No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Heartbreak

 

August 5, 2020

J. Michael Davison

 

 



Heartbreak

It has been a couple of weeks since I posted anything on this blog. I have returned to Key West from what was a bittersweet visit to Winston-Salem where I spent some time with my mother Marta who is having some health issues that have made life challenging for both her as well as her family, especially my sister Marika and her husband Brian who have had to deal with the lion’s share of the responsibility for her care. That has been enough to keep me from wanting to do much of anything except work and hunker down at home.




The ongoing and ever expanding crisis that is the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has also been a factor, cases locally have continued to spread basically unchecked and the tragedy that is impacting our world hit home for Kathy and I personally as we lost our first friend to the virus last week. I have been including the numbers of cases in my blog postings since March to sort of track the spread and growth of the pandemic and the numbers continue to astound and scare us as this country is now account for 25 percent of the worldwide total, even though we only account for about 5 percent of the total population.




Deaths from the virus have been averaging over 1000 people a day for the past week or so in the United States so I guess it was sadly inevitable that we would know someone who perished from the virus. Currently there are 4,771,087 confirmed positive cases in the US and 156,806 people who have died. Here in Monroe County, the numbers climbed to 1404 cases with 648 of those here in Key West and a massive growth in the death totals in the past two weeks growing from 2 to 13 as of today.



But those are just numbers and you can easily get jaded to the repeated and ever growing list of numbers that is broadcast each day. The truth behind each number is that it is an individual real person behind each one, with real families, loved ones and friends who are impacted by each positive case and every death attributed to the virus.

The point was sadly driven home this week when we learned of the passing of our friend J. Michael Davison. Kathy and I have known Michael and his wife Jean for many years, Jean is one of the instructors at the water aerobics class that I take at the College of the Florida Keys and her husband and I always joined in right next to each other in the deepest section of the water. For years we would talk, joke and exercise together passing the hour long class chatting away like members of a sewing circle. Often we were the only men in the overwhelmingly female-centric class, but we always had a good time.





His dry wit and humor and loveable curmudgeonly attitude were traits that we loved about him. He was kind and smart and interesting and one of the people on this island that are the reason that we love this community so much. We often shared holidays together at the home of mutual friends and it was this past Christmas where we most recently spent appreciable time together at various holiday gatherings. The Covid crisis has kept us from seeing so many of our friends including Michael and Jean, so we were not aware that he had health issues that brought him to the hospital where he apparently contracted and succumbed to the Covid virus, only days after being diagnosed. Like so many, he passed alone as his wife was quarantined and unable to be with him.

Jean and Michael

Tom, Michael and Greta

 It is such a personal and sad situation. Michael was so much more than just a number or statistic, his tragic passing illuminated just how vicious and heartless this virus is. It is one that has been tragically repeated in more than 150,000 homes across this country just since March. Of course when his passing was announced as one of those who had died, the health department made a point to let everyone know that Michael had the dreaded underlying conditions that made him more vulnerable to the virus.



This to me, is one of the most horrific things about the way this virus is reported, underlying conditions- as if that somehow makes it ok, oh well they had an underlying condition. So the hell what? Probably about 70% of Americans have some sort of condition that makes them higher risk and the fact remains that they would all still be alive if not for Covid-19. It makes it so infuriating that people can be so cavalier and uncaring about following the basic safety guidelines, the vast majority of these deaths were unnecessary.



One of the things that Michael and I shared was a love of racing, we had traveled with Michael and Jean in the past to attend the Indy Car race at Homestead Speedway in Miami, and he was also a big Indy 500 fan. The virus cost me personally one of the great joys of my life when this week, The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that they will be running the already postponed Indy 500 without fans. I was literally all set to depart for Indianapolis this weekend and it was another sad blow to have to cancel what would have been my 49th straight year of attending the race.





