Santa Cruz de La Palma
The view of Santa Cruz de la Palma from our stateroom.

Last night we enjoyed dinner at the Pollo Grill up on Deck 14 at 8pm.  It is the steakhouse onboard and I had a Lobster Bisque, salad, and Veal chop with potatoes.  Carrie had a goat cheese & beet starter, lobster bisque and a local Madeiran fish dish for her entrée.  After dinner we had intended to join Andrew and Katie for drinks, but time and energy caught up with us and we found ourselves very tired and in bed and asleep by midnight.

Today was an unplanned day.  We weren’t signed up for a cruise-line excursion and we hadn’t made detailed plans.  It was a nice relaxing day at a port of Santa Cruz (a small town) on the Island of Palma.  Santa Cruz de la Plama is a Spanish port (and, therefore, Island) of the Canary Islands.  Without major palaces, forts or Cathedrals to tour, AND since it was only a five minute (if that) walk to the city center:  It was the perfect day to be unscripted and relax!

The municipal market at Santa Cruz de la Palma

Each couple: Ken & Trish, Bob & June, Andrew & Katie, and Carrie & I went our own ways to spend our time, today.  Carrie and I were looking for scenic streets, alleys and lookouts for photos and found ourselves climbing steps (photo left) and going up steep streets to find photo opportunities, stopping by the municipal market along the way.  When we came back down to the city center we ran into Katie & Andrew who were sitting at a café.  Katie pointed Carrie towards a jewelry store.  We did our part to keep this island and its local jewelry maker prospering.  When we left the quaint little jewelry shop, we ran into Katie and Andrew, again, at another restaurant so we had lunch with them.  By now it was 1pm, or so, and Andrew headed back to the ship.

Moments later, while we still sat at the café, Bob and June happened upon us and we all enjoyed food and drink together.  Carrie, Katie and June went on for more shopping and Bob and I headed back to the ship.

And, now, we are all safe and sound on the ship and headed back out to sea.

Oh, The Things I have Learned
Don’t laugh at me:  Those aren’t my feet.

Over the past few days I’ve had many “firsts.”  I mean- we’ll start with the obvious (and redundant):  brain surgery, but that’s only the beginning -and in a way- the smallest of the “firsts.”

One of the weirdest moments came when my wife started hounding me about changing out of my hospital gown and started pressing me to wear “real clothes.”  Not just real clothes…  she was real bothered that my clothes didn’t match (and let’s face it:  they were gross, smelly and dirty, even I knew that!!!!)  I had a quick and easy solution (well, at least, in my head) to solve all problems at once!  I suggested that I change into a black pair of comfy sweats that I had brought from home and that my blue sweats could go into the laundry.  Heck, I even suggested that she put my comfortable (yet well-worn) robe in the laundry too!!!

NO!  That would not do,  My robe was plaid with maroon and had navy blue in them, my gown was white with light blues and greens (and don’t forget that she thought the hospital gown was terribly ugly, anyway).  Oh, but the most appalling problem (and this was nowhere near this boy’s radar screen:  My sweatpants which I had suggested from home were BLACK.  OH MY GOODNESS!  How could I make such a faux pax???

Our impasse was simple, of course, even if I still don’t truly understand:  I cared only for comfort (I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels this way in these times) but my wife could not imagine -even for a moment- that comfort would be possible without feeling “put together.”

Okay, and a little more honesty from me: I probably haven’t learned all that much.  I’m still sitting here in mix-matched clothes, feeling very comfortable, but far from pretty.  (Come on, folks, pretty is why I have Carrie.  She is beautiful enough for the two of us together, right???

Okay, this aside, I have learned much over the past week or so.  I’ve learned to take my time.  After a surgery you can’t just put on a shirt.  How crazy is that?  An occupational therapist had to teach me to put on my own shirt again.  Oh Lord!  Putting on socks or pulling on pants -especially when you can’t bend over- makes everything a new learning experience.  Everything takes more time and everything takes one step-at-a-time!

One thing that will take a lot of time will be my relationship with my wife.  Don’t misunderstand me!  She has stood by me and patiently helped me moment-after-moment and time-after-time.  it isn’t easy for her or for me, by the way!  At times I get frustrated when she needs to go off and do things for herself -and there have been times when I get really sensitive and crabby with her and tell her to just stop moving and fussing.  Sometimes I need her just to sit and let me try something on my own.

It can be a real pain.  I can see how couples can so easily disintegrate after a family trauma, because learning to communicate again can be difficult -and, often, I’m sure- unbearably slow.

I won’t pretend this has been easy.  Nope.  Not at all.  But we have learned a few things along the way:

  1. If you know a surgery or trouble is headed your way, find a nice gesture to make, like planning flowers or candy or a gift that will come in the midst of the trouble, especially if you are the one who will be cared for!
  2. When you are feeling frustrated or angry…don’t hold it in and let it fester.  Talk to one another about your very real feelings.  In the car today, Carrie broke my heart when she asked, “do you still like to be around me?”  She told me, “It sometimes feels like you don’t, lately.  It sometimes feels like I do everything wrong”  Oh my!  How bad did I feel!?!  She didn’t have to say that, but keeping it inside would not have given us a chance to share with one another and set our love straight!
  3. Spend time together.  During this past week or two I keep handing Carrie piles of papers and forms and medical stuff that I am just overwhelmed with.  Sure, she has taken care of it and been great…but I keep dumping on her. That isn’t how couples make it through.  We have talked about when we each do our best work (morning for her, night for me) and we’re developing a system so that we don’t dump on each other.  This evening I brought in a piece of cake and poured two glasses of milk and then we sat together (had a bite of cake) and enjoyed some milk.  It was a simple thing, but it fit our day.  It gave us some respite and solace in the midst of madness and recovery.  Not only that, but then I was able to (at my 2 am med time) sit down and write thank-yous and notes without feeling as though I’d spent my evening alone.

Oh- I don’t know if any of this is helpful.  Maybe none of it applies to you, my friends…  but I suggest that in the midst of trouble and turmoil we can all learn something from my occupational therapist.  Let’s start putting our socks on carefully -one foot at a time; let’s start putting our shirt on head first and one-arm-at-a-time so we don’t rip a stitch….  and let’s carefully rebuild our relationships (one step at a time), so that we don’t lose the people most important to us.

My wife is the person who holds my world together right now.  I do not have the luxury of forgetting that, nor does she, I suspect.

Well, my 6 am medicaiton will be soon approaching.  Time for me to head back to bed, get a sip of water, and turn off my laptop so that my beautiful wife can fall back asleep from where she lays comfortably in the bed across the room  (As an aside:  A recliner is a poor excuse for a bed, Lord help me back to a real bed, real soon!!!


PS:  Carrie made me stop publishing these without her input, because my brain and fingers aren’t always working together yet.  I needed an editor.  So, note, I wrote this in the middle of the night, but my wife has been sweet and helped me this morning so that it would be read-able!!!  Is’t she great!?!