Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tempus fugit

I can scarcely believe it's been nearly a month since my last blog post. I've been busy. Burned out. And every post sounded so crabby i didn't finish any of them and abandoned them in the draft folder.

Summers here are glorious but fleeting. Himself wanted to help with taking the boat out of the water at the end of the sailing season, which, because of his work schedule would mean mid-September. I had wanted to keep Retrouvé in the water until early October, as September sailing here is usually quite spectacular. SFB would also be on hand to help, and he's a fount of sailing knowledge, so i reluctantly agreed to pulling her out on 22 September.

I sailed on my friend's schooner for that week and had a good time. The trip was a bit emotionally charged, as we had Joe's ashes aboard, and on the last day, after our
6-day trip was done, we sailed out with his widow, other members of his family, and friends to commit the rest of his ashes to the sea. During the 6-day trip, we took turns sleeping with Joe (which he would have loved, and made his widow laugh when we told her we were going to do that), and on a two occasions, we released some of his ashes, one at the lobster bake we had on an uninhabited island where we shot a bit of him from a rocket launcher, and on the morning of the last day, i played "Fiddler's Green" on my fife while one of our sailing friends dumped a cup o' Joe overboard. I know it sounds disrespectful, but if you knew Joe, you'd know he would have loved it. None of us could say anything, and i had planned on playing "Fiddler's Green" through three times. The first time to gather everyone, the second so Mike could dump the cup o'Joe, and the third time, to provide a segué between the solemnity of the moment, and to return to the task at hand. But by the last few measures second time through, my tears started flowing in earnest, and i knew i wouldn't be able to get through the third time. So i stopped after the second time round, and all of us cried.

Ruth was also very much missed on that trip, but she hadn't wanted any part of her brought aboard or buried at sea. She had decided to donate her body to science, hoping it might help them discover something to help someone else down the road.

Himself decided to stay home and work on a few house projects that needed doing, although he did sail with us for Joe's official sendoff to the sea. He got a lot done and had that air of satisfaction one gets when one is able to cross off an item from the to-do list that's been there too long.

SFB's wife also came aboard the boat for the service, after the sail, there was a reception in the dock house. Joe's sister, who was slated to take his sailing hat, had worn it from the time she arrived at the shipyard until after the sail. The hat had been tied to the box containing his ashes and had also made the 6-day trip with us. She was living on the West Coast and had sailed in her younger days. She regaled me with some of her sailing stories and asked me about Retrouvé. We could see her tied up at her mooring from the dockhouse so i pointed to her, and we talked sailing for a bit.

As i circled around talking to various small groups of people, i had come full circle and talked to Cappy. She had Joe's hat hanging between her shoulder blades, and i wondered why. She saw me look at it and explained that Joe's sister said that Joe had always sailed on the East Coast. Taking his hat to the West Coast with her was wrong. His hat belonged here, and she gave it to Cappy for as long as she wants to keep it.

SFB would come home with Himself and me and stay the night at our house, since he'd help us with Retrouvé next day. SFB's wife would drive home the hour or so to their house, and had plans with their granddaughter on Sunday. Before we ate supper, SFB and i gathered the few things i hadn't yet put in the truck: extra rope to tie down the stays to the mast on the way home, an extra pfd for SFB, the cross-tree that would serve as a rest for the mast, the tie-downs we'd use around the boat.

A documentary had recently come out about a boat that had been built nearby, and the boat created a bit of a stir as it was unconventional. I wanted to see the documentary as i had moved here full-time during one of the more heated chapters and was curious to see how the filmmakers would tell the story. For the most part, i'd say they did an even-handed job. At any rate, i was able to procure a copy of the documentary, and SFB wanted to see it, so the three of us watched it.

The day had been a long one, up early for sailing (SFB and me) or house stuff (Himself), the service for Joe had been emotionally draining, and we all found ourselves pretty tired by documentary's end. I had nodded off for a part of it, but i'd seen it before, and as i own a copy, i could see it again.

Our plan was simple. We'd get up next day, maybe needing to wait a little for the last of the rain to blow through, then take Retrouvé out of the water. High tide was at 1 p.m., so getting to the boat by 11 a.m. would allow us to take advantage of the tide.

SFB was settling down in the guest room, DH and i were upstairs in our bedroom, and i fell asleep quickly. At some point, i heard SFB say, "emergency room," and Himself say to me, "I need to take SFB to the hospital." I said, "Okay," and stretched a bit. I could see Himself and SFB travelling a dark road.

About 15 minutes after that, i awoke and listened. Himself was not beside me. I was the only one in the house. It dawned that it hadn't been a dream. I really did hear SFB say, "emergency room," and Himself really did tell me he was taking SFB to the hospital. I waited for Himself to return.

