|Matthew & Milo: Anstruther Fishing Village|
Born: December 31, 1950 - Died: October 18, 2008
Missing you every single day. xxx
Matthew was raised in the village of Leven. He has a strong attachment to this seaside village that's located in East Fife Scotland. On the coast immediately south-west of Leven are a cluster of villages that bump into each other, they are Methyl, Methilhill, Denbeath and Buckhaven.
Matthew and I live in Denbeath and our household consists of Matthew, myself, Milo, our Jack Russell Terrier who I'm sure believes he's human and then there's wee Hamish McBeth our long haired Chihuahua who came to us through a neighbor drinking. She woke up from a drinking binge and found a chihuahua sitting on her settee. We never found out how he ended up there, no one knows. I refer to Milo and Hamish as 'The Barins' which is a Scottish term for 'children'.
Just one year earlier Matthew lived here alone, imprisoned and isolated by Multiple Sclerosis. It's mystifying how quickly circumstances in one's live can change. 'Life', so curious, so unpredictable. One day you’re traveling on your own path and the next day you’re being shot from a cannon without even an inkling where you are going to land. All you can do is hope when your butt is reintroduced to the ground the jolt doesn’t rattle your teeth too much. Doesn't matter how soft the landing is it's I don't like not having control and forewarning. I've learned that he only control one really has is how you react in any given situation. I can't say that I'm ever going to like that particular lesson but I've accepted it as fact. Yes indeed life is unpredictable and I'm a very slow learner.
With hair wild and teeth rattling I landed smack in the middle of Matthew's life and although it was anything but a smooth landing it was the beginning of an adventure I will never forget and wouldn't change even if I could. Both of ours lives have been changed in a dramatic way.
Matthew is now wheelchair bound and because he's less than graceful, and, well, not exactly a patient man by any stretch of the imagination. Let's just say: manual wheelchair plus Matthew equals a prickly relationship. It causing him distress and all the banging, hollering and swearing was causing me distress so we found him a suitable pre-loved electric wheelchair. A couple times a week navigate in his electric wheelchair towards the settee where I usually sit, and wherever I'm sitting is exactly where you will find The Bairns. He will look at us with a sweat contented look on his face and then says to more to himself than to me: “Aye, a wee braw family” and then I am so glad I traved to Scotland to meet this man.
One of Matthew’s favorite place is The Leven Promenade and because his car had been adapted with hand controls he can still drive. So on colder days He will drive to the promenade by himself that is if Milo fails to con his way into the Micron. Milo is obsessed with the car. Matthew will put up a token resistance to taking Milo with him. He'll say: “I’m no taking the wee bastard, he just sits there and stares at me entire time. I‘m no having it today.” My response is always the same: “Shnookie, Milo is not staring at you, he’s actually adoring you with his eyes, look at that sweet precious face, how can you say ’no’ that face”? Matthew chuckles and call me a daft American. It's unspoken but understood Milo will be accompanying him to Leven Promenade. Meanwhile, Milo has already planted himself in the back seat and patiently waits the fifteen minutes it takes me to get Matthew into the driver's seat.
Matthew is compelled to take this excursion to Leven as often as possible. I notice that he exhibit a sense of urgency around this time of day. He says it makes him feel like he still has some control over his life despite the fact he isn't able to get in or out of the car without my help, all that matter is he gets out of the house. One day I asked him if he was 'banking' all these days out, like squirreling away memories for fear of the day he may no longer be able to make this trip on his own. He looked at me thoughtfully and said: “Aye Patty, you're very perceptive ”. I see him agonizing over the the day when he will be robbed of this meager bit of freedom and independence. He’s often says to me: “The only thing predictable about Multiple Sclerosis is its unpredictability”. Matthew has Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, the worse type of MS. and It's soul destroying. I watch Matthew continue to move forward with his own brand dignity and I admire him. If it were me I would not be so dignified.
I have gathered Matthew’s paraphernalia which is; a flask filled with sweetened black coffee, The East Fife Mail for him to read, and a tin filled with cigarettes that I had just finished hand rolling for him. Someone once told me; '”If you do something for a man just once you own it for life'. I can tell you that that is one of the truest statement I've ever heard.
He will park the his little white Micron in the car park at the sea front and he'll stare out at the sea, drink his coffee, smokes his 'fags' but he will not read the East Fife Mail because the fatigue caused by the MS will have over taken him and he will fall asleep. He’ll return home in about three hours, usually at Tea time.
