it feels like age is relevant after all


I feel a great sense of urgency.  I want to live in an interior world that is creative, academic, and filled with ideas and information. Maybe, it is because I am only a couple of years away from the end of my fifties, and I must admit that I am all too aware of the clock ticking. Two parents who suffered dementia/alzeimer’s; I have been painfully confronted with the reality that the length of years has nothing to do with the quality of those years.

More and more, I feel resentful that I have to continue working. I like my job, some days I hate it, and I am painfully aware that I am more librarian than teacher, but then again a librarian is always a teacher anyway. I often feel like a pretender both roles.

I crave the freedom to be able to think and read, to debate and share. To enrich lives through information and awareness, but to be quiet when I choose.

The public face we need to portray is does not fit, if it ever did. The interior me is quiet, and contemplative. I want information and knowledge, and while I enjoy sharing, I do not share to force an opinion, I like to share to raise awareness so that people can form their own opinions.

My family are more extroverted than I, well, Mr FD has over the years become introverted in ways that seem to balance mine, but can also sometimes irritate me. No doubt my introversion does the same for him. We bump along somehow, but I don’t need nor do I seek, the distraction of people or places.

I am the person who could walk through a museum in utter contentment alone. I can dine alone and be oblivious to those around me, except for the undisciplined child beside me who risks my teacher’s voice. Mr FD has mastered the art of movie watching in theatres alone, but I don’t know if I can as I have never had the opportunity. I suspect I would do it well!

I resent the lack of time, the lack of quiet, the lack freedom to be and do what I need, not unlike most people, I know. I don’t care about you in this moment though, it is me, for when the last breaths come, that is all there will be…me.

Sunday is for terrifying little girls; unknown bad hair days and introverts

pink 1

Visited my Mum. Always depressing. She was bright and talkative, except we had no idea what she was talking about and often the poor dear was frustrated as no language would come to her. Alzheimer’s.

It’s also exhausting as we keep up a facade of normality and try to give her no hint that she is speaking nonsense. I don’t think she knows anymore. She certainly didn’t recognise Daughter1 who was with me. Petite Fille provided grand entertainment as Mum always loved children, so spending time silently watching her play is enough sometimes. I always leave physically and mentally depleted.

Not about me, though is it? It’s poor Mum who is being cheated of quality of life. Sigh.

Afterwards, we took Petite Fille to the nearby park. She was playing up on the adventure play area when I quietly poked my head around one corner. She shrieked and begged “Don’t do that Grandma!” Of course, I repeated it several times, and she never tired of reenacting her own part. Hopefully, she won’t have nightmares of being chased by a granny tonight! I also didn’t think I was having such a bad hair day. Bad face day? Bad face lifetime? Not of course not, it is me, after all!

We have new neighbours. The third in our three years here. I think they have all the makings of the perfect neighbours. He will retire in four years and they chose a tree change because it can live without people. Introverts! Be still my beating heart! His comment was that they have been here a week and he feels like it has been forever. I think he meant that in the nicest possible way – and that is our feelings too. Hopefully, they will stay longer the eighteen month average of the other two couples. We are actually nice to our neighbours!

Really wanted one of those fruit filled cocktails this afternoon, but we had very little except a bottle of not very good bubbly red and some lychees. Passable. Maybe it needed an umbrella and a flamingo swizzle stick for perfection.

I’m calling yoooooouuuuu

baby doll

I lost a large part of the night to Nelson Eddie calling Jeanette McDonald – a solo bird calling in search of a mate; an Australian Love Call, so to speak. Nelson was lucky that I could neither pin which tree he was serenading from and that my throwing arm is not what it was (if it ever was!); or stones may have flown. Instead, I lay awake envision him in someone’s Sunday stew pot.

Sunday morning, I felt like I was hungover without any previous enjoyment. Tired and emotional, I wrote what I hope is my final word on the student issue – still unresolved, and no doubt will remain so as the students are not willing to be honest. Of course, the fact that they caused mayhem in the library and made a rude finger gesture towards me has been lost in all the pretend issues, but I refuse to give them more power and so will no longer sign anything. My parting comment is that they have learnt behaviour that works for them and now they will use it towards other teachers.  I am finished.

baking 1

So, what to do when I am feeling tired and emotional? Bake a second dried fruit Christmas Cake. It emptied the Brandy bottle! This cake will fly with me to Perth. I was allowed to use brown sugar in the second cake, instead of the rice syrup that Daughter 1 asked for in my first baking. Daughter2 is of the mind that Christmas cakes should not be messed with, a child after my own heart. The texture and taste were superior in my mind, but the proof will be in the eating.