SFB felt a huge pressure in his chest, and it worsened when he lay down. He has heart trouble, and he decided this seemed a bit serious as he couldn't lie down at all without feeling loads of pressure and could hardly breathe when he was supine. After telling me they were leaving, Himself had sped like a madman and got stopped by the police. Headlight and taillight out, and oh, he was speeding. Himself explained he was taking his friend to the hospital. The cop took one look at SFB and told Himself to get along, only not to drive so fast. He didn't accompany them, just turned around and walked away as Himself took off.

SFB wears contact lenses most of the time, but changes to glasses a little bit before bedtime. I hadn't recalled seeing him with his glasses on and wasn't sure exactly what time it was the last time i saw him and what time Himself had driven him to the ER. "Was SFB wearing his glasses?" i asked Himself. No, he hadn't been. Well, then, we'd need to take his contact lens stuff and glasses over. I'd drive this time as my headlights and taillights were functioning correctly. And, i didn't need to speed.

We arrived to find SFB still in the ER waiting for a room. He was reading his Kindle and wearing his glasses. We visited a while with him, and the nurse came in to talk with him. She didn't ask us to leave, and he didn't ask us to leave, so we stayed and heard her explain that they thought he was having congestive heart failure. Now SFB is not a complainer and i've never seen him afraid of anything, but i saw abject fear spread over his face. Only for an instant, and he said in a controlled voice, "My mother died from that." True, his mother died at 95 from CHF, and yes, SFB had heart trouble, but not CHF, and i could see him trying to come to grips with that. I also knew we couldn't leave him alone until he got a bit more settled. Or until his wife arrived.

Himself was nodding off and said he really needed to get home and go to bed. I was wide awake and said i'd take him home, which i did. I then returned. I remembered how frightened i'd been when i was in the hospital with my broken leg, and the blizzard made travel very difficult. The governer closed all the roads for everyone except for emergency vehicles, so i sat there alone, wondering how long my recovery would take, and if it would be a complete recovery. I didn't think i'd die, though, and while i didn't think SFB was going to die, and i couldn't do anything helpful, i could just wait with him. At least until he got a room. Or until his wife came.

The nurse came back into the ER cubicle where we were. She asked questions in a very low, soft voice. SFB has hearing loss, so i told her she'd need to speak up so he could hear. I was glad i could let her know that, because she wore a look on her face that indicated she thought he was not quite with it as his face hadn't registered any of her questions. Well, of course he didn't, you silly cow, i thought. He didn't hear you.

"So, you took Sleepyhead home?" she smiled to me, and nodded to the empty chair where Himself had been. I nodded. She left to go do something, and SFB asked what the beeping noise was. The monitor was beeping because a few of the ECG parameters were high. I could tell it bothered him, and i was explaining that a few were just over normal on the high side when Nurse returned. She saw his panicked look, went over to the monitor, and silenced the alarms. His blood pressure stats were updated every 15 minutes and he wanted me to tell him what the latest readings were.

He said that his wife might stop in. Since this wasn't the first time he'd had heart issues, she had a routine. If she could get some sleep, she'd do that for a few hours, then come in and stay all day. If she couldn't sleep, then she'd be on her way. Either way, i figured i wasn't leaving until i knew he settled down a bit and got a regular room or if she came. I just couldn't bear to leave him all alone.

Finally, they had a room ready. I carried his personal effects and once we got to the room, the new nurse who helped the first one who spoke with the low, soft voice asked me to wait in the family waiting room. He kindly got me a cup of tea, and i realized he thought i was SFB's wife. He told me things he'd tell a spouse not a friend, and i only got a word in when he went to take a breath. I explained i was simply a friend, that he was staying the night at our house to help us with taking our boat out of the water next day. That his wife lived an hour away, yes, he lived there with her, but rather than drive all the way home and back, it made more sense to stay the night with us.

And now, this.

I went into the room. SFB looked a bit better, his colouring had returned to more normal, and his breathing was a bit easier. He was a bit calmer, too, and we both relaxed. He asked what time it was. I looked at my pocket watch. It was nearly 4 a.m. He told me i ought to get home and get a few hours sleep. I felt a wave of fatigue wash over me. He was right. He also looked tired, and i said he ought to do the same. I gave him a peck on the cheek and hug, tucked in his blankets a bit, and left.

Himself was sound asleep as i crawled in next to him. I felt i had been asleep for about five minutes when i opened my eyes. It was quarter to nine. I got up, ate breakfast, and looked at the rain. The last hurrah of rain the weathermen predicted was a bit more steady than a hurrah. It looked positively gloomy outside. Well, they thought things would clear off by noon. That'd put us an hour behind the time we wanted to start, but we'd still be all right.

