Terrible, Thanks for Asking

That's So Chad - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “That’s So Chad.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.


I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

In the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made an episode called “How’s It Going In There?” The episode was filled with voices from our listeners, from you, reflecting on — or venting about — what it was like in your own version of lockdown and isolation. And one of the people that we heard from was Stacy.

Stacy: Hi. This is Stacy Cooper, and I am doing this recording for the “How’s It Going In There?”

That’s Stacy in March 2020. Her husband, Chad, was 45 years old. He was isolated in an assisted living facility while a highly infectious virus brought much of the outside world to a standstill. Outside of that facility — and the bedroom where Chad was confined — we were all worried. We were anxious, desperate. People were losing jobs. Losing loved ones. Losing connection to one another. And Stacy’s visits with her husband were reduced to FaceTime calls. 

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, because you were there! Unless you are a little baby listening to this podcast, in which case, how did you find a podcast, you little baby genius? Go ask your grownups what happened in 2020! It was bad!

But before Stacy was spending a few minutes between 10am-11am on FaceTime, looking into her husband’s eyes through a screen, she was a young woman walking her dogs. 

Stacy: Chad and I were neighbors. I lived two houses down around the corner, and I would walk my dogs past his house every morning. And one morning, as we were walking past, he let his dog out to go to the bathroom and to check the mail. So our dogs became friends. And it became a dog date every day as we walked past. 

By the way, this is how rom-coms start. This is how so many of us — cough, me — hoped to have met somebody. By pure happenstance, preferably through an animal. But there are no sparks at first. The dogs are friends, so Stacy and Chad are just facilitators for this little animal friendship. Plus, Stacy and Chad, they are both already in relationships. 

Stacy: He was in a relationship at the time. I was in a relationship at the time. So we were just neighborly. He came over a few times to help me with the gas or something. I lived by myself, so he helped with a few things around the house. And eventually we were single at the same time. And I was most attracted to Chad because he was funny. He just had these one-liners. And I even at one point thought to myself, “I don't know how anyone can be in a relationship with him, because he's never serious.” I did find out later that he could be serious, but he just was funny. He was so funny. I was attracted to his mind, mostly. He and I had some really good conversations about just life and the way the world works. 

Stacy lived alone with her dogs in a house that backed up to Chad’s. She had built and owned it on her own, and she was so proud of it. She had picked out every fixture, every paint color. Chad had lived with his girlfriend… until they broke up.

Stacy: So we started doing dinner together. He would show up at my house. I didn't know how he just knew when I would get home, because I got home at different times of the day. And eventually I realized that he could see into my back door from his backyard, so he always saw the light come on. So he’d come over and knock on the door and say, “Well, it's time to eat. You gotta eat, right? Let's go have dinner, or come over and I'll cook you dinner.” So it just took off from there. Before I knew it, we were just spending time with each other and involved in each other's weekends. And then one night in the hot tub, he kind of grabbed my hand and said, “Come sit closer to me.” And I kind of giggled and I'm like, “What's this?” And he said, “I don't know! Let's see.” 

And just like that, they’re together. Not just in that hot tub, but forever. It just works between them. 

Stacy: You know, in the beginning, I was not going to stay at his house. I was a little bit of a prude, I guess. And I would always go home every night. I went home, and I slept in my bed and he slept at his house. And then over time, it just became too much to deal with. In fact, we both had animals. And so if I was at his house, my animals were being neglected, or if he was at my house, his animals were being neglected. We were taking care of two households, paying bills on two— you know, everything was just double. And we spent so much time together that having the two households and the going back and forth, maintaining both the yards just became so much. And we were already talking about getting married, and one night after work, I came home and Chad had a bucket of beer and six roses, a half dozen roses. And the engagement ring was sitting on top. And I said, “What's this?” And he goes, “Well, you want to do this or what?” [laughs] So once we got engaged, it was pretty much a fast track. How soon can I move in and how quick can we do the wedding? 