Mr FD calls nightly. Poor Uncle has real mind and body issues, and it appears that the family has to set in place the power of attorney to protect his interests. He’s 91 and has faired well until the last couple of years, but this year in particular he has declined. The problem is he lives alone, having never married. He had a farm manager couple who assist him, but you can’t allow the manager to run the properties without oversight. So this week, Mr FD and his cousin will be visiting the lawyer and the health authorities to gather help and support for Uncle. Even though Uncle has set all this in place, he will be very difficult to gain cooperation from.

The problem when they slip in and out of dementia is that they don’t consider there is anything wrong with them. We have been through this too many times now, with both my parents; Mr FD’s to a lesser degree and now Uncle. Expertise in a field we don’t desire.

Petite Fille, hopefully is coming to visit next weekend. If the weather is hot, I will roll out the water slide for her, and we shall slide down our hill under the sprays. Now that’s something to look forward too!

My cathedral

In need of restoration from the work week, I stood on our patio and soaked in the elements of a private cathedral, our garden. Filled with scents, colours and bird song, it is more religion to me than any man made structure of bricks and mortar, or declaration of man.

Augie Dog by my side, relaxed under the influence of our garden, sank,  stretching out, as the magic of nature entwined us. Restored us.

Saturday morning, the rains have come. Mr FD is away, caring for his old Uncle who can no longer be left alone, and yet will not accept help. I feel sorry for Uncle, who is suffering the loss of his life to dementia, but also for Mr FD who has to deal with resistant, anger and denial every minute he is trying to assist Uncle.

Another tough week. School is more like a war zone these days. Students kick holes in walls, and another of our couches has been cut. Teachers with decades of experience working with children have declared this present cohort of students, particularly the years 7 and 8, as some of the most destructive and ill-behaved of their careers. Not a proud branding.

New gardens were constructed to soften and beautify the grounds and just days into the plantings, students are not only crashing through the gardens, but actively pulling the plants out. Why would they even bother? What unruly anger is within these young people? Such self centred, disrespect.

Parents who do not respect, are growing children who do not respect. Then add the ingredient of the influence of social media and young people feeling the pressure to out perform, one up, to achieve constant attention. Self absorbed is their middle name. Mobile phones in school are weapons of destruction.

My personal battle was added to this week. A male student who was asked not to enter the library as we had no space left and as he had stated he didn’t need to use the library for study or assessment, he merely wanted to “chill out”. Within minutes he was on the mobile phone to his mother declaring he was barred from the Library. Returning from class I was informed Mummy had rang to complain. Of course her precious son had told the truth!

Mothers, do not enter into every issue your child has. Let them own their own behaviour, suffer their own consequences and learn resilience. The energy that these selfish student mistruths suck from teachers, means that students who have real issues, urgent needs, sometimes life and death issues, have to wait longer for assistance. Remember the mantra, “Don’t sweat the small stuff?” Well, apply it to your children and let us do our real jobs. Do your job as parent.

Then maybe I can enjoy my cathedral for its beauty and no just for its healing.

honestly, there is just no title to describe this; or maybe the tale of how evolution let us down.

Hyde Park, London, England, 1937Henri Cartier-Bresson Magnum

We had just enjoyed a glass from a bottle of Lindemann’s Bin 65; the cheese and wurst plates were about to be released from the fridge, when the phone rang. My sister.

No, not with more suggestions for elephant placement. Our mother was being transferred by ambulance to the public hospital in a nearby regional centre. It seemed amazing as we had both been with her only hours before and she appeared as well as could be expected.

As Mr FD and I live only a couple of streets from Mum’s care facility we elected to find out the details. The Lindemann’s returned to the fridge. By the time we arrived, Mum was already in the back of the ambulance. I climbed in the back to speak with the medical assistant.

Earlier this year Mum had undergone surgery to have an orange sized gall stone from her bowel. It was thought that she was experiencing similar symptoms and so they had called am ambulance.

