Lover? We broke up some years ago -- to the extent that's possible when one party still cleans the other's butt every day.
Ex-lover, then? True, wiping butts is not the same as making love. But love, as Marsha says, love is a verb; and what necessity forged turns out to be stronger than any other love I have been able to love in this life. Sometimes I've hated that strength; and the circumstances are nothing I'd wish on anyone, least of all my younger self and hers; but the gift, however unwelcome, is still a gift. The love between us is not ex-anything. It will not fit meekly into any of your stinking categories.
When we were first together, and she needed nothing significant in the way of physical help, people sometimes thought to complement me on the mere fact we were together: how sweet I was! how generous! how patient!
What a crock of shit.
Marsha is a vibrant, difficult, powerful, complicated person, for reasons that have nothing to do with her M.S. When I have achieved sweetness with her, or generosity, or patience or passion or vulnerability or openness, it's because I've engaged her, because I've risked hurt, because I've been willing to change; because I've kept listening when I was furious; because I wanted to hear every word she said when we were happy; in short, for the same reasons you've achieved love, with your lovers or partners or parents or friends or children.
Which isn't to say the M.S. didn't matter. Without it we would probably not be together. (Marsha, with a guy? Who didn't dance!?) Without it we would probably not have broken up. Without it we probably would have stayed broken up.
I chose this: Marsha had M.S. when we came together, and I spent sleepless nights weighing what I thought the future might bring, and whether I could bear it. I was wrong in every detail, but right (so far, and just barely) in supposing we would be together until death, that I would bear it, that somehow I would manage to be good for her, that somehow she would manage to be good for me.
Looking back, I see that I have broken so many promises. I have fallen short of so many ideals. The only thing I can say is that I am still here, here with her.
There is no word for what she is to me.