Jude woke me up to have something to eat. I wasn’t hungry, but he insisted I have at least a bit. “I have to go to the bathroom first”, I told him.
“No, you don’t. I had to put a catheter in you since you were out for so long. You just think you have to go.”
Well, that sure explained what I felt down there. “Where on earth did you get it?”
“I had to make a trip into town. I didn’t want to leave you, but there wasn’t much of a choice. You were too out of it to get up to go. I left a note on the end table beside you, but it was untouched when I got back, so I knew you didn’t wake up.”
“Take it out. Please.”
“No, Julia. Not until you are up and about.”
I started to get up. He pushed me back down with a laugh. “You aren’t ready yet, luv. Let’s see how you are tomorrow. Now please eat. I just brought you a bit, you can have more if you want it.”
He had given me an egg and a slice of toast and he sat down in the chair with his. “This is plenty, Jude. How are the animals?”
“They are all fine, Julia. I’ve been taking good care of them. Here, just a sec.” He got up and went out to the kitchen, returning with a glass of milk, which he handed to me.
“Milk? It’s still good?”
“This isn’t what you milked. I milked her yesterday.”
“You did?” He nodded. “But…how?”
“You had explained to me how it’s done. It took me a bit of time to get the hang of it, but I did it without getting kicked. Mama was very patient with me. And I figured out how to use the separator, but I don‘t know how to use your butter maker or whatever you call it. Fortunately, you had made enough that we still have some.”
“I’m impressed, Jude! And it‘s a churn. I‘ll show you how to use it.” I took a drink, thinking of what a gem this man was. He sure was adapting to farm life.
“I really wanted some and you were in no position to milk her. Though before all this, I drank 1%.”
I made a face. “Oh, that is nasty, Jude. You might as well have been drinking water.”
He chuckled. “Far fewer calories and it was fortified with vitamin D to help absorb the calcium. Which makes me wonder - why are you underweight if you drank raw milk and ate bacon and other unhealthy foods?”
“Oh, trust me, I haven’t always been like this! Before the world went to crap, I was a little on the chunky side, but working on the farm kept me from getting heavier than I was. I’ve lost a bunch over the last several months, many nights I didn’t want to be bothered trying to figure out something to eat with what was at my fingertips so I’d just have an energy bar. In the morning, I didn‘t want to waste any time in getting back on the road, so I‘d skip breakfast.”
“You need to eat better than that, Julia. And we will, both of us, as best as we can given the situation.”
“Next year, we can do better, we can plant a huge garden and have lots of fresh vegetables, if we decide to stay here. I know where to find fruit trees, too.”
“We’ll need a source of protein, other than eggs. The meat in your freezers won’t last forever.” Besides the freezer in the pantry, there is one on the porch. When you raise your own beef, you don’t just buy a side, you get the whole cow. Ben and I had bought our pork from another farmer who raised pigs. That, we bought by the quarter.
“I can hunt, once there’s some room in one of the freezers. I’ll get us a deer. And maybe we can find some beef cattle roaming around.” I read his face. “No, I am not slaughtering Mama or her calf. We need them to produce for the future - if I can find a bull. At the very least, we‘ll have milk.”
“That’s a relief - I’m getting rather attached to them. By the way, Julia, I brought back some multi-vitamins for us as well as vitamin C and D, since we don’t have citrus fruit or fortified milk or bread. I’m really going to miss oranges. Growing up in the south, I ate a lot of them.”
“I love them too, Jude - and grapefruit. When are they ripe?”
“Depending on the variety, they are available all year except for summer.”
“So, we could go on a road trip?”
“We could…..but you need to recover and we would have to figure out what to do about the animals. Of course, the dogs would go with us.”
“We could get there within 24 hours if we take turns driving and sleep in the truck. I could leave the cow and calf in the paddock with enough hay, there’s a water trough for her to drink from. I’d put extra feed in the hen house, the watering system is automatic. They’d be fine for a few days. Of course, we‘d have to go before the first snowfall.”
“When is that?”
“Any time after mid October, though usually it doesn’t last long. We *could* get a bigger storm in November, depending on temperature. It usually rains a lot in that month, but it’s been cooler than normal, I think because of the lack of industry and cars on the road.”
