Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Off the Road

Barb Polan
Barb's Recovery
February 21, 2016

Tom, Turbo and I returned from a road-trip to Florida last night. There were several great reasons justifying it:
  1. Last winter here in eastern Massachusetts was so miserable - meaning the people here were miserable – that I had a melt-down (pun intended) in April, when the torture was finally over. It consisted of: “Tom, I am NOT going to spend two months trapped inside our house every year for the next 20 years!” After suggesting we sell the house (which neither of us want to happen), Tom offered to spend a couple of weeks this winter looking for an acceptable place to spend a couple of months each winter.
  2. We wanted to take our dog along with us, which made us opt to drive instead of fly. Turbo is an emotional support animal (ESA) we got when I couldn’t bear to stay home alone when it was time for Tom to go back to work after the stroke. Although Tom makes lots of jokes about Turbo needing more emotional support than he provides, he does his job extremely well. My psychotherapist wrote a letter confirming that Turbo is an ESA, so we purchased a little “vest” (more like a saddle) and an ID card with his picture and all to communicate that he must be allowed into any public facility.
  3. We have lots of friends and family scattered along the East Coast, so we’d be able to see some of them; again, a reason to drive rather than fly.
  4. My father, who lives in northern Florida, turned 90 in mid-February, and my siblings and I wanted to help him celebrate it.

Four good reasons that culminated in the decision to climb into the car every morning, drive between 4 and 6 hours to a friend’s house, visit overnight, then climb into the car the following morning. There were a couple of breaks in our routine:
  1. We spent 2 days in a cabin in Warm Springs GA with a college friend from Atlanta. We were originally set to stay with her and her husband in Atlanta, but before we got there, her house was broken into and ransacked, with window glass shattered throughout. The glass, which was cleaned up several times, made her not comfortable hosting Turbo, and she knew we wanted to visit the FDR-related sights in Warm Springs, so she found and rented a cabin in the hills there. What an enjoyable time it was. Visiting the (empty) pools where FDR worked on his recovery and holding my hands in a fountain fed by a warm, healing spring resulted in some magical thinking about the water healing my paralysis.
  2. My younger sister and her husband have a timeshare with a location in Panama City FL, and they reserved it for a week, just before Dad’s birthday, so we joined them there and spent 4 days walking on the beach and eating take-out food. Turbo did go into his first restaurant there in Panama City – an outdoor deck on a beach, where he behaved very well – but it was less stressful to eat in rather than eat out. It was a fun, relaxing time there, and we repeatedly took the BEST walk – a loop about a mile long consisting of a “pier,” a long boardwalk over shallow water, then a beautiful stretch of white-sand beach, and a road lined with woods on one side and interesting houses on the other.

That’s probably TMI, but my long-winded point is that stroke survivors can capably go off on challenging jaunts. I successfully made my way through at least a dozen gas station stores to find a restroom, walked long beaches not knowing when/where the end was, and took Turbo into public places he’s never been – only once did anyone ask for proof of his ESA status – at a motel in NC, halfway between Hilton Head SC and Baltimore MD, a stretch where we knew no one. His little red vest sufficed elsewhere, no questions asked, except, “Ooh, what a cute puppy – is she a service dog?”

It was fun – nerve-racking at times – but lots of fun. And we got to spend my father’s 90th birthday with him and my siblings, something I never expected to have happen on a road-trip.

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