It was a big deal for me, because I was single. I was very proud of my house. I got to pick everything out. I loved that house — very proud of what I accomplished with that house. Chad had built his home with someone that he was with previously, and that girlfriend had picked everything in the house out. But the main thing was Chad had a ‘72 MGB convertible and that was— he'd had it since he was 13, and it was very important to him. And he had a three-car garage. That was the deciding factor, was the three-car garage. We needed to move into his house, where we had a place for the cars. And I was like adamant: If I'm moving into your house, my car is in the garage. I don't care what happens to your daily driver, but my car is going into the garage, because I'm giving up my house that I love. 

Even though it rains their entire wedding day, the sun comes out 20 minutes before the ceremony starts. For a wedding gift, Chad gives Stacy a white lab puppy they name Mickey… as in Michelob. Their other dog is named Buddy, for Budweiser.

Stacy: All of our dogs were named after beers.

Stacy would catch herself thinking, “Things are just too good.” They’re too good! A few years into their marriage, one of the dogs dies. And Chad is sad, understandably. But he’s not just regular sad.

Stacy: His crying was hysterical, uncontrollable. And I couldn't console him. It was so strong. And I just kept thinking, “Maybe this is reminding him of a trauma from when he was younger.” His mom died when he was 8 or 9 years old. And maybe this is bringing something up. And it was weeks that we struggled with him being upset about losing the dog, and at some point his computer got locked up, and we couldn't get into it, and we had to take it to get the computer looked at. And he just was devastated. He's like, “What if I lose the pictures of Buddy? I have pictures of Buddy. What if I lose those pictures?” And he was so focused on the pictures of the dog. I was like, “Chad, we have pictures of him.” He's like, “No, I want all of the pictures of him.” It just— he was obsessed about it, and it was just very strange for me. 

And it’s like he keeps forgetting that the dog is dead. He’ll say, “Hey wait, where’s the other white dog?” And Stacy will tell him, “You mean Buddy? Buddy died.” And when Chad hears that, he’ll just melt all the way down again.

But it’s more than just the dog. Chad just seems… off.

Stacy: I'm thinking that he's having a midlife crisis. I was like, he just recently turned 40, and there were other things that were happening, like... it was our normal routine: He would call me when he got home from work, and he'd say, “Is there anything you need me to do around the house?” And I might say something like, “Well, could you vacuum? And then I put chicken in the refrigerator, if you could get it marinated and I'll call you on my way home and you can put it on the grill.” And that was something standard. That's just how we did things. And I’d get home and make the sides and we’d have dinner. And I get home from work. And on my way home, I'd be like, “OK, start the chicken.” And he'd go, “Oh, was I supposed to cook chicken?” And I'm like, “Yes. Did you vacuum?” “Oh, no, I'm sorry. I just got distracted. I was checking my email,” or “I was playing with the dogs and I forgot. I'm sorry. I just forgot.”

And so I was like, oh, my gosh, are you not listening to me, Chad? Pay attention when we talk! I need you to follow through. What's going on? Are you stressed about work? Are you not happy in this relationship? Like, what's happening? Talk to me. And he would just shut down and stare at me. 

I was full of anger, full of anger. I'm like, I want to help you. Tell me what's going on. Just communicate with me. Don't shut me out. Please don't shut me out. And then he would go in the other room and get on his computer, and an hour later, he'd come in the living room and be like, “What's the plan for tonight?” Like nothing happened. And I would just stare at him, like... are you kidding me? 

This isn’t the Chad that Stacy knows. This isn’t the Chad who made her feel like things are just TOO GOOD. And Stacy knows something is wrong. So she insists that Chad go to the doctor, and she goes with him. She needs to make sure that the doctor hears from her what is going on. 

