Symbolism has been particularly poignant for me. It has guided my actions, confirmed my decisions and given me hope. It has appeared at the least expected time and come dressed in a variety of genetic combinations. Call it spirituality, faith or whatever gets you to the end of the day. I just call it symbolism.
I live on an island so spend an above average amount of time staring into the water for no apparent reason. I take my black and while foxy cross for a walk twice a day along the water and do some more staring, interspersed with retirement appropriate conversations with men and women taking their white fluffy pooches out for their evening constitutional. Why do retirees buy white fluffy dogs? I’ve said it before but if you knocked off all the white fluffy dogs on the island you would halve the dog population. I digress. People come to the island to holiday, watch the dolphins feed, go for boat excursions, hire b.b.q. boats and take photos. I have lived here for 26 years and 75% of the time never see a dolphin on any other day except my birthday. You could bet on it and guarantee to set yourself up for life. It’s like a yearly promise that everything is going to be o.k.
The hideousness that is Alzheimers frailty of mind and body is taking Dorey further away from us. Never, ever to this extent have I been haunted by a sense of failure, unworthiness and a need to make everything o.k., quickly. It’s like my alter-ego fighting with the part of me that is strong, capable, independent coupled in the knowledge that in the end everything will possibly be o.k. but I’m not sure. The dolphin never came this year.
I found myself reacting negatively to people who wished me a Happy Easter. Nothing happy about our Easters, never has been and I know for sure there never will be. We have not been the family who hid eggs for kids to find, bought eggs for other children or quite frankly bothered about Easter at all. There was no religious overtone but for some bizarre reason any propensity to eat meat on Good Friday was met with the gates of hell. Such was Mum in her good years, that is before she became Dorey.
Good Friday and Easter Day means the shops are shut. It means the clubs are closed and the club courtesy bus will not be running. It means the Off-sider will have to deal with Dorey for the whole day without a break. It means he will not get to have several snoozes, share his t.v. programs with the neighbours and imbibe in his G & T without supervision. Good Friday and Easter Day are about as close to a catastrophe as you can get.
And still no chocolate.
Birthdays are not always brilliant times. If I were to summarise my parents response to my birthday over the years it would fall into the category of “a non-event”. When I was about 6 I had a party, my first and last. The kids were too noisy and made too much mess leading to lots of exasperated cleaning up. Since then there have been no planned celebrations, surprise parties, special event days or any other activity to mark this day as opposed to another day. I don’t believe it was cause and effect, they just seem to be programmed that way. No, my family chose my birthday as a time to go on holidays. The police truism that “there is no such thing as a coincidence” comes solidly into play here!
This year the reality hit home. Neither Dorey nor the Off-sider were capable of sharing their best wishes for two totally different reasons but effectively nothing has changed.
Thank goodness for friends, the attitude of revenge and a three day binge session on chocolate. I love birthdays.
I was a public servant in the People Are Not Very Nice Sometimes department before I retired and seemingly moved planets to care for Dorey. She’s 89 now and well along the Alzheimer Road. Her Offsider is 91, physically disabled, half blind, deaf and has end stage kidney failure. Their communication style is quite unique and shared with the neighbours in the retirement village. In short I’m their carer and their only child. I often wonder how many bus loads of …….. people I killed for that.
This is not my retirement of choice. I want to do special education classes in photography, make silly sculptures for the garden, visit friends overnight, go to the movies on “pensioner discount” days, scrounge around weekend markets, join the drum group and house swap in Italy, England or Tasmania. People don’t always get what they want. Those crappy sayings about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger make me cringe. Some days I don’t feel like watching the clock, making lunch, paying the bill, doing the washing and tracking down that latest smell.
Some days I just want to be a daughter. I don’t want to be a parent, an adult or a carer. I just want to be a child and remember how warm I felt when you wrapped your arms around me, kissed me on the head and promised everything was going to be o.k. I knew you were there. Although it’s not my choice, it’s my turn and I will put the other stuff on hold for some time although if I find out who has been making their caste iron genes for this family there will be trouble.
Is that even a word? Ages ago I started this blog with the goal of working through the emotions which present themselves when attempting to care for someone with Alzheimers. I say attempting because largely that’s all it is. There is no sense of success, joy or thankfulness associated with this. Dorey has seemingly lost her essence of self and is now on automaton. She counts her coins, reorganises the notes in her purse and looks for things. Each day seems to be centred around search and rescue activities and the first task of the day is to check the microwave, oven and fridge for things which overnight have been “misfiled”. There are teeth in the teabag jar, the t.v. remote control is in the cupboard. None of this matters. It’s expected.
The emotions associated with caring are wildly erratic. A friend told me that if you can come away with the sense that you have had an “adequate” day, that is good enough. Some days I walk away with gratitude that there are no dead bodies and I didn’t have to come up with any bail money. The days wear on I am so amazed her tiny, fragile body is still functioning. There is no muscle or fat mass to inject the B6. She is no longer capable of conversation but is amazingly focussed on emotion and it is this with which I struggle. I don’t think I ever got to the place of acceptance. I still fight with her about whether she should buy the big packet of weetbix or another loaf of bread and respond for the 25th time to “what do we need” and “what have I got your father for his tea”. It’s a time when the cost of groceries to her is equivalent to a week at butlins. Each day there is a sense of Not Again. This is my struggle because I am not perfect, not a natural “carer” at the age of 62 would really like a holiday, along with thousands of others who do the same thing, share the same emotions and are also not perfect. What keeps me going is the love, the smile, the childlike dependence and the knowing that no-one else is going to care as much to find the t.v. remote, the teabags and whether she changes her knickers enough. So Mundaneness is a word but it’s not my word.