I thought about SFB. Snippets of the hospital conversation came back. Low voice Nurse saying that he was going to be there all day Sunday and most likely Monday, too for an echocardiogram. We had taken his toiletries and meds, the latter of which the nurse did not want us to leave there, as they would dispense all his meds. He had asked for his chargers for his phone and Kindle and told me right where to find them. I heartily dislike rifling through people's things, i always feel like an invader. As i got the chargers, i realized SFB had no clothes with him. I didn't find a pair of clean underpants but i didn't look through every single thing in his bag. I did discover a small bag of dirty underwear and socks that he had worn on the sailing trip. God, had that really ended only the day before? It felt like weeks. I could wash everything in the small bag, and his jeans. I also saw two shirts he had worn on the sailing trip and washed those, too. I rarely use a dryer, always opting for a sunny day to hang things on the line, but was glad i had the dryer option available, as the rain droned on outside. By the time the dryer was finished, Himself and i had a plan. We'd pull Retrouvé ourselves. SFB had walked us through before, and we were pretty sure we knew all the steps. I was most worried about backing up the trailer down the ramp and getting the boat on board that. Himself was most worried about lowering the mast. He assured me he'd be fine with the trailer; i assured him i knew we'd be fine with lowering the mast. So, we'd do it ourselves.

I stopped by the hospital to drop off some clean underthings for SFB. His wife was there, and she had brought some clean clothes. Of course she did. And her hospital bag. As she explained, she had all too much experience with SFB, her own parents, and SFB's mom. She thanked us for getting him to the hospital so quickly and for staying with him. That she'd be glad to help us with the boat, only not today. And of course, SFB would not be able to help. Of course he wouldn't. They had brought lunch for the both of them. We discussed the plan regarding SFB's car and who would be picking it up, what to do if by the time they came for the car, we were at the boat. And i suddenly felt very much out of place. I told her if she wanted to stay at our place, she was welcome to do so. She thanked me, said she preferred her own bed, it wasn't super far away, but thanks all the same.

As i drove back home from the hospital, i notice the rain had stopped. The grey glare made me squint, and Himself had gathered a few more pieces of rope to add to the collection for tying the stays to the mast for the trip home.

We said a prayer before leaving with the trailer. Himself had guided me back to it, attached it to the truck, and checked to make sure the lights were working. He reminded me not to take corners too closely (i tend to since i'm used to driving small cars with tight turning radii) and followed me to the public landing. I had driven over one curb and wondered if i had. It was a tight left turn from one small road onto another. No harm done, as the trailer was empty, but would have been a bit nervewracking with boat on it. I got in to Himself's car--while i was dropping off clean underthings to SFB he had gone to get a new taillight and headlight--and we drove to the shipyard where we'd get in Twig, the dinghy and row out to Retrouvé. I told Himself that as i drove over the one curb, it might be best if he drove the truck and trailer home, and i'd drive his car. I know he wanted to drive it because i've only driven with a trailer once before and need more practice. But, he didn't want to belabour the point, and we've been together long enough that there are times we each know it's better to say nothing and let our spouse come to the right conclusion. Saves a lot of argument or ruffled feathers. He thought we should perhaps drive home with the boat first, unhitch the trailer, and then drive back to the shipyard and pick up his car.

It took us a bit longer than it would have with SFB because a few times, we needed to think through the sequence of what needed to come next before we acted, and it felt as if the teacher had done what he could to teach us. It was now up to his students to use the knowledge he shared from his vast stores of wisdom and find our way. But, we were able to do everything we needed to do. We did it cautiously, carefully, and without disagreement or argument. Himself needed to readjust the trailer on the ramp one time. Retrouvé balked a little the first time but the second time, she slid onto the trailer easily. When it came time to drop the mast, i told Himself how i thought we should do it. He made a brillant suggestion that was a small tweak to my plan, which i immediately sensed was the perfect thing to do. We got the mast down easily. As he was securing the cross-tree to the stern, he wanted to tie some of the rope from the cross-tree to a forward stanchion, but the rope was too short. He had two pieces that toegether would be enough. He asked if i could tie some sort of knot that wouldn't come undone. I could, and tied a carrick bend. Those mornings sitting with The Marlinspike Sailor as i ate my breakfast and played with two pieces of rope hadn't been in vain.

We checked everything. Himself is more right brained than i am, so he could get the self-feed part of the tiedowns to work perfectly, but he couldn't remember exactly how we had used them in the spring. I remembered, and we had Retrouvé ready to go. We drove a little way, then Himself got out and as SFB had done, shook the boat back and forth to make sure nothing rattled too much. Nothing had.

My job was the same as it had been in the spring. I was to look behind and alert the driver if anything looked as if it were working loose. Nothing did.