“We’d better wait until spring, luv. You can’t travel right now, and we have other things to do to get ready for winter, as you keep telling me.”
“Jude, if you want, you could go. I’d be fine here.”
“No, I am not leaving you. What if you needed medical attention? Besides, I’d be worrying about you the whole time. We can wait until spring and then try and get down before the season ends.”
“If you are sure, Jude.”
“I am sure. We aren’t out of options. We can eat canned fruit. Here, let me take your plate and glass. I want you to lay back down.” I had sat up to eat.
“I’d like a coffee, please.”
“All right, but then you need to lay down again.”
“I’ll be ready to by the time I drink it.”
Jude brought us each a mug of decaf, and put another log on the fire before sitting down. I noticed he was constantly checking my cardiac monitor. “Is everything okay with that?” I asked.
“Yes, luv. I’m just being watchful. You are doing so much better than when I brought you home from laying out in the cold all night.”
“The strangest thing happened to me, Jude. It was so cold out there, but then a couple of coyotes layed next to me, one on each side. They were right up against my body. It freaked me out at first, but I didn’t have the strength to try to scare them off.”
“Good thing”, he said. “They may have saved your life with their body heat.”
“That’s amazing, Jude. One of them also brought me a dead rabbit and tried to get me to eat it. I passed out again. Was it there when you found me?”
“Yes, it was. I wondered how it got there. Sounds like they were looking out for you.”
“Animals are amazing, Jude.”
“Okay, luv. You need some more rest. Let me have that mug and lay down.” He tucked me in and took our mugs to the kitchen before settling into the chair beside me. Sherlock and Molly were on the sofa bed with me.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“It’s a little after 7pm.”
“Too early to go to sleep. I’ll never sleep through the night.”
“Yes, you will. But if you do wake up in a couple hours and want to sit up for a while, you can.”
Jude was right. I did sleep through the night - and most of the next morning. I woke up just before noon. “Good morning, sleepy head”, he greeted me when he saw that I was awake.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“It’s almost noon, luv.”
“Wow, I can’t believe I slept this long.”
“You need it, Julia. Let me get you some lunch.”
“I’d rather have a coffee. And I need to get up and walk.”
“I’m not arguing with that. You do need to get out of bed today, if you can. But wait until after lunch.”
Later, I did get up and I walked around the ground floor of the house, with Jude pushing the IV pole since I was on crutches. He wouldn’t take it (the IV) out yet. “Not until you are drinking more.” He had taped a small catheter bag to my leg and said he’d take it out later if I walked enough.
I tired easily, and had to sit down in the rec room for a bit. Jude sat on the sofa next to me. “You’ve been in bed for days, so don’t get discouraged, luv. You need to get your strength back.”
“I don’t have time to lay around. I have things to do.”
“You will have eternity to ‘lay around’ if you don’t take it easy and let your body recover. I‘m serious, Julia. I see the look you are giving me. Do you think I don‘t know what I‘m talking about?”
“Of course I don’t, Jude.”
“I understand that you are worried about getting ready for winter and I defer to you about that. You know all about it, I don’t. But you need to listen to me, I’m the expert on hearts and cardiovascular systems. You almost died out there. If I had been just 10 minutes later finding you, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking right now. I don’t like playing the heavy, but I need to get across to you how serious this is. Please, do what I say.”
“All right, Jude.”
“Thank you, luv. If you take it easy for a few more days, maybe a week, we’ll go to that warehouse again. I know you wanted to pick up some more canned goods. But you have to let me drive and do most of the work. Deal?”
“Deal.” I didn’t like giving him that much control over me, but I figured I had no choice. He scared me when he told me how close to death I’d been. I leaned forward with my elbows on my thighs and covered my face with my hands. Jude began rubbing my back.
“It’s not the end of the world, Julia. Take it easy for a while and you will be fine. Come here, luv.” He moved a bit closer to me and pulled me to him. I leaned against him and he wrapped his arm around me. I rested my injured hand on the top of his belly. It was still a bit sore, even days after cutting it. Jude said it was because the glass went in deep. “Well, I’ve found something useful for this beer belly - a hand rest for you.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “There, I got you to laugh! That’s much better, luv.”
