ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD
A serial memoir by Jean Fogelberg
Sometimes a Storm
Each Fall, Dan liked to take a week-long cruise on his boat to his favorite places in Maine. He’d been doing that since 1998, when he filmed his cruise on his second boat, Serenade. This year I would accompany him on Minstrel. He was excited about showing me some of the places I hadn’t been to before, and I’d been wanting some time to work on my photography. Also, it would give me something to do on the boat, so I got excited too.
The Hi8 camcorder tapes of Dan’s autumn cruises were neatly labeled, Serenade 1998, Minstrel 1999, Minstrel 2000, and so on. Now I would document our 2007 trip with my digital camera, on digital media cards. When he started the steroids, Dan made me promise not to photograph him when his face was puffy, and I always kept that promise. My poor, beautiful man; the self-consciousness must have evoked memories of his youth, when the acne burrowed so deep into his young shoulders they bled.
On August 29th, Dan and I sailed to Swan’s Island. We moored in Burnt Coat Harbor and did some hiking and photo-taking, then we returned to Minstrel and Dan called the Boathouse and ordered lobster dinners. Kevin Staples motored out to us, his sweet old dog standing in the bow of the dinghy, wagging its tail as they neared Minstrel. As Dan paid for the dinners, he and Kevin chatted easily, as they did every year, and Kevin ignored the puffiness of Dan’s face. A few weeks earlier, Dan had run into a friend in the market and she hadn’t recognized him. I don’t know who walked away from that encounter feeling worse.
For the next twelve days, we took our time and let the wind and currents decide which way we would go. After Swan’s Island and Buckle Harbor, we visited Vinalhaven, Seal Bay, Northeast Harbor, Frenchboro, Southwest Harbor, Holbrook Island, Isle Au Haut and North Haven. We’d set the anchor for a few days and go gunkholing for hours in the dinghy. I was constantly taking photographs, from our clothes drying in the cockpit to the eagles and cormorants that seemed to be posing just for us. It was a magical cruise, and for the first time I was the one who wasn’t ready to go home, but Dan wanted to get back for football season.
The cruise had lit a fire in me to get better with my camera. On September 14th I was tiptoeing around the house while Dan slept, looking for something to shoot. I set up a still-life on the kitchen counter, using oranges and bananas in a white bowl, on blue fabric. I was hand-holding the camera in the low light and moved before the shutter closed, which created a blurry, double-exposure. It was cool. I experimented with holding the shutter open while moving the camera around, and tried different still-life ingredients. By the time Dan woke up, the counters were covered with produce, flowers, and colored scarves. I called them Abstract Still Lifes. Dan asked me to walk him through the process and declared me a Jeanius.
On Tuesday, September 25th, Dan took off sailing for a few days. On Wednesday I drove to Castine to join him for dinner at Dennett’s Wharf & Oyster Bar. I parked on a residential side street just as the sun was setting. Heavy clouds were gathering so I carried my umbrella as I walked down toward the water. Minstrel was moored not far from the restaurant and Dan was just motoring away from her in the inflatable dinghy. I went and stood on the dinghy dock and as he pulled into a space between the other small boats. He tossed me the line and I wrapped it around a cleat, then he handed me his backpack and stepped up on to the dock. As we walked up to Dennett’s, the dark clouds suddenly grew much darker.
The hostess greeted us and picked up two menus from the stand, and we started to follow her. Just then, a microburst hit the little town with all the force of a tornado. Gusts of 95 miles per hour battered the sides of the building as thunder cracked overhead. Customers seated near windows quickly moved toward the center of the room and when the power went out, the bartender and waitresses began scrambling for extra candles. During the flashes of lightning, I looked at the faces of the people around us; many of them looked nervous or afraid. I realized I wasn’t nervous or afraid. In fact, I felt a measure of comfort, huddled with these strangers as we sheltered from the storm together. Dan and I were so used to feeling like castaways, it was nice to be among people who were facing a mutual threat.
For some reason he couldn’t explain, the cancer felt personal to Dan. He said he sometimes wondered what he’d done to deserve this disease. He knew it was irrational, and yet a niggling doubt kept reviewing his life, looking for an offense that might warrant a sentence of cancer.
