I am writing this at 2 a.m. on Friday December 4th, while doing my duty as Wolf’s night nurse. I am very happy to report that we are back in Monteverde, following what was thirteen days for Wolf – and varying numbers of days for the rest of us – in the Puntarenas hospital. A day ago, much to our surprise but according to Wolf’s wishes, he got his walking papers from the doctor and we brought him home.
We are all happy to be in Monteverde, no one more than Wolf. Family members who were here borrowed a hospital bed, wheelchair and commode and had the front room of Wolf and Lucky’s house set up so that Wolf is comfortable and close to the action. Two cars filled with family followed the ambulance carrying our friend back to the mountain. We were all so excited, busy talking and watching the flashing lights of the ambulance, that none of us noticed that the whole community was completely dark as we drove through San Luis and up the trucha to the Guindon farm. Carlos, Helena and I walked into the house and realized the lights weren’t coming on (we found out later that the power was out throughout much of the area), but we managed to get candles lit and a fire started before the rest brought Wolf in the door. It was a twinkling room he entered, with that warm smell of wood smoke and a comfortable quilt-laden bed awaiting him. Home sweet home.
We all appreciated the five-star views out of his hospital window – southwest over the Pacific Ocean with both the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula as well as the shoreline near Caldera and Jaco Beach visible, floating cruise ships lit up at night, clouds of expectant birds hovering above small fishing boats in the bay, palm trees lining the beach below us – and to the northwest where the windows across the corridor faced the Tilarán Mountains and Monteverde, constantly smothered in clouds and awaiting Wolf’s return.
But the views out the windows next to Wolf’s bed, looking back toward where we have just come from, get more stars than I can see in the sky right now. When Wolf is sitting up he can watch the trees blowing in December’s increasing winds, the ever-changing light on the forest and the play of clouds over the Nicoya. He can hear the goats bleating and the cows lowing in the farmyard below. Wolf, with his freshly shorn head and his now tiny body, reminds me of a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger – as Christmas approaches, he is our precious babe we are guarding as nature takes over and, one way or another, brings him peace.
Wolf made it very clear that he wanted to go home while he was in the hospital. He had an infection – in the end, it cleared up, but his health remains complicated. There are signs that his kidneys are damaged, something that has been discussed by doctors in the past few months. After about twenty-five years of taking lithium for manic depression, he is finally off it. This medication may be largely responsible for the toxicity that has been found in his kidneys. Unfortunately, the amount of medication Wolf has taken for his various health concerns – diabetes, prostrate, pain – along with the lithium, may have helped him but probably, ultimately, hurt him.
When all was said and done, we made the best of our time in Puntarenas. Lucky had a bit of a health scare but with antibiotics, she kept a new bout of bronchitis at bay and is definitely feeling better. Alberto and his wife Angelina, Ricky and his wife Maritza and their daughter Hazel, and Melody and her husband Rodrigo and their daughter Naomi took turns coming from Monteverde. Tomas, Helena, Carlos and Antonio all arrived from the States. Benito, Lucky and I stayed down there throughout the last week. Lots of friends came to visit from Monteverde, including many from the Reserve who still consider Wolf their fearless, and beloved, leader.
In Puntarenas, we spent a few nights in Doña Maria’s pension. Although she treated us well and made the best coffee in town, it was just a little too far from the hospital which complicated things. So the last three nights we moved to Cabinas Daniel, just 100 meters from the hospital. I stayed there a year ago while visiting Wolf in the hospital. We were all happy to have a kitchen to cook in and could easily walk back and forth while taking turns staying with Wolf. It’s a very nice little place and we felt the warmth and good service of the people there. One hopes never to return to the hospital, but would happily go back to that little hotel.
We made the best of our time there. Being with Wolf at the hospital and caring for Lucky at the hotel was our daily inspiration. We broke almost all the rules for visiting, but within a couple days the hospital guards were aware of what we were doing and didn’t bother us, in fact supported us. We got to know much of the staff by name and for the most part appreciated their kindness. We became friends with the other men in the ward as they came and went – a lone gringo with a serious blood clot, new in the country, who didn’t speak Spanish and was happy for our English-speaking company and went home with a copy of Walking with Wolf; a friendly young Tico from the family of an old beau of mine in Montezuma; an older gentleman, whose leg they amputated, from down the Monteverde road. He’s known Wolf since the Quakers came up the mountain sixty years ago and was telling us stories of Wolf stopping in for coffee and then setting out on foot at night to continue walking the thirty kilometers home – the irony of this man with his freshly wrapped stump talking about Wolf’s walking was not lost on us or him.
And then there was Pedro, an quiet indigenous man, suffering from a bacterial infection and allergic reaction that caused the skin all over his body to turn red and then peel. He kept an eye on Wolf, let us use his bed pass for an extra visitor, and kept the continuity between all the rotating patients in the six-bed room and filled us in on their stories.
Every one of those beds told a story, many very sad. The story from Wolf’s bed (where his little bedmate Pickaninny – who had a remarkable resemblance to my sweetie Roberto and is named with love, not racism – kept him company) at times was heartbreaking but was often jovial, and always was filled with love. There were some very hard days and difficult decisions to be made but now that we are back in Monteverde and Wolf is home they are forgotten. There will be more difficult decisions to be made in the near future I’m sure. At least they will be made from the comfort of Wolf and Lucky’s loving home.