In Sickness, Health
story by Ariana van den Akker
Sitting at the table, eating breakfast as they have done countless times over 50 years of marriage, Darrel Boling suddenly makes an obscene gesture at his wife, Opel. He doesn't like it when she wipes food off his face.
She knows he doesn't mean anything by it; the gestures started only after he was in a severe scooter accident that left him completely dependent upon her.
"I'm just thankful that it's not worse, and that I still have him at least, but it's not easy," Opel says. "It's lonely. It's so lonely. I just miss him so much."
After Opel and Darrel retired from factory jobs, she imagined they would spend more time going out together and relaxing.
But on July 7, 2005, Darrel decided to buy a gas-powered scooter. When he rode it out to show friends, the scooter slipped on loose gravel and Darrel fell into the road. He was run over by a car, the impact cracking his skull and changing his life. Darrel was in a hospital for four months.
The first year after the accident was the hardest. Darrel sat and cried for most of each day. Sometimes he tried to escape the house or fight Opel.
"I just kept thinking maybe he would come back, maybe he'll be himself again," she said after tucking her husband into bed.
Darrel knows what's going on around him, but he struggles to communicate. Most of the time, he just shrugs or points or shakes his fist.
After that rough first year, things got better. Darrel now cooperates when Opel changes his diapers and gives him a bath. They go out every day. When they are home, she makes sure there is a Western on TV, because she knows it makes him happy.
Above all, Opel wants to make sure that Darrel knows she isn't going anywhere. In May, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
"I still feel the same," she says. "I love him, and I'll take care of him until he dies."