We followed the ambulance to the hospital, only to find Mum was “ramped” for the almost an hour. “Ramping” is when the patient is kept in the ambulance outside the hospital until a bed opens up in emergency. Not deemed an emergency Mum was ramped. They ramped my mother!

Mr FD and I had the thrill of sitting in the emergency waiting room watching the great unwashed pass by and fearing for our lives. Mr FD, who takes most things in his stride, turned to me and whispered “Don’t breathe in too deeply!” I wasn’t sure if he meant not to breathe in deeply, thus giving our noses are chance to filter the germs, or don’t breathe in too deeply so as to avoid the body odour. He had no solution to the damage done to our eyes by some of the sights we were forced to witness. Saturday night in emergency, a whole lot of family fun!

Every ten minutes I crawled my way to the reception window to ask if Mum had made it into the building. Eventually, they pulled some strings, and Mum was moved to a hall way and I, but not Mr FD, was allowed to stand beside her trolley. I left Mr FD sitting in the waiting room with the expression of an abandoned puppy.

Mum and I were in the hallway for another hour. The ambulance officer sat near by, like one of those scenes in a police show where the guard sits outside the door but challenges no one going into the room to murder the witness. They could not return to their station until Mum had been officially handed over in emergency.

I explained to Mum that she was in a hospital and for a moment I thought she was going to cry, but it was fleeting, and she returned to her confusion.

Finally in a cubicle, a nurse abetted me in getting Mr FD through the doors, and we settled in for a long wait. It was eight thirty when Mum arrived and she didn’t actually see a doctor until 12.30am!

Nurses had checked her, taken bloods and an ECG, but she was allowed no water, except for a little water from a medicine cup and plastic syringe. I felt sorry for the staff, because diagnosing a dementia patient is like diagnosing  a baby – a game of guesses. Mum could offer no assistance and whenever asked how she was, replied “Fine, never anything wrong with me!”

We went though many versions of me explaining to Mum that she was in a hospital.

Now to add to the situation, as though it wasn’t fraught enough, my mother is a racist. I am sorry, but she is, as is most of her generation who lived through the Japanese attacks on Australia during World War 2. We pretended Australia was terra nullus, nobody’s land,  until recent years. Australia also had a “white Australia policy” until the mid 1970s; so the world my mother grew up in denied the existence of any skin colour other than white. Even if you were white and spoke with an accent, you were considered “less”. Despite our best efforts over the years, we were able to move her world view only a minuscule amount. She once asked one of my daughter’s friends what “breed” she was – Lebanese/Irish Australian!

So, confronted with am emergency department primarily staffed by Asian, Indian and African staff, I just waited for the disaster. Thankfully, it was in a quiet voice that she declared her male nurse was “very Chinesesy looking”. A slightly louder voice declared that “they are all very short”. In my nervousness I answered, “Oh they only look short because of the angle from which you are seeing them Mum.” I was tired, and overwrought, not at my most original or creative…

Her funniest comments of the evening was her declaration from time to time that “I am still not dead!”

After four hours of memorable moments such as watching the young drunk/drugged man opposite urinate on himself, the nurse and the floor, it was probably not the best moment to ask that nurse if my mother was “ever going to see a doctor?” In his opinion, she was… Mr FD and I begged to differ.

Another half hour and a young resident did appear. He said he needed to talk to his boss. Another half hour passed by during which we discussed the lamp above Mum’s head for the 95th time that evening, “It’s a light Mum”, before resident and boss arrived. Both appeared younger than our children, but to be honest they treated Mum with utter respect and dignity, and appeared to give her the treatment she needed.

So, at 1.30 am Mum was taken to x-ray and to stay in the short term ward until morning. Mr FD, without painkillers for hours, and I, were beyond exhaustion so we drove the 45 minutes home.

My sister was taking the morning shift, but by 9.30 am Mum was declared as having nothing wrong with her and shunted back to the care facility. She was very dehydrated and had been given none of her medication while in the hospital. She has slept most of the day since, as have we!

None the wiser, the guessing game is now that maybe it is an injury connected to her fall. So, tomorrow, we hope to have that investigated further, but Mum appears fairly comfortable, so I don’t think it is anything dramatic.

