“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” —Robert Louis Stevenson
Although bringing Vernon home for Thanksgiving was an exciting milestone of sorts, it wore me out. In some ways, I am only now coming back into the energy I had up to then. It was a shocker to realize how needy he actually is when he enters ‘my world’…it was more shocking to realize how unable I am to take care of him. I used the word ‘shocked,’ but it wasn’t just that, because I didn’t NOT expect that. It was a deep reality check.
But I’m trying to think in solutions as much as I can. That’s my new thing: solutions over problems. (So I try to remind myself.) I knew I couldn’t face a massive wheelchair van again. It’s an expensive rental, but there are lots of intimidating (and time-consuming) safety belts which I found quite stressful. I also knew that Vernon got overstimulated quickly by the speedy movement of the world through the window. He had seemed quite overwhelmed and anxious early on in our 45 minute drive home Thanksgiving morning and had to take a long rest on the guest-bed to recalibrate for company. It seems that if we can get him a little more used to being a sitting passenger in a car, perhaps longer trips will be easier in the future.
On Sunday, I brought the minivan (yes, the one I haven’t got around to selling) to Mesa Verde and asked a staff member to assess if Vernon could be easily transferred into the back seat from a wheelchair. You’ll remember my friend Andrea, who’s mother Luiga had stroke last August? Though her mom is still slowly rehabbing in a nursing home, Andrea has been taking her on outings in her car. I believe she can transfer her from car to a wheelchair now, but at first she used to just take her driving, if nothing else but to get her out of that boring home and stimulate her senses a little. I’ve been watching them on their journey and finally today, we tried something like this ourselves. I realized when I signed the leave book, it was only the second time I had taken him out on something nice and fun in the whole year he’s been there, though he travels out on ambulance almost every single day.
We didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps it would just be a drive around a block, but the staff all seemed happy to see us try. I was nervous, but I knew this time, I could just pull over anytime he needed me to stop driving. We had no real destination in mind, and one of the kindergarten moms was willing to pick Justine up so we didn’t need to rush back. We figured out which side of of his body a seatbelt would stretch most comfortably. Julia, who sat with Vernon in the back seat, propped him up comfortably with pillows.
It was a beautiful warm and hazy day. I drove as slowly as I could toward the coast (mostly because I didn’t know where else to go.) We kept adjusting the windows for his comfort, but it seemed like a good idea to get him as much fresh air as possible. His eyes were closed much of the time, but I knew they were open sometimes because he directed my driving from the backseat. Whenever I asked him what he wanted, he just said: “Whatever you want to do. You are in charge.” I told him he was the perfect husband.
We ended up just a mile or two away in the relaxed, beach-y strip of Balboa Island. In January, it drives like a ghost town, so I was able to amble the van along till we found an empty parking space by the sand. He seemed happy just to watch from his comfy spot in the backseat.
The whole trip was about an hour, if that. He was ready to return to bed at the end of it, and I could tell when he was winding down. But he never panicked, he never got sick, he sat upright the whole time. It was very pleasant. I don’t know if he will remember the day and what we did, but I know now he will have an idea of what to expect if I say we are going on an outing next week…or the next. Progress.
Here’s a video just to give an idea from Vernon’s point of view.