We got home, unhitched the trailer, and went to fetch Himself's car. I had told him i was supposed to go out to supper with a knitting friend who was taking the next trip on my friend's schooner. We had agreed to the dinner plans several weeks before, that felt like years before. Himself could come, and he'd never met Hope, so this would be fun. The first mate was also going to be joining us, and as all four of us could fit in the truck, we headed to a very nice Italian restaurant on the other side of town to find it...closed. We went to another eatery next town over, one that Himself and i like very much. Hope and the first mate had never been. We sat in a booth, toasted to a fine sailing season and success with retrieving Retrouvé ourselves. Our conversation wandered all over the place, and we ended up telling Hope and the first mate about SFB. They both knew him, Hope had sailed with him several times, and the first mate had only just met SFB on our 6-day trip, but had heard about him from others so knew a bit about him before he had chance to meet him. He asked when visiting hours were over. I said i thought 8:30 p.m. We had finished our meal and paid the check. It was now about 8:10. He thought we should stop by on our way back, as we went right by the hospital.

And so we did. I knew where the room was even without breadcrumbs, and SFB brightened when he saw my face. He was alone, as all family had left about an hour or so before. He suspected Himself was with me, but was surprised to see two others besides troop in as well and was quite touched to see us all.

He wanted to know how it went with Retrouvé. We told him all was well with that. He asked about the schooner, and the first mate mentioned a small job he took care of that SFB knew needed doing. Hope talked a bit about the upcoming trip and how the next time she sailed, she wanted SFB to be there, too. We stayed about 15 minutes and after hugs all around, we left, dropping off Hope and the first mate wishing them fair winds. Himself got into his car, and we both drove home.

The day felt 77 hours long. The cats greeted us warmly, and we made an early night of it.

Life. Death. Lighting Chinese lanterns one night after anchoring and calling the one i released Ruth. Spreading a cup of Joe on the sea. Doing house repairs. Taking what we learned from one more experienced and doing it ourselves. I thought of the Little Prince. How he had to leave his body behind because he was so full of knowledge and his body was simply too heavy. I thought of how comforting it would be to get back to my usual daily routine. Predictable. Boring. Not blog worthy in the least. But, oh, so very welcome.


  1. Well, your life's certainly not dull. I hope your friend is now back to 'normal'.

    I think your 'funerals' for Joe sound just right. I can't stand solemn glum groups of mourners.

  2. You did need an early night in a warm bed. It was a long slog getting there. Best wishes for SFB.

  3. Emotional roller coaster
    That's what you've been on
    Always lovely to read you

  4. The reply function doesn't want to work, so i'll answer to each here:

    Cro, SFB is now having to adjust to a new normal, as are his friends and family. He's never been one for coddling, and isn't about to start now. Still, as a friend, i can be mindful that i don't ask more than he can give, and if we share meals together, to cook things that will serve him best.

    As for funerals, it was helpful to take Joe places and release bits of him along the way. At the lobster bake, there was a mix of laughter and solemnity. And we had ongoing jokes all week about how Joe slept around, and with whom would he sleep next. The final day was hard as we let the last of his remains go to the sea. But i found it very healing and i know i wasn't the only one.

    Joanne, yes, it was a long slog. Hard to believe that 36 hours or so could be so busy. I was glad i've been taking care of myself all along, so when it came time to be at the ready, i could be. Once i woke up properly, that is.

    John, yes it's been a wild ride. SFB has already been plotting what winter jobs i need to do on the boat, as have i, and has already assigned himself to make a new tiller. I had another idea in mind regarding that but didn't have the heart to say no. Although i'm still going to research my other idea for my own curiosity. I know letting him work on this helps him to get back to normal as soon as possible. The project falls within the confines of his new normal, so if this new normal is here long-term, we're still good.

    I thought of you as intensive care nurse whilst we were waiting in the ER, and after SFB got settled in the special care unit (cardiology patients are usually SCU). I really don't know how you do it but am so very grateful to you and others who feel called to be nurses.

  5. You were very kind to your friend, and it was good of you to take care of the ashes. If you ever again have a guest with a serious problem, please call an ambulance if you can. If SFB had passed out or died on the trip to the hospital, Himself wouldn't have been in any position to assist him.


    1. Good suggestion, Janie. Where we live is a bit on the rural side, and to get an ambulance to come to our house in the middle of the night would probably take as long to arrive as it took Himself to drive SFB to the hospital. As you say, though, if SFB had passed out or died, Himself would not be able to offer assistance. I'm glad we didn't have to experience that.

  6. What an introduction to your blog - I'm tired just reading it. What an exhausting night but your friend must have been so pleased you were both there.

    I hope I have good friends to scatter my ashes the way you did!

    1. Welcome, Em. It explains why i haven't been so diligent with blog postings. Either lots of stuff happens and no time to write about it, or nothing happens, and no topics come to mind as blogworthy. I'll see if i can strike a balance.