The Franklin stove was in my line of sight at the other end of the room. It reminded me of the house Luke and I had chosen to stay the winter in. I shuddered, thinking of that prick.
“Are you okay, Julia?”, Jude asked.
“I’m fine, Jude. We should sleep in here for the winter”, I said with the hopes of getting his mind off of my shudder, which I’m sure he’d felt. “The stove will heat the room very nicely and that will be easier on the furnace and the oil supply. We just need to bring a couple beds down.”
“That’s a good idea. We can work on doing that - and bringing clothes and toiletries down. It’s a good thing your downstairs bathroom is a full one, with tub and shower. I guess we’ll also have to bring down a couple dressers.”
“And figure out some way to hang clothes. Oh, we can use the coat closet. And if there’s not enough space in it, we can get a wardrobe from the furniture store in town.”
“Something has occurred to me, Julia. What happens when we run out of oil for the furnace?”
“Hopefully we’re good for a few years - if we decide to stay here long term. We can get oil from tanks around here and the supplier on the other side of town. We could probably also find some in the city if we run out.” Jude looked uneasy. “Don’t worry, Jude. People survived without furnaces for centuries - and they didn’t have insulated homes. We will manage.”
“Would you consider moving to the south? We could go to the Florida Keys where it almost never gets cold.”
“Jude, I couldn’t take the heat down there. And there’s gators and snakes - venomous snakes.”
“You don’t have venomous snakes here?”
“No, not in this part of the province. There’s the Massassauga Rattlesnake in the Georgian Bay area, but it’s endangered. People almost never see one. Or should I say saw. There’s also a very small, dwindling population of rattlers in the southwest of the province but they are seldom seen. I grew up in that part of Ontario and didn’t even know there were any. I never saw one.”
“They might come back with humans all but gone.”
“Don’t say that, Jude.” We both laughed. “If that happens and if they come this way, I’m heading to the east coast where the winters are worse than here but no rattlers at all! Seriously, though, if we were to go to Florida, where there‘s a LOT of venomous snakes, what do we do if one of us gets bit? There won‘t be any anti venom and I sure as heck wouldn’t know how to use it even if there was.”
“You have a point there, Julia. I‘ve never administered it, but I have a general idea how it‘s done. And obviously, I can put an IV in. We might be able to find some in hospitals, but for exotic species that may have been let loose in the wild, it would be a big problem. Hospitals used to get it flown in from zoos and such. We might be better off here after all.”
“Look, if you really can’t handle the winters here, we can head for the west coast. It gets cool there, but not like here.”
“You say we have a few years until all the oil we can find would be gone, so we don’t have to decide today.”
“You are right. I’m tired, I need to lay down.”
“I’ll help you back to your bed.”
“I want to go upstairs. That sofa bed is starting to hurt my back.”
“They certainly aren’t meant to be slept on for more than a few nights. Can you make it upstairs?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you lay down in the living room for now and later, I’ll bring a bed down.”
I woke up a few hours later and looked around. No sign of Jude. The dogs were on the bed with me. I saw a piece of paper on the end table beside me and picked it up. “Julia, I’ve gone into town. Back soon. Stay in bed and rest. Jude”
I closed my eyes and fell asleep again. The sound of the door opening and closing woke me up. Jude appeared beside me. “Hi, luv. How are you feeling?”
“I slept like a log. But my back is hurting.”
“I have just the solution for that. You stay there, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
What is he up to, I thought. A few minutes later, I heard the door open again and then the sound of something being wheeled across the kitchen floor. I sat up and twisted my body around to look at the door to the kitchen. Jude pushed a hospital bed through it. “What is that?” I asked him, even though I knew full well what it was.
“Your new bed”, he replied as he pushed it through the living room, turned right and then into the rec room. I started to get up to follow him. “You stay there, Julia. I will come in to unhook the leads.” He came back to the living room and turned the cardiac monitor off.
“Why did you put this on if you weren’t going to be here?” I asked.