After half an hour, the storm rapidly diminished. We ordered salads, the only thing the kitchen could prepare without power. After a candlelit dinner, Dan walked me to my car, lighting our way with the flashlight he always carried in his backpack. The streets looked like the aftermath of a hurricane, littered with downed trees and branches. Up the hill from my car, a large tree had fallen across the road. Down the hill, we had to be careful to step around the phone and power lines lying coiled beneath plant debris like jungle snakes. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It wasn’t a big deal: I had clothes and a toothbrush on the boat, and the kitties had food and water to last them through the night at home. We pumped rainwater out of the dinghy then motored our way toward Minstrel. A full moon lit our way as we moved between the other moored boats, all facing into the mild but steady wind. I loved the way anchored and moored boats changed direction, en masse, with the wind and tides. It was an orderly reaction to a disorderly world.
After changing into comfy clothes and a windbreaker, I went up on deck and dried off the cushions. Dan poured us drinks, and we sat in the cockpit enjoying the strange aftermath of the storm. Branches and leaves floated past us quickly on the black water, making it feel like we were sailing along at thirty knots (around thirty -five miles per hour.) It got late, and cold, so we went below and turned on the radio to catch The Thistle and the Shamrock, with Fiona Ritchie. Afterward, I found a book I’d left onboard and went to bed.
Dan preferred reading at night in the main cabin; I liked lying in the forward berth in my sleeping bag, under the bright reading light. I read for maybe an hour, then turned out the light and snuggled into the sleeping bag. I called out, “Good night, my love,” and Dan answered.
A few minutes later I felt the boat rock as he got up to do something, then I heard an unusual thud. “Dan? You okay?” I called out. No answer. “Dan?” I called, louder. When he didn’t reply, I unzipped the bag and swung my legs to the center of the berth and leaned forward. Dan was on the cabin floor, slumped against the settee. When I reached him he was semi-conscious. As I talked to him he came to and I helped him back up on the cushioned seat. He wasn’t hurt; he’d passed out in a gradual loss of consciousness, breaking and guiding his fall as he went down.
We both knew his single-handing days were behind him.
On Friday, the big story in all the New England newspapers was the crazy microburst thunderstorm that hit Maine at eight o’clock on Wednesday night, leaving a non-continuous swath of damage two miles wide by fifteen miles long. Of the two towns affected, Castine was hit the hardest, with an enhanced damage path one mile long and one-quarter mile wide. Within that path, many of Castine’s beloved elm trees, some 150 years old, were broken or toppled onto structures and cars.
Maine has almost 3,500 miles of coastline, including bays and inlets. Dan and I met for dinner fifteen minutes before a thirty-minute microburst began, at a restaurant smack dab in an epicenter that encompassed just half a mile of coastline. And yet, we didn’t take it personally. We never wondered whether that storm was loosed on us as punishment for past wrongs. To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, sometimes a storm is just a storm.
On September 28th, we boarded Minstrel and met up with our friends Jon and Sherry at an anchorage between McGlathery Island and Round Island. They rowed over from their boat, Free Spirit, and we sipped drinks and ate crackers and cheese on Minstrel as the sun set. Afterward, we went below and Dan served us linguini and clams with salad, crusty bread, and wine. His sense of taste was on the fritz that night, and he apologized in case the pasta wasn’t up to snuff. It was divine; he could have cooked it blindfolded.
Dan gave me permission to photograph him, preparing dinner.
On October 3rd, I woke up at home with an idea for a photograph. I envisioned a woman in Victorian clothing, standing on a low rock surrounded by water. Her back to the camera, she faces the sea and her reflection mirrors the top hat she’s holding in her hand. I grabbed a notepad and pen from the dresser then gently got back under the covers. As I was sketching the idea out, Dan woke up and asked what I was doing. I told him, and asked if I could enlist his aid in getting the shot. If coffee came first, he was in.
After checking the tide charts, we walked down to the cove. I was wearing a black skirt and jacket, and the top hat I bought in Winterport on the psychedelic car wash day. I carried the tripod and camera and Dan, bless him, accompanied me down the rocky beach with his cane.
