The Healing Trip (Part 22)
Caricature I had made of Van & Me in 1979
From my journal dated Wednesday August 14, 2019
I didn't journal yesterday.
It was all so much.
Too much company.
Too much talking.
Too much noise.
Not that I don't appreciate the friends. I do. He does. But I feel the minutes ticking by. The hours flying by. And I cannot control it.
He isn't very lucid. Sleeps mostly. Confused. The nurses told me that in the middle of the nights he wandered the halls looking for me. "I need to find my sister," he told them.
He is becoming incontinent now. He has tried to hold on to that dignity as long as he can, but we both know we both have to let it go. This is hard for him, but I told him not to worry about it. As a former nurse I knew what to do. "Yeah, but you're my sister," he said.
"It doesn't bother me one bit," I reminded him. After all, hadn't I put ointment on his bedsores? The ones in his "sit down region"?
Later in the day, our cousins--Dianne and Donna--came. They only stayed a little while. Took those last photos.
I left late. Went home. Made soup. Ate.
Then I packed my bag. I won't come back to the house again until this is over. When we were children, we had a pact to never let the other sleep alone if either of us was afraid. That pact still stands. Besides, I want to stay with Van. Be with him. Take care of him. This is not a chore, but an honor. A privilege. But for how long, I wonder, will I stay at the center? One day? Two?
And I am here now. With a packed bag and I'm waiting . . .
Yesterday I made an appointment with Laura Matthews Nessmith, the daughter of Wilbur and Mary Matthews, our dear friends, to cut my hair. In all these weeks, my hair has gotten shaggy and--with a funeral impending--it needs cutting. After all, Van wants me to speak at his funeral and I want to not only make him proud with my words but also with how I present myself. I am, after all, Southern.
Our friend Sam Thompson came to sit with Van so I could keep the appointment. What would I do without her ... or the rest of our friends?
Laura is a beautiful young woman with long blond hair and a sweet smile who works at Salon Solstice, about two miles from the hospice center. She spoke highly of Van, which fills my heart. She also gave me an excellent haircut.
When I returned, Sam told me that Van was able to stand up and urinate into the urinal by himself. Good to know.
Our cousin Bruce came by. He stepped in to see Van, who was sleeping, and then we went into the lobby to talk. He left after only a little while.
A few hours later, Van had to go to the bathroom again. I helped him to stand. I gave him the urinal but his hands were shaking so that the urinal hit the floor as the stream of urine began. He said, "I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry ..."
"It's okay," I told him. Because it was. "It happens, Van. Don't worry about it." I called for help with the clean up. As a former geriatric nurse, this wasn't the worse thing I'd ever had to deal with.
Hours later, it happened again. Clean up, again. Time for a catheter now. He fought it, but then relented. God . . . help us.
Afterward, the nurse gave him a good bath and he said he felt better. He wears an adult diaper. That's all. He cannot bear anything else touching him. I noticed that, as he slept the "rattle" has begun.
A few of his friends came by but I stopped them in the lobby and gave them an update. He wouldn't want them to see him like this. Like a survivor from Auschwitz. Skin and bones, naked except for the diaper, legs drawn up toward his chest. He would simply hate it.
Photo from Wikipedia
St George's Market is the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is located close to the River Lagan and the Waterfront Hall and was built in three phases between 1890 and 1896. Before 1890, St George's Market was an open market. During WWII it was used as an emergency morgue.
Today it is a thriving market with 300 traders, crafters, musicians, and food vendors.
And, on my last full day in Northern Ireland, Clare and I were headed there.
As soon as we entered, every sense in my body came alive. The music (interestingly, the live band played American music the entire time we were there, including songs by The Doobie Brothers, Glen Campbell, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles . . .), the food cooking at the various food booths, the crafts and art and material goods on display . . . all led to my heart beating wildly. Shopping and eating and walking between the booths, three of the things I love to do most.
One of the first things I spotted was an artist's booth and his collection of watercolor sheep. SHEEP! I looked at Clare and said, "I want to buy some of those to remember the sheep that grazed nearly everywhere we went."
"Wait," she said. "There may be another booth you like better."
Our first purchase was two cups of steaming hot cocoa from a vendor (we had to stand in line a while, but that told me how good it was going to be ... and it was. Also the live band was right there, so we enjoyed listening to them). When it was our turn, the vendor piled our drinks high with whipped cream, apologizing for our wait. Hey, honey! You pile on the whipped cream and I have no problem with waiting, I thought.
We made our way around to a jewelry vendor--two friends who design and sell jewelry that is often worn at royal events. Some of it was a little ostentatious, but I loved it! I purchased several pieces for myself and a few for friends.
Clare was excited to introduce me to her friends, owners of Banshee Silver, who create jewelry from silver and gold. Their pieces were lovely (take a look at their website!) and I enjoyed talking with them. After a few moments, I walked over to where a woman sold some of the most exquisite woven scarves and wraps I'd ever seen. One in particular caught my eye and I purchased it for my friend Kristy. (Merry Christmas, Kristy!)
Clare wanted to treat me to an authentic Northern Irish brunch, so we returned from our wanderings to the food court section toward the far right of the market. As long as sheep's blood and stomachs weren't involved, I was game. Again, we waited quite a while in line (and again, that told me how wonderful the food would be). Once we were served, we found a table just large enough for two, then sat to eat our bacon sausage and egg served in a sliced soda farl (a Northern Ireland bread).
I told Clare I'd not seen anything like the watercolors we'd spied upon entry that I liked better, so while she enjoyed more live music, I ran back to the vendor/artist and purchased two of his paintings. We spoke for quite a while (the American accent always drew questions), had a picture taken of the two of us. (If you'd like to see more of his work, go to: GLEN THOMPSON ART)
I returned to Clare with a broad smile. "I have my sheep," I told her.
Glen Thompson, Northern Ireland artist, and me.
The sheep, after I'd framed them and hung them in my home.
So, here you have it ... our typical Northern Irish brunch.