40. OUT TO PASTURE.
Like the cows of the Savoyard, I’m out to pasture, mindless, placid…on extended holiday with nothing much to occupy me but ensuring David eats, sleeps, is watered and happy.
Notebook open on my lap, a pen idle in my hand, words crowding to be written escape, tumble beyond reach into the high-grass meadows where I sit, and off down the mountainside between the red-roofs of the village to disappear somewhere into the Chamonix Valley.
A brown and white cow turns her limpid eyes to the tump on which we sit among clumps of purple willow herb and orange crocus. She sets the bell about her neck a k-tink-k-tinking. With nothing else to interest her, I imagine our visit to be the most eventful happening in her day.
“Do open your eyes, darling,” I plead wanting David to share.
“I’m looking’,” he says. But his eyes remain shut.
Do sounds evoke images inside his lids? I close my eyes. Imagine I can hear green, the color of the grass, smell chewed cud, and cows, and feel the blaze of orange berries clustered on Rowan tree by the shepherd’s hut.
David’s head bows weighted by a lassitude that comes with the disappearance of his routine. No crammed days filled with classes, therapies, and medical appointments.
Sun and the play of a faint breeze gentle on his face, lulled by the bells of the herd grazing about us, I wonder if he is content. A family not of his own blood, borrowed lives, not our own, our identities blur.
Hampered as he is by those three stones he carries with him at all times: PAR-KIN-SON’S, I wonder at the cost it’s taken David to travel with me here to France. Have I expected too much of him? Pushed him beyond his limit of his courage?
These past two blogs I’ve related only the heads-up aspect of our travels. Now is the time to spin the coin and expose the flip side. The turmoil of night becoming day, and day night, as jetlag scrambles the hours of waking and sleeping setting his poor body-clock spinning.
“Is it time to take my medication?” he asks.
I don’t think the actual travel bothers him once we’re on our way and in the air. Though he never grumbles, his in-built GPS struggles to remember the layout of the farmhouse from last and other years. (Wow, can it be we’ve been coming here to Mont Saxonnex for eleven years now?) The strange positioning of our bed, his chair in the living room, floor rugs that ruck and slip from beneath his feet, and raised thresholds of the French doors onto the balcony.
“Take a big step, David, ” as youngest-wheeler-dealer-son guides him to breakfast on the balcony. “Hello. There you are. Now your eyes are open.”
I see him struggle to locate the grab-bars in the shower stall, an unfamiliar dangling strap to raise and lower himself onto the toilet, search for the footstool he needs to mount the high vehicle, and deal with the manhandling it takes to get him seated.
Then there is his Everest. Those twenty-one steps of uncertainty and terror awaiting him every time we leave the house, even for a turn around the garden. Does a friend of the family, Kenton Cool, a man who has summited the highest mountain in the world more times than I have fingers, does he steel himself to overcome fear such as David’s each time he climbs? Do his legs tremble and sudden waves of fear buckle his knees and leave him mid-climb neither up nor down? My son behind, me, or luverly-d-in-law in front to guide his hands to the next hand rail, David moves to each precarious foothold tread by tread. Losing confidence, he collapses sometimes, and it takes three of us to coax him back to his feet.
Today setting off to lunch at a local tavern in the Solison Plateau, David descended the staircase almost unaided. But returning…a different story. David’s legs began trembling as our coffee appeared, signifying the meal’s end.
“Are you worried about something?” I asked recognizing the sign. “Is it the steps? Are you dreading climbing the stairs?”
“Yes.” His voice shook.
Exchanging glances with luverly-d-in-law, I slipped him an anti-anxiety pill as she and I had discussed. A test. Pills his neurologist prescribed for panic attacks and just such an event. Pills, David swore never to take. But this was an emergency measure and subterfuge a necessity.
He climbed the stairs without falling to his knees. Then began muttering about lack of money, its running out, us left with empty pockets. So anxious his whole body shook.
One day last week when I was shopping, he asked luverly-d-in-law if she could find his funeral insurance policy.
Did he feel death waiting? See his deceased sister beckon? For over an hour, he sat so still, I feared he was no longer living.
In New Mexico our home vibrates silent. Footfalls across the terracotta tiles, the electric hum of dishwasher, telephone bell, and voices from the damnable television occasionally invade the quiet.
Here constant explosions erupt.
“9–8–7-…2-Come up here NOW,” and groans of “Oh, MUUUM…” from the 9-year old disrupt as he bangs grumpily up the stairs. Quiet lasts no longer than a breath. The dog starts up, alerts the household a hawk is circling over the chicken coop. My son rushes for a shotgun, fires a warning salvo. Sets the hens and cockerel squawking and cats running for their lives, and wasps dive-bombing…well, what’s the harm with a little exaggeration, but you get the picture. Point is, noise is not music to David’s ears.
“Let’s have some quiet,” he hushes me at home if I talk too loudly, too long, on the phone.
For too long we’ve become age-set in our ways at home…diet, mealtimes, rising and going to bed at regular hours, regulated activities on particulardays…predictable…caught in a rotating routine dictated by the hands of the clock. Me who lived beforecaregiving, re-awakens pleased to be shaken up by a normal household. The other half retreats, screams for the peaceful order of the familiar.
Our time in France fast shrinking, reality sinks in. I see the dark shadow of my caregiver mantle loom waiting. I see this fantasy life retreating.
On Wednesday we’ll be on the road. Head for England’s green and pleasant shores. Spend time with my eldest son and his husband.
I take a breath, sigh unprepared. Another journey, strange places to roost along the way, then the dark Chunnel beneath the Atlantic into the great unknown before flying home.
David crouches in his chair, eyes shut from the melee raging about him. A surge of compassion overwhelms me. Have I been selfish? Is all this travelling too much for him?
YES, I hear some of you shout.
NO, go for it. Jump for everything within reach while you can, I hear you others encourage.
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Next week’s blog: Hmm? Not sure yet.
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. * 39. Where everything is possible.