I found a flat rock to stand on, but we had half an hour before the tide would reach it, so Dan directed me to climb a big rock nearby. It was covered in seaweed, which made the climbing awkward, and Dan laughed and took pictures. Once the tide had risen a few inches, we went back to the flat rock and I waded out in my Wellington boots while Dan stood at the ready with the tripod-mounted camera. I stood on the rock and Dan took a few shots. He thought we should wait until the rock was completely submerged, so we talked for a while in the quiet cove and watched the fog recede from the Reach. Once the rock was covered, I tried different poses with the hat and Dan clicked away.
My original idea had been a vertical shot, but Dan shot it horizontally, incorporating the Reach and part of the cove. It was our first collaborative photograph, and we were both pleased with it. Later, I opened it on my computer in Photoshop. I added a seagull I’d photographed in Northeast Harbor, and Bryan’s antique dinghies, which he kept tied up in the cove. Eventually, I added Minstrel and Serenade to their transoms and called it "Waiting for the Tide."
Dan fell in the bathroom on October 21. He turned toward the door and his body stopped but his brain kept spinning. While falling, he grabbed the toilet roll holder, pulling it out of the wall but slowing his fall. I helped him up and he said he was okay. Over the next few days his hips and ribs hurt, but he was sure they were just bruised and would heal.
On the night of October 26, the wind blew all night long. In the morning, the yard was covered with a carpet of golden leaves. Dan was still sleeping, so I tiptoed into our closet and got my Victorian garb and hat. I dressed downstairs, then I put the camera and tripod on the lawn and set the shutter timer for three seconds. After pressing the release button, I ran and leaped, barefoot, in front of the camera. When I heard the click of the shutter, I circled back to the tripod, pressed the release button, and repeated the whole process.
Abbie and Fiona were sitting side by side on the porch, their tails twitching as they watched me running in circles. The French doors opened and Dan walked out in his robe. “What’s going on out here?” he demanded. I laughed, out of breath, and showed him some of the best shots, where my black skirt was flying out like raven wings. He loved them. We ate breakfast on the porch and talked photography and art. I moved the tripod to a different spot in the yard and took some more shots..
Dan would need to get injections of something, (I can’t remember what,) once a week, for a while. We had a few options for where to get the shots, but our easiest option was for me to give Dan the shots at home. With Dr. Kaufman, Erika, and Dan looking at me, I said, “Sure, I can do that.” Like many people, I had a phobia about shots, and blood. I always covered my eyes when there was a closeup of a needle going into an arm on TV. But Erika showed me how to practice on an orange, and I tried it and did fine.
The first time I was to give Dan the shot at home, I cleaned an area on his left arm with rubbing alcohol, pulled the correct amount of liquid into the vial, and approached Dan. I jabbed him, perfectly, but just before I pressed the plunger he stopped me, saying, “Wait! Did you push the air out first?” I had, but I was tired, and his doubt quickly became my doubt. I pulled the needle out, cleaned the arm again, squirted a few drops of liquid out and then.....jabbed. Big mistake. HUGE mistake. Dan yelped in pain and I quickly pulled out. With the first jab, the deltoid muscle had contracted. The second jab went into tense, tight muscle and hurt like hell. Dan rubbed his arm and looked at me accusingly, and I felt terrible. These are the moments a caregiver carries with them forever.
We were both nervous now. But he needed the shot, so we got over ourselves and tried again, this time on his right arm. I opened a fresh needle, cleaned the area, squirted the liquid in front of Dan, and jabbed. We did great. Over the next few weeks, I gave him a few more shots, but I can’t remember a single one. These are the moments that get lost amid the extreme highs and lows.
Over the last six months, Dan had slowly begun retreating into himself. He would get very quiet, then he’d go somewhere in his head where I couldn’t follow. It was like being straight, with someone who was on an acid trip. All I could do was keep watch and wait for him to come down. During these mental excursions of his, I felt so alone. It would have been much worse, though, if we hadn’t gone through the bout of amnesia in the hospital. Every bad experience prepares you for the next one.
One day (in the kitchen, of course,) standing between the oven and island, I told him, “I miss you.”
“I miss me too,” he said.
