January 7, 2009: Update from Sharon, on Lucky

Ah, we finally went into the water yesterday, after four weeks of work for Richard, and three for me. It feels really nice.

I had planned to drive south with Richard on December 6, but a few days before that, Virginia asked me to stay overnight with her. She was feeling rotten and Sandy and I thought she had the flu. When she vomited a little blood, and I couldn’t find her pulse, I took her to our little nearby hospital, just to make sure everything was okay, even though Sandy and I both thought I just wasn’t a very good nurse.

But the triage nurse, Lucie, who had almost talked me into not bringing Virginia in when I called to ask, had her in a bed in a few minutes, and Lucie and the on-call doctor were hooking her up to intervenus liquids in both arms. Virginia vomited a couple of kidney bowls full of thick black blood the consistency of chocolate pudding.  I said I had almost not brought Virginia in. The doctor said that, if I hadn’t, she would have died by morning. Sandy came at three a.m. and Bill and Connie later that morning. Ten days later, after Bin had stays in two London hospitals, 12 units of blood, three scopes, and everyday bedside company from many of her relatives, Sandy and I brought Virginia back home. She has always had stomach problems, and is now being monitored fairly closely by a team of gastric specialists to make sure she has no more stomach bleeding.

I flew south from Michigan to West Palm Beach a week after Richard and Rick (Richard’s son) had left, and missed the initial mess of the boat being opened and unpacked. When Rick went home, the bottom was ground down to the fibreglas, new matting and resin covered it, and it had two coats of interprotect. Rick worked all day everyday to do this, taking painkillers so he could keep going. Richard and I helped where we could, and I cleaned and unpacked. Richard and Rick installed the new electric windlass and the new chartplotter/depthsounder.

Most nights we fell into bed exhausted, but there was a potluck on the nice new patio here at Indiantown Marina for Christmas, and another on New Year’s Eve, and most Saturday nights.

Some nights we are too tired to cook. Then we go to a nice little Italian restaurant in town.

At these events we get to compare notes on the work everyone is doing, and where we have been and hope to go. The people on two of the boats have been living in the boatyard and working on their boats since last spring! I’ve been here since Dec. 13, and that is more than enough time in a boatyard for me.

Among other things, we have put three more coats of Interprotect and two coat of antifouling paint on the bottom. I sanded and Richard painted the deck and cockpit. And we did a whole bunch of other stuff. But it’s boring reading about it, so I’ll skip it.

The boat is nice and comfortable and clean. But Richard has been pushing himself and is exhausted and his chest is hurting. I suspect most quadruple bypass patients go at their recovery a little more slowly.

I tried to get the rest of the stuff done the last two days myself, because I was tired of climbing up and down the ladder and peeing in the plastic bucket with the painfully sharp edges in the middle of  the night. And I’ve only had time for two Scrabble games. But Richard kept working too, and still hurts. Right now he is at his friend Richard’s, getting his hair cut. We are trying to slow down a little. And it’s warm, and there is no snow.

December 7, 2008

Richard and his son Rick left yesterday morning around 8 a.m. for Indiantown and hope to arrive tonight.
I’m not there, although it was disappointing to have them go without me.
But my sister Virginia, who is special as you know, has had a gastro-intestinal bleed for a week. Doctors can neither stop the bleeding or determine its cause. I’m giving moral support to my sister the nurse, and we drive to the hospital an hour away most days to spend time with Virginia and find out what’s happening.
I’m going out to sweep the snow off my car and go to breakfast, since I emptied all of the food out of my house in anticipation of the move south.
It is so cold here! -5 C, which is 23 F, but the wind is strong and makes it feel way colder. I was thinking of skiing around here today, but am afraid my face would freeze off. So I’ll visit the parents and play Rummicub with Mom, and maybe work on the book, a preview of the winters when I can’t go south any longer.

November 19, 2008: Last Update from Sharon for Summer 2008 – Part Three

Richard was told as a young trim fit man that he had high cholesterol. In 1987, he was taken to Beth Israel hospital in Boston, where he was the recipient of the first stent put into a human. It’s still working. But he has been having difficulties for years. Every once in a while, he has had to stop what he was doing and sit down, sometimes with pain. But he put off going for help, after one doctor said he needed a bypass.

After riding his bike for three hours one day in July, the chest pains just didn’t go away. He waited a few days, in agony, until his family came back from the cottage, and his son took him to the hospital. I drove down the next day.

He was transferred to Southlake in Newmarket, which has a big cardiology centre. After an angiogram, a new stent, and an attempt to place another stent, he had a quadruple bypass July 27. His arteries were plugged right up, except where the historical stent was. I spent most of eleven days beside his bed reading aloud, playing cards, tucking in the covers, feeding him and walking with him. I took him home and helped care for him there until he was getting along pretty well on his own, in mid-September.

His family were there for him too. Dylan, 4, always ran up to Richard’s room and got the red heart-shaped pillow that Richard always forgot and needed to press against his chest when he coughed. Rick, his son, will come south with us and help do the work on the boat.

In September the cardiologist and surgeon, both pleased with his recovery, gave him the go-ahead for the rehabilitation programme, and now he is almost his old self, only with more energy.

He has purchased an electric windlass to pull up the anchor.

My boat is still here, thanks to the declining economy, and there is snow piling up on it today..

Virginia’s operation for suspected breast cancer went smoothly, and she is very happy in her little house, which she moved into in February. She still works at the grocery store weekday mornings and has an active social life. But she’s a bit of a hazard when she plays darts at the Legion. You want to stay well back of her.

