First day waking away from caring duties found me tumbler, after broken sleep. For months now I have been up 3 or so times in the night to help the Admiral onto the commode and back into bed again. Sleep has to re-learn the ropes, it seems, like when you have a newborn with disregard for anything but its own needs. It takes a long time to become accustomed to the merger of day and night, for it to become the norm. You look in the mirror at a baggy-eyed face that rather too closely resembles your grandma’s, and she is 83. But with a new born, you know it will eventually pass. Not the same as a carer for a man with dementia, because dementia presents a very different agenda.
I spend the day, mostly, in bed and reading. Reading other’s stories is my lifeline just now, wandering through a forbidding Alaskan landscape or traversing borders closed to the likes of me, a woman, alone, on the run; perhaps the tale is told of a pioneer community, ‘gifted’ lost land on some faraway emptiness, woo-ed by authorities who offer hope when there is only death and starvation. This woman finds her way but not until the chapters are well on into the 20’s or 30’s and during that journey she suffers great loss, overcomes gargantuan fears and grows into the wild spirit she knows she needs to be in order to survive. Such stories captivate me, draw me in, tell me my troubles are easily turned into opportunities should I just find perspective on them.
I rise, at times, make coffee or tea, wander outside to the pub benches and listen to the twitter of goldfinches in the big old trees around me. I doze, lying languid and sated with a storyline, my ears filled with sweet music until it is time for a long warm bath. The first night there was lobster on the menu. It might be on again this night. Anticipation fills my mouth and I smile. Fruit of the sea, my sea, the sea that keeps this island afloat and in the same place, huge mountains of rock, 90% of which are deep below me, fastened to the goodly earth and teeming with life I will never see. People I know wander by in the sunlight, stop and talk. I know most people here so there is news to exchange and smiles to warm us both. But talking tires me at this time. Hearing others terrible tales of relations with dementia, past or present, is not what this rest is about. I make my excuses and go back to my room.
Refreshed and changed I order a glass of wine and pick up my book. Out here folk are beginning to arrive for drinks and a carry out meal; some are driving home from work; some walking dogs. Behind the windows of these little cottages, someone is preparing food, checking that children are clean for school the next day for the first time since March, packing school bags, filling snack boxes, nervous. I turn back to my wine glass to see a tiny fly struggling black across the ruby red surface. Carefully I cup it on the tip of my little finger, lifting it back into the air. I watch it and it marvels me. At first, wings soaked and flat against its yellow striped back, it wobbles and tips. Slowly it eases one wing out, its back legs wiping both surfaces with deft movements. Then it tips its body forward to do the same for its back, its belly and face. I see a tiny golden proboscis curl out and in, so tiny, so perfect. For some minutes it wanders over my hand, faltering as it encounters a hair the size of a tree, stops, moves around it, moves on to the next tree-hair, and all the while cleaning, tipping, proboscis darting in and out. I am entranced all the while to be watching such minute perfection, so privileged to be seeing the whole process of repair.
Then someone comes and says hallo and the little fly lifts into the sky as my own heart sinks. I wanted to see more, to inhabit this secret silent time without loud voices, without questions, without the need to counter or present but just to watch in absolute silence the genius of Nature. The way I felt is never the way I feel around people, much as I love and need them. It seems to me that communication is not always about loud voices and a news exchange, nor of advice given, helpful hints proffered, nor teetered by another’s experience of what they think I might be going through. This fly and me communication I could feel right down to my held breath and beating heart and it was more powerful than any of that. I didn’t want it to stop. I wanted to follow the fly into the sky and to know it, how it lives, where it might land next, what it might feed on, that perfectly formed creature that can effortlessly lift from the noisy world moving lightly and in silence up up and away into the blue.