I am trying to look on the bright side, Hurricane Isaias, which was initially forecast to come right at us, thankfully made a hard right hand turn, skirting up the coast and avoiding the Florida Keys altogether, which was a blessing. A hurricane is the last thing we need, instead it has been beautiful, sunny and really hot here. We have pretty much stayed at home, where this week we caught an opossum in our chicken trap (we let it go), and received a wonderful group of drawings of our pets by our young 6 year old friend Meredith.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Bittersweet


July 24, 2020

Marta and Michele 

Calabash





Bittersweet

In recent years I have made the trip to visit my mother Marta in Winston-Salem many times. She has lived there for fifteen years since leaving the home that I grew up in in Indianapolis and moving to a condo closer to my sister Marika and her husband Brian. It has been a godsend as she has had them close to look out for her and the benefit of a wonderful group of friends and the top notch heath care that is found there. As she has gotten older she has suffered a variety of health issues, some more serious than others, but has managed to soldier through, survive and thrive with the assistance of her family, friends, doctors and caregivers.



Sisi

 



After her most recent health scare in December, she was moved into an assisted living facility where she did quite well all things considered. Well enough that I was able to fly up to Winston-Salem in February pick her up and bring her to Key West for a book signing party for the autobiography that she completed last year. It was a wonderful success, though there were already signs then that the health setbacks had a long term impact and she still faced many challenges.







The good news is that she improved enough to be released from the assisted living facility in March, just before the place was shut off and put on lock-down due to the Covid- 19 pandemic. I can’t imagine what the past few months would have been like for her if my sister and Brian had not spirited her away from there in the nick of time. She has been living at home with the assistance of a wonderful nurse and had been doing pretty well until a couple of weeks ago when concerns arose about her memory and cognitive abilities.

 

 



Myself and my other sister Michele drove to Winston-Salem to visit her, offer Marika and Brian a little relief and assess the declining situation for ourselves. It was one of the most difficult visits that I have ever experienced as it is painfully obvious that our 89 year old mother is suffering the early, but significant impacts of dementia. There were many moments of levity and light, but also some filled with darkness, fear, uncertainty and heartbreak. It has set me back personally so much as I can hardly focus seeing my mother in that condition and knowing that the road ahead is going to get progressively more difficult.

With Michele

 



We did enjoy our time in spite of everything, taking Marta out for walks, watching Broadway shows on TV, we even took her out for a spin around town in the rented convertible that I had, which she seemed to enjoy immensely. I stayed there for about four days before I had to return home, I don’t think I have ever had a tougher time saying goodbye than this one. I know she is in capable hands and I cannot thank my sister Marika and Brian or Marta’s wonderful, loving caretaker Maira enough for what they are doing on a near constant basis to care for Marta and make her comfortable.

 



I know many people have gone through similar experiences with their elderly parents and loved ones, but I had never truly appreciated just how heart-wrenching and difficult such situations are, it has made me a complete ball of stress and anxiety and frankly not much motivated to do anything except attempt to sleep, which doesn’t come easy either. It probably couldn’t have happened at a worse time than in the middle of a global pandemic which is raging harder today than at any time previously.

 





Currently there are 3,872,712 confirmed cases in the United States with 138,767 people who have perished due to the virus. Locally Monroe County continues to see explosive community spread growth as we added a record number of 84 cases today to bring our totals to 1082 cases in the county, with 472 of them in Key West and 6 people who have died. Frightening and unacceptable totals, the mask ordinances and social distancing requirements do not seem to be working as many people still are not complying.

 







As tough as it was to leave, I had to get home to Key West though I took my time driving home. I drove across the state of North Carolina to the coast with the top down on a beautiful sunny day and enjoyed the beauty of the Carolina countryside while making my way to Calabash, a small coastal town just North of Myrtle Beach and known as the Seafood Capital of the World. I had visited the town on numerous occasions throughout my life and I have always loved the “Calabash” style of seafood.







I got there just as the sun was setting, explored the docks where the local fishing fleet is based then grabbed dinner at the Dockside Restaurant, which is virtually unchanged since I last ate there some 35 years ago. It was delicious and a nice way to take my mind off the current situation briefly. The next day I drove home straight through, stopping only to pick up some requested peaches at Abbott Farms Peach Stand and for fuel and food. It was a long, long day and it felt great to be home.