Once home it takes me less time to get him out of the car than it did to get him in. Hamish is happy to see Milo, Milo is happy to see me because there is always a treat involved. Milo is an opportunist, like I said, he thinks he's human.
On warmer days Matthew will ride his mobility scooter to the
Promenade while Milo, Hamish and I walk beside him. That walk is probably as cathartic for me as it is for Matthew. Scotland is absolutely beautiful. It is not only a feast for the eyes it is a feast for the Soul. If I were to believed in reincarnation I would be convinced that I was born in Scotland in a former life. Even though I haven't found total peace in my life here I feel like I did at least find the once place that feels like 'home'. I belong in Scotland.
We chit-chat our way towards Leven, as we pass the the Conservatory Builder's Lot Milo takes notice to the two big German Sheppard that guard the lot. He tries to make a bid to challenge them but is foiled by the short leash that I keep him on. Milo, just a little peanut but he thinks he's King Kong.
Once we arrive at the Promenade Matthew pulls up next to the end of the bench so we can sit side by side. Milo jumps up on Matthew's lap and Hamish on mine. We settle in looking towards the sea. I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and that delicious feeling I always gets when a strong breeze that feel just like fingers pulling through my hair. I love that feeling. For a while I get lost in my thoughts. But loud the cry of the Seagulls that have gathered overhead draws me back to the here and now. I turn my eyes away from the sea and look at Matthew. I feel a twinge of sadness because he's beginning to look haggard and older, much more so than he did the previous month and there is a marked deterioration from when I first arrived in Scotland eighteen months ago. Most noticeably being slurred and labored speech. Matthew has a genius IQ, his command of the English language has always been a source of pride to him. Of all the ravages that MS has had on his body this is the most heartbreaking for him. He’s told me about his previous life as a Social Care Worker in a Supervisory position for the Fife Council and how demoralized he feels to be on the receiving end of the Council’s services.
Matthew was one who would never tolerate anyone speaking for him. Now I am speaking for him and he's happy to have me do so. It all started the day of the meeting with a social worker and two nurses. We had a scheduled meeting to interview several providers for a Social Care Package for Matthew. For this series of interviews we sat around the interview table with Matthew sitting at the head of the table which accurately suggests that Matthew is the client and it is he who will conducting the interviewing.
The first interviewees are two registered nurses; they enter the room and sit across from me. I have a notepad to take notes for Matthew which is comical and sad because I am dyslexic, can't spell & a horrid note taker but I'm all we've got. The meeting begins and immediately it's amiss. The two nurses direct their attention to me. Taking turns talking they say, while referring to Matthew in the third person: “We will not allow him to just sit idle, we will insist that he does as much for himself as possible so he doesn’t lose functions. We will encourage him to try to do as much for himself as possible”. They never look at matthew nor do they ever speak his name! I turn my head from the nurses to Matthew; the look on his face almost brings me to tears, it's a look of defeat, degradation, humiliation and I am furious. I turned my attention back to the nurses, and I tell them. “His name is Matthew and he already does as much for himself as possible. In fact he insists on it. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Furthermore Matthews IQ is higher than anyone's in this room. There is not a single individual in this room who is his intellectual equal'. Matthew is a wheelchair and his speech is slurred due to MS. As nurses you should already know the effects of MS. He is not mentally disabled. Did you even read the notes”?
I am so angry I can feel the heat radiating from my face. When I looked back to Matthew, I see he's face has just lit up like a Christmas tree, he chuckles out loud, feigns embarrassed and says: “Oh stop”. Needless to say, the two nurses did not get the contract.
Back at the Promenade I reach over to touch Matthew’s his hand, he squeezes mine back, turns to give me a quick half smile. He has a worried faraway, look on his face. We both turn our attention back to the sea. It makes a continual low, rumbling sound as frothy waves roll over each other. When the waves finally reach the beach they slide over the sand giving it a glassy look as they retreat back into the sea.
Before moving to Scotland I was never intrigued with the sea or beaches. I preferred places with a lot of trees. I suppose when you love someone you grow to love what they love. I have grown to love Leven Beach. And I can't think of a better place to land with hair wild and teeth rattled.
February 22, 2009
"Ashokan Farewell" is a piece of music composed by Jay Ungar in 1982. The piece is a waltz in D major, written in the style of a Scottish lament