Stacy: His primary care physician, when I went with him to that appointment, he said... I did most of the talking because Chad couldn't describe to them what was going on. They're like, “What's going on with you, Mr. Cooper?” And he looked over at me and I'd say, “Well, these are the things that are happening.” And at this point, you know, we were still trying to get into the neurology, trying to get the CT, the MRI, all these things. So the primary care physician says, “Well, maybe this is sleep apnea. Let's do a sleep apnea test. I think that if we do the sleep apnea test, it's going to fix everything.” And then he looked over at me and he said, “Miss Cooper, what you're describing sounds a lot like dementia. And this man is in his 40s, and you have spent too much time on Google, and you're a helicopter wife. So I'm going to ask you to leave, so I can talk with your husband.” 

We’ll be right back.

We’re back. Stacy has noticed Chad is just… off. And their primary care physician has accused her of being a helicopter wife who Googled her way into hysteria. Helpful!

Stacy: So we do the sleep apnea test, and he does have sleep apnea. Guess what? Because his brain isn't telling him to breathe! Because he has something else going on in his brain. It's not obstructive sleep apnea that most people have. It's because there's something wrong in his brain. 

So there are more doctors. And things with Chad keep getting stranger. And Stacy keeps trying to make sure the doctors understand what she is seeing at home.

Stacy: I was describing what I was living with. I was explaining to him that Chad thought he was going to go put fertilizer on the bushes in our front yard. And he took Roundup, and he killed all of the bushes in our front yard. He did that in the nude! In the front yard. And when I got home, I went “Chad, you're in the front yard, so why are we naked?” And he went, “Oh, I just didn't want to put any pants on.” “OK, um, do you think that maybe using the Roundup while you're naked might be a bad choice?” And he just giggled and he goes, “I'm good. My stuff is all good.” “OK, can we come inside real quick?” I said, “You know, you just sprayed Roundup all over the bushes, and you just killed them all.” And he went, “Oh! That's what Roundup is for? I thought this was the fertilizer.”

Nora: Ooooooh. 

Stacy: So my brilliant husband that can fix anything all of a sudden didn't know what Roundup was? 

And that’s funny, right? But it’s not all funny. It’s scary, too. It’s scary for Stacy. It’s scary for Chad, who knows that something isn’t right with him, who has emotional breakdowns about just wanting to be better, be himself again, and then forgets about that entirely. And Chad, at this point in time, is still living his life like everything is fine — including a big road trip that he had planned with some members of his MG Club… which, for listeners like me, is a car thing.

Stacy: Chad had already had a couple of visits to the neurologist, and we knew that there was something going on. But they had told Chad that this was just depression, and they gave him some medication, said that it was stress and sent him on his way. So I had talked to some of the friends in the MG Club and just gave them a heads up to kind of keep an eye on him, because I was a little concerned about him going without me. And it took him two days to get there from Texas. And when they were in the bar area of the hotel, he asked one of the people that had caravanned if they had seen me, because he didn't know where I was. And the guy was like, “You're kidding, right? We just drove two days, and Stacy stayed in Texas.” And Chad, of course, just got a little taken aback, I guess, and he just got up and went to his room. 

I found out from the MG people that he didn't remember where his room was. He was constantly going to the front desk asking for his room key. And the people from MG club would find him downstairs in the morning, just kind of hanging out in the lobby, waiting till he found somebody that he recognized to ask them what the agenda was. 

So as the trip went on, I started getting phone calls from our friends in the MG Club and they're like, “Stacy, something's really wrong. Something is really wrong. We're not sure what's going on, but Chad is lost. He's confused.” He would call me in the evenings crying. “I don't want to be here. I want to come home. Please let me come home.” I booked him a flight to fly back. I was going to coordinate with somebody to take his MG and trailer it back, had everything all lined up. The next morning I call him to let him know, “This is where you need to be. This is the airport. I'll get your car towed.” And he was like, “What are you talking about? I'm going to the car show today.” As if the conversation never happened. 

