Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Revisiting Routines and Problem Pillows

Mark, Darwin and I have temporarily swapped our sea gypsy life in the Caribbean for a road gypsy life in the United States. We load and unload our bags about once a week and do the same with our borrowed car. Sometimes we drive hours at a time from relative to relative with stops at friends’ places in between. We make ourselves comfortable for a week and … move again to another house, another area, another family, another mattress, another flat or poky pillow. We are bed surfing!

Every place has a different dynamic, different eating habits, different personalities and different things to do. We have gotten used to the routines, the different ways and adjust, time after time, filling our days with personal and other things to do and enjoying the company and environments.

In one place, we have the beach at our doorstep, a great playmate for Darwin and wonderful home cooked meals, at another place, we have plenty of space for us and the dog to be outdoors, pick apples for breakfast and feel useful in our efforts to help out, and in a third house, we enjoy a little bit of privacy, the happiness of our presence and the proximity to historical buildings and a river boardwalk.

In a couple of occasions, we enjoyed the company of friends with laughter, good food and tasty drinks as an added bonus. We exchanged life stories and invitations, met new family members and realized life is not easy wherever and however you live. We went on beautiful hikes over mountains and under the fall colors, in parks and historic town centers. Most time, however, is still spent indoors, behind our computers working on personal projects. And, the Western world is a good place to do so. In those circumstances, the fall climate is not bothersome at all. Once back on Irie, daily chores and lack of electricity, inspiration, time and energy due to the heat and humidity will take over again.

Of course, we managed to do some excursions as well. We visited New York City twice to meet friends, went camping and hiking with our good friends Scott and Lisa in New Hampshire before the real fall arrived, and followed Maine’s coastline for an afternoon, just the three of us. We stumbled across the Bush Estate, but, unfortunately Mr. W wasn’t home to hear what we had to say about him.

As much as we appreciate and enjoy all the hospitality and time together with friends and family, our need for our own space and life is growing. The cool air is still pleasant, but will soon enough turn into frigid, making it not so admirable anymore. The stressful way of living, the annoyances in traffic situations, the abundance of choices for everything, the narrow mindedness of some locals and long clothes are things we don’t care for. We are looking forward to our boat life in the tropics (and hope the temperature will be a bit more bearable by then) with all its advantages and disadvantages, but what I do miss the most at the moment is my one and only comfortable pillow!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For Mark’s Sister, Katherine Dru

Why would anyone committed to living in the Caribbean for a while, leave these wonderful islands? Why would people put a halt to their lives for three months? Why would they strip their boat, shut all the systems down and store their home in a boat yard? Why would they pack part of their belongings, grab their beloved dog and step on a plane to the United States? To escape the simmering heat and extreme humidity? Maybe? For health reasons? Most definitely. But not their own.

In April 2010, while in St. Martin, Mark and I received the shocking news that Mark’s sister Katherine (known to us as Dru) was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian cancer, one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. The 5-year survival rate is less than 20%, with an average life expectancy of three years after the diagnosis. By the time anybody realizes something is wrong, it is too late and the cancer has spread all over the body. This is why 75% of the patients are diagnosed with stage III or IV ovarian cancer. This enemy is a sneaky one!

Our lives came to a stop, while we were thinking about the consequences. It was hard to function for a while and some of our best friends offered help they couldn’t give. Just like us. Wanting to help, but helpless. Dru decided to stick with alternative medicine for a while but then realized a combination with chemotherapy would be better. That route was a tough one for everybody in the family. We started to think about a brief visit to the United States, while our friends would watch Darwin. In the meantime, Mark’s family took turns attending to Dru.

By the time Irie arrived in Grenada, our plan was formed. The three of us would fly “home” for three months, to take care of Dru during her worst weeks and spend time with other family and friends in between. Bare-boned Irie stayed in the Caribbean, high and dry, collecting mildew and awaiting our return.

The transition went smooth for everybody. The cooler, non-humid climate was a plus. Basically from the moment we arrived in Boston, we took the four hour drive up to Greenwich, Connecticut, where Dru and Brian live as caretakers on a spectacular property.

Mark’s sister was sleeping when we arrived. Both of us were a bit nervous about seeing her, but when she entered the room, we were pleasantly surprised. She didn’t look too skinny or worn out and the short hair looked really well on her. The “Sinead”-look fits her face perfectly! During our stays, we try to help out as much as possible. Husband Brian has a more than full time job, while we bring her to the clinics and pick her back up every day, do some shopping, clean up a bit, take care of the dishes, do the cooking and are around for assistance and comfort.

One week out of three, this is what we do and in between chores, we play with Darwin and his resident friend Sophie on the immense property. Of course, we also bring our computers and with unlimited electricity and internet, there is never a dull moment!

Dru doesn’t only receive help from family and friends. One of her doctors, Dr. Wald (aka “Magic Michael”), has decided to run the November 7th New York marathon as a fundraiser event for Katherine. All donations go towards Dru’s vitamin and other “healthy” IV-treatments at the Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco clinic. For more information about this event, see http://www.thewirie.com/wald_dru_fundraiser.pdf

Mark, Darwin and I will be enjoying our friends and family’s hospitality and luxury items (hot fresh water showers, dishwashers, huge full fridges without having to hurry, numbing TV shows, home cooked meals, all-u-can-use electricity and WiFi, cars for transportation, step-out-of-the-door dog walks and real beds!) until December 5th. And, so far, the cool climate is not bothering me, yet. I said “me” (and “yet”)…