He was upstairs in bed one evening, after a long day of back pain. I’d made his favorite recipe, Pasta Con Aglio, Olio Y Basilico (pasta with tomato and garlic cooked in olive oil and topped with fresh basil.) For myself, I prepared a haddock filet with a recipe I’d made up. I’d never prepared my fish dish for Dan. In fact, I only made it when he was off sailing, because I would have been too embarrassed for my gourmand husband to see my back-of-the-box kind of recipe.
I carried Dan’s pasta up to him on a tray. He had the television on and was sitting up in bed. He looked at me and said he wasn’t hungry. I asked if he was sure, I’d made his favorite, and he hadn’t had much to eat that day. “I’m sorry, Jeanie,” he said, “I’m in a really bad mood and I’m not fit company.” I offered to leave the tray, in case he changed his mind. “No,” he relied, “the garlic smell is making me queasy; take it away.” I said okay, and went out. “Close the door, please,” he said behind me.
Back in the kitchen, I set the tray down. I looked at the fresh haddock filet in the pan, coated with crumbled Ritz Crackers and perfectly browned in olive oil, and thought oh, what the heck. I put the fish on a long oval plate with the small salad I’d made for myself. Since it was for Dan, I sprinkled some parsley around the white plate and set two lemon wedges next to the fish. It was beautiful. Taking a big breath, I went upstairs and opened the door. Dan looked up, and before he could say anything, I set the plate down on the bedside table and said, “You don’t have to eat it, but I’m leaving it here.” Then I quickly left.
I sat in the kitchen, eating Dan’s pasta and after a while I heard the TV go off. I thought Dan had probably turned in for the night, but then I heard water running in the bathroom. After a while, I heard the sound that always made my heart flutter: Dan’s footfalls coming down the stairs.
He came into the kitchen, wearing his sweats and cardigan, his hair neatly combed. In his hand was the plate, empty save for the parsley flakes. “That was the best haddock preparation I’ve ever had!” he said. “What’s for dessert?” My heart exploded like fireworks, sending glittering sparklers coursing throughout my whole body.
Our big jacuzzi tub was the only place where he could escape the back pain. Floating, weightless, he let the jets massage his back and feet. I would listen for the jets to stop, then I’d go upstairs to help him out of the tub. It was risky business. He’d been leaning back, in hot water, for a while. Just sitting upright could make him dizzy, so attempting to get out by himself it certainly would have ended in a fall. I would fold a big towel and set it on the side of the tub and he’d kneel and rest his elbows on it until he felt ready to stand. After drying off his arms, I’d help him get to his feet and step over the side of the tub, then he’d sit until the next wave of dizziness subsided.
One night, I heard the jets stop and went upstairs. I tapped on the bathroom door and opened it. He wasn’t ready to get out; the timer had turned off the jets. He had probably wanted to sit in silence for a while in that nether land he went to.
He snarled at me, angry that his alone-time had been interrupted. I apologized and closed the door. It had been a long day. As the jets started back up, I went downstairs to the kitchen and sat on the floor, wedged between the dishwasher and cabinets, and sobbed. Twenty minutes later, the jets stopped and I went back upstairs.
During one of our late-night discussions about life, the afterlife, and afterdeath, Dan said he hoped I would find love again after he was gone. I told him he was the love of my life and I would never love anyone else. He asked me to try, and made me promise that if love came along, I would give it a chance.
“You’ll have money,” he said, “go travel the world with Evelyn.” For years, my globe-trotting friend Evelyn had entertained us with missives from all over the planet. Once, she emailed us from Myanmar, to say she’d been walking down a little back alley in Yangon when she heard a familiar-sounding song coming from a small coffee shop. Once she realized it was “Leader of the Band,” being sung in Burmese, she went in and got the name of the band. She looked until she found the tape and sent it to us.
I told Dan I would travel with Evelyn.
Update over the weekend:
Feet/ankles/knees swelled on Friday night/Saturday. Saturday night we elevated feet, hot/cold, massage, and the swelling went down as long as he was in that position. Swelling back Sunday, like the swelling he had while on the boat this summer. Swelling behind the neck has gone down since you saw him last.
Pain in back is okay as long as he doesn't twist the wrong way. Seems to be getting better with rest. Ribs are fine. Endocet/Flexaril managing pain well, usually with just one Endocet.
Vision/hearing still okay.
Slight slurring, and dry tongue after morning meds.