So I went through his car — his daily driver — and started finding all of the notes from the neurologist and the doctor. You know, they give you a list of, you know, this is what happened in your appointment and these are your to-do kind of things? And there were all these things that Chad was supposed to do that he didn't do: tests that he was supposed to get, CTs and MRIs, a neuropsych exam, and he didn't do any of it. So I called the doctor, the neurologist, and begged them to talk to me, because Chad didn't fill out the paperwork saying that they could give any information to his wife. And they're like... the receptionist said, “Well, let me look up his name,” and she goes, “Miss Cooper, we have rescheduled an appointment with Chad six times, trying to get him to come in, and he's reschedules and he cancels, or doesn't show, or is just a no-show, so we call him, and he says, ‘I'm sorry, I forgot,’ and they reschedule.” So from that point on, I scheduled his appointment with a neurologist and I went with him from that point on to all of his doctor's visits. 

But nothing helps, and Stacy doesn’t feel heard. There’s a principle called occam’s razor, which basically says the simplest explanation is usually the right one. And to Stacy, the simplest answer is: Her husband has dementia. But to these doctors, the simplest explanation is sleep apnea, a brain tumor, a vitamin deficiency… anything BUT dementia.

Stacy: I mean, the list was just extensive of all the possible things. At the very, very bottom is dementia. And the neurologist even said to me, “We have all these things to rule out first, but just keep in the back of your head that this might be dementia. It probably isn't. He's way young. That would be so unusual. We're going to go through all these things first.” 

It was at that appointment where I asked if she would write us some kind of note saying that he shouldn't be driving, so I could take it to his employer, and she sent me to the primary care physician, and I lost my shit in the waiting room begging someone to help me. I was like, “You sit in your office, and you finish up the chart, and you go back to your regular life, while I go home with him. And he's calling me in the middle of the afternoon not knowing where he is. I have to look at my phone, Find Your Phone, to see where he is so I can guide him back to either our house or his work. It's not OK. You can't just send us away. Somebody needs to help me. Please.” 

They eventually get the diagnosis… and that’s about all they get.

Stacy: And they sent us to— gave me some pamphlets on dementia, and gave me the Alzheimer's Association website, and said, “Go to some support groups, safety first is the most important thing. Make sure that he's safe.” So I started asking questions like, “How do I know when he can no longer be left alone? What do I do with him during the day? How do I know if he can continue to cook? How do I manage if he tries to get the keys? Like, what if he walks out the front door?? These are all the questions I asked the doctor and they all just said, “We deal with the medical side of this. We just suggest you contact the Alzheimer's Association and get into some support groups because you're just going to have to figure that out.”

Stacy asks her friends and family for help. And their friends are… incredible. They’re incredible. And they really, truly show up. 

Stacy: They started planning Sunday dinners so that I would have a place to go. And the guys would take Chad off to the side and talk about cars and listen to his story over and over and over. And then the girls would take me in the other room and just talk to me about whatever I wanted to talk about. Sometimes I would talk about life and what was going on at home, and sometimes I would tell them, “Just tell me about your world, because I need to not think about mine.”

And for a while Stacy is managing with the help of her friends and her family. But even with all this support, the day-to-day of this experience with Chad is on Stacy and Stacy alone. And it’s just too much.

Stacy: So he called the locksmith after his dad had left, before I got home from work. And I had changed the code on our gun safe, so that Chad couldn't get into the gun safe without somebody there. And while I was at work, and nobody was with him, he tried again and again, he couldn't do it. So he looked at the locksmith to have the locksmith come and drill a hole in the gun safe. Thankfully, the neighbor saw the locksmith pull up, and the neighbor knew what was going on, keeping an eye on Chad, so he met the locksmith in the yard to find out what was going on. And the guy explained it. So they called me and I said, “No, no, no. I know the code, don't need a locksmith.” So we sent the locksmith on his way. He was not happy, because Chad had called him like 19 times. It had to be done today. It had to be done today. Needed to be done now. And then all of a sudden you know the code?! So he was not happy with us, but it was at that point in time, I said, “Chad, what were you going to do?” He goes, “I just wanted to clean the guns. I was just going to clean the guns that, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. I can clean the guns. I'm fully capable of doing that, Stacy.” So that was the decision that I needed to put him into the day care program. 

