It's always a tense week preparing to leave Bali for my annual shows at the Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, Arizona. Bob and I started exhibiting our work there in 1991.
We went to cheek it out that year and were offered an outside table to mind for friends who had a large crystal jewelry business. Our job was to direct people to their show room at the back of the hotel. In exchange we were given about a quarter of the table to show our one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces for the first time ever.
We slept in our van in the parking lot, showered in friend's rooms, and used the hotel's coin operated washing machines to stay clean. To our delight our creations were well accepted and we sold so much we thought we'd found the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow.
After fifteen years of doing this annual exhibition, with a proper booth and accommodations, it was clear in 2006 that Bob was no longer capable of working the show. Alzheimer's had stolen his ability to organize, set up the booth, handle customers, explain our work, and cope with pressure.
Now twenty-two years later I do two shows at the same time with hired help and help from a dear friend. All our old customer's ask about Bob. They too miss his presence in the booth.
This year I'm so caught up in the leaving preparations that it's difficult to find time to see him, which just adds to the pressure. "What will he be like when I return?" I worry. "What if something happens to him while I'm away? What if he doesn't remember me?"
I'll be gone for over two months but at least I have solace knowing his caregivers are there for him. They've cared for him for the last three years while I've been gone and done a good job. "Susan's in Bangkok for a visa extension," they explain to him day after day week after week until I return. Bob is satisfied. I'm doing something practical and necessary.
We don't tell him I'm in Tucson in case he remembers he used to go too. We don't want to upset him or cause him worry. He finds enough reasons for anxiety and anger on his own.