Last week’s post touched a chord with many readers. I’m offering a excerpt from the next chapter for continuity.
The cottage where I had stayed had a screened-in covered porch where I snuggled with the dog wrapped in blankets watching the rain. To reflect and be still was a cherished opportunity; three nights and then home on the fourth day; collecting Tony at the week’s end.
I remember that on the third morning, I’d noticed an unfamiliar sound. It seemed to have come from upstream. I looked to the right, but couldn’t see a thing, yet. Thwonk/ thwonk. Thwonk/ thwonk … then a canoe emerged from the early mist. The paddles reverberated as shafts thudded against the thwarts, paddlers hunkered low grabbing the water. I watched as they passed. “What a wretched day to be out. Hope they know about May Chutes downstream.” Minutes later, other canoes appeared. “Perhaps this is the Muskoka-X race”
The teams looked perfectly synchronized; they depended on each other’s experience and consistency to prevent mishap. Endurance tests of any kind require both stamina and a steady disposition to complete the course. Teams can lose their edge if one person is self-indulgent of temper or intolerant. Against all odds, the intent is to cross the finish line.
Watching the racers that day had renewed my commitment. I too wanted to stay upright and afloat. The rain pelted relentlessly for the duration of the two-day event; I’d admired everyone leaning into the storm and proceeding.
The years since Tony’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease impacted both Tony and me significantly. There were unfamiliar twists and turns to our everyday living. It was wearying and demanded incessant self-control. We’re still coping well enough, I think. It was true that our team effort was unbalanced, occasional dunkings were unintentional but we always hauled each other up. Inevitable portages and staying clear of rapids kept us focused on the challenge of keeping Tony at home.
Traditional positions canoeing are that the heaviest person takes the stern position. I weighed more than Tony did. The style of canoe we paddled was a river canoe, with no keel—I managed somehow to keep us moving forward and pretty much on course.
The calendar for upcoming weeks was already heavily inked. I enrolled in the final lessons in Alzheimer’s education classes, scheduled for three Tuesdays in a row. Already completed were the first three of four in a series several years earlier – this final segment was about the Final Stages and Planning for Care. As well, there were regular visits for Tony from the homecare nurse, foot care, regular eye examinations, and visits to the dentist. I also signed up for an eight week program being presented by the Hospice Association. The Fundamentals of Hospice Palliative Care sounded like I could fill in a few more blanks; it was just once a week for three hours.
After our week apart, the first day together was intense as we found our groove again. We talked about the time away—Tony said, “The place wasn’t so bad”, and I thanked him for going, believing that Tony wanted to make things as easy as possible for me.
“I want to call our caseworker and arrange for some help at home, Tony. When I was away, I realized I cannot shoulder all the responsibility anymore.”
“Do whatever you have to do” he replied. “I just hope I don’t have to leave home again.” A scarcity of short-term stay spaces had obliged me to make that first reservation for Tony six months previously. I didn’t yet mention that I already had confirmation for another time-out six months hence. It was too far too idealistic to plan ahead, everything depended on Tony’s wellbeing, and I could always cancel if necessary.