Stacy and Chad are lucky that there is an adult day care facility nearby and that it’s on the way to Stacy’s work. It’s a place where Chad will be looked after — where he will be safe — while Stacy is at work. But still, on that first day of dropoff, Stacy is a nervous wreck. How will Chad react?

Stacy: Chad thought he was going to work. He thought we were on the way to his office, and when we pulled up he goes, “Oh, this isn't my office.” And I was like, “no, you're going to spend the day here. There will be friends here. You all are going to do some activities. You're going to have lunch here.” And he just looked at me and he said, “Okay!”

So we get into the entryway, and one of the care providers came up and was like, “Hey, Chad, so good to see you.” Of course they knew his name, so he thought they were friends. He's like, “Hey! Been a long time.” So she put her hand out, he grabbed her hand and just started walking down the hall with her. I stood there, again with that whirlwind of emotions of thank God he didn't have a meltdown and he didn't fight me on it. This is a good thing. But then I was like, oh, my God! He just went! He just took her hand and walked down the hall! He's not questioning any of this. Holy shit! So I got in my car, and I just cried, and I worried all day. 

She worries all day. But Chad loves it there. He comes home tired. He comes home sleepy. And he comes home into Stacy’s full care. Chad is still significantly taller and bigger than Stacy. And while his mind slips away, taking care of him — even just at night — it keeps getting harder. So Chad starts attending the day program for the majority of the day. Stacy drops him off as early as she can and picks him up as late as she can, because having him at home is taking a toll. It’s changing their relationship. 

Stacy: He would get up in the middle of the night thinking it was time for work, and he'd get take a shower and get completely ready and sit on the end of the bed. And then he'd look over at me and be like, “Okay, lazybones, when are you going to get up? It's time to start the day.” And I'd say, “Chad, it's 2:00 in the morning.” “Oh, am I supposed to be sleeping right now?” “Yes.” So he'd go take a shower and go through his whole night routine and lay down and go to bed. And then sometimes 30 minutes later, he'd get up and do it all again. 

Stacy spends this time in survival mode: focusing on what Chad needs, his appointments and medications and schedule. Researching. Keeping him safe. Doing these kindnesses that would be unimaginable in their former life together.

Stacy: I will say that the most loneliness I've ever felt was when he was still at home but not able to be aware of anything but himself. There were many nights where I cooked him dinner, but I didn't eat, and he didn't acknowledge that I wasn't eating. He didn't care that I wasn't eating. All he cared about was did he have dinner and what's happening after dinner, like he had no awareness of anyone but himself. And that wasn't any fault of his own. But it was devastating for me. Devastating that I didn't have anyone to come home and just share my day with. Like, he just... his brain couldn't do it. And that was the most lonely I ever felt, was where I'm caring for my husband, and he looks like my husband. He knows me as his wife. But there's... all of those things of our relationship that we had in the beginning that was what attracted me to him and that made our relationship so special to me were slipping away in front of me. And I couldn't... I just would beg him to hold on. Please just hold on for me. Hold on a little longer for me. But he couldn't. His brain just couldn't. 

One of the things that happens in dementia is your brain starts kind of going backwards. Because your brain is not able to keep up with what the present is, it’s still able to remember things in your past. So he knew that I was his wife. He knew that he was married to me. But also his brain had this urge to contact one of his girlfriends that he had when he was in his 20s. And so he would text her and be like, “Are we getting together this weekend? Let's get together for dinner.” And, you know, there were some love yous back and forth. And I, of course, was checking his phone to see who he was talking to and if he purchased anything. You know, he still had his phone and was able to do some of that stuff. So I started seeing these text messages, and I would reach out to her and be like, you know, “Sorry! That's, you know…” Because some of her text messages back would be like, “Where’s Stacy?” and he'd be like, “She's in the other room!” So one of his friends gave me an extra phone that he had, and we switched the number in Chad's phone from the girlfriend's number to the number that his friend gave me. So every time Chad would text his ex-girlfriend, I would get the text on that other phone, so he and I had this little probably for two weeks maybe where he and I went back and forth and just had a little bit of of sexting and, you know, had a little bit of flirting and exchanged lots of I love yous. And the whole time he thought I was the ex-girlfriend, but it didn't matter to me, because I got that moment in time, just like when we were dating again for the first time. 

