It hasn't exactly been a harsh winter. It's just that we've been spoiled the past couple of years which have been exceptionally mild and snowless. Last year I was gardening at the end of April, the ground was so dry and warm. A normal winter can see snow well up to the end of April in this northern climate, with gardening happening in May if we're lucky. This is to be such a year, apparently, with a nasty snow and ice storm as recently as last Friday. Happily the thermometer shot up immediately afterwards ridding us of that minor accumulation along with most of the residual piles. Today the warm sunshine was a joy and if I squinted I could blot out the few remaining dirty white heaps in the yard. The birds were rejoicing and I felt restless.
Wednesdays are caregiver-less days. If Michael follows his usual pattern of a long post-prandial morning nap, I can safely expend some of my energy and pass some of the long day with a workout. Afternoons are usually devoted to movies or napping but it seemed too fine a day to waste it indoors. Since a walk beyond the end of the driveway is usually out of the question for Michael now, and the muddy road conditions were not allowing a wheelchair stroll, a ride in the car was the best I could think of beyond sitting on the porch shivering in the spring air.
After a hasty lunch, I hurried Michael into the car. A good deal of focus is required for this job because he can easily become distracted and diverted by a wallet, a shoe lace, a pattern on the carpet. I didn't quite shove him out the door.
I didn't have big plans. Just up the highway to the next town, stop for a coffee then hurtle back down the road to home. An hour in total is about the limit to Michael's stamina and my patience. A curious idiosyncrasy of his condition is that wherever he is seated, after a few minutes he always starts to list heavily to his left. Many are the times that he's nearly tipped over his wheelchair as he slides sideways, especially if the intricate design of the carpet becomes a fixation. On the couch he often ends up with his head on the seat, glasses askew. But in the car this poses a special problem. This tilt lands him nearly in my lap or at the very least blocking the stick shift in my tiny car. I have developed an odd driving style where I give him a healthy jab and a push with my right elbow to clear him out of the way, a gesture that is only effective for a few minutes and has to be repeated dozens of times during a short drive. It gets old very quickly.
But my usual reluctance to take him out was trumped by my restlessness. Off we sped with Simon and Garfunkel, Eagles of Death Metal, Adele, Foo Fighters and Eric Clapton - to name but a few - as company. We both sang even though Michael has lost his lovely voice and no longer knows the words. Garbled and monotone best describe his new style.
Our destination was the recently opened Tim Horton's doughnut shop in the neighbouring town. No way could I consider going inside so we pulled into the drive-through for take-out then turned into the parking lot. When I had asked him if he wanted coffee, Michael was unable to make a decision but he was precisely articulate in his request for doughnuts: Two apple fritters, please. I opened the windows and enjoyed the view of the tall pine trees bordering this country coffee shop. I looked over at Michael to see him trying to shove both fritters into his mouth at once since they were stickily glued together. I reached over to separate them for him. They were gone in minutes. Though it could have been the caffeine now surging through my bloodstream, I felt an immense flow of affection for my obviously happy husband.
I cleaned him up then pulled out of the parking lot. We were quite close to the nursing home I had visited just last week, and for a split second I thought about turning right to go farther up the highway to show Michael where I might have to send him one day, just to plant the seed. But he was humming tunelessly at this point, starting his inevitable slump into my lap, sticky but content. Why ruin a great afternoon with the likely panic that detour would cause? Instead I turned left, turned up the volume and drove home.