Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welcome to Drearysville!

If only someone had warned me! I’d have taken my name tag off the front table in the front row on day one, and replaced it down the back and brought my knitting, or done sudoku, anything but this. There’s 30 of us, crammed hip to jowl into a small room, a whiteboard that serves as a computer screen, and a change of guard up front every hour. I’ve become a terminal clock watcher, counting down the minutes to morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea and finally home. This has been the longest week of my life. The room smells of boredom and escape, a dank stale kind of smell, like old socks, one that cripples the learning neurons. Every now and then I hear what’s being said, but mostly I’m at the beach or the central desert or the bush or thinking about what’s for tea.

OH&S, IT, HR, EEO, EAP, XY& bloody Z. What on earth happened to good old-fashioned common sense, you know, look right, look left and look right again. It worked, I haven’t been run over, just run down by the stupidity of an age that considers the economy more important than its people. I’m being forced to undergo this trial by bureaucracy because I must bear in mind the risks, and lordy, there’s thousands of them, like a spillage or a cord across the floor, and don’t forget to wear the right shoes and bend your knees when you’re lifting, and did you know how much carelessness costs the country and how crushing litigation can be and make sure you’re respectful and supportive and fill out all the right forms. We’re all 30 years plus, not 14. I resent being treated like a child. Didn’t I read somewhere that if you value efficient, empathic, professional, calm and compassionate people you model it. A travesty!

Friday, June 3, 2011

For Frank

Why don't they open the blinds in the morning I think, pulling on the string to let the sun in. Such a small mercy, surely it's not too much to ask.

He’s dozing, sitting in the wheelchair on the cold linoleum floor, mouth open, complexion grey. His mop of grey hair looks like it hasn’t been combed in days. My sadness comes in a rush, and that familiar lump in the throat, again. Just as quickly I suppress it. I touch his shoulder, ‘It’s Catherine’. Opening his eyes, he beams me a big toothless grin. To him, I’m another relatively good-looking woman visitor he’s eager to impress.

‘How are you’ I enquire. ‘I’ve got pain here (pointing to his shoulder) and here (upper arm) and here (his back)’. It’s been this way for years, decades even, this chronic and acute arthritic hell. Gently I smooth his hair out with my fingertips.

‘You wrote two books’ I prompt, changing the subject. ‘One about the war, the other …’ I falter, not knowing how to describe it. ‘Did I?’ he responds, incredulous. ‘Perhaps I could bring it in next time and read to you. Would you like that’ I ask. ‘I can read’ he responds angrily. This is true. Sometimes when I remember, I’ll take one of his cards off the shelf. He’ll hold it close to his face and read the sentiments, over and over, for endless minutes. What he is thinking or feeling is impossible to tell.

This year he’s 92. He’s adamant he’s not. He was an absent dad, a man of great passion and intellect, a philanderer, a real charmer and a ruthless bully. I’ve been scared of him most of my adult life. He intimidated the heck out of me. Now, however, I love him with a bursting heart. Is this thing called Alzheimers a gift from the creator that brings forgiveness and acceptance to the table. I am grateful, for I finally see him.

Thanks Dad.