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Dirty Details

Marion Cohen

Publication Year: 1996

Published by: Temple University Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-x

Dear reader, be prepared. This is a powerful and stirring book. It is unsparing in its honesty, its bluntness, its directness. Marion Cohen pulls us, willingly or not, into the daily life experiences of being the well spouse of a person with a debilitating and messy disability. She does so with little patience for the obfuscation of the harsh realities of trans-...

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pp. xi-xvi

Some people have told me that this book is upsetting and hard to read. The "dirty details" are, for many, not only too dirty but too detailed. Why would one read such things? How could I write them? When I was eleven, and my sister four years younger, we decided to imitate Anne Frank and keep diaries. Many eve-...

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1. the trike and the 49 bus

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pp. 1-14

We had it down pat. As soon as I'd hear that "Mar!" I'd yell back "Okay!" so I wouldn't have to hear it again. I'd hear it again anyway. "Mar! Toilet!" I'd sink; I'd shrug; I'd tantrum, to myself or aloud. I'd race up the stairs and down the hall to Jeff's wheel-chair, which we called lithe trike." I'd unlock both brakes at ...

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2. nights, lifting, and toilet: the first conspiracy of silence

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pp. 15-31

Several friends don't understand why, at Inglis House, they don't put Jeff on the toilet, why they just wait for him to go and then clean him. They think that's terrible. But I've done toilet, and I know why. I also know about the way they do handle it at Inglis House. That's no picnic, either. Only too well do I remem-...

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3. dire straits

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pp. 32-70

The period from Jeff's diagnosis in 1977 to mid-1988, when Jeff could no longer transfer from and to the wheelchair, might be described as one of stress. But during the nearly six years from then until he went into the nursing home, we were in full-blown dire straits. Well spouses don't suffer ordinary stress; we do not need ...

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4. scared

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pp. 71-85

I was scared. Scared about specifics, like what if Jeff fell on the floor and there were no attendants around to help get him back up (something that actually happened several times)? And scared in general - the kind of scared when you've just started a new job or had a new baby, and you don't quite know what you're scared of. ...

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5. too many variables: relationships within the household

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pp. 86-109

What happens to love when the lovers are forced together, in close quarters like a bathroom, or a toilet? What happens to love if the lovers are Siamese twins? Or when one of the lovers is a Siamese twin-with his attendant? What happens when one of the lovers is, in twelve-year-old Bret's words, in charge of both ...

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6. separate species: relationships with the world and with ourselves

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pp. 110-126

Well spouses often talk about how old friends no longer come around. They add that they no longer feel comfortable with old friends, and they can't make new friends because they never go anywhere. "We don't fit in with married couples," they continue, "nor are we exactly swinging singles." Saying things ...

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7. preparing for his ghost: about loss

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pp. 127-138

About five years ago Sophie, a new friend who is an artist a generation older than I, had me over for lunch. Her apartment was beautiful, enhanced by and integrated with her sculpture. It came out that she had been a well spouse for thirty years. "First it was heart attack," she told me, "and it was at a time when doctors were...

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8. where do we stand? the second conspiracy of silence

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pp. 139-166

Where do we stand? It took me years to voice this question in this way. Meanwhile I asked other questions. Vague, silly-sounding, perhaps childish and self-centered, groping questions. Suppose I was so tired from lack of sleep that I couldn't think clearly? Or couldn't think at all? Suppose I was like two women in a ...


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p. 167-167

E-ISBN-13: 9781439903735

Publication Year: 1996