This is such a beautiful and heartbreaking thing: Stacy getting glimpses of who her husband used to be by letting him believe that he’s texting an ex. It’s the kind of deception you can’t imagine needing until you need it. Because all of this time spent as Chad’s caregiver is exactly what she promised in their wedding vows — and it is really, really hard. 

Stacy: So one morning, we were walking up the drive to drop him off to have breakfast and start his day program, and he fell. And when he fell, he knocked me down and fell on top of me. And that was pretty much... scared me, scared him. We had to get help to get stood up, and that was pretty much the deciding factor that it was time. 

This, too, is grief. Watching your husband disappear a little at home, admitting you can’t take care of him in the way he needs. Sending him to a full-time care facility where you will visit him and not be responsible for his day-to-day survival.

Stacy: As hard as it is for me to admit this, the physical separation of me not going up there every day, and I FaceTimed with him every day, and I kept up with everything that was going on in the community — they were very good at communicating with us what was happening and sending pictures — and so I was still very involved, but it allowed me to start preparing myself for when he was no longer going to be here. 

It allowed me to give myself permission to participate in life. And I don't think that I would have been able to do that had COVID not forced separation. And I always think to myself, if I could tell somebody about that, that was living it, if they asked, I don't know that I could bring myself to tell them to give yourself permission to do that, because I also know that I missed so much, because I wasn't able to see him every day and have those little moments where he said the sweetest, funniest things. One of the last videos that I took before COVID, I was telling him good morning and asked him how he was and he said, “So good to see a hot piece of ass.”

[Audio from Stacy’s recording: “I’m hot? Yeah? You sure are cute. I love you.”]

We’ll be right back.

We’re back. It took way too long for Chad to be diagnosed and way too long for Stacy to get the support she needed. And even though Chad loves his care facility, his dementia is progressing. When Stacy visits, sometimes twice a day,  it’s like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Chad is living the same day over and over and over. He knows he is seeing his wife, but that’s about it. Still, Stacy shows up. She holds his hand. She kisses him. She loves him. 

And then, it’s March 2020.

Stacy: They literally locked them in their rooms. And Chad loved that community. And I believe that his life was extended because he loved his life there. He loved the activities and the routine and the food. And he had all of his friends that he ate lunch with. And even when they were supposed to be locked in their rooms, some of the ladies would come stealing, and he would be sitting in his wheelchair and they would, you know, take him down the hall and steal him and say, you know, “Chad wants to play bingo. Why aren't we going to play bingo?” Because they didn't understand the whole COVID thing.

I was afraid that he was going to die and I wasn't going to be able to be there with him. And I had seen him through this whole thing, and I had envisioned what it was going to be like in the end. And I was going to be by his side, and I was going to be advocating for him to the end. And I think that was where so much of my anger came from, was: How do I advocate for him when I can't see him?

And then they started offering the window visits. And I was just like, “I don't know. I don't know if I can do that. I don't know if I can sit at the window and watch him. What if he has a meltdown and what if he doesn't understand? I don't know if I can do that.” And the distress that it causes him. He doesn't understand. And the confusion that it creates for him. Like, why would I knowingly put him through that, just so I can put eyes on him? And then all my friends kept sending me pictures of, “Hey, Stacy, go to a window visit. Hey, have you seen the window visit? Why don't you go do a window visit?”

And then Chad got COVID. The big fear was, “Hopefully we keep it out of the community.” But oh, no, it got in there. It got in there and it was touch and go. I mean, we had a moment where we weren't sure that Chad was going to make the turn, and then he did, and he came out of it, and we were oh so happy. But then it's like, OK, but what was the side effects from COVID? Like, what is his new baseline? It was— that was our whole discussion, day after day, week after week, was what's the new baseline?

