When the sun shines and shadows bleach invisible, everything seems possible. I could sprout wings and jump high as a Masai warrior competing for a bride. And here in the softer climate of France surrounded by family, happy is how I feel. It’s not that I’ve abdicated from my caregiving role, but tending to David’s needs is entirely manageable now the family has stepped in and I no longer need to shoulder the load alone.

Before David’s mouth opens to a “can-you-help-me-please,” my son, granddaughter and eldest grandson have leapt to their feet to help him up or down from his chair.

“I’ve got you. Lean on me,” luverly-daughter-in-law encourages.

David’s hands clamp around her shoulders and together they inch down the twenty-one-step outdoor staircase each time we leave their farmhouse. Sometimes, when he’s on the wobble, I follow pulling back on a yoga belt I’ve wrapped about his waist.

I shower and dress him of course, escort him on bathroom runs, and take my turn to fetch and carry. But oh, the heavenly bliss of relinquishing some of David’s care.

Here, spun into a vortex where dishes and cutlery compete for table space. Pens, torn envelopes, tools and half repaired objects spread on last week’s newspaper continually appear and disappear between mealtimes. (And oh, and did I mention the revolving pile of laundry waiting to be folded?) David can be the person he is, and that’s a Grandpa. Sat at the head of the table, offered first choice of food, David is king.

“Quiet. Grandpa’s talking,” and we stop and listen. However rambling his story, however groan-making his joke, we are pleased to hear him joining in.

David rides in the front seat of the car, too, even if the limpid green crevasse of Les Bosson’s glacier below Mont Blanc goes unnoticed, thanks to his eyes being frozen shut.

And me? At last I can be Grandma, mother and mother-in law all rolled into one. I have barely lifted a finger since I’ve been here.

“Come,” I call my grandson. “Read something to Grandpa and me in French.”

“Now,” about-to-be-gone granddaughter yells. “Do as granny says,” and boot-faced grandson unglues himself from the cartoon on the television screen.

Yes, there is a lot of shouting. Reminds me of me. The young family I once had. The young mother I used to be.

“Anything I can do to help?” I ask, none too enthusiastically, I confess.

Perched on a kitchen stool, chatting, sampling a glass of some new wine my son and luverly-daughter-in-law discovered in a local Cave, a spectator, my legs elegantly crossed, I watch the evening’s chaotic preparations for the evening meal. Elephant ear-sized leaves of Blet, Swiss chard, come under the knife and wait ready in a pan. An ear-splitting yell hastens my grandson from the garden to hurry with the sprig of mint to add to the newly dug potatoes before they are over-cooked. Number-two-son and luverly-d-in-l squabble turn-take stirring the potage.

This is how respite should be…the best way to renew. No need to stuff David into a home in order for me to recoup. Here David observes…head honcho of the family. Here I feel my energy returning.

“What, ALONE?” people query. “All the way to France? How the devil can you manage security, transfers, and getting David to all those the departure gates by yourself?” They exclaim when they hear David and I are off to France on our travels, disbelief, occasionally a tinge of disapproval in their voices.

It seems they don’t get it. Compared to home, and me the only one around to jockey him to the starting gate for the day’s tumultuous race, traveling with David is a doddle thanks to wheelchairs, airport-angels, air-hostess/stewards…one to wheel him to the gate, one to tuck him into his seat. If our friends just saw David’s smile, saw how he is loved and welcomed, they’d understand WHY the effort and trials of flying and jetlag are worth it.

No obligations, we have more time. Lover-husband, loving-wife, time to listen to the snuffling snores as the other sleeps, time to stroll our favorite mountain road together with our grandson and the dog, and stop awhile to pluck the last of the wild raspberries from a patch we remembered from last year. Back at the house perched on a couple of tree stumps placed to face the sun setting below us in the Chamonix valley, we sit in easy silence.

At the end of this week our 18 year-old about-to-be-gone grand-daughter begins her new life in Aberdeen University, Scotland leaving her mother to a near empty-nest. And I don’t think Maggie, the ginger-haired goat delivered yesterday to board with us while her owners holiday in Brittany, will cut it…be replacement enough.

It’s hard finding oneself redundant overnight…no joggins, mini-skirts, backless T-s and flimsy garments tangled with the washing, and no lovely daughter to huddle cheek to cheek beside binge-watching “Game of Thrones,” or “Dancing With the Stars” on the computer. Mother, daughter I see them giggle over confidences shared as only girls and women can, so I know how much she will be missed. Suddenly bereft, as I was once, will she start talking to herself?

I mourn for her. Know a little of what is to come. The weight of time. The unsettled feeling of finding myself superfluous. Unsuited though I was, and never supposed to be a caregiver, now my role is parceled, shared, and half-way gone, I don’t quite recognize the shell left behind…the one waiting to be re-filled.

I watch lovely-d-in-l’s deft movements, the clean path left by the razorblade in the blue foam lathered on David’s chin. My hands sit empty, useless, fingering the minutes heaped unused in my lap. Like her, I have to relearn what it is to enjoy a cuppa undisturbed, make daytime reading a guiltless habit, and to welcome unfilled days in my calendar as pleasurable.

Strange human as I am, time, the very thing I most yearn for at home in New Mexico when I’m buried exhausted beneath more tasks than I can handle, now holds my attention, hungry.

“Cheers,” we’ll toast on Friday. “…To your new and wonderful life.” And we’ll lift a glass and celebrate with a special treat of oysters on the shell from the local supermarket, and hunks of baguette spread with the cheeses of sheep and goats, perhaps her favorite pate forestiere. And feel a little sad knowing the next day as she boards the plane, the house will empty of her noise, and we will miss her.

I miss David the same way. Parkinson’s took him from me. Gave me him back changed.


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Next week’s blog: Hmm? Not sure yet.

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.* 26. High Time. * 27. * Change?…As good as a Rest. * 28. It’s a Long Way… * 29. Missing Something? * 30. Are we there yet? 31.* To voice or not to voice — I’m talking feelings here. 32.* Metamorphisis…grub to?*33. Roller Coaster. * 34. Testing. Testing. * 35. A Bird’s Eye View.* 36. Crossroads. *37. Madam your slip is showing.* 38. If only caregiving was… as easy. *