to remain with him if he up and morphed into a dirty laundry pile of a guy named Seamus, but I digress.
When Jamey first started his cognitive decline roughly 3 years ago, I would spend a good deal of time interacting with Seamus, the often thoughtless, self-absorbed, forgetful and unmotivated man whom I shared a bed and sometimes shoes with(we had roughly the same size feet–in fact, mine were slightly larger.)
But early on in his decline, Jamey would still poke his turtled head out of his hardening Seamus Shell for a breather.
Although you’d imagine that I’d cherish those times–the times when I’d witness the wit and devotion of the man I fell in love with– they were actually bittersweet.
As much as I relished the quick glint of a underbreathed Jamey one-liner, it frustrated the PISS out of me to know that my time with my husband would only slick-ribbon-slip through my grip, tug-of-war style.
Who we are, really, is who we were.
I am, today, nothing more than the sum total of all that I’ve ever learned, eaten, inhaled, imbibed, experienced and known.
I guess one could jump on the nature/nurture debate freight train and signal the role genetics play in who I am today.
Sure, odds are I’m white because my parents are.
And I have blue eyes because of that mutant recessive gene that jackknife-dived its way into the human pool eons ago.
Maybe in 50 years, we’ll also be able to assert that I’m naturally shy because of 2 deletions of a specific gene that I inherited from my dad or that I’m intelligent because—well, that’s not genetic–that’s just my scawesomeness.
So yes, our genetic makeup, our anatomy, even the way our brain processes information stabs stabilizing grappling hooks into the rock-face of ourselves.
But I think that experience shapes so much more of who we are than our DNA can.
And what is experience other than an event happening to us?
When I was 5 years old, I was blowing up balloons for my birthday party.
I’m pretty sure I could call DYFS and report my mom for child abuse today for making me set up for my own party…..and with a choking hazard like a balloon, no less!?!?!?!
Anyway, my eager lungs outdid themselves and I exhaled so much Co2 into the overly-expanded balloon that it eventually popped in my face.
To this day, I cringe when I both blow up balloons or watch other people doing so.
I had an experience.
It shaped who I am.
“Hi. I’m Kim. And I’m a Blow-up-Balloon -a -Phobic” (“Hi, Kim”, mumbles crowd.)
Even this picture makes me nervous.
This balloon incident happened 37 years ago, yet it still affects me.
It affects me because I remember it.
Somehow, in the vast telecommunication network that is my brain, the thought of a balloon triggers an electrochemical reaction. That pinpointed recognition(“Hey!–A balloon!”) sends a cascade of similar symphonic signals to various sections of my brain to create the crescendo of memory.
It’s the memory of that day 37 years ago.
But it’s more than a memory.
It’s a part of my story, my narrative.
It’s a part of me.
So back to James/Seamus.
Being in a close personal relationship with someone can provide us with superpowers.
The better/deeper/longer you know someone, the greater your chances of becoming a fairly accurate mind reader and psychic.
Think about it. If I offered the following dilemma/question about your spouse, close friend or child, how confident would you be in answering correctly?
“You’re walking through the mall behind a group of teenagers. One of them drops a $5 bill out of her back pocket. You see it fall, look around and notice no one else did. You pick it up. What do you do next?”
Most of us would probably be confident in predicting how a loved one would respond. If correct, we utilized our skill to not only read another person’s mind(What Would Jamey Do) and predict the future(be a psychic).
It’s a skill called theory of mind, and we develop it early on in childhood.
It’s based upon prior experiences, expectations and memories.
What pissed me off so much about Jamey beginning to slip away from me 3 years ago was that I had so many experiences with him acting in a certain manner.
And because I’d cocooned those experiences with memories, I had expectations about how he would and should act.
When he began acting in a way that was VASTLY DISSIMILAR to what I’d remembered, experienced and expected, I didn’t know what to do.