“I wasn’t planning on going, but I got thinking while I was sitting there in that chair. I wasn’t fond of the idea of trying to get beds down the stairs by myself. Then I got an idea to get a hospital bed for you - at least for now - until you have recovered. I was limited to the ER as the elevators don’t work, of course. I found this one that looked better than the others. I was going by flashlight, so I hope I chose wisely.”
“What about you, Jude? Where are you going to sleep?”
“In the rec room with you. I got myself a bed from the furniture store. A better bed than I had at home, mine was getting pretty old.”
“Surely, you could afford a new bed?”
“I probably could have, but my kids’ needs came first.”
“You were a good Dad, Jude.” He was sitting on the sofa bed and I reached out and put my hand on his knee. He smiled wistfully.
“I had my choice of beds this time, so I picked a really expensive one. Like you did with your wine.” I laughed.
“Need help getting it in?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how that sounded and my face probably turned a thousand shades of red. Jude, ever the gentleman, didn’t say a word.
“No. You will stay off your feet, you hear?”
Jude got his bed in and assembled it before putting sheets on both of the beds. He’d brought a few sets from the hospital for my bed. He took the cardiac monitor in and put it beside the bed.
“Do I still need that?”
“I’d feel better with you on it while you’re sleeping, luv. At least for a while longer. It‘s not uncomfortable, is it?”
“Oh, no, not at all.”
“Good. It shouldn’t be. I’m going to shower and then get us supper. Do you feel like sitting at the table tonight?”
“Yes!” He laughed.
“Okay, why don’t you lay down for a while? I’ll call you when supper is done.” He got me settled in my “new” bed. “I’m going to put the rails up, Julia. You are used to a much bigger bed and I don’t want you falling out and hurting yourself.”
“You are never going to get me back in here again if you do that, Jude.”
“Yes, I am”, he said with a wink. “Deep down inside you want to do what your doctor tells you to do.”
“I’d rather you be my friend.”
“Tell you what. I’ll be both.” He kissed the top of my head and left the room. Neither one of us had thought to start a fire in the Franklin stove but it wasn’t too cool anyway, and the blankets gave me plenty of warmth. I dozed off until Jude came to get me for supper.
It was great to sit up in the kitchen to eat. He’d made a beef stew, it was good. I tried to get him to talk about things we needed to do, but he wouldn’t consider it. “Not yet, Julia. You need to rest a few more days.”
“We’re only talking, Jude.”
I know, but I have a feeling that if we plan something out, you will get even more impatient and you’ll do something rash like sneak out again.”
“I probably would”, I admitted.
After supper, Jude took my catheter out. “Before I do, Julia, I want you to promise me that once this is out, you will not go anywhere unless I say you can. I know you won’t abscond on me with this in as it needs to be changed every few days to a week. You can’t take it out yourself as you have to deflate the bulb first and I’m pretty sure you don’t know how. If you don’t do that and just pull it out, you’d do serious damage to your urethra, which would need surgical repair, and there’s no way to do that now. So, do you promise not to do anything stupid?”
“Yes, Jude. I promise.”
“Good. Now, lay back on your bed and I’ll get this out of you. The first couple times you go, it will probably be very painful, like how a UTI hurts, if you have ever had one of those.”
“Unfortunately, yes, I have.”
“You can help by drinking lots of water. It helps flush the cooties out.”
“Cooties - is that a medical term?”
“It is now. I just made it one.” We both laughed. “It is good to see you laughing, Julia. At one point I didn’t think I’d hear your laugh again.”
After he took the catheter out, Jude and I went to the living room to watch a movie. He had brought a stack of DVDs back from town and we chose one that we both wanted to see. It was good to just sit and do something ‘normal’ without worrying about things like getting through the winter.
When it was over, he made us some hot cocoa and we sat and chatted before we went to bed. He insisted on putting my rails up again and would not back down when I tried to talk him out of it. “You know, if I wanted to, I could climb over these.”
“I hope you won’t try, Julia”, he said as he put the first rail up. “If you fall, you could hurt yourself. And that would put back the time at which you can get out and continue preparations for winter.” Jude hooked me up to the cardiac monitor, then put the second rail up. He leaned over it and took my hand. “It’s only a few days until you are off the monitor and I get you your own bed.”