The new baseline is very, very low. Chad survived COVID, but the illness took a big toll on him, and Stacy still isn’t able to visit like she was before. And then it just gets worse.

Stacy: They realized that Chad was taking a downturn, and the hospice nurse told me that she felt like we were getting close, so they let me do an outside visit. We still had to be six feet apart. We still had to wear masks, so he couldn't touch me. He just didn't understand it, you know? He would be like, come over here, you know? And he would try to push the table. Andhe just didn't understand why we were doing it and why we couldn't be closer and why I couldn't come inside. 

And one of the things that I just was so concerned about was I wanted to give Chad permission to leave. I wanted to tell him that I was going to be OK and give him permission to go, and that I would see on the other side. So we did this outside visit, and he was hallucinating, and he kept talking about the dogs that he could see. And I couldn't tell if it was a hallucination or there was a part of me that thought maybe these are our dogs that had passed that were like, you know, “Here we are, come with us.” So I said to him, “What do you think the dogs want?” And he said, “They want to play.” And I said, “Well, you can go play.” And he turned and looked at me and he said, “Not yet.” So I just kept talking and telling him that... I was like, “Have you seen your mom?” because his mom had passed, “Have you seen your grandma?” and he goes, “They come by some. Haven't seen them in a while.” 

So I said to him, “I want you to go play with the dogs. You can go play with the dogs. I'm going to be OK.” And in that split second, I feel like he knew what I was trying to say to him, because he turned his head and he looked at me. Then he put his hands in his head and then he lifted his head up and he goes, “Fuuuck.” And he reached over and grabbed my hand, and he said, “I love you.”

Chad enters hospice care in September 2019 and meets the state’s definition of failure to thrive in October. He’s dying.

Stacy: So I was able to go in and see him. I sat with him and, you know, it was just really hard. It was hard to be in the room with him, because his eyes are closed and he’s breathing heavy, and they have him on his side, because he's not able to swallow. And I just couldn't be in the room. It was so hard to be in the room. So I went to visit him on a Monday morning, and the continuous care nurse said, “I'm going to give you a minute. I'll let you have some time.” So this time, I don't really know what possessed me to do this, but I grabbed his hand and I told him how much I loved him. And I told him, this time I said, “Chad, I need... I need for you to go. I need you to let go, because I can't watch you suffer anymore, and this is too hard for me. So please. For me. If you'll let go.” 

And within about a minute, his hands started turning white. The continuous care nurse came in and she said, “I don't know what you said to him, but he's progressing in his dying process…” 

So within about 15 minutes, Greg, his buddy, showed up and I said, “I'm going to give you a few minutes with him. I'm going to go outside,” because one of our friends from the MG Club was in the parking lot. So I said, “I'm going to go meet Heather in the parking lot.” I was in the parking lot for maybe five minutes and Greg called and said come back. So I came back in, and right as I opened the door, he took his last breath. And I was devastated, because I left the room so upset that I left the room. But I also think that maybe he chose to leave with his buddy instead of with me in the room. I'll never know. 

I did consult a medium, and he told me that Chad followed me out the room because he wanted to watch my ass one last time. [laughs] That's so Chad.

Millions of people around the world know firsthand how COVID has affected their ability to grieve. We lost the ability to gather together in mourning, to sit quietly in pain with one another, to have a friend drop off a hot dish on your back steps. But the grieving process for Stacy started far before COVID ever struck.

She’s been grieving since Chad was spraying Roundup on the bushes in the nude, since a doctor told her she was a hysterical helicopter wife, since Chad’s diagnosis. She’s grieved her husband for so long, in so many ways.

