Chapter Four: Heading North

In the early morning hours as Fred and I were cramming the last of my worldly possessions into the U-Haul, I noticed an elderly gentleman affectionately known as the Mayor of Hazel Street walking up the road. He and I had engaged in a lot of long conversations as he took his daily stroll and I worked in my yard. He had often let me know that I was an OK guy, despite being a Yankee. I just wanted to get out of Dodge quickly, and had no real desire to explain why we were moving. I hid in the truck as Fred did his best to send him on his way.

With the packing complete we set out to head up I-75 on the way to our new life. Fred drove the U-Haul with Rob riding shotgun while Allison, Pawchy, and I followed in the RAV4 which had been purchased to accommodate Midge. That night we settled in southern Pennsylvania, a little more than half way to Stephentown. We set out the next morning for the final leg of our journey. About 6 o’clock that night we arrived at our new home in the middle of a driving rainstorm. We took in just the essentials: the futon for Allison to sleep on, and blankets for the rest of us. Having driven non-stop all day we were all famished.  We found Jimmy D’s Pizza Royale, which would become a favorite haunt for Allison and me.

The next morning, we started unloading the truck. It was a relatively easy job until we  encountered the hot tub that I had so optimistically purchased in Georgia. The buyer had wanted us to leave it, but it was an important part of Allison’s therapy, and I wanted to salvage something from our short stay in Georgia. We managed to back the truck up to the deck, take down a railing, and roll the hot tub into it’s new resting spot. We returned the U-Haul to a local garage and I drove Rob and Fred back to Rhode Island.

The first week was again like a vacation, but we had a lot to accomplish. We had to make our presence in New York known to the proper authorities. Allison and I drove to Troy, a city that I had visited a decade earlier when my son was matriculating at RPI.   We switched Allison’s Georgia credentials over to New York, and I obtained my New York driver’s license. This time, Allison got a state ID card instead of a driver’s license. We found a new doctor for Allison and went to her first appointment. At this stage of her illness, when calm, Allison presented as fairly normal with slightly slow speech and a minimally impaired gait.

Allison and I spent the next month settling in and exploring the area. We discovered Grafton State Park, a zoo in Hoosick Falls, and the Ice Cream Man in Cambridge. Life was pretty calm as we awaited Allison’s admittance to her new home. In mid August the call came: They were ready for Allison. Not wanting to be left out any longer, Midge flew up from Georgia to help oversee Allison’s move.

Allison was assigned a private room in the assisted living wing on the lower level. We moved her things in over a few days and I bought her a new computer. She was banned from EBay for life and living in a nursing home. Surely nothing bad could happen on the net this time. Allison missed Pawchy and wished she could have a pet. I bought her a small aquarium stocked with a few guppies. Soon, the guppies multiplied past the capacity of the tank, and some had to come home with me.  Allison enjoyed the family style meals and the various excursions that the residents went on. She also enjoyed the entertainers who were brought in and playing bingo with the old folks upstairs. Most of the residents on her wing were pretty functional, and the environment was fairly uplifting considering the nature of Huntington’s Disease. Allison also started playing a computer game called Virtual Families in her spare time. It seemed like she was in a good place.

A month after Allison moved in, a young lady named Alice arrived. Alice was about ten years older than Allison and also had HD. Allison and Alice became fast friends.  Pawchy usually accompanied me when I visited Allison and he became very popular with the residents. He often wore his hot dog suit to show off the fact that he was a weiner dog. We would go to water slides and on boat rides. We went to farms and to fairs. Fall in the Berkshires was a great time and we did not miss out. Very often, Alice would come with us. For the first time in a very long time Allison had a real friend.

In September, I invited my mother to come visit and see my and Allison’s new home. To my great surprise, she said yes, and Rob drove her up from Rhode Island with a cousin. It was a fairly cordial visit, and she took us out to eat at Jimmy D’s. I had high hopes that the tide had turned, and perhaps we had reached a detente in our relationship.

In October, we had our first appointment with Dr. Donald Higgins, a neurologist at Albany Medical Center who specialized in Huntington’s Disease. He had actually been to Venezuela to study the HD afflicted residents of Barranquitas who had the highest concentration of HD in the world. He saw many patients from the nursing home, was a good doctor, and a personable man.  We were comfortable with his action plan and looked forward to a long relationship with him.  We asked about Allison taking part in clinical trials, but she was still a year short of the 25 year old minimum age.

Allison developed warts on her feet, and we visited a podiatrist in Colonie, just north of  Albany.  He said it was the second worse case he had ever seen. We had to go every two weeks for a few months to have her feet scraped. The doctor always greeted us with “hello, hello” and was a very jovial man. Allison liked these appointments because we usually ate at a nearby Golden Corral. The calendar changed to late Fall, and I had no bad reports from the home. I was able to relax a bit and enjoyed puttering around the house.  I missed Allison when I wasn’t with her, but took comfort knowing that she was well cared for and happy. The Christmas season arrived and, unlike the previous year, it was kind of joyous. Allison came home for a few days, Rob came up, and we all had a good time. We drove to Albany and viewed the grand light display in their public park. We went to see the Rockettes Christmas show in New York City.

On the last day of 2006, Allison and I went to the Berkshire Humane Society and adopted two cats, Bronson and Bosley. They were both two years old and had always lived together. Their owner was moving and could not keep them. They came home to Stephentown and got along well with Pawchy. The first six months in New York were sure better than our first months in Georgia!

Midge decided to come visit in January 2007. To save money, she flew into Newburgh, New York, which was two hours to our south. Allison and I drove down to pick her up. We went out to eat a lot with her and drove up to see the winter views in Vermont. We went to movies at the Berkshire Mall.


 Midge enjoyed the residents and employees at the nursing home and she attended an Elvis Presley impersonator performance with us at the home. Midge had grown up in Memphis and liked to tell people that she and Elvis had dated in their youth. The only problem was that Midge had left Memphis twenty years before Elvis arrived. Midge also claimed to have been a Rockette in her younger days. Her stories were entertaining but of a very dubious nature. It was cold and snowy during Midge’s stay, but she persevered, and we got her back to the airport safely.