“Why do I have to be in this bed anyway? I can be on the monitor in a regular bed.”
“I’d rather not take the chance of you getting tangled up in the wires. There’s more of a chance of that in a larger bed, luv. Enjoy this bed while you have it, you have the head up and you can raise it at the knees if you want.”
“I can get a regular bed like that - now that money is not an obstacle.”
“I thought of getting one when I was ‘shopping’ for beds, but I didn’t think I could get it through the door. Especially by myself.”
“Yeah, that would be hard. Okay, Jude. You win. This time.” I winked at him.
Over the next few days, I got stronger and stronger. Jude took me out to the barn one afternoon when he went to feed the livestock. He made me use an electric scooter he’d picked up in town. I didn’t care, I was just happy to get out of the house. I was afraid Mama would have forgotten me by now, but she gave a loud “Mooooo” when she saw me. The calf sure was growing! We still had not named her.
“Jude, we need to name the calf”, I said to him over supper. “Do you have any suggestions?”
“How about Hope since she represents hope for the future?”
“I think that’s lovely. Hope, it is.”
We finally had a few cats hanging around the barn. Putting dry cat food out had paid off. I know the rodents got some of it, but at least it did attract some cats and once they started hanging around, I found that the traps were getting fewer and fewer of the little varmints. Of course, they were set where the cats were less likely to get into them. Fortunately, the bags of grain remained untouched.
I also continued to feed the cats at the feed mill in town. I wanted them to hang around, too, as I was going to need the grain and chicken feed that was still there. Eventually, I would have to learn how to process it myself - I could grow it and harvest it as we had done that on the farm - but that was where my knowledge ended. There was a lot to do and learn so I needed to try and leave some things for a year or more down the road.
Jude wanted to get an x-ray of my foot, so one day, we went to the veterinary clinic I had worked at before quitting to work full time on the farm and got their portable machine. We took it home and charged it, then I showed him how to use it.
The radiographs he took showed that the bone was almost healed. “I’m very happy with this, Julia”, he told me. “You should be able to start walking on it in another week or so.”
“I can’t wait, Jude. I’m sick of not being able to put weight on it.”
“If you had heeded advice and stayed off it in the beginning, it would be all healed up by now.” I must have had a sheepish look on my face as he then said “Let’s not worry about the past, luv, and concentrate on the future. I’ll take that cast off in a week and you can go back in the boot as long as you take it easy.”
I was past needing to be in the hospital bed by now, but I chose to still sleep in it as I was getting real comfortable with the adjustable head and knees. The trade off was the rail. Jude compromised and agreed to leave one down so I could get out of it on my own. “But if you fall out, then it’s going back up.” I did my very best to not fall out, even going so far as to sleep up against the rail that was raised.
I kept getting stronger under Jude’s watchful eye. One day at supper, he took me by surprise when he asked “How would you like to go to that warehouse tomorrow?”
“Yes, Jude, I’d love to!”
“You are strong enough. And you are out of that cast and can walk on two feet now. However, I still want you to take it easy. I don’t want you over exerting yourself.”
“Jude, surely you want a break from physical work. I know you weren’t used to it before you met me.”
“I wasn’t, but I’ve built up some muscles.” He pushed his sleeve up and flexed his arm. We both laughed. “I’m fine, luv. You can drive if you feel up to it and I’ll rest up on the way there. Also, I want to hit some of the larger pharmacies in the big city and stock up even more on medications, since you never know when they might be needed. If you tolerate this trip well, we can go apple picking in a few days. I do want you to rest for a couple days first, though.”
I almost squealed with delight. Being cooped up in the house and not being allowed to do much was making me stir crazy. Jude was now letting me go to the barn with him, but I had to use the scooter and I couldn’t do any more than collect the eggs. I was surprised at myself allowing him to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. He had a way about him - kind, gentle, caring, that got me to comply - most of the time.
I had found myself thinking about Ben less and less and less. The ache in my heart grew duller with each passing day. He had told me in the dream that I needed to move on and make a new life for myself. I knew he was right and I had to do that.