I’d think to myself, “Jamey would never say something so hurtful”, so if Jamey wouldn’t do something like that, I created a person who would.
That was Seamus.
And I hated Seamus, remember?
But here’s the thing—-probably the most gut-wrenchingly, boiled-bloodingly maddening part of being a caregiver for someone with brain deterioration.
Although I’d resigned myself to the fact that the irritating Seamus the Supplanter had lived up to his name, Jamey would occasionally stop by for a visit. He wasn’t quite dead yet…..like this guy….
And when Jamey did drop by without calling first, I’d think, “What the what???? He’s still in there, somewhere! Seamus hasn’t taken up permanent residence! There’s still(gasp) hope of getting Jamey back! The pathways leading to the memories of symphonic orchestras of blah, blah, blah—JAMEY”S STILL IN THERE—HOW DO WE GET HIM OUT FOR GOOD??????!!!!!”
I wanted to dig an ice pick into his brain and unlock the clogged channels that led to the calmed waters of Jamey’s soul. I wanted to shake him or freeze him in time or force him to try REEEEEEEAAAAALLLLLYYYY hard to squeeze onto that moment of clarity until its veins throbbed with permanence.
But, much like Caeley’s newly-cleaned bedroom, as quickly as it happened, it was gone.
He was gone….maybe not for good now, but I knew there would come a day that would happen.
I knew that one day, the dusty, throat-scratching dry cement that was Seamus would shift every closer towards Jamey’s calmed waters. And that cement would harden. And another memory, another experience, another expectation would be forever lost in time.
I don’t think there’s an Irish equivalent translation for Kim, but I can tell you that there’s a variant spelling for Caeley–it’s Ceili or Ceilidh. Either way, the last 3 years have created alter egos, in a sense for me and Cael as well.
Although Jamey’s dissociation from self was organic in nature, for Caeley and me, it has been wholly based on experience.
The irony is, I spent nearly 3 years fighting to get back the life Jamey, Caeley and I had to; 3 years fighting to see the signs of the Jamey I’d known.
Today, I have no idea what that life looked like
. I don’t know who Jamey was anymore.
Sure, I can summon a vision of him pulling into “his” spot in the driveway in our old Nissan Sentra after a day at work, but I’m not viewing it from “my” eyes.
It’s not “my” memory.
It belongs to another woman–my alter ego, I suppose.
It’s like I’m watching a film as opposed to reliving an experience.
It’s as if the drowning pain, frustration, anger, false-hopes of the last few years have completely choked-out the light, carefree, happy and simple life of the first 10.
I feel like I’m stuck with Seamus for eternity.
And remember what I said about the “hating Seamus” thing?
One of the goals of therapy for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder is what’s called “integration”.
It’s a uniting, of sorts, of all the different “alters egos”–like you’re pulling together all of the different ‘personalities” to work together as a team.
The reality is, the person I am now is entirely different from the person I was when life was “normal.”
My life will never be the same. Caeley’s life will never be the same.
I’m a widow now.
She’s fatherless; half-an-orphan.
No amount of screaming or praying or banging in the head with a hammer will change any of that.
And I’m never going to be able to erase Seamus.
It sucks, but it’s a fact.
But maybe, someday, Caeley and I can learn to “integrate” these different personalities. And much like we created diametrically opposed alter egos for Jamey and Seamus, one day we can see him as an integrated person as well.
He was Jamey AND he was also Seamus.
And maybe, just maybe, someday the cemented memories of the past that Caeley and I are grappling with can be slowly chipped away.
Maybe one day she and I will look in the backyard and see Jamey and Seamus playing soccer.
I know Jamey will kick Seamus’ ass.
At the end, Jamey will go up, try to shake Seamus’ hand and say “good game.” Seamus will ignore Jamey’s attempt at sportsmanship, stomp off the field and make an ass of himself.
Caeley and I will shake our heads and chuckle.
And we’ll appreciate our lives as there were………….as they are…………… and as they will be.