I want to talk about a dream come true, a lifetime wish on top of the Bucket List …that turned into a nightmare. But, in a way, paved the way to new hope, to challenge the unexpected. That old “unexpected” stood up on its toes and kicked the feet out from under my David…
In late 2014, after the dreamy Doris Day Cruise, we were offered the opportunity to participate as guest artists on a 2016 cruise on the glorious Crystal Symphony that embarked in San Diego and debarked in Papeete, Tahiti! What to do while waiting so long…go to meetings of Joy Anonymous? We had two almost two years to figure out how we could arrange to stay in a hut, with a little ladder of its own to enter a lagoon in Bora Bora. No longer a fantasy, this was a real life opportunity.
As luck would have it, there was time for David to have two (well, make that three) major surgeries due to cranky back pain and neck bones being crunched out of shape, plus an untimely man thing. David came through all events like a trooper although I was a little worse for wear. It’s grueling to be the one who didn’t have the surgery (me, me, me).
By time we were healed and ready to travel, David was a bit unstable on his feet. But nothing would get in his way; he was going to get me to Bora Bora. He got a handsome cane and was ready to roll.
The train from L.A. to San Diego stopped right at the port, a very fun ride there with a lot of the company of entertainers for the cruise. In a snap, we got our I.D. cards and headed up the long gangplank zigzagging to the ship. At every turn, some kind staff member offered to get David a wheelchair, but, with serious bravado, he poofed at the thought. Then the handle on top of his cane broke off…could that be a sign? “Poof!”
With sweet assistance from colleagues, we got settled and joined our merry gang at Prego, the ship’s elegant and ultimate Italian restaurant. All you can eat and drink and part of the package.
Our first morning at sea, David was really sick, to the point that I went to the Medical Center for some helpful medication. The nurses went to our cabin and decided he had to be quarantined until further notice. Uh oh. I was told that if I stayed the night in our cabin, I would be quarantined too, but they would arrange for a separate cabin for me until David was given the all clear. Since I had a presentation at 10am the next morning, I had no choice.
The next day, David was fine, and with a new, borrowed cane, returned to his old self. Anyway, one of his old selves. He could get around nicely with his cane, but then, without warning, he lost his strength and I had to call for a wheelchair. Then he got better; then he got worse. He was on his feet or needed wheels the entire cruise. And near the end, when our Bora Bora port finally came, he had to be hoisted by noble crewmembers, onto a little boat that took us to our Hut Hotel for one night of aforementioned dreams.
I had a wheelchair waiting, not ever knowing if he was going to be able or afflicted. And as ill as he really was, he insisted I clamber down the little ladder of our hut, into the water so he could take a picture of me in a magical moment. So, during that touching moment, I decided five minutes was enough to “qualify” and then checked Bora Bora off my list.
Once home I knew that there was something more than back problems attacking David and we pursued it with our neurologist. It seems his brain was being pressured by lack of spinal cord flow or “hydrocephalus.” So, now, after two more surgeries, and a little garden hose planted in his head to drain the fluid properly, we continue. It’s the theory that now he will not get worse. And maybe, a little better?
He’s now doing physical therapy for balance and trying to be as independent as possible. We’re now a two-walker family: one three-wheeler for the car trunk and a four-wheeler for walking our neighborhood and around the house. And sometimes, just one of his dandy canes will do.
It’s a learning time, adjusting time, but a doable time. We are going with the flow. I offer this as a heads-up. It’s best to catch things like this in its early stages, and at as young an age as possible.
And Bora Bora was magical.
Jackie Joseph is a writer and actress best known for her TV roles as Alan Brady’s niece Jackie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” the voice of Melody in the animated “Josie and the Pussycats” and as Jackie Parker on “The Doris Day Show.”