Can it really be that the symbol of a life is an ashtray? A yellow glass ashtray sits on a table in the back porch area of his parents retirement village home. It’s where he sat, possibly alone, to have a ciggy, a determined break in a meaningless conversation. The ashtray was used less and less over the years but it stayed there, hopeful of being used again soon. The base marks a spot on the table. There were no phone calls, no visits, no intent to catch up, no letters, no interest, no guilt. From his perspective I guess he just got sick of being unimportant and stopped visiting. No phone calls. Then he died. The ashtray was taken inside, washed and put away.
Having an unofficial contract with Meals on Wheels I get to spend a bit of time in the kitchen listening to the radio. It surprises me how many people have not yet listened to digital radio and expanded their listening to such stations as Smooth FM, Stardust, Budda and Girls TTM.
It was while I was listening to Coles FM this morning that I was thinking about the impact music has had on emotional life. Those songs that define particular events in life like the end of a relationship, a significant achievement, amazing joy, finding personal power or falling in love. Simon and Garfunkel’s song Bridge over Troubled Water was my song. It symbolised all the desire I felt to be with the one I loved and comfort him in a difficult time. After a particularly mind numbing weekend of church and bible study I gave him the vinyl 45rpm record to take home to remind him of my commitment. It was a long, hot drive back to Wagga and the record never survived the heat of the back seat ledge. Never a man for sentimentality. Happy thoughts. Such is the power of music.
It’s Thursday again. Thursday is the day that seems to have symbolically captured whatever essence there is left of my soul. It’s pension day and the beginning of a whole new series of tensions for the day. Currently I feel my life is lived inside of this multi storey high, circular, brick construction. There are no windows out. No things to stand on to see the outside world. No means of communication with people who can hear, understand and acknowledge my existence. Just another day, another week, another year, how long? I can’t even make an application for freedom because the judge has given me no end date to this role. What did I do to deserve it? I’m a daughter. There is no-one else.
It all started with his list of “Bribie rip-offs”, a page he keeps in the front of his diary. It gets added to and transferred from year to year. It’s quite long now and generally includes all types of service providers. Notable amongst these is John, the T.V. repairman. “Bastard advertises in the local paper that he won’t charge if he can’t fix it. Walks in here, turns the telly on at the wall and charges me $70. Bloody rip-off”. Then there’s the battery charging business, the optometrist, electricians, club management and orthopaedic insole providers “$350 for a bit of foam”,
I guess you don’t get to 90 without developing a few dislikes though. Cooking for him has become a bit of a problem. On his don’t like list is “that foreign pasta stuff”, rice, broccoli, bikini (zucchini), curry, meat, imported foreign fish, any flavouring besides salt and pepper and fresh cream. As week day lunches we’ve been through the frankfurter and roll stage (they went up to $6.20 a kg) and we’re currently in a bacon and egg routine, although the meat pie is beginning to look promising. Thank god for Meals on Wheels “half size, no fish or that qweetch (quiche) stuff”.
This week he has been upset about lying victims of crime, ads for funeral insurance, the smell of washing powder and “that woman who stole the threepence off the bedside table”. The programs of “Grumpy Old Men” were never far from the truth.
As I’ve said before “some days are diamonds………”
Happy Sunday to all.
— feeling blessed.
Daisy is about the same as me in dog years, give or take, so I don’t notice so much when she shuffles and groans on my knee, trying to get comfortable. After a particularly lengthy session of groaning and shuffling I looked down to see what was happening. She velcroed to my knee. Gosh that stuff is strong.
I’m sure if you asked a statistically viable number of people to choose how they would like to die, very few would say “Alzheimers”. If all the recent writings re the expected future surge in numbers of dementia victims in the coming years is true, quite a few of us will not get our wish.
A huge part of my journey down this road with Dorey has been dealing with the emotional reactions I have had. Not too many of them have been a joy to behold! Constantly, and with no usual outcome, the question of “is it her or me?” Most of the support group sites portray vast numbers of carers exhausted in the relentlessness of it all but maybe Dorey is quite content sorting her dollar coins to form patterns around circular tins. Maybe my reaction to her repetitive questions and a seemingly inability to have a conversation outside of the topics of “what do I need from the shops” and “what can I give him to eat” are just selfishness. There is still a long way to go down this road from the perspective of documented stages and I hate every last bit of it. Alzheimers has the ability to turn even the most passive of people into raging psychopathic morons. The off-sider, usually extremely capable of coping, will go down in the annuls of time though,“if you don’t hurry up and get out I’m going into my bedroom and I’m not coming out until tomorrow”. Special!
No medication in all the world makes this monstrous thing any less cruel. Nothing takes away the emptiness in the eyes or replaces the person who once was. Maybe I’ll start smoking again…….