Tag Archives: Ageing

Towards the end of days

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My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night; but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends — it gives a lovely light! – Edna St Vincent Millay

My father’s candle has been alight for many years. It is expected that soon, there will be no wax left to burn.  Is it, as the night, follows the day.

But I am in not in the wings for this performance. I am like others, living at distance from their ageing parents. I call and talk to care staff often, listening for hope that my father will rally and recover his will to rage on into the grainy dawn.

At 101 years of age, his protest is a quiet, polite one…simply refusing to eat much… to walk unaided….to talk on the telephone.

Tell my daughter, I am as fit as a fiddle’, he said.  He is not.

Truly, there is nothing that has been left unsaid….I love him and he ‘loves me more than dearly’.

We are not into protracted goodbyes, and still here we are..in one.

I am managing it from a distance and it is not easy. It is not about control, it is about ensuring that he is treated with respect. We place such faith in carers to do so and for this we pay so little.

How did we get it so wrong? Our teachers, nurses, emergency services, armed forces and carers are paid less than they deserve. What did the recently resigned Australia Post CEO, Ahmed Fahour do to justify his 5.6 million salary?  Sounds like the price for a commercial hit man’s wage to slash jobs, reduce services and implement software to replace human labour.

My once active father is now bed bound. Hoisted and cradled in a sling, like a slightly bruised overripe banana in a hammock.His humour has not quite dissipated, although the waves of pain medication, has dulled the flame.

Talking with his carer Andrew today, we laughed about my father’s idiosyncratic ways.  I asked if he had a call button close by.

‘Oh he now knows how to use that’, he laughed. ‘Never heard a peep out of him for years, so independent, now he calls me whenever he needs me’. He calls it, ‘ The Communicator’.

On the rare occasion, that he has sat in his chair, he has asked for the ‘slippers with the zippers’, in a singsong voice, amused by the rhyme.

Andrew was able to mimic him, like many of us can. We do it out of respect for him, and because of his distinct use of language and his Cornish accent.

He does not have Alzheimers, or dementia, though he is forgetful. In my crowd of menopausal and post menopausal women that is a given.

My father, Reg and I have found ways to bridge the distance over the past fourteen years, since his beloved wife, Molly, my kind mother passed over. I have travelled to Tasmania, to many times to keep mentioning. We talked on the phone each week and wrote a flood of letters.

I have kept his ‘pearls of wisdom’.  One year I constructed a book of his poetry with accompanying images and presented it to him.

A writer or perpetual ‘communicator’, lives to be published, self or otherwise. He offered me, his second edition, which I kindly refused on the last visit.

He is no Wordsworth. He has not been a lover of great narrative fiction, preferring autobiographies of war heroes and the occasional politician.

His is no Edna St Vincent Millay or  e.e. cummings, my favourite two poets, but his poetry reflects his love of nature and the need to preserve the environment. ‘Oh wondrous Mother Nature..’

I confess in my twenties I stole, ‘The Collected Works of e.e.cummings’.  There are worst things to do.

The poet’s defiance of using lower case resonated with my twenty something, middle-class socialist rhetoric of ‘rebellion’ and ‘free education’, so I released it from the university.

I didn’t factor in that a ‘future me’, might also enjoy reading it. I returned it over 10 years later and paid a whopping fine.  My parents  had royally screwed with my consciousness, early in my life.

When that dreaded phone call comes, and I race to see him for the last time, I will be deeply in grief.  There is no better words, in my opinion,  than these from e.e.cummings to describe the power of love.

 

 

 

 

 

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

The slow march of humanity

As we age we can skirt sheepishly against the edges of once vibrant and inclusive lives. Like half-ghosts, our former selves begin to disappear. Our conversations are peppered with an apology for our thinning hair, sagging flesh and declining mental acuity.

Ageing in full view is exposing and humiliating in a society that promotes youth and beauty. Doctors surgeries offer up humanity, raw and on display. A menagerie of middle age tattooed flesh, crying babies, walking frames, recalcitrant toddlers and those whose burden is the fear of a bad news.

I have frequented doctors surgeries far too often over the past four years through necessity rather than choice. Some people however visit daily.

I knew a hypochondriac once. He manufactured and imagined a creative array of conditions. It was an impressive performance. There was a constant appeal for sympathy in every glance or verbal exchange. A headache was a medulloblastoma, a toothache an abscess promising jaw disfigurement and a twinge, an impending knee reconstruction.

In his defence, he was stuck in the mouth, by a horse when he was a toddler. A candidate for post traumatic stress disorder, he has been stuck in flight mode since.

These days, I have little patience for those who clog up the system with phantom aliments.

There are alternative options to socialise and maintain connectivity with others through a variety of community service programs or by the act of volunteering.

Like a an experienced emergency nurse once said’, It is called Emergency, come back when you f*cking have one!’.