In May, John and I decided to take a trip to Atlanta to see our grandchildren. I gave the four boys ages 12-18 years, the choice to pick one big thing for all of us to do together. After much discussion, they decided on an inner tube trip down the Chattahoochee River, lovingly called “Shooting the Hooch.” Although this didn’t sound like something I thought we should do, I went to the Web and found a description of the trip that changed my mind. “For summer family fun, take kids on a river tubing trip down a lazy river. A budget friendly family activity, many river routes are calm enough to take preschoolers and pets along!”
Sounded like fun so I booked the trip for 10 of us (four adults, one preschooler and five teenagers). Since the entry point was two and a half hours away from my daughter’s house we decided to book a large cabin for the night before the tubing trip. So much for budget friendly! After a quick breakfast we drove to the river, selected our tubes, assorted poles, sunscreens and waterproof cameras and headed for the bus. At the drop-in point, John and I were apprehensively standing knee deep in water trying to decide the best way to get ourselves into the inner tubes when the kids all went running towards the water, jumped in and vanished down the river. I heard their squeals of laughter as they rounded a bend, so I know they were having fun. That was the last we saw of them until we reached the exit point.
Concerned that I would lose John, I connected our tubes using a quick release tether. It took us more than three hours to navigate down that scenic mountain stream. Working together, John and I were able to push away from the banks, scoot over rocks, avoid debris filled eddies and circumvent large boulders. It was hard work and in the process I was frustrated, relaxed, happy, sad, grateful, hateful. Nearly three hours in, John and I got stuck at a small waterfall, each of us on opposite sides of a fairly large rock. No matter how much we pushed or pulled we could not get back on the same side and if one of us got out of our tube the other would “shoot the hooch” solo. I told John the best thing to do was to disconnect and meet down river. He nodded agreement, I told him not to be afraid and disconnected us. He went over in a flash and was waiting down river for me. My journey took a bit longer, I had to fight my way to the bank and drag my tube through shallow water to reach him.
Our journey with Alzheimer’s has been a bit like this trip. Together we have navigated doctor’s appointments, tests and treatments unsure about what lies ahead. And as his disease progresses I realize one day we will find ourselves at a point where I can’t continue with him and John has to go on alone. Then it will be my turn to be brave in the belief that he will once again be waiting for me.