In about 12 hours, I will leave for an epic journey to Malaysia. I planned this trip last year to do in-situ work with tigers in Taman Negara. Our small group will go on anti-poaching treks, set up camera traps, and gain experience in on-the-ground conservation. I will be with zoo colleagues from the U.S., all paying for this trip with our own finances. We share a commitment to learn more about work being done in the field to protect tigers. It is a privilege to have the chance to study them in the wild, when it is quite possible that they may be gone in 50 years. After the program, I will be touring around Malaysia and Indonesia for a short time.
During the first five months of this year, I seriously considered cancelling my plans. My husband convinced me otherwise. I love him more for understanding what I need when I’m not sure myself. It is time to take a break. I’m thrilled and a little mystified at the opportunity to experience this kind of trip.
I found out about my father’s brain injury when my husband and I were in Northern California in early January. Two journeys were happening simultaneously. Seeing such intense, natural beauty was very settling in the wake of the unknown that awaited our arrival at home. Some of the highlights were Ano Nuevo State Park (elephant seal breeding site), Point Reyes, a park that I wish I could remember the name of, whale/sea lion watching, Muir Woods… and driving down Lombard Street. Bonus was seeing my good friend Ashleigh and meeting her husband Ryan in San Francisco. Ashleigh told me about the Malaysia trip initially, and I’m so excited to reunite with her in the coming week.
The goats are diligently walking into our woods and doing what goats do best: eating brush, vines, poison ivy, and whatever else they fancy. Our three hound dogs are successfully introduced to the four geese and share the backyard together peacefully. The biggest milestone is that the geese are spending their first night outside tonight, in the fancy shed that my husband built. (They had been spending nights in our downstairs bathroom.) The shed is purely for predator protection, although the Toulouse gander has learned that being large, round, and hissy can fend off even our biggest goat. These are minor accomplishments. They are small things that have given me some joy.
I have really only felt somewhat “normal” in the last two weeks. I have been a coiled rat trap for months now. Sometimes all it takes to make things a little better is having some goats, dogs, and geese follow you around for awhile. Having a great support structure. Or waking up with the sun, a pleasure missed out on by zookeepers.
I have started seeing friends again, slowly, and creeping back into the social media atmosphere. It feels good to dip my toes into everyday life after living underground.
Calvert County… at last
My dad has moved to a nursing center that is 10 minutes away from our house. It feels like finishing a marathon. He has so much more intensive healing to do, but at least he is closer. That was his wish and ours. It has allowed me the time to (almost) figure out what I used to enjoy doing, and how I used to relax. It is nice not spending a fortune on gas (and wine after a long commute to hospitals).
He has made incremental progress. He is still on a feeding tube, and requires two people to sit him up in bed or do much of anything. He has not had solid food since January 12th. He keeps asking me to buy him a cheeseburger. I have to explain to him almost daily that I will buy him his first cheeseburger and chocolate shake when he is able to swallow. Incredibly, he has maintained fairly good spirits despite being mostly aware of his predicament. We have not been able to bring him to our house for even a short visit. His blood pressure drops dangerously low when he sits up for too long, and he becomes completely catatonic. I have witnessed it twice now in a hospital setting, and it is terrifying. Hopefully, it is a condition that will improve with more time and strength (for both of us).
Today, I said goodbye to my father for a few weeks. I cried and asked him to please hang in there for me. My husband, loved ones, and friends will visit my dad in my stead. I feel comfortable in the care that he is getting, but it is odd to not be able to be physically involved in his day-to-day progress. It is hard to leave him after spending almost every day with him for the past few months. I continue to be incredibly inspired by my father’s spirit and fortitude despite all of the setbacks.
I will be back on June 17th, right before Fathers Day. My hope is that I can come home with a clearer head, steadier nerves, and optimism that I can share. Oh, and a tan. Definitely a tan.