Sleeping a lot.
He's probably more disturbed by the feet swelling right now than the back pain.
If you want photos of any part of him, let me know.
A little better every day. But I just called and cancelled the appointment we had in Blue Hill tomorrow for Dan to get the Zometa shot.....he simply can't sit in the car or a waiting room right now. If we are not able to get over there next week, would it be alright if we just get the Zometa shot when we see you in two weeks, or is it important that he get the shot before then?
Feet swelling still today, but it does go down when they're elevated, and the purple color goes away almost immediately.
We rescheduled the Zometa shot and went to our local hospital in Blue Hill to get it. While we paced the waiting room, a young nurse came out and talked to us. Then she motioned to an older man across the room, to come over. She introduced her father, a big fan of Dan’s. It was a surreal moment. Dan was feeling as high and bloated as a Macy’s Day Parade balloon, but he shook the man’s hand and said hello. It had been ages since we’d encountered a “fan” in public. That life felt long ago and far, far away.
Just a note to let you know that Dan's feet are back to normal, and his back is still getting better every day, we went to the grocery store yesterday and he was a little tired and sore that night, but
still much better than a couple weeks ago.
What a storm, huh?
Would you send me the phone number for the office where we will be getting the bone scans? I want to call them and talk about getting on a waiting list in case a time later in the day opens up for us. The CT's are set for 4:00pm, the bone scan for 8:30am, so if they have something before 2:30 that should be safe, yes? Please don't trouble Peggy about it, she went to a lot of trouble to get our appointments moved already. If we have to be there at 8:30 we'll manage, of course, but the less time spent walking around the hospital, the better for Dan so I want to try.
Erika was our lifeline, and she was so generous with her time. I tried to contact her only when absolutely necessary, and I did what I could without her help. I had the extra weight of not wanting anyone to think we expected special “celebrity” treatment.
Three weeks after the bathroom fall, Dan still had some good bruises, but he seemed to be on the mend.
On November 19th I went to a meeting of the book club some friends had formed four months earlier. Although I struggled to finish the books, those three-hour gatherings had become an oasis for me. The good mojo and feminine energy always left me feeling recharged. It had been my book choice that month, but Dan was resting at home, so Sherry offered to host the meeting at her house. They surprised me with a birthday party, and I tried hard not to cry as I told them how much they all meant to me.
Our friends Jean and Dud had invited us to their November 22nd Thanksgiving dinner. It was a full house and we knew and loved everyone around the table. All through the meal there were stories and laughter, and after dessert there were silly games. As I drove us home we talked about some of the highlights of the evening. We crested a hill on the crossroad and stopped at the stop sign. Ahead of us, a big moon was rising over the Old Deer Isle cemetery, full of graves going back to the 1700s.
“Oh, what a shot!” I said, turning right instead of left toward home. I did a U-turn and pulled into the short cemetery road. Leaving the headlights on, I jumped out and grabbed my camera from the back seat. I took five quick shots, with the moon rising behind an ancient tree, and got back in the car.
When we got home, Dan went to read in his study. I went up to my office and I opened the photos in my computer. I was surprised at what I saw. I’d been so intent on capturing the full moon behind the tree, I hadn’t noticed the American flag hanging on one of the old gravestones. I printed the best image and went to show Dan. He carried it into the kitchen, where the light was better, and propped it up on the nook bench.
As we sat at the island countertop, he admitted being mystified when I’d first detoured to the cemetery, and said I had an eye for the spontaneous shot. He said he had always endeavored to emulate his favorite photographers, but I followed my own visions, as with my Abstract Still Lifes and Top Hat photos. He went on like that for two hours, pointing out elements in the cemetery photograph he liked.
No one else had ever made me feel so smart and talented. With Dan, I felt like a painting that had been hanging in plain sight for forty years, waiting for the one person who would clean away the years of grime to reveal my true colors. At 2:30 Dan said it was late and we should probably get to bed. I agreed, but tired as I was, I gladly would have sat there until the sun came up, basking in the glow of his love and praise.
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Instrumental piano music from "Northern Seascape." Dan loved sailing to Jim Wilson's music.
Posted May 28th, 2021 Copyright ©Jean Fogelberg 2021