26. HIGH TIME

“You need to get away. Really away. Have some time to your self,” my friendly advisor, the doctor’s receptionist peered over her specs handing over the renewal application form for my Handicapped Driver’s Pass.

I must have made a face, for she added, “You won’t like what I’m going to tell you, but I mean not for a night but for ONE WHOLE WEEK. Check David into respite care and…you don’t have to go away, stay at home and get your house back to the way it used to be. The way you like it.”

I pictured the disarray, the coffee stains on the pale green living room upholstery, and the fringes of our rugs kicked ragged, the extra unsightly trash bin in the bathroom, the closet bulging with protective underwear. (Sorry, caregivers, I still can’t bring myself to use the word DIAPER. Too demeaning. Too brutal in connection with my husband. All adults for that matter. It’s a hang-up I tussle with.)

The Receptionist had a point. Our feng-sui home had slid horribly un-feng-sui. I shivered. My father would have DIED if he were alive… Chairs askew off-centered. Pictures on the tilt. Squished toothpaste worms hardening in the basin. Socks tossed smelly littering the floor. Dishes piled lopsided on the counter.

“You can judge a person by the order of their home,” he declared. “Crooked pictures especially.”

I heard his voice every time something out of place caught my eye as I shuffled David by, too weary to care about some neat-nick ideal at the expense of David’s comfort and safety. I mean really, WHAT THE HELL DOES A LITTLE CROOKED MATTER?

Yes, the life I now lived revolved around David…his calls for help, his needs, his timetable. Mine? No idea. Dropped someplace I’ve long forgotten.

Too often, just as I am settling into meditation, or still blissfully asleep, am in mid attack deleting unwanted spam, have my hands full of wet laundry, am half way to the trash bin, or sitting at the computer expanding some thought to add to my blog, I hear…

“I’m stuck. I need help.”

Or my brain alarms David’s medication was overdue, we were late for swim class, his acupuncture appointment…

No matter. David’s and my first night apart was fast approaching. ONE WHOLE NIGHT, a motel on the sunny border of New Mexico down south, a banquet, cruising uninterrupted for 400 miles, I could hardly wait for an evening and a whole night to myself away from it all.

Then it came. The time to part. Fussing like a mother seeing her child off on a school bus for the first time, I pre- and re- counted pills, laid out David’s clothes, wrote instructions for his sitter to cover every unlikely calamity. Even how to lift and swing his legs to get him into bed. How ridiculous was that? FUSS. FUSS. FUSS. KISS. KISS and…

One more and another farewell kiss. Suddenly David looked frail, pathetic even, so vulnerable. How could I be so awful as to leave him and pry the two of us apart, glued together as we were, like moistened postage stamps? The sitter wouldn’t know how David liked his breakfast fruit cut, how many spoons of yoghurt to add, his little fads and fancies…

“David likes the curtains pulled at night…” I lingered, thoughts running. What if he died and I wasn’t with him? If I had a crash? If… He must have read my mind.

“Oh, for goodness sake stop. You’ll have a wonderful time. Go enjoy yourself. I’ll be fine. Just go. GO ON GO.” David gave me a hug, kissed my lips, gave me a little shove.

“Bye, darling. Bye. See you tomorrow…”

I jumped into my girl friend’s car careful not to glance back. Out of sight out of mind they say. And it was.

Turn-taking the wheel every two hours, munching the tomato sandwich I’d made, the cube of cheddar cheese, as we drove along, and chattering non-stop through the towns of Socorro, T or C, Hatch, it seemed but a minute before we veered away from Las Cruces off I-25’s speedway and into Billy-the-Kid’s village of Mesilla.

The motel was perfect. I had only my own suitcase to carry and unpack, only myself to shower, and primp ready for a night on the town. Well hardly that…hardly wild. My friend and I arriving too early at the venue, too early for a salt rimmed glass of Margarita, too early for the Awards Banquet where Sam Donaldson, the TV celebrity, would be the key-note speaker, we circled the Historic Plaza killing time. For a moment I thought how it might have been with David, of all the difficulties dealing with his disabilities. He might have tripped on the pavement, closed his eyes against the setting sun, frozen immobile, never made the steps leading up into the church. I checked myself.

I was here with a friend. No worries. No stress. I looked around. The long evening shadows, the shafts of sunlight between the cottonwoods patterning the Square, the Victorian wrought-iron bandstand, the setting, couldn’t have charmed me more.

A stretch limo pulled alongside the pavement spilling a group of a dozen High Schoolers, young men smart in coal-black shirts and pants wearing startling Mexican-yellow suspenders, a Graduation Queen in bridal white and her yellow tu-tued Maids of Honor for a photo session in the bandstand. Outshined, I watched two elderly musicians pick up the tin can and blanket at their feet, his guitar, her tambourine. I wondered how many evenings they’d sat together on that same bench performing for coins, the joy of music. Their youth gone, the red silk flower in her hair now faded, her girlish curls now grey and straggly, the grubby white lace of her dress hung too young for her wizened frame, she walked slowly, stiff beside her husband. Stooped beneath a traditional wide Mexican gold braided hat, he too walked bent. I watched them limp away, a couple still. I like to think they loved each other, saw still the beauty that first attracted them to wed.

I wished my David by my side. Wished he sat here on the bench with me. Wished years of togetherness together.

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Next week’s blog: Hmm. Can’t think that far ahead.

Previous blogs: Previous blogs:

1.Wearing a Hat from Hell * 2.Back Story before the Tidal Wave. * 3.There’s a Mouse in the Room. * 4.Shape-shifting — Husband to Patient:Wife to Caregiver. * 5.Think your Home is your Castle? Think again. * 6.Vision Quest beyond the Box. * 7.Cats in the Belfry. * 8.“En Guard Messieurs”…Dare me: cross this Line. * 9.Like it or No — Prepare to Play God. * 10.’Tis the Season to be Jolly — not for me it isn’t. * 11.Hello. Hello? Anyone Home? * 12.The Blue Hole — 90 miles ahead. * 13.Disabled — Daft — Demented? * 14.Up. Up and Away…* 15.Humble Pie. * 16.What do I have to Complain About. * 17. Come Back Tooth Fairy. * 18. Promises Promises. * 19. Fly Fly Away. * 20. Refresh. Reboot. * 21. Can this be Happening * 22. Hate when David… * 23. What if…? * 24. Hanuman and I have a Birthday. * 25. Happy and Glorious.