The refrain of our lives for decades as i undertook environmental activism – “I want to go with you.”
And often he did, to meetings and conferences where his passion would contribute to understanding of love of rivers or the folly of our money system.
Sometimes he did feel out of place, and in the introduction circle would say, “I’m Don. I’m with her.” He kind of joked about a Tshirt that said, “I lift heavy objects,” because of the boxes and displays we schlepped here and there and everywhere.
Of course he was much more than he gave himself credit for, as the many friends who still care about him to this day would agree. His writing was stunning, provocative, evocative. His passion compelling, and/or at home, to be honest, irritating, more than once a week.
“Can I come? what will you do without me?”
But often i said No, as when a dear friend and I went to a people’s conference on dioxin in Baton Rouge. It was a grand experience, eye-opening, challenging, to see what organising on environmental justice (the communal right not to be poisoned in your home) really looked like, where Chemical Alley met the racial slums, houses jammed right up to the chemical plant gates.
It was one of the best experiences of my organizing life. When my friend and i touched down in Vancouver, we stopped for a drink to decompress on our way to the transit to her house where i would stay overnight.
Little did we know the tempest of angst brewing between my guy and her husband, whipping each other up to a fever of anxiety and righteous indignation, especially over that last pleasurable hour. Funny now, sort of, but completely vexing for weeks afterwards.
Fast forward a decade and a half.
“I want to go with you!” The insistent cry rejected our loved caregiver’s best efforts, she there to give me respite, and the outburst threatened one of those catastrophic dementia explosions.
But I was the one who exploded. I had a simple 30 minute shopping list at the mall. ALL RIGHT I roared, Come on!
And i stormed out (can’t remember if we took 2 cars or 1) to the mall.
“You want to come, come!” I yelled, and dear Debbie, my lifeline then, followed along, doing her best to calm him, distract him, assure him, while i raged and raged.
(I will say in my slight defence that it is terribly hard to live for years being shadowed by dementia everywhere almost 24/7, even to the bathroom – and that day i cracked.)
It was terrible, brutal. In the end i remember seeing him weeping at the store entrance while Debbie, truly shocked, lovingly consoled him. Her white face, his complete bewilderment, will haunt me forever. As will my rage.
And we all cried together afterward. But those tears did not really heal. May i never be possessed by that anger again.
Yesterday, years and tears later, in the care home at the end of our allotted hour, he grabbed my wrists and would not let go. “I want to come.” It took two care aides with hugs and a shoulder massage to get my hands free.
In the good old days – BC before covid, 10 months ago – i would drop in and out of his care home at any time. I could check how he was, randomly, and did.
He believed i lived somewhere around there and i think it consoled him. He would say, “oh there you are, I was just going to go look for you.”
And now as i rub my wrists, i answer with my soul, not words, i want you to come with me. I want to go with you.
Maybe, I hope, way down under the screwed up scrambled brain cells, in his soul, he too knows. I think he does.
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