I walked in the early morning on the beach from Grove Avenue toward West Chop. The day was of smoke but there was no smell of smoke. It swirled about my head and left droplets of moisture on the wool of my watch cap. A ghost in the air hung off the beach where it set off a low thrum of engine, its pitch varying from low to high, depending on speed. The throttle noise came from nowhere but everywhere and gave a vital living presence to the ghost 500 feet from land as if it were walking with me on the rocky sand. Was there a ship out there? I couldn't see it until finally the focus of a moving ship came through gauze. I think it was heading my way toward the north and I guessed it might be the 7 o'clock from Vineyard Haven. Progress seemed slow in the otherwise silence. The gray of the sky and gray of sea melted the horizon line and the world went on endlessly into the unknown ocean, the far shore too immersed in smoke to be seen.
Another day when the smoke had cleared, a neighbor joined my walk, as much a gesture of welcome to the neighborhood as an invitation to stop by for coffee. No ghosts appeared this day and the ferry Martha's Vineyard steamed well defined through the rushing currents of the harbor toward home. All looked normal. The clamor of distant docking and shouts of welcome gave way to a silence unbroken except for the sharp footfall of our steps on the rocky shell-littered winter beach.
At this mid-point in our stay in the Vineyard Haven cottage, I realized, in a twist of sanity, I had been missing the North Road despite the relief of less coming and going on the long stretch of black tar ribbon pushing its way through lush green in Spring time and the leaf-shorn pick-up-sticks of wind falls and raggedy branches of winter woodlands. We had been free of the frequent deer sightings. Despite their nuisance value, we remain thrilled at their beauty and picture-book appearance on the crest of a Chilmark meadow or simply grazing in one of Dave Flanders's fields. Rarely one of the creatures would race at a tangential angle with the hood of my pick-up. I have never had a head-on accident or killed a deer but once in a great while I'll feel the thud of contact with the front fender or bumper and retrieve a finger-full of gray hair from the point of contact animal with metal when I investigate the accident. Usually the deer will do a hip flip, land on its feet and launch across the bushes into the nearest wood or field. I might see it fleeing off among the trees or just hear the crash of its movement away from the road,
We're torn during this transition between independence and partial dependency because of failing vision and vigor and coordination. We begin to need assistance in various ways including doctors' visits, trips to the mainland for shopping, medical care and a dozen other problems most people at our age experience. The thought of leaving our home permanently after 50 years in one location is cruel and disorienting, to say nothing of the increased expense of simply living. We have all wished for a long life, and to those of us who are achieving this enviable goal comes a bagful of unexpected and unwanted problems we must solve. The interest in encouraging home care is attractive enough but that is only the beginning of a solution. How will care-givers be able to travel to isolated areas on the Island to give care? How will the elder person requiring nursing and homemaking service find appropriate help? Fortunately, already there is movement to organize service providers within an administrative unit, e.g. "Vineyard Cottage", now in its development stage. I understand one of its missions will be to inject appropriate help into homes of clients. I hope that expense of such service can be mitigated either by subsidy from Medicare in a more generous fashion than exists already or in subsidy by public subscription supporting private service. Whatever the solution or partial solution that comes about, my wife and I have had a small experience with some of the advantages and disadvantages of finding appropriate home services and we are prepared to go on down the trail of accomplishing a satisfying series of final transitions though the end of our long lives together. Already we know the trail will not be easy. Giving up a home of many years is a terribly wrenching experience. Moving to a distant place among strangers can be desolate and depressing. We must be prepared for the process of developing new friends and associates and be able in some ways to give up what we have had and develop new lives with reserves we had failed to discover and did not know existed.