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Monday, July 18, 2011

Midsummer Madness

Bold steps were taken this weekend.  Bold steps out the door and down the highway.

The approach of summer had had me worried before the season even got going.  Dread of long, quiet, hot days imprisoned at home stuck in my heart.

Michael's condition has me more alert than usual these days.  There have been some dramatic plunges and peaks in his blood pressure, making me wonder how on earth he functions even the little bit he does. I have no real reason to suspect there is anything wrong, anything more serious than the usual, that is. Just misplaced worry and anxiety perhaps, leaving me feeling mildly manic.

So this week I got tired of my nurse's vigil. When a discussion with the In-laws arose about how to celebrate Michael's mom's 87th birthday, my usual tendency to take a cautious and isolationist approach by offering to have a quiet tea here took a back seat, and I decided I wanted a fast drive, somewhere, anywhere, instead. Michael's brother lives on the other side of town, a 45 minute drive away if the traffic is good. But a pool party was on offer and for once I agreed.  What the heck. Even if the worst thing happened, how much worse could it be away from home and in another province?

Caution was thrown carefully to the wind: wheel chair was stuffed into our tiny car; bathing suits and towels were packed (ensuring that a floatation device existed at our destination so my husband wouldn't drown), drugs for twenty-four hours (you never know), a bottle of water, extra diapers, change of clothes and bandaids.  Sound familiar to any of you who have traveled with children? With all that taken care of I was ready for a wild and wacky time.

Our arrival at the pool party (which was a very small gathering of family) was spectacular, one of Michael's best. He lurched his way down a narrow path to the back of the house, falling hard on the stone and ripping open his knees. Nothing unusual in that. The path ended at a gate that opened to the beautiful patio and pool in the back. Michael negotiated the gate well enough and I gave a premature sigh of relief, thinking we were home-free for this stage at least. With a chair in his sights, he lunged toward it but fell into the small glass-topped table around which everyone had gathered. Sangria-filled glasses flew free and smashed onto the patio with the table wobbling precariously, threatening to tip over. Chairs collapsed as Michael fell to the ground, spreading his blood liberally around.  Shocked faces from family members who never see these displays. I set to work bandaging knees and mopping up blood, quietly satisfied that they were getting a look at how life really is.

We never made it into the pool. Too much effort. Michael's meds ran out quickly so he sat rigidly and silently in a chair, blank-faced and withdrawn. I swilled what I thought was alcohol-free Sangria only to find my head spinning after a sip or two, my first taste of alcohol in a very long time.  I discovered that alcohol makes me very chatty, even tiny amounts, and inhibitions drop away. I do not drink for religious reasons but I suggest that those of you who do should take an extended booze holiday sometime just so you can relive that heady first sip feeling as soon as you resume. I immediately switched to soft drinks, needing to keep all my wits about me.

The rest of the day was incident-free. Feeling emboldened by the relative success of the outing (nobody died), I thought about the possibility of a day-trip to Montreal, a mere 200 kilometres from here. Michael would have no more to do than the previous day: sit in the car there and back, get into his daughter's second storey apartment and stay put till it's time to go home.  No discussion about this embryonic plan with Michael.  I know too well how that works; he'd work himself up into a frenzy and disappointment would prevail.  No, I've learned my lesson. When feasible, last minute attacks are the best. So this morning, while he munched on his cereal, I quietly packed the same bag I had the day before, only this time with enough drugs for a week (you never know) and without swim suits. As his head started it's morning dip into his cereal bowl, signalling the time for a nap, I issued the orders: bathroom, shoes, cane, car. In minutes we were on the road, the hosting daughter hastily informed (she and I had sketched out tentative plans in secret the day before).

I love road trips. I have a healthy collection of music on my ipod which immediately got jacked up. Once the open highway was reached, I let her rip. Now, keep in mind I own a small, rather spineless little Hyundai Accent but I am a master of fantasy. Shades on, music blasting, countryside zipping by.The world was my oyster, as they say, whatever the heck that means.

Michael sat in dazed, slightly panicked silence.  I had anticipated he would sleep all the way but nary a nod either direction. I ignored what looked suspiciously like white knuckles gripping the door. I wasn't driving THAT fast.

Soon it was time for medication: skillful uncapping of the pill bottle while clutching the water bottle between my thighs, one hand on the steering wheel. The madness of Mick Jagger's "Midnight Rambler" pulsed through the car. Drugs successfully administered. There's probably a law against such practices; at least, there should be.

The journey was mercifully uneventful . On arrival in Montreal, there was a moment of panic as I settled him onto our daughter's bed for a snooze but I assured him he would be fine soon.  If not, there was an entire arsenal of drugs at hand if necessary.  The big guns, however, were not needed.

We arrived home eight glorious hours later. What a great weekend.  Michael collapsed in an exhausted heap back on the couch and snored through a replay of the Women's FIFA final game (Oops, I forgot to tell him he'd miss that). It might take all week for him to recover. His breathing on our return home was disturbing but I dismissed my worry. Whatever happens, it was worth it.

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