Thursday, 18 September 2008

Isabel ...

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing ... not healing, not curing ... that is a friend who cares!
Henri Nouwen



Isabel is her real name, and there will be no fiction in these little titbits I am about to tell you. It may seem like it has no place on this blog, but you will see, if you are patient enough to read further, that it does.

Isabel has been my neighbour for 34 years. She retired some 10 years ago, and having the chance to see her and talk to her more often, we ended up becoming firm friends about that time.

It is not easy to describe Isabel. I sometimes tell myself she does not exist. Can't be real. Isabel is all about giving. She gives all she has, all she can do, all she has to offer, herself, everything, to everybody. She is generosity personified. She worries about everybody's problems and troubles, and actually struggles to try and offer people in need help, solutions, support. Like I said, hard to find words to describe Isabel.

In this rushed, impersonal, selfish and egocentric society we live in, Isabel is often not understood for her generous ways, and has very often, too often, been kicked by the very same people she gave all her heart to, trying to help. Usually, sadly I must say, after accepting the help she had to offer.

Isabel is an animal lover, and I think over the years the more she got to know people, the more she got to love animals. Her animals love her unconditionally. They run up to her when she gets home, just happy to see her, not expecting to see what she has got in her pocket. They live around her, for her, through her. They fully accept the love she offers them and they return that love, with love. I believe they are the only ones that really value her for what she is. The only ones able to, without words, give her the gratitude, the appreciation, the love she deserves. Isabel is a beautiful person, and even though I have tried, I have not been able to tell her, in words, how much I love her and appreciate her.

The day my mom passed away, being an only child, having lived with my mom my whole life, and having seen her leaving me day by day with ALSAmyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Maladie de Charcot, or, in the United States, Lou Gehrig's Disease) is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement.

As a motor neuron disease, the disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body as both the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, develop fasciculations (twitches) because of denervation, and eventually atrophy because of that denervation.

The patient may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement except for the eyes.

Some notable people living with ALS:
British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking
American guitarist and composer Jason Becker
American musician Eric Lowen of Lowen & Navarro
American football star Orlando Thomas

Some notable people who have died of ALS:
American baseball star Lou Gehrig (the namesake of the colloquial reference to the disease in the United States)
American folk guitarist Lead Belly
Leeds United and former England football manager Don Revie
British actor David Niven
Jon Stone The Creator of Sesame Street
Former Italian football players, Stefano Borgonovo and Gianluca Signorini
Diane Pretty, a British woman from Luton who became notable after being the focus of a debate about the laws of euthanasia in the United Kingdom.
My Mother.

, without being able to do anything for her, I was devastated, heart and soul into bits. The bell rang. There was Isabel. A pot of freshly made soup, and a cake. A tear in her eyes. No words were needed. She knew there was nothing she could do to mend my heart, she worried about my body, my other needs. She is a FRIEND that I love dearly.

These days Isabel has 5 dogs and 4 cats. 3 of her dogs she chose to have; the other 2 she rescued because they had been abandoned and instinctively attached themselves to her. All her cats were rescued. And she also has some lovely birds.

Our own dog, that we love to bits, is the son of Isabel's boxer Dolly. Isabel wanted to have Dolly spayed but the vet advised that it would be wise if she had a litter before the surgery. So Isabel had to find homes for the forthcoming litter of pups ... and there we were!

I had sworn, after loosing my beautiful black cocker Tammy at the age of 8, due to kidney failure, that I would never ever have another pet, because the loss was so hard to handle. Yet ... how could one say no to Isabel? Sure we would take one puppy. He is now seven - and still a puppy!


Thyson as a puppy
Thyson as a puppy. The slipper was used to gain perspective.
Hard to imagine.


Some time later, Isabel showed up with a little bird, tiny little pink thing, about a week old, that had fallen from the nest, in her big bird cage, and it appeared the mother was not feeding it. So she tried to feed it, then handed it over to me as she was finding it difficult to juggle all the demands of her pets. I continued feeding the 'beak', and she is still with us today. That little pink ball with a beak is our Beaky, mother of many, that we also love to bits. Our Roseicollis (Peachfaced Lovebird). But that is another story.

Recently, not being allowed by law to keep as many pets in a flat, Isabel and her husband have more or less moved to the country. The good news - when we move to Paradise we will be neighbours again. Just need to cross the river.

Now the reason why Isabel has so much to do with our Paradise.

Isabel and her husband bought themselves, some years ago, the house in the country they have now moved to. There they have all the things they love, and are teaching us all the lessons we try to learn when it comes to our dream in Paradise - our new home to be rebuilt in Golegã.

Their house was bought sort of ready to move in, but to this day they have not stopped redoing, rebuilding, investing in it.

The walls, every year, show the bloom of soluble salts, so they have to re-render and repaint. So we decided - simply tear down all our old walls, keep only the façade, and rebuild the whole thing.

They built a very nice pool. Every year they have to work on it, interior, filters, covers. So we've decided - no pool.

They have many trees and appear to spend all their time cleaning, pruning and cutting. So we decided - only a few fruit and olive trees, the ones that are already there, because they are almost 'centennial' and it would be a crime to remove them.

Isabel loves her garden and has many beautiful plants, but she never stops watering, treating, cutting, planting and worrying about the ones that are ill and disappearing. So we decided - not too many plants, just a few easy maintenance shrubs.

As mentioned earlier, Isabel loves her pets and has many. She can't go anywhere because she has to look after them all the time. She worries about them and spends a lot of time and money keeping them healthy and well looked after. That does it - we will stick to Thyson, our boxer that we love so much and that Isabel gave us, and our Beaky (that Isabel also gave us), Barney and their never ending brood of chicks.


Thyson being introduced to Beaky
Thyson being introduced to Beaky. These days that little ball of feathers
sinks her beak into those floppy lips if he dares to get that close!


After all, our dream is that Paradise will be our retirement home, where we will be enjoying our free time doing what we feel like, when we feel like it, in the house of our dreams.

And from Isabel we have learnt that if we are not careful, we will end up retired yet busier than ever with chores that will be 'imposed' on us by choices made while building and populating the so much dreamt of 'Paradise'.

That's my input. I'll probably get around to scribbling something else that has a relevance to our move, soon ...


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