Stacy: The grieving process was just so different, because Chad hasn't been home for so long. He wasn't home for two years. I think a lot of my friends and family thought some of my behavior after he passed was weird, because I had already cleaned out all of his clothes and rearranged the house. And I had already gone through some of those stages. Everything was already taken care of. I just had to schedule the celebration of life. There was none of that typical stuff that you have to do when someone dies unexpectedly. All of those things were already taken care of, because I had so much time to plan. But the empty space in my life that was so full of Chad, and checking in with the doctors, and checking in with the nurses, and what's his blood pressure, how much should he eat? How much does he weigh? You know, the FaceTime call. I still cry almost every day between 10 and 11, because that was when the FaceTime call came in during COVID. And just trying to figure out really who I am now and who I want to be now. I don’t know, I still feel like I'm still kind of lost.

This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

Our production team is myself, Nora McInerny; Marcel Malekebu; Jeyca Maldonado-Medina; Jordan Turgeon; Hannah Meacock Ross; and Phyllis Fletcher.

Stacy, thank you so much for sharing Chad with us. 

Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. Please look him up. Beautiful man, beautiful voice. 

We are a production of American Public Media. The P in Public? So important. It stands for Public. Yep, I said it. That was a sentence I said. My brain created that sentence. The P in Public is important because it stands for Public. True, that’s true. What does the Public mean? It means you. 

The economics of podcasting are… I don’t wanna freak anyone out. I mean, they’re grim, guys. Whenever people are like, complaining about ads, I’m like, “Do you want a podcast? Okay. You’re gonna have to sit through some ads.” And so it’s like, the way that we can make a show is through advertisements — bless our advertisers, you know, god bless them – and also through listeners who support our show, which, bless all of you. Also, listening to our show is a form of support because that helps convince advertisers we’re worth it. So around and around we go, which… I don’t know. I’m in a weird mood. But I do want to thank some of the people who have contributed to our show. These are overdue thanks. We get a little note when people donate too, which is cool.

First person I’m thanking is Alexander Moore. I love that we’re on a full name basis. Alexander Moore donated because he wants — or they, I don’t know — donates because they want one of their top podcasts to keep going. They “suffer from depression and social anxiety. This podcast along with the Facebook group makes me feel not alone in fighting against it. I am an essential worker these days working in a warehouse for a gourmet food company. Nora's jokes and the stories she tells help me get through the day in this unusual time. Favorite episode: ‘T-T-T Today, Junior.’ I still smile when I think about Nora saying to Erin, ‘Fuck it, we're going to wait for each other!’” 

You know what, Alexander? Thank you. I love that. Also, I love that episode. Also, thank you for being an essential worker. Also, why did I have to read all those compliments about myself? Because I’m in a dark place.

Second person to thank is Erica Jossund, who has been listening to “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” and is “so grateful for authentic stories about real people. The podcast validates the difficult, tragic and tough times we go through. Not every story ends with a fairy tale ending. We all are doing our best to help one another in this life through the bad and the good.” Amen, Erica.

Next thank you: Tracy Blowers. Has been listening for the past week. Oh my gosh! You listened for a week and you donated? Heck ya, Tracy. Thank you so much. Tracy “enjoys Nora’s style.” Some people don’t, so thank you. “I feel reflective and inspired.” Thank you, Tracy! We are inspired by you. I hate myself.

And then, Shelese Moaning has “high anxiety when I fly, and TTFA was something I discovered would help reduce my anxiety until I landed safely.” Shelese, I love that. Thank you for taking us on planes. I am full-on on “What About Bob?”ing and never going anywhere again, agoraphobic. I am not helping your flight anxiety, Shelese. I know that. I am not helping your flight anxiety.

Anyways. I am wearing high-waisted jeans. They are quite tight. Hard for me to catch a breath. Need to slow down a little bit. Thank you for listening to our podcast. It is truly bananas that we get to make it. We all appreciate you very much. We appreciate each other, and, um… and that’s it. We’ll see you the next time we make an episode, which is probably next week. In the meantime, just honestly take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. I hate water, so I can’t tell you to drink it because I barely do. At night I just chug all the ounces that I need barely to survive, and then I’ll be like, “Why don’t I feel good? Let’s have another cup of coffee.” Okay, bye!