My husband of 5 years, Paul, was now sadly well into Alzheimers Disease taking over his life! Now that doesn’t mean I regret this marriage, but it has been a bit of a roller-coaster at times!! My first marriage was love at first sight and lasted just 14 years, as he also sadly succumbed to a fatal disease at 36. Paul was also the love you always would have dreamed of. We were indeed soul mates – music lovers, avid book-readers, poetry addicts, and also liked to travel. At the end of each day, we often read to each other in bed, some of the books we had enjoyed, and poetry that spoke to our heart.
In the short time we had, we visited the Canary Islands, Canada, USA , Italy, Spain and Portugal, and the last holiday we had before his Alzheimers prevented us using airports, was a cruise to Norway and the Shetlands, which actually left right from Belfast! So off we went last August, to see and enjoy the most spectacular country I have ever been to! Paul had previously been to China, India, South America and the Galapagos Islands, so we were both full of anticipation.
With Alzheimers, there can be problems on board a ship, such as being convinced the cabin door you try to open with your pass card is indeed your cabin. It looks just like it, though the number is not quite the same. And fortunately, this meant it would not open the door! At the meal table, the waiter helpfully showed us the wine list, I hesitated, thinking is this the list of wines not included in the all-inclusive… so as I hesitated, he topped up my wine from the previous night’s bottle, and Paul’s too, and before long we were well tiddly!! Not so good going to bed when I have to make sure his bed stays dry. But overall the trip was a success.
Being on board a cruise ship is great, as there is little chance of getting lost, or at least, you know they must be somewhere on the ship! But day trips can be a hazard, so I had to be really alert at all times, getting on and off coaches. One man who was suspected might have had Alzheimers (but was actually just a bit deaf), got on the wrong coach and ended up in the wrong town, but managed to get a train and then a taxi back to the ship! So we stayed hand-in-hand most of the time. On one trip I sat down beside a lady who was travelling alone. We had exchanged a few words on the small boat taking us ashore, and she had really taken to Paul. On the coach he had decided to sit on the very front seat of the coach near the driver. So I took the seat behind, and chatted with this lady, asking, as you do, ‘And what do you do?’. ‘I’m a writer’ she replied! ‘Oh, what do you write about?’ I asked. ‘Crime novels!!’ ‘Wow’, I thought, great choice of seat! And it turned out she has about 30 novels on Amazon, and not only that, although she sounded English, she lived in Kircubbin! With the cruise leaving from Belfast, it was mostly Irish and Northern Irish passengers. So we chatted about books and the sort of books we read, and book clubs we had joined. I talked about belonging to a book club called Bookcrossing.com, which has made an impact on my reading over the last few years. I’m a keen, though not very fast reader, and Bookcrossing has actually changed my reading habits in the last few years. So I shared with her the book I had just finished reading, and we agreed to meet after we came home. Free plug here for the author – her name is Jo Bannister! She brought me a copy of one of her books, the third in a series, called The Depths of Solitude, a Brodie Farrell mystery, and to cut this story short, I loved it, and went on to read more in the series.
So where does Paul and Karma fit into all this (apart from the Karma of sharing books? Karma meant we often discovered books we had both read, and had hoped to visit the places in the book, like Pompeii. And together we visited Italy and fulfilled that desire together!)
And soon after we came home from our cruise, Paul got to the stage where he needed more care, so after Christmas, social services found him a place in a care home. I would have preferred somewhere nearer home, but the only place available was in Portaferry. And that, dear reader, was just a bit further along the road from Kircubbin and Jo! So I broke my journey on many occasions to share tea and scones with my new-found writer friend. And Jo got to know us both, to the extent that Paul often asked for her, though for some strange, Alzheimers related reason, he always called her Anne!
For me, there is another sort of Karma in books: as well as really helping me start to organise my books and my reading, Bookcrossing has helped me find a new way to carry out ‘random acts of kindness’. I released one of my first books at the airport, and someone immediately ‘caught it’ as we say, and wrote on the website page for the book: ‘It made my day!’
As a child I practically lived in the library, which was then situated in my school: Rosetta Primary! Until it moved to a brand new building near the Ormeau Bridge, and for me the 2-mile walk was nothing, just to get another book! Later, when I had children, I didn’t read as much, too many distractions, so Bookcrossing arrived just when I needed it! And it gave me a new way to give karma in the form of sharing with total strangers wonderful books I had read and enjoyed.