Sunday, August 2, 2009

Vacation Wrap-Up, Part 2

Some other bits and pieces from vacation ....

My Birthday
I turned 53 on our last full day in Maine. Earlier in the week, some friends had discovered a lovely restaurant in a nearby town that was on the water. They'd enjoyed a great lunch sitting outside by the water and thought it would be a great spot for my birthday dinner. Unfortunately, the elements didn't cooperate for dinner. It was a bit rainy, very muggy and buggy. Fortunately, the food was good and the company better.

The Dock
The rental house had a floating dock that was accessible by wheelchair. We spent 3 or 4 afternoons relaxing there. It was set up with a round table and umbrella, which was important to keep Skip out of the sun. I'm not sure what causes it, perhaps one of the many pills she takes, but even very little sun can cause her skin to burn and blister, so we needed to take extra precautions for her.

The water was swimmable for those who could get down the ladder into the water (this was not the kind of ladder one finds in a swimming pool; it was a regular wooden ladder with most of the supporting half cut off and screwed into the dock. It was an odd setup but the wide steps and angle of the ladder made it easier for us middle-aged, and in some cases, full-figured, gals to get in and out of the water.). At the dock, the water was a bit over 5' deep, so easy for me to stand in (I'm almost 5' 11").

Sometimes, we'd be joined at the dock by the 4 labrador retrievers in our party. They were rambunctious and joyous, delighted at having the chance to swim. Occasionally, two of them would run off for a bit, but they always came back, seemingly none the worse for wear. Our two pups, Ruby and Sally were always at the dock with us.

Skip hoped the dogs would enjoy swimming. Our previous dachshund, Sadie, needed no invitation to swim. If Skip was in the water, she would jump in and swim to her side. When I went into the water in Maine, though, neither dog showed any desire to swim to me. I briefly gave Sally the chance to swim on my first foray into the water and she clearly indicated it wasn't to her liking. Our last day on the dock, I had Ruby and Sally with me on a float, while I waded near the dock. Ruby was her usual placid self. She sat/reclined on the float in exactly the spot I'd placed her. Sally wandered around on the float, going to the edge in various spots, leaning over to examine the water, taking an occasional drink. She got too close to the edge at one point and slipped right in. I saw her sink through the dark pond water and had a brief millisecond of panic. Panic ended when she broke through the water's surface and grabbed for me, trying to climb up my body so she could get completely out of the water. With that, I put both dogs on the dock and didn't put them on a float again.

Before we got to the rental and saw the actual layout at the water, Skip had planned to swim. She bought a mask and snorkel for peering into the water, swimming attire, and had great hopes that the dogs would swim in after her, just like Sadie. Reality, unfortunately, couldn't support her hopes. The banks of the lake were deep and covered with brush, and the lake's bottom was quite mucky near the edge. The labs were able to navigate the banks, but it wouldn't work for Skip. We had hoped to take advantage of the boat landing just a few hundred yards away, but no swimming was allowed there. It was very disappointing for Skip that she couldn't swim.

Living With Able-Bodied People
I posted a bit about this during our vacation. Skip and I live with just each other and our two dogs. I work from home. The only in-person contacts we have with others during the week, in general, are either MW, Skip's aide, who typically works 2-3 half days/week and medical providers, such as the nurse who comes to check Skip's ankle. Our weekday routines revolve around Skip's care and my work schedule. For our two weeks in Maine, we were with 4 able-bodied friends who were each independent and had no caregiving responsibilities.

At home, I think our routines are productive and work well for us. Our lives are challenging but manageable. In Maine, our friends modeled what life can be like for those who don't have Skip's health problems to deal with day to day. I had a strong mix of reactions. I was saddened, thinking of all that Skip was missing in the mornings with our friends because her morning routines for cleaning/toileting/dressing took so damn long. She was never able to experience the casual chatting and coffee out on the deck in the mornings. I was often grumpy about helping her, in part because it was more challenging in the rental house, but even more because I wanted to be out on the deck drinking coffee too. I had some unproductive feelings of jealousy and self-pity but managed to get past that fairly early in the vacation.

I think the bottom line for me was this: time spent in the house with able-bodied people made me feel more strongly the price we pay for Skip's disability and how deeply it permeates everything in our lives. I was surprised about this effect; it had never occurred to me that I'd feel this during our vacation.

Our friends were great during the vacation. The able-bodied among us all had to do a bit more because Skip couldn't help with meals/dishes or schlepp stuff down to the dock and so forth. Everyone pitched in. And, they were all happy to help Skip when she needed something.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Skip was very sad to bid the water goodbye. She loves being by the water and hopes we can someday live beside a lake. I'd love that for someday, too.


awb said...

I've never known a woman that tall...wait, my wife is 6'2", nevermind! Glad you had a good time, hope Skip enjoyed the change in scenery.

Cranky said...

Andy - if your wife is 6' 2", I am totally jealous of her! I always wanted to be at least 6'!

steve said...

Glad you made it home safely and enjoyed the trip.

On our trip to New Orleans, I had my jealous feelings in the evenings. We used to be able to tie one on, then crash together. Those days are over, and I have bedtime responsibilities that require a certain skill level. BR did "take one for the team" and go to bed early one evening so that I could have a night out.

If I had the money, I'd always do what I did last year for my 40th. I paid BR's caregiver to come with us to Las Vegas and got her and her fiance a connecting room. She took care of the morning and evening routines so I could just relax and have fun. BR got much more consistent care with much less attitude, so it worked out well for both of us.

Sounds like you coped really well with the inevitable unexpected. I'd be cussing up a blue streak over any lift that topples over, legs opened or not.

Cranky said...

Steve - your LV trip (funny, that's where I celebrated my 40th as well) sounds great. Definitely expensive, but the respite was probably worth it.

awb said...

Cranky, she is, always tells me she saved me from a lifetime of bending over when I danced!

Diane J Standiford said...

awbm ur kids must be giants---cool.
Cranky, you think THAT's bad, same living situation for me and my partner, we move to asst living/retirement home and 80 year olds are dancing, playing cards all night, playing piano, going on day trips---makes me feel so...GRRRR Happy Birthday!

Cranky said...

Diane - funny you'd say that about Andy's kids being very tall. I had that same thought as well.

And, on those able bodied 80 year olds ... damn them! :-)