While I Was Away

I can still see the woman’s face as she said the words to me.

She started off saying, “It’s such a good thing you’re doing — keeping your father home.” But then she stopped smiling and looked me in the eye, “You can’t do this forever, you know. There’s going to come a point when you have to place him somewhere that can take care of him.”

My dander rose a little when she said that. I thought, That day will never come.

It nearly came last night.

Ten days ago I took a trip with two of my children. Something changed with my father in the week that I was away. He started fearing certain doorways and needing certain doors to be closed. He started refusing to go down hallways in the house where he has lived for 50 years.

“You don’t understand, Sally,” he’ll say to me, gripping my arm and pulling me close to hear his words. “You don’t want to go there.” He’s emphatic. His words have an urgency evidenced by his tight grip as he says them.

When I tell him that I don’t understand, he says, “How can I explain this to you?” After a long pause during which he’s unable to come up with an explanation, he’ll simply say, “Please don’t open that door.”

Last night he turned off the baseball game and headed to the dining room, announcing that he was going to bed.

“Where are you going to sleep?” I asked.

“Here,” he said, and he pointed to his heart.

“Will you walk with me to your bedroom?” I asked, slipping my arm under his to support and guide him at the same time.

He planted his feet. “You don’t understand.”

After a bit of coaxing, loud arguing, pleading, and everything else I could think of, Bud and I, one on either side of him, forced him to take the steps he clearly didn’t want to take. Once he saw his room and his bed, he was fine (more or less). For a few minutes, though, it was ugly.

I lay in bed afterwards feeling discouraged and thinking, What would Penelope Lumley do?

Penelope Lumley is the plucky governess in The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place series (by Maryrose Wood). The motto for the school she attended, The Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, was, “No hopeless case is truly without hope.”

I pictured the woman saying, “You can’t do this forever,” and I pictured the fictional Penelope Lumley reminding me that “No hopeless case is truly without hope.”

There has to be a solution.

In Norway (that’s where I went on my trip) we saw a house set up high overlooking a fjord.

Our guide told us that it has no road access. The old farmhouse had fallen into disrepair until a couple bought it and turned it into successful guest accommodations. Visitors arrive by boat at the base. They climb ladders and hike steep trails with switchbacks to reach Stigen Gard. It takes over an hour to make the ascent.

Some would have said the rundown farmhouse was hopeless, but no hopeless case is truly without hope.

The view at the bottom was beautiful.

I’m sure the view at the top is even better.

I just have to figure out how to do it.

Pursuing Dreams

I remember when Sam learned that he had arthritis.

He had been struggling with shoulder pain and gone for treatment for tendonitis, a common problem for swimmers. He couldn’t lift his arms over his head and the physical therapist commented that he was like an old man.

Fortunately, someone recognized that Sam had a bigger issue than tendonitis — a “more global problem” is how they put it.

After running a bunch of tests, they gave him the life sentence — psoriatic arthritis.

“What am I going to do?” he asked. “I won’t be able to do the things I love.”

By that he meant climbing, paddling, skiing and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Sam was tempted to throw in the towel.

His rheumatologist looked him in the eye and said, “It doesn’t mean that at all.” He encouraged Sam to pursue his dreams.

And Sam did.

That was ten years ago.

The first time we went to British Columbia, I knew Sam would thrive there.self-in-bc

img_0553Honestly, I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to make it his home.

And found a lovely Canadian woman to marry.

When Sam was home at Christmas, he mentioned going to “physio” — that’s Canadian for physical therapy. He works at a canoe and kayak store, and has recently been having trouble lifting boats over his head.

Instead of giving up, he’s working (again) at strengthening those shoulders.

Professional golfer Phil Mickelson is the poster boy for psoriatic arthritis.

I think Sam should be — his story is more inspiring.

To me, anyway.

But I may be biased.