When Mom went into hospital in March briefly, after Virginia moved out, Dad knew he could not care for her alone. He agreed that they would try Beattie Haven, the local retirement home, and they have settled in. It isn’t home, but the pressure is off Dad now, and the rest of us too.

Jeremy, Sandy’s son, who was hit head-on by a drunk a year and a half ago, had what should be his last surgery in October. His girlfriend was his nurse, so he’s getting good care. He showed me his healed scars last night, after beating me at Scrabble again.

Vonny and Ray made more permanent community and financial support arrangements for Tom, and he is doing just fine. They are back on their boat north of Columbia.

Mike, my son, has lots of friends, but the girl-friend is gone..

The eleven great-grandchildren include twins to Shane and Karen, who had a one-year-old and two-year-old at the time. Shane also had a lump of a particularly virulent form of cancer. It was excised, and he is being monitored to make sure no “satellites” appear.

Our parents’ home is empty. Sandy did most of the work. Every room took days, and was full of memories. She and Gerry have staged the house for selling, which took most of the summer and fall.

In mid-September, I got drawn into the federal election, helping the NDP in this riding. I worked dawn to late in the evening. It’s been years since I did this, and I have to admit I enjoyed it.

Richard visited, and was unhappy about the election work. But we’ll be together for six months on a 34-foot boat. I think he’ll get over it. If he doesn’t, I’ll make him read my copy of Loving Him Without Losing You.

Bill, my brother, and I took a creative writing course together at the local community college, and he followed it up with a little course that he gave. He’s a great writer.

Now I think about what is the most important thing to be doing each day. Often it’s time with Richard, or Virginia, or the grands.

I’ll miss my family, while carving out time for that precious other life on the boat with Richard. I have regrets and joy in either place.

November 7, 2008: Summer 2008 Update from Sharon on Lucky – Part Two

“Real life” presented itself in the form of piles of mail and little maple trees growing in the eavestroughs. I did my taxes and Megan gave me back Mom’s banking to do.

I helped less than my share with the emptying if my parents’ house, and the sorting through the accumulated history and junk, laced with a few treasures.

There were doctor’s appointments with Mom and Dad, and many visits to the retirement home. Dad walked with more difficulty and saw less; Mom wasn’t sure if I was her daughter or sister.

There was a new set of perfect twin grand-nieces, making nine grands in all, and two more were born over the summer. They are all perfectly wonderful, of course, and fun. There were all of the usual family gatherings.

The Scrabble and Book Clubs had carried on without me, although the Scrabblers drank a lot now, and looked up words.

Boat enquiries trickled in,  and a few people came to look. I kept lowering the price as the economy slid down. But My Detour still sits in my driveway, saying “Clean me; varnish my wood, take me sailing!”

I planted a border of bushes around the house. And took a carload of bushes to Richard’s family’s house to plant. And helped with the landscaping of Virginia’s house.

Virginia and I took our usual little week-long south-central Ontario road trip, and visited old friends. I visited Richard and he visited me, and we both got to know each others’ families better. We hiked and rode our bikes. We planned a camping trip in the van for August. Richard constructed a little place on top of the van for his 9-year-old grandson Colin to sleep when he came with us. I had complained often about our little plastic night bucket with sharp edges, so Richard installed a portapotty just for me

In July, brother Bill and I enjoyed a creative writing course together, and I went back for an art therapy course on Monday, July 21..

But that night, the summer took a sharp turn, and, for a while, it seemed that Richard and I had stepped into a different dimension. More later.

Looking Forward to Going South to Lucky Soon

It always surprises me how eager I am to head south, after how happy I was to get off the boat in the spring. Each half of the year is wonderful, and makes me appreciate the other one more.

By May 2, Richard finished grinding down the hull and we put some sunscreen netting over the boat, which we think may be better than the tarp, as it lets air through.

On May 5, Lucky got moved to storage, and we were on our way north.

This year, we took our time and camped in the van. With the back open and the netting in, we could lie in the trees, looking out at water and listening to night noises. Much nicer than a motel! One night we “stealth” camped, parking near a boat ramp in Beaufort, NC, and visiting a friend who restores Trumpys – another story, it will be in the book.

The van stopped twice, starved of fuel, and Richard had to lay underneath and clean the fuel filter. Later the fuel hose came off when a clamp rusted through, and Richard went underneath again. He has spare gas, and a good assortment of spare parts and tools, and a little mat he can lay on.

We wandered through the mountains, with breathtaking views at every turn (breast-taking, Richard called them, so I hung on to mine). The power-steering fluid had leaked out, so the steering was difficult, and I let Richard do it.

I became a senior citizen as we were navigating through the mountains. I don’t feel senior, but Richard said I’m very forgetful.

The van started making a deep rattle in the area of the rear passenger wheel. More transmission oil helped but after a couple of days the rattle became a loud knocking, and we looked for a Volkswagen place twenty miles back the road in Johnstown.. The shiny new garage couldn’t fix it and had to refer us to an old guy outside town, who had a yard full of old Volkswagens. The old guy got the parts, Richard did all the work, and I got to spend a spa day at the motel.

When Richard came back at the end of the day, oily, dirty and hurting from laying under the van again all day, I asked him whether he’d rather have sex or a massage. He picked the massage.

On May 15, I was back home, after picking up my car in Hamilton, and leading Richard out of Hamilton and up to Guelph. I was alone for the first time since Boxing Day, and it felt odd but nice. To be continued.