28 February 2023

Valentine Memories

Not long after Lizard's diagnosis, one of my closest friends found out her dad had it, too, and she, a non-blogger, began reading Snowcatcher daily to learn what I was doing to cope with "our new normal". She once asked me to write about our journey down this unchosen path more often because she wanted and needed more information.

One of my goals now that it's safer to do so is to get Lizard out of the house for a mini adventure once in a while. Last September, we spent three days in Cody, Wyoming, the first true vacation we'd had in at least five years but possibly longer. The long drive was difficult for him. Once we got there, he didn't want to endure long drives into Yellowstone, so we didn't get to see much of what I wanted to see, but both of us were surprised by how well he did in spite of discomfort. And we got to watch a grizzly and her potential mate (from a very safe distance) for nearly an hour! That was such a great and unexpected treat!

Lizard was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2018, had to retire the following year due to the rapid advance of the disease, got a new knee in December of 2019, then got a new back just eight months later, during the height of the pandemic.

Both surgeries were necessary but took a dramatic toll on the Parkinson's. Even winter now takes a heavy toll on the Parkinson's. People don't die of Parkinson's. They die from falls caused by Parkinson's. The friend who asked me to write more often about Parkinson's lost her father a couple of months ago due to a fall caused by Parkinson's. Another friend also recently lost her father due to a Parkinson's fall. Lizard's balance has become so unpredictable, I've become quite the mother hen trying to prevent him from falling.

The disease is still progressing more rapidly than even his doctors expected. Medication increases occur now just about every single visit to the neurologist. Medication increases work phenomenally for about two weeks. Then we're back at the start of this vicious loop. One day, I'm going to document how difficult it was (and shouldn't have been) to obtain disability benefits for Lizard, but not today. Today, I want to celebrate.

We had not "celebrated" Valentine's Day since 2017, and even 2017 was a marked disturbance in the force. When looking back to see when the Lizard was last able to honor his tradition of hyacinths and chocolate for me on February 14, I discovered he had begun having trouble with our road trips as far back as 2016. Three cycling vacations that year had been reduced to sightseeing because the long drives had taken so much out of him. Back then, we had no idea why he never felt like riding something we'd long planned. It was difficult to thumb through photos from our planned trips when the bikes never came off the carrier on the car.

I wanted this year to be different. Not only is it safe to be out in the world again, to a degree, but I felt Lizard needed reasons to celebrate. New adventures to which we could look forward. Making new memories that will lift his spirits. Knowing a road trip would be difficult, I planned our return to the Grand Mesa for cross-country skiing, our once annual Valentine tradition, because the trip is less than three hours.

It was fun to go back and look at the photos from our previous trips! Lizard got very enthusiastic about the possibility of cross-country skiing again, and I knew we both would enjoy the aerobic activity.

We had to stop twice along the way to our charming hotel, which I wasn't sure would still be doing the Valentine option we've enjoyed in the past, so during one of our stops I helped Lizard to pick out some chocolates he planned to use as decorations in our hotel room.

We were able to walk to Rifle Falls during the second stop, and not only did that help Lizard endure the final leg of the drive, but it got him outdoors, where he enjoyed the beautiful weather and the sound of water spilling over a cliff.

I learned last year when my dad died it's better to pay for a larger room so Lizard has room to pace the floor during his down times (the one- to two-hour block that occurs four times each day when his meds wear off until he can take another dose). He makes use of extra floor space wherever we are every single time his meds wear off. This trip's extra cost was well worth the price. Not only did he have a safe place to burn off his restlessness, I think the larger rooms also help prevent claustrophobia, which also has become a real thing for him. I actually think that contributes more to his level of discomfort in the car than the restlessness.

Our room was so nice! We had a sleeper sofa we didn't have to use, so all that space where the extra bed would have been made for hours of walking in circles, which is a way of life at home, too. Lizard asked me to step out of the room so he could decorate. I'm so in love with this guy!

The trip from the hotel to the snow-covered meadows where we love to ski cross-country huge laps wasn't too pleasant. The roads were plowed continually throughout the day, but the huge accumulation has created a narrow, winding path without many safe pull-outs where Lizard could walk around for a few minutes. I drive fairly slow in such conditions anyway, but I also have to drive much slower than normal now because Lizard's heighened anxiety causes him to be fearful on curves with steep drop-offs. Once we arrived at a designated cross-country ski trail, the whipping wind and falling graupel made Lizard wary of putting on skis. However, he enjoyed a couple of laps on foot from the car to the first curve in the ski trail tracks and back. In reality, I knew we might not be able to ski much more than that, so I was happy with what he was able to accomplish. He wants to try again next month, if we can, and that gives me SO much hope.

I always try to plan time we have to spend in the car around his down times so Lizard isn't as miserable. Sometimes, the meds don't make much of a difference. But every once in a while, I get it right, and the return trip was enjoyable for both of us. He enjoyed the scenery. Overall, we didn't get to do everything we planned, and our time away was too short. I also forgot to take photos of us on the Grand Mesa. But the memories add to our volumes from the past, and the smiles and hugs we shared will carry us until our next adventure!

1 comment :

  1. I love you guys. Here's to more successful outings for you.


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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