My Dad owns a house, a few miles outside of Tice, Florida, on a small lake. Across the street, and on the other side of a drainage ditch, there is a subdivision that has people from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean islands. Some people, in the subdivision, have ducks, roosters, chickens, and rabbits. When I first arrive at His house, I notice the sound of roosters crowing; something that I have never heard in Adrian. The funny thing is after I’m there for a few days I don’t hear the roosters at all. I’m sure they’re still crowing but I get so used to the sound that it no longer gets my attention.
It is against the law to keep pigs, so when someone called zoning on the family right behind my Dad’s house, who had a huge hog, they were given ten days to relocate the animal. Can you imagine how the family felt? One of their neighbors had called zoning on them without even speaking to them first. I would have been angry, frustrated, sad, a lot of negative emotions. I’m sure that they had plans for that hog. However, instead of becoming angry and isolating themselves, the following weekend they had a hog roast and a real celebration ensued.
Once we realized that Harriet had Frontotemporal Dementia, we knew that a lot of our future plans would never be realized. Like Dad’s neighbors we had plans that were out in the future, but suddenly we were out of time. Dr. Sherman, her Neurologist, said, “No one can tell how fast this disease will go. The average person will live for eight to ten years after their diagnosis. However, some will only live three years while others will go past twenty years.” He went on, “If there is something you would like to do, such as travel, I would advise you to do it sooner rather than later, because even if you are fortunate enough to live twenty more years, in the final stages, you will not be in any condition to travel.”
Like a lot of people, Harriet has a bucket list of things she wants to do before she dies. For years she has wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. She also had a plan for our fiftieth anniversary, which included traveling out to San Francisco and up the Pacific Coast into British Colombia. After a period of grief, over the diagnosis, we realized that it was time to party.
We decided to do whatever it took to cross things off her bucket list. In May of 2018, we bought a Motor Home, and spent the summer, camping all around Michigan. Last July, Harriet, my Dad, my sister Sharon, and I went on a two-hour hot air balloon ride with Captain Phogg out of Fenton, Michigan. That was especially nice because my, 93-year-old, Father got to go ballooning with us which was something he has always wanted to do.
We hadn’t gone to concerts in years. However, last year we saw James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Steve Martin and Martin Short. I tried to get the best tickets I could without going bankrupt. The tickets for the Steve Martin/Martin Short program were a bit over $300. Imagine my surprise when the same exact program was on Netflix two weeks later.
Our final fling, last year, was the Camping trip out west. We left Michigan in late September and drove to Denver, then through Arches National Park, into Salt Lake City, and over to California. The first stop, in California was at Yosemite National Forest. From there we went to the Napa Valley Vineyards and spent a few days sampling wine. After touring San Francisco for four days, we went up the Pacific Coast stopping at the Redwood Parks. From there we drove through Oregon and up to Seattle, where we spent three days. Following that we went into British Columbia, which was beautiful.
The FTD had already begun to affect Harriet, so there were times where we would have to look for an oasis, which was a safe place to camp and rest for 2-3 days. We never made any reservations, just traveled as far as we wanted, or needed, too. We camped in Rest areas, Walmart parking lots, wonderful campgrounds, state, and Federal parks, including a campground right on the Pacific Ocean in Washington and at Glacier National Park.
We met some wonderful people, including; George our Uber driver in San Francisco, Sam, who was our rickshaw driver in Seattle, Brian Cornell, who had just finished hiking the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada, (A book about his adventures will be coming out soon. Be sure to get a copy.) and Gabby, a hostess/cook/bartender/waitress/busboy, at the Smoke House in Wallace, Idaho.
Harriet felt like the Lord wanted her to bless as many people as possible by thanking those who did a good job. Whenever we ate at a restaurant, if the service was good, she would go out of her way to complement and thank the server. The response was amazing, some people got tears in their eyes and responded by telling her that she made their day. Of course, I would have to put my money where her mouth was, by giving an extra-large tip.
Right now, it seems like Harriet has lost some ground. We don’t know if she will bounce back or continue to get worse. She is tired all the time and is having more and more difficulty with losing her train of thought and struggling for words. She fell again last Sunday evening. She keeps saying she feels foggy headed. I don’t know what to expect. Will she continue to decline or bounce back and enter another plateau? Only time will tell.
We have one more important trip to take, which is to go to Vermont in the fall. In November we will celebrate our 50th Anniversary. When Harriet gets to Vermont, she will have been in all 50 states. (I will have been in every state except Hawaii.) After that we will see what else might be on her bucket list.
When my Dad’s neighbors were ordered to get rid of their hog, they responded by throwing a party. The hog didn’t like it, but the neighbors were thrilled. When we were told that Harriet had FTD we decided to have fun for as long as we could and to bless as many people as we could in the process.
Please continue to pray for us and be assured that we will pray for you.