Light into dark ...

In January 2011 we should have been sitting pretty.We had a lovely home in Kirkhill House, Aultbea, Wester-Ross, a strong running Bed & Breakfast business ranking highest in the area on Trip Advisor. Most of our six grown up children were well settled and well adjusted with families of their own . My micro cards and paintings business, 'Pictures and Poems', was swinging along nicely. We had many, many good friends in the area and quite a few good friends outside of it - the residue from our previous life down south in Hampshire. Ranking for us as highly as anything, we were in a most beautiful part of the world alongside other, like-minded people. (Not too many of them). Perhaps these feelings were reflected in my 2010 poem ...

A Land Unspoiled

Our day slows down as last light paints the sky
and you can feel the movement of the globe,
hear gentle surf, the wheeling seagull's cry,
watch land and sea in pastel colours robe
this Wester-Ross, where calming nature seems
a place of magic that itself redeems -
inspires an artist and a poet's dreams.

You think perhaps Blake's feet in ancient times
would want to tread a land unspoiled as this.
There's little discord here where most things rhyme,
and all is sensate to an evening's kiss,
when no-one's going far and peace is sought
and found; for what this is cannot be bought,
and things material count for little, less or nought.

And when you meet these folk, this land,this sea 
You'll know to live here's more than just to be

Of course in spite of all this, still there was the dark side of the moon, for nothing in heaven or on earth for we mere mortals seems destined for perfection. (Cannot be sure about heaven but can be about earth.) After all, the Garden of Eden is but a biblical memory, Valhalla but a faded Nordic legend and  Milton's Paradise well and truly Lost. For instance amongst our problems we still mourned our lost dogs, still debated new puppies. And we still had to worry about our 'lost sheep'; (note: I wrote above that most of our children were well settled, well adjusted - not all of them.) And then again I had many regrets over the circumstances of my rise, great opportunities lost and in the end my business fall in the Middle East - whether through bad luck or my bad judgement or my Saudi sponsor's deliberate depredations I shall never know. Frankly, by now I no longer cared. The past was the past, the present better by far.. 

But by the late summer of 2012 we had to cancel our upcoming B&B bookings and put up the shutters on that business. The poor girl could by then hardly walk. The pain in her lower spine was all consuming. As much as I had tried to take over the more physical demands of the job because I was reluctant to abandon Dee's top ranking reputation and consequent financial benefit - it had become an impossibility. Then, in the September, for the first time the pains overcame everything from her hips down.With lightning speed a total numbness set in. After a somewhat panicky last visit to the local doctor I was asked to drive her the eighty miles to Raigmore hospital for more 'tests'. In spite of the gravity of the situation I recall a somewhat comedic episode when Dee found herself inadequately prepared for the requested stay over. I was despatched to the nearby Tesco with a shopping list that included nighties and panties (what sort, what size, what colour? Oh, use your judgement Bryan!) Faced with such a massive range of choice as was on display I had no option but to enlist the at first suspicious help of two young lady shop assistants (having established to their satisfaction that this grey haired old guy was not of nefarious intent.) They questioned me about my wife's figure, looks and personality. Dee's flame red paraphanalia I then bought apparently caused quite a stir on the ward! Anyway I stayed overnight in the Holiday Inn, prepared to take Dee home the following day. But when I arrived back at the hospital at the appointed hour her bed was empty. She had been allocated a small room on her own where I could wait. She was at that point away being prepared for some kind of x-ray. I sensed from the attitudes of the nurses that something dreadful was afoot. After a short while a lady doctor knocked and entered. She introduced herself,  weighed me up carefully, I presume to see how emotionally fragile I might be then gently (or as gently as possible) let me into the bad news. My lovely girl had some form of bone cancer, later specified as non-Hodgkinson's lymphoma. She would be given radiography and probably after that the dreaded chemotherapy. And no, I couldn't take her home. She would need to stay here in Raigmore for several days at least.

Dee was ten years younger than me, a youthful sixty nine, and I had just heard her sentenced to a very painful death and myself to a lonely, unhappy old age..

I sought and found my wife waiting in the relevant x-ray department. She seemed to be on an amazingly even keel. No tears, just pleased to see me and glad at last to know the trouble, howsoever big a trouble it might be. In fact she was more concerned about me than herself. How could I possibly cope with the minutae of feeding myself, keeping house etc?. Typical. I drove back home over the hills by myself, fighting all the negatives. It was night time. There is a viewpoint car park area close by Braemore Junction. I pass it almost every week and can never do so without remembering stopping there mid that journey, thinking over our life together, hearing over and over again the good oncologist's careful words. The beautiful vale below reached down to Ullapool and the sea, bathed now in a pitiless silvery moonlight. As readers of these episodes will know I had been knocked down a few times in my life - most people are - but now, for the very first time I could not figure out quite how I would ever regain my feet. There is no shame in crying but still, at that time I felt shamed by my tears. Self-pity can be nothing but shameful..

But regain my feet of course I did with more than a little help from my family and my friends, as I shall relate..Day by day by day by day was the key to unlock at least some kind of a temporary peace, some kind of a hope for the future even though my most fervent, immediate desire was to go where my Delia was going. 

Wherever that may be.

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