I settled into my bed & breakfast, which was just as charming as it seemed online.
I met Charles, the proprietor and his mom, Mrs Claypoole. After I got settled, they invited me downstairs to share tea. We chatted and I got an interrogation every bit as thorough as Tina's father. Only this was amiable and seemed based on genuine curiosity. It was also 'full duplex' as my father the engineer would say. I learned at least as much about them as they did about me.
Charles loved to travel, and during the year between high school and college, he decided to 'see the world' with his mother's blessing. Charles, it seems, was an only child and was always close to his mom. Mr Claypoole seemed to have been out of the picture nearly forever. When I brought him up, mother and son just brushed it off. It didn't seem to be a painful or secretive part of their past, he just seemed... incidental and inconsequential.
So, doting mother and precocious adoring son, stayed a tight unit. I remembered the relationship between son and mother in 'Garp' – which I read in high school. And I got a similar vibe from these two strong, supportive souls.
When Charles informed his mom that he wanted to 'repurpose' his college fund to continue traveling and learning about the world, I was not surprised to learn that she enthusiastically agreed.
Charles actually did continue some informal studies at various schools in countries he visited. He would teach English as a second language, and as part of his arrangement, was permitted to audit various classes. So in addition to traditional learning, he was also learning about cultural variations, studying history, literature, social studies and even touches of philosophy and medicine, all from distinctly 'foreign' perspectives. He described it using a musical metaphor. Equating his domestic education as learning to play in a standard 8-note scale, with conventional rhythms and time signatures. As he traveled the world, he learned new instruments and tonal structures and beat patterns, expanding his ways of looking at the world.
I smiled and nodded. Charles truly was a gallivanting ex-pat, a cultural nomad, roaming the world and soaking up different cultures like a sponge. He loved people, he was gregarious and quickly disarmed most of the folks he met who were inherently suspicious of strangers. He was a do-it-yourself cultural ambassador without portfolio... as curious to learn from the people he'd meet as he was to share his own stories of the other places he'd been and people he'd met.
Then his world changed when word finally reached him that his mom had taken ill. She had suffered a series of strokes and was in a nursing home. She was in the custody of social workers who were scrambling to find her next of kin. In a lucid moment, his mom had communicated enough to the social worker to put them on the right track. He was contacted by someone from the U.S. Consulate, and rushed home immediately.
It was clear from the moment he arrived, that his mom was not doing well, and may not ever be able to go home. After a thorough briefing from her social workers, Charles stepped up and began managing her affairs. She was alarmingly close to losing her house and having all her assets impounded to cover her escalating nursing home expenses. It took a good bit of wrangling with bureaucrats and a large dose of trust from the social workers on his mother's case, but eventually he was able to get everyone to come around to his plan. Since his mother wasn't getting any better in the nursing home, and the bills were just piling up, Charles finally got reluctant permission to get her released and taken home in his full-time care, with regular visiting nurse and social worker schedules.
The powers that be may have agreed to it as a form of home hospice care, yet within weeks it was obvious that returning to her own home under the full-time care of her doting son, Mrs Claypoole had not only stopped declining, but was slowly beginning to get better. The change in environment, and attention of a loved one, had seemingly resuscitated her will to live. Or as Charles laughingly put it, his mother got her 'mojo' back.
While she was getting steadily better, and eventually the time came when visiting nurse and social worker calls were no longer necessary, everyone knew they could not go back to their old pre-stroke lives. His mom could not live alone, and Charles could not walk away from her. They put their heads together, and came up with their plan. They would turn the home into a B&B. Charles would take care of it and his mom would help as she could. The income would help pay down the medical bills and she would no longer be in danger of losing her home. And Charles could still meet people. ….only instead of gallivanting the world, now he would have to draw the interesting people to visit him.
Charles was charming and loquacious, and his mother was gracious and mostly quiet, but every once in a while she would chirp up and add something which made a delightful garnish to our conversation. This spry and lucid little old lady was a far cry from the description of the stroke victim wasting away in the nursing home. I had no doubt that her son's personal sacrifice not only saved her life but restored its quality. They were captivating company, and I was stunned to realize how much time had passed while we chatted over tea.
I wanted to see the town, but it was already well into the evening, so I decided to get a good night's sleep and 'do the town' well rested the next morning. As I went to put my phone on its charger, I noticed a text from Tina.
“Thanks for meeting my friends. They love you and say I did well ;-)”
I grinned at texted back. “Glad to hear. I thought they were great too. …..Could any of them talk with your dad? :-)”
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