Incredible Journey


Call her "Joyce". I met her while visiting a chapel service at the Senior's Home. Well preserved. Beautiful skin. Firm, controlled posture and movements. Standing with others in conversation after the service, smiling and apparently enjoying the day.

At one point she piped up to me, "I know Dad and the kids are really going to enjoy what I tell them about all of this."

(Dad and the kids? Am I missing something here?)

Deb, the part-time chaplain, just looked at me and shook her head. Alzheimers. Lost in the loops of the past.

"Joyce" became interested in our little Monday night reading and discussion group. I would often find her seated at table in the dining room on her floor with friend "Pauline", smoothing down the corners of a magazine, or patting her upper legs with both hands in nervous habit. But the face remained poised and youthful. "Pauline" had taken up the practice of bossing her around, but clearly enjoyed the company. Not every time was I successful in enticing her to come to our little talk.

But last week was different. The book which met with general approval in the group was "The Incredible Journey" by Sheila Burnford. It would take several sessions to be digested. Many remembered the Disney movie of decades ago. Three pets are separated from their cottaging novelist caregiver. Weeks are spent in rugged wilderness experience in far northwestern Ontario. A Lab retriever, strong but somewhat agitated. A battle-worn slant-faced old bull terrier. A sleek Siamese.

I am told by staff at the home that residents will be stressed by long sessions. It was apparent however that my friends were traveling with the pets. Living it all in their mind's eye. Escaping the monotony of their environment and condition. Such is the blessing of a "good read".

And no one getting more out of it, or more appreciating the nuances of fine writing than "Joyce". For a little while back with us.

In retrospect I suppose that I see in her a bit of the lab; in "Pauline" a bit of the bull terrier; and perhaps in Lynn, in wheelchair, a hint of the Siamese.

Lynn is, after all, the one who feeds the residence cat "Little Friskies".

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