“What brings you to Fiji?” Asks the bartender in between blending up frozen concoctions. Hmmm, clearly he doesn’t have a couple hours to listen to the real story, instead I quickly reply “Sampling beers around the world!” “Ahhh, sounds like a worthy cause, I’ll start you off with two Fiji Golds, Bula!”
The real story, bittersweet as it is: The Captain has dementia. Yep, the big D, could be Alzheimer’s but they can’t diagnose until they perform an autopsy (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!), as weird as this freaky, cruel, insidious disease is, I don’t even know what to call it, so I’ll call it big D, which destroys the brain little by little like a science fiction movie or twilight zone episode, the person still looks like himself and often in front of others acts almost normal, but around the partner they are unintentionally childlike leaving the partner to become an unintentional caregiver.
This human who previously had great intelligence, now lacks the ability to perform the simplest tasks and short term memory has evaporated. A lifelong sailor and Captain of our Caribbean based charter business on our sweet catamaran named “Moonshine”, Captain John excelled not only at sailing, he embellished his finely honed skills in the art of boat drinks, Painkillers being his specialty as he sat with guests and became a witty raconteur, putting them at ease and full of laughter. He could freedive to the bottom of nearly any bay when the guests dropped something overboard, only to return with a grin and a wisecrack. He never hesitated to strip his attire and be the first to jump off the upper deck of the infamous “Willie T” mostly to entice our female crew to follow and earn a free t-shirt. Yep, not much the shameless Captain wouldn’t do to earn ourselves a fat tip at the end of the charter.
Sailing pristine waters, leading snorkel expeditions while pointing out undersea creatures and corals, dancing to calypso music barefoot under the stars, leading guests on hilly, scenic hiking paths or just lying on the trampolines stargazing for hours, an idyllic career and lifestyle indeed.
The Captain became enamored with sailing at a young age watching a television show called “Adventures in Paradise”. Created by James Michener, the plots were centered around the dashing Gardner McKay playing the part of Adam Troy, Captain of the Tiki III. The schooner sailed around the South Pacific, looking for passengers, romance and adventure. Worthwhile digging up this vintage show, and imagining young John wishing to be Adam Troy, and he was!
Fast forward to current times. I call him Captain as it helps ease the pain a bit of losing him as a husband, friend and business partner, yet he still is the Captain, driving the ship that is his life and telling me which way to steer, even if he doesn’t realize it.
Faced with the stiff reality that there is NO CURE for the big D, Ive looked at numerous possibilities to keep this man who is loved by so many, safe, comfortable, happy and still in need of adventure!
As his once familiar life became confusing and unsafe, with many changes that so many partners of the big D must face, I rented our house out, sold or gave away nearly every personal belonging, except the sweet little Duffy electric boat we christened “Bootlegger”, this fine craft became a platform for amusement, and the Captain took the helm as we putted around our backyard waterway, looking for passengers, romance and adventure!
We have had several Fijian caregivers in our home. Learning of their culture which teaches from childhood to respect and care about others leads many to a chosen career of caregiving. I thought, why not take the Captain to the beautiful group of islands that is the source of where these lovely, caring people come from. I personally could not stomach placing him in a “lock down” memory care facility, as I feel long walks on the beach are more beneficial than drugs and a TV. My appreciation of all that is good, grows exponentially with my acceptance that others are caring for him far better than I can. The Captain’s wit and charm still shine through in spurts and he makes his new Fijian friends laugh as they see his true and gentle soul.
I am blessed with an amazing pod of friends worldwide who support my “outside the box” ideas, it truly takes a village. The South Pacific beckoned and Captain John is on quite an adventure!
He would love you to come join him in paradise, who’s in?
Doing his best “Adam Troy”