I cannot believe it has been nearly a month since I last posted to this blog. The list of projects on our boat has felt like different things on different days: the saving of my sanity, a mountain I must climb, a Honey Do list started by my Best Beloved to be finished by me, a black hole sucking up all my money and energy, a daily reason to get up and put one foot in front of the other when depression looms like a dark abyss, a long list of hurdles on a race course that requires stamina rather than speed, a Goddess-send, a one-thousand step program for rebuilding life after heart rending loss, a list that never seems to end, and endless treadmill of projects, a means of renewing our home...a way forward.
It will be six months next week since Les died. His death seems surreal now and so does my life. How, I ask myself, did I arrive here, on a boat, in another country, on my own? While I cannot believe Les is gone I find his memory is fading and I have to fight for every scrap. Part of that is emotional anesthetic, part of it is simply time, and a lot of it is the fact that last year Les changed drastically as his life wound down. I have to really reach to remember Les as he was four, five and six years ago when he was the picture of robust health. Death does that as it eats away at us, moment by moment, cell by cell. I didn't have time to take it all in; I was too busy caring for him and trying to make every moment count for us both while denying my own grief process. I didn't want to burden Les with my grief or the unbearable pain I felt in knowing I was losing him. I chose to cry in the shower instead of in front of him. I chose to be stoic and forge onward. I know now what a terrible mistake that was. I denied us both the chance to experience those precious, painful moments together and to say and do the final things we needed, wanted and should have experienced with each other.
So, back to the boat. A year ago we asked folks who donated to our GoFundMe account if they would be comfortable with our changing the focus of our account from a trip back to America and family, and instead spend the money on NB Valerie, getting her ready for me to live on without Les. Without exception all of you who donated said,
"Spend the money as you see fit." So we did. My deepest heartfelt thanks to all of you near and far who offered up your support for our life on this boat. Items with an asterisk were completed by Les. It is time for an accounting now, of chores and how the money was spent, so here without further ado, is the list:
- *WhaleGulper no maintenance shower pump mounted inside the sink cupboard, instead of the old unit mounted under the bathtub and behind a wooden panel which required laying on one's belly on the floor, removing the front panel of the bathtub and using a wrench to loosen the cap on the filter to clean it--every two months.
- Boat blacked to protect the hull from rust; good for four years
- New anodes which also protect the hull from rust and decay
- Two new steel T studs mounted on either side of the bow to make it easier for me to moor up on my own
- A bicycle rack attached to the stern
- *New bathroom sink and tiles to replace the old leaking sink and rotted wooden surround
- *New brass cup style cabinet pulls on all the galley and saloon cupboards and drawers
- *Replace all the LED light bulbs which were 9 bulb white lights, with 15 bulb warm lights throughout the boat
- *Build a corner shelf above the bed with a small swiveling reading light mounted underneath, to match the shelf and light on the other side of the bed
- *Longer tiller handle to accommodate my very short arms
- The engine bay cleaned and painted
- The engine cooling system flushed and refilled
- Solid steel engine bay cover replaced with an aluminum checker plate cover so I can can lift it and access the engine and weed hatch
- The horn, navigation lights, tunnel light and bilge pump switches moved from below my feet on the side of the stern locker (Les used his feet to operate them but mine don't reach that far), up in front of the gear shift so I can see them and reach them
- The stern seats re-fitted (Les cut the storage boxes down but was not able to refit the padded seats that fit on top
- Hook closure on outside stern doors
- Replace the rubber seals on the bow doors, the side hatch doors, the back stern hatch and door, and the outer stern doors
- Clean off the roof
- Cut down the wood box and move it forward
- Replace the old solar array Les installed with a new system professionally installed by OnBoard Solar
- Replace the broken boat hook and boat pole, and rotting gang plank
- Replace the rotting and missing side fenders, bow fenders, and all the bow, stern and midline ropes which were four years old and fraying badly
- Replace the clapped out stereo and mount the new model in the wall of the front closet
- Stereo speakers installed in the ceiling of the boat
- Replace the ten year old telly with a new HD telly
- Replace the old toilet seat with a new oak seat
- Replace our old, torn mattress with the inner springs poking up, with a new custom made quality Memory Foam mattress
I didn't care about being broke, I only ever cared about keeping Les alive and helping fight to regain his health and live ouor life with joy, and I knew that undergoing alternative cancer treatments requires a minimum two year commitment to the treatment without fail. I told Les this but he refused to hear me. So with sinking heart we pulled the plug on all the supplements, diet, organic foods, herbs, etc. Within four months the cancer invaded his bones.
I understood how Les felt. Indeed if anyone would grasp how the entire scenario wore him down day by day and made him feel it was me, for I have lived through two ovarian cancer diagnoses, major cancer staging surgery and a two year alternative treatment program (Gerson Therapy) requiring a major diet change (no meat, dairy, sugar, bread, oil, salt, caffeine or alcohol), thirteen glasses of freshly extracted organic juices daily, and up to four coffee enemas daily combined with 36 daily supplemental pills and two liquid supplements for a combined cost out of my pocket of $840 a month. I remember feeling exactly as Les did. So I if I could not convince him to continue treatment, all I could do was support his choices in the best way possible. Sadly Les could not undertake Gerson therapy as one has to have a fully functioning colon for the treatment to work. I knew we were in for a tough battle in 2014 when we were denied the stoma reversal due to cancer spreading to Les' liver.
