I have just returned home after spending two weeks in Jamaica, mainly spending time with my father. It was a trip that was put off several times for a host of reasons, but when I made the bookings, I did not focus on the fact that I would be in Jamaica during the time when my father had his birthday, and my mother (now deceased) would have had hers (in fact, it was yesterday, the day that I left). The time also covered the birthday of the really good lady who lives with my father, and tends to all his needs. Angels do exist.
Living with, and coping with the physical demands of a stroke victim is really hard. Exhausting would not be a word that is misplaced. Yesterday, we decided to take my father to the mineral baths at Milk River, whose healing powers are well-known. Jamaica touts this as the number one such place. But, oh, but, the road there is about as bad as a road can be, with pot holes and rock-filled holes, and all kinds of poor surfaces that make the car ride so painful that the bath is soothing for the aches. You then have to suffer on the return. Getting my father into the baths was like getting him anywhere–a physical challenge. But, he made it in, and down the stairs, and sat in the mineral-laced waters for about 30 minutes–complaining all the time about how cold it was. True, the air was cool. When he got home, he could not stop talking about how good the bath had been and how he could not wait to go again. A few minutes ago, we spoke on Skype using a webcam and wireless connection that I had set up while there. My father was full of how he wanted to go back to work–at 82. He was surely invigorated by the trip.
I reflected on what could have been, though, with that trip. On Saturday, I had driven to Kingston to try to catch the national high school track and field championships, known affectionately as “Champs”. A cousin had managed to rustle up a ticket; he was helping his former high school, so had a pass. When we were due to head to the National Stadium, my father’s car would not start. Everything was dead. I checked the battery and could see no loose terminal or wires. I did not get to check fuses. We decided that the car would be dealt with later, or maybe on Sunday. So, my cousin drove me, and then a friend he collected, the stadium–at break-neck speed as he wanted to catch one of his athletes in a final. I’m glad I had not had to follow him or I would probably be overturned in some ditch or crashed into something or someone. We enjoyed the event, and got back late at night, not least because traffic was terrible afterwards, but also my cousin was checking in with his school team and officials.
Come Sunday morning, I called a mechanic, but got no reply. Another cousin called a mechanic: same story. “Wait until midday. It’s Sunday.” So, I resigned myself to just waiting and seeing who would call back. But, I had a chat with the man who usually drives the car, who told me that even though the terminals were firm, I should try to force them to move. I did, and behold there was light. A great sense of relief. It was still not 9am, and I thought that I would do a few quick visits of the cousin who had also called a mechanic, and of some friends who had moved back from Barbados but live around the corner from that cousin. I made my visits, which included a lovely breakfast and dinner to take with me. I then headed back to Mandeville, the mainly rural area where my father lives.
Thoughts of how that mechanical failure would have played out if we had been stuck on the road to or from Milk River baths. Things might have played out very badly, not least as the area is thinly populated and often carries very few vehicles.
My trip back to the US involved one of the most unpleasant landings I have ever experienced, as we headed to Fort Lauderdale, pitching and rolling and dropping in a really nauseating way. The pilot apologized after but told us the decision to deal with the bad weather around the airport seemed better than heading somewhere else to refuel and then arrive two hours later than scheduled. For those of us with connecting flights, we had to be thankful.
It takes a while to re-integrate with family after a couple of weeks away. But, you have to get back into the swing of things whether or not your mind and bpdy are really able to do the adjustment straight away. Funny little things have to be recalibrated: I heard an inner voice saying “Drive on the right,” as I took out the car this morning. Jamaican traffic drives on the left.
I got to my morning dental appointments–something to really look forward to :-)–then tried to get on with figuring out what markets had been doing.
My little daughter is back on soccer schedule now, so today is the day when she finishes school early, thankfully, but we then have to head to choir practice (and a ‘tea shop’ stop for me), then hustle to Virginia for her soccer. The pleasant weather made the drive and the practice very pleasant, and the strangely light traffic on the Washington Beltway was a blessing: home in 20 minutes, after leaving the soccer fields at 6.10pm, is almost a miracle.
Jamaica and the US are so different, and I know that I will reflect on this over the next few days. Interestingly, I was seated by a father and son from France, who had been visiting Jamaica, and we discussed in French their impressions of the island: some very positive, but also the usually concerns about crime, corruption, administrative effectiveness, the disparity between the world of the tourist and that of the mass of the population, plus other issues. But, I often end of feeling despondent after my trips to my homeland. So much natural splendour to be thankful for, yet so many spoiled outcomes. I know that will make me very broody for a few days.