Dispatches From a Former Caregiver—The Cobblestones Aren’t the Only Bumps You Have to Look Out For

Today’s blog post is the third in a recurring series from our friend Scott Liniger, who was an ALS patient caregiver for his partner Tammy Hardy for six years. In his series “Dispatches From a Former Caregiver” Scott hopes to explore the parts of his and Tammy’s story that tend to the, shall we say, more irreverent side of their journey.

Scott picks up the story shortly after his last Dispatch as their journey gets smoother in some ways, but bumpier in others…

By Scott Liniger

One of the things that becomes readily apparent as a caregiver is you’re going to need help at some point. In our case, we had a strong circle of family – Tam’s two sisters, her parents, my parents and sister, just to name a few. We also had some great friends who helped along the way. My friend, Chris, on this trip alone proved his worth repeatedly. Someone else who stepped in and helped tremendously was our friend, Adriana.

The idea of visiting Lyon and Bourg St. Andeol was so we could meet up with Adriana. It’s a long, convoluted story (if you haven’t yet sensed that pattern) of how we became friends, but the short version is she and I worked together, and we struck up a friendship. She was also terribly fond of Tammy, and they became very close. Adriana always provided a ton of smiles when she visited, and she also made the best guacamole on the planet. I’m not a guac fan per se, but Tam loved the stuff, and I have to admit, Adriana’s was pretty good. OK, it’s really, really good. Bourg St. Andeol likely isn’t on anyone’s must see list of villages in France. Which is too bad, because it is a lovely little place with a picturesque town square. It sits on the bank of the Rhone River, and is near Avignon. It’s also near a wine area known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Turns out, they make some pretty good wines there. Also turns out they have many steps up and down to old wine cellars. But this was a small price to pay to sample full pourings of some amazing wines. Tammy did seem heavier as the day wore on. Must’ve been all the wine she was drinking.

One story that came out of this portion of this trip, and one that lives on to this day, is, as far as our friend Chris is concerned, I became forever known as “The Other One.” After Adriana’s friends met us, and had a good laugh at our (OK, my) luggage, they were talking about something in Spanish. Adriana laughed before translating. You should not be surprised at this point that we didn’t speak Spanish. She said one of the women had commented about the men with Tammy. One was cute, and there was “The Other One.” Chris said he hoped he was not “The Other One,” and, in fact, he was not. Sadly, with all my luggage, I was not deemed the cute one. The story still gets a smile from both Chris and Adriana.

Besides her incredible guacamole, Adriana has an innate ability to care deeply. She has a very compassionate sensibility, and she and Tammy really bonded during this trip. We were lucky to have her visit a few times over the course of Tammy’s illness, and along with her guacamole, she brought love and help, and never hesitated to care for Tammy, which gave our family of caregivers a bit of a respite. And they talked, about normal stuff. I’m sure Tam appreciated a few moments of normalcy in the pot of ALS craziness.

I hate to admit it, but once we connected with Adriana and sent Chris on his way home, things mostly went relatively smoothly. We were now traveling by car, with people who knew where they were going, so there were no more panicked train-jumping or looking for an elevator. There was one more event that, in some ways, would sum up what we would be facing as we dealt with the progression of the disease. We made our way from France to Geneva to spend our last few days before flying home. Geneva has a lovely old town that’s up a hill, with streets that are cobblestone. It was getting late, and there was this incredible music store in the old town. This is back in the day when CDs were still in vogue. This particular store had a great collection of all sorts of music (I’d been there before, so I was excited to drop in). I told Tammy was going to dash up the hill to do some quick shopping. It didn’t make sense for her to go along, and with the hill and cobblestones, it just wasn’t practical. This was not the answer she wanted to hear. Nonetheless, I left her and Adriana, and I headed up. After about 30 minutes (and closing time), I headed back down to meet up with Tammy. She was still not pleased with my executive decision, and told me so. She had also decided she needed something to make sure I understood how annoyed she was. She ad Adriana had popped into a watch shop (there are more than a few in Geneva), and she purchased a very lovely, very nice, very NOT inexpensive watch, which she proudly, and dare I say, somewhat snarkily, showed me. She may have also said “ha” when I told her I didn’t find anything at the music store. She eventually got over it, and, I’m sad to say, this would not be the last time we faced an ALS-induced battle. After Tammy passed away, I visited Adriana, and I presented her the watch. She must’ve been chopping up onions for guacamole, since there were a few misty eyes. And of course she appreciated that it’d come from “The Other One.” I am also happy to report that the watch is still in use, and Adriana continues to proudly wear it.

Tammy was still somewhat mobile on this trip. It was a great time, but it was the beginning of the gradual loss in mobility, with more challenges to come.

Thank you, Scott, for sharing your insights. We look forward to more “Dispatches” soon!

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