Today I start my newest adventure.
I’ve been visiting Dorey at the nursing home daily for the past five months, spending countless hours watching her sort through her purse looking for the last fake $50 note issued on “pension day” each Thursday. Occasionally I get the chance to take a couple out to recycle but that in itself is a major task. She hangs on to that bag like it was her life buoy on a sinking ship. The Off-sider always says she would be a first class bag tester in China. The visits are coloured by the antics of others, interaction with staff and always doing that quick survey in the morning to see if anyone is missing.
Today I broaden my horizons to the other “communities” as a volunteer. The paperwork submitted, the police check done and something resembling fire safety training completed. Already for the big interview, signing of documents, discussion about confidentiality, personal safety and ……. Well none of that happened. Today I jump the “us and them” fence and get to play numerous games of bingo, hoy (whatever that is), go for walks around the block and maybe get to have have coffee with that person I have been attempting to (unsuccessfully) chat up – see, there are benefits to being one of “us”.
Just earning Brownie points for my room with a view.
It’s probably impossible to fall off your seat while you are driving but if I could have I would have. The Off-sider, colloquially known as dad, in a tone much more serious than it deserved said “It’s hard for me to cope with all this because I’m much more emotional than your mother’. Firstly, this was one of the longest sentences he had spoken to me for well….. can’t remember … and secondly, it proves, without a shadow of doubt that perceptions are staggeringly deceptive at times. Thank god the uni’s were closed over the weekend making it impossible for me to take back my qualifications in welfare, sociology and counselling. Had I really just wasted my lifelong career under some magnificent illusion?
The Off-siders devotion has always unquestionably been for one woman. In their 61 years of marriage I never heard an argument. It was clear: he did as he was told and there were no problem! He has never been inside a grocery shop, bought clothes, presents, cards or anything really. He has no knowledge at all about banking, paying bills or using a phone. His grief when Dorey was admitted to the nursing home was very private, evidenced by the trail of tissues between the bedroom and the lounge room, despite his claim of having “a bit of a cold”. He is told off daily about his wrong coloured shoes with his trousers and wearing one t-shirt on top of the other. He laughs and says he will try harder tomorrow.
Someone once said the opposite of love is not hate but apathy. Efforts to consolidate the devoted husband and the apathetic father during my uni years led to my psychoanalysis lecturer labelling me “dissociative”. The Off-sider never shared in the emotion of births, deaths, achievement, birthdays or Christmas. I stopped struggling when I was no longer able to describe him as the “strong silent type” because I realised he had nothing to say.
So today when I prepare his meals, clean his house and wipe bodily fluids from the floors and walls and then worry he will fall while I’m away it really hurts when he says “I’m sorry, but I don’t like you very much”.
I have a personal distaste of aspiring blog writers who write with intensity for the first few weeks and then stop. The well of ideas seemingly dries up having verbalised all the frustrations which caused the blog to be created in the first place or something else happens to take the time the blog creation previously used. Pleading guilty to the above I have again become inspired.
Brief catch up: Dorey is now in a nursing home for the past four months having had a fall at home. Encouraged by hospital staff to consider nursing home care. a place for her became available in the same retirement complex she and the Off-sider have lived in for several years. After the initial placement and several attempts to escape she was moved to “the lock up ward” where she now shares her day with twelve or so others in varying states of mobility, communication ability and progress along the dementia road. Dorey is the only one who can relatively share a conversation with carers and still has the ability to give cheek when necessary, endearing her to her carers and other staff. She is also cheap labour in wiping down tables, folding serviettes and sweeping up.
The Off-sider has progressed through some stages of grief and is learning to manage his own time at home. He has found the kettle and understands the function of the microwave. Now 91 his safety is precarious but he adamantly rejects any other assistance and considers himself “too young” to go into care. I cringe when I see him shuffling around the place and daily have fears of what I will find when I arrive to make our daily visit to Dorey. Care for the Off-sider is much more practical. Our father/daughter relationship never progressed to the point of mutual adoration beyond adolescence so caring for him has raised some emotional challenges. He is currently drinking his way through the remaining bottles of alcohol and sorting out his paperwork. He is destroying his old diaries so I can’t read them, although why the devil I would want to know what dates his catheter was changed or the cleaner came is beyond me.
I am about to start volunteering at the nursing home on the “lifestyle” team. I figure I spend so much time there I might as well make it official. Never in my wildest imagination would I have seen myself doing anything like that but I have become passionate about providing more activities for those who still have the ability to throw a hoop, listen to music or even make music.