When we received the terminal cancer diagnosis Les asked me to save him, but without spending all our money. There was nothing I could do and my heart broke into thousands of pieces. Les was one of those people who had to see it, feel it, taste it, hear it, and know it in his bones before he believed a thing was fact. The trouble with that is by the time you know at that level that cancer is terminal it is too late. All I could do I did and I took his hand and we walked together into what was left of our limited future together while Les spend every moment he could either planning on making my life without him easier or actually involved in projects to do the same. After he died and I returned to the boat I found dozens of lists Les had made, with notes to me about how to save money, hoe to apply for bereavement benefits, and how to save money on low cost cremations.
One thing I do want to mention is the fact that the Oncologists at the RFH wanted Les to undergo a biopsy surgery on his spine. They were convinced the cancer they were seeing was not colon cancer. They were 95% certain it was bone sarcoma and it was a "second line cancer," caused by the five days of radiotherapy Les was forced to endure back in October of 2013. Unbeknownst to us at that time, while the treatment was only five days in length Les was given massive amounts of radiation treatment to the extent he could never endure another radiation exposure again--but of course along with so much else we were not told of this either, until June of 2016 when the Oncology team in London sought to give him radiation treatment on his spine and were shocked to uncover that Les had been maxed out on radiotherapy in 2013. Les asked the RFH Oncology team if spinal surgery would cure his disease or prolong his life. The answer was no, it would only serve to underscore 100% their diagnosis of bone sarcoma, and so Les refused the surgery and we came home.
I know people don't know what to say or do when I break down and cry. That's okay. Let me cry. But please, please don't say, "Well at least you had six wonderful years together." Don't say, "At least you had a deep and true love that so many people never get to experience." Don't say, "Chin up Jaq, life goes on." Yes someone I considered a friend told me that the day after Les received the terminal cancer diagnosis. I got up and left their boat and I refuse to ever speak to them again. Because truly nothing anyone can say will make me feel better and I am angry that cancer stole the golden years Les and I deserved and were looking forward to spending together. Six years isn't even a blink of an eye. It is half a heart beat.
I do not need anyone to remind me of the depth of mine and Les' love for one another. That knowledge is alive and well in my heart and soul. I live every day with the awareness that I will never see the look of absolute adoration in his lovely eyes ever again. I will never receive another text on my phone from Les saying, "I love you so much. Xxxxxx times a trilly billion more times than that." I've had to change my phone ring tone because I could not bear to hear it and know that Les will never go off to town again for bits and bobs, then call me to say, "Just having a coffee Jaq and I will soon be back home in your arms my sweet." I will never hear Les call my name or his incredible laugh or see his dimples wink at me ever again, and I will never ever experience his strong, warm arms reaching for me in the dark, pulling me close to his side, or feel his lips on mine.
I thank Adrian and Adam on NB Briar Rose for sitting with me as I fell apart one day when they were visiting, and not trying to make it better because they instinctively understood that nothing anyone says or does will ever make this loss less than utterly devastating for me. I thank Carol and George Palin for doing the same with me for three entire days, and to Ken and Sue Deveson for the same. Practical help, a pat on the arm, a hug, a tissue (an entire box of tissues), and a cup of tea are all helpful. So are Les stories. I am hungry to hear any and all stories about him, no matter how small or insignificant.
More thanks are due to Andy and Tina Elford of NB Ytene. Although they graft hard five days a week with only Sunday and Tuesday off and Sunday is spent driving two hours to Peterborough to spend the day with Andy's 92 year old Aunt Beryl, taking her shopping and out to lunch, they both came and spend evenings with me on board NBV while I waited for the solar panel fitting and the mattress delivery. Thanks for dozens of fun and goofy rounds of the Railroad Game, bottles of wine, love and laughter, crying right along with me, getting me registered with your dentist and taking me to my appointments, and bringing me along to visit your lovely Auntie Beryl, She is a pip! Tina, thanks for spending a girls day out with me. I haven't done that for a long time and it was such fun.
|Andy and Tina on NB Ytene, cruising slowly past NBV recently. It made my heart sing to to see them but it also made my heart ache to know Les wasn't there to see it too.|
- Sand and paint the inside panels of the bow doors, the side hatch doors and the inner and outer stern doors
- Clean out the tracks around all the windows inside from a decade of dead bugs, mold growth and moisture damage
- Sand and paint the wooden window cills
- Sand and paint the metal window frames inside and out
- Replace the radio cupboard brass latch
- Sand and refinish the dinette table
- Sand and refinish the galley counters
- Sand and refinish all of the interior walls and ceiling. It's been nearly 11 years now and it is well past time
- Cover the stern steps with vinyl oak look planking and new rubber treads (the old carpet treads are lifting)
- Finish painting the exterior of the boat
- Purchase vinyl lettering and tape and reapply the sign writing on both sides of the boat
|The wood box is now cut down to a smaller size and moved forward for storage.|
I would also like to thank Debra at Made2MeasureMattress online for her assistance and understanding when I screwed up my measurements and the mattress had to be returned to their factory in Kent, cut down to the proper size and a new mattress cover sewn and re-delivered to me. The folks at Made2MeasureMattress were friendly, calm, understanding and worked hard to get me a new mattress in a matter of days.
|The new mattress in place at last!|
|I brought it in down the stern stairs with kind assistance from Tony at Napton Marina. it came all rolled up in the large box at the top of the steps. Now, on to the chiropractor's in Clifton Upon Dunsmore!|
So what's next?
Tomorrow morning the Boat Examiner will come and hopefully all will pass muster. Lee Freeman is the person who has done all the past BSS for NB Valerie and he remembered Les and our boat. I hope by early tomorrow afternoon to be cruising through Braunston turning left and heading for Rugby. North at last, as the narrow canals are calling me.