God, getting old sucks. Evolution really missed on that one.

two sides of an argument

Bernd Heyden -- from Berlin-Ecke Prenzlauer 1966-1980

Mr FD has returned. An exhausting trip, not only a ten hour road trip, but at the destination a ninety year Old Uncle, very hard of hearing  and experiencing the journey of dementia and fiercely independent.

One day, Mr FD and his sister visited another nearby uncle and cousin, leaving Old Uncle at home. The group lunched at a small town and visited a gold mine.

Returning to Old Uncle that evening, they told him about their adventures. Old Uncle, however, stated that there was no hotel in that town and no gold mine!

Knowing better than to enflame a person with dementia, Mr FD laughed and added that he was certainly going to shed the weight if he kept eating at phantom pubs!

There is still no pub, no gold mine.

a single act of love

pleasure No one sets out to be old, but it happens none the less. What an odd place old age is. Well, it seems so, looking from the outside, not there yet myself. My mother is 88 years of age today.

Every visit I ask her how she is, and even when she was lying in a hospital bed, tubes down her nose, drips in her arms, she still answered “Fine.” I heard my father only say once in his life that he felt “no bloody good” and that was the week he died. What different people are the old.

I massage lotion into my mother’s hand, our fingers entwine and I feel her fingers gradually relax. The tension eases from her body and she soon slumbers.

Does she know that I love her? Love, the only gift that really means anything. Happy Birthday, Mum.

silver linings and a bit of a porker


There really is a positive in almost every situation, even Alzheimer’s disease.

My Mum hates pork. Whenever we took her out to lunch she would say that she would eat anything except pork. Once we ordered, she would check and double check that we hadn’t changed her request to pork. No matter the level of reassurance she would not relax until her meal arrived and she could see with her own eyes it was not pork. She never explained why she hated pork so much, I can only envision that she was scared by a pork chop as a small child.

The nurse entered Mum’s room and announced that they were all having roast pork for lunch and wasn’t that “just delicious”. Mum agreed wholeheartedly.

Maybe the lesson is not to “hate” in the first place?


fly away Peter, fly away Paul

flamingo solo

Sitting beside my mother’s bedside, I prattled on with all the extended family news that I could foster. Mum’s sister had a growth removed from her bowel; one of her brother’s has to have his pacemaker reset, another brother has given up a lifetime of farming due to ill health and Dad’s sister, Elizabeth, has died, leaving just one sibling, another sister, from a family of 18 children, now. Not happy news for a woman who may be slipping away as well.

I was able to share one exciting piece of family news, in that the granddaughter of one of Mum’s sisters, is having a novel published later this year. I promised Mum that I would obtain a copy and read it to her once it is published.

As Mum drifted off to sleep, I was left to my own thoughts, and I contemplated how lucky that young cousin was to have the freedom and the courage to write a novel. Now that people marry and have children at a later period in their lives, they are free to unfold the edges of their creativity. Parents are now more able, and willing to support adult children into their late twenties to facilitate that freedom too. More part time jobs to fuel survival and alternatives.

My birthday is is a couple of weeks. I will be 57. I have never worried about “age”, but lately I have wondered where the time has gone. I find myself thinking thoughts and then the realisation that I am facing down 60 comes into my reality. In the truth of things, there is more life behind me than there is in front of me. How did this happen? How did my friends get to be this age too? My siblings are already in their sixties. What were we doing while this was happening to us? Did they realise?

Some would say that we were putting one foot in front of the other, doing the best we could throughout each day, but I don’t know. What is it that we do, only to turn our heads and see the face in the mirror is changed?

All so fast, so very, very fast.

growing up

Colleague told me I was looking less than, well, she didn’t actually finish the sentence, rather allowing her words to trail away. Exhausted? Stressed? Anxious? Overworked? As another friend put it, I am not just one of the sandwich generation, I have the whole loaf!

Mother Flamingo Dancer has improved, but is refusing to allow staff to touch her, won’t take any medication and refuses to eat. Sister got her to eat a quarter of a banana and we all rejoiced over that milestone.

She can’t go back into her single room at the care facility, she now needs to be moved into high care, which actually means she has to go into a four bed ward. What can we do; she has dementia, heart failure and is doubly incontinent!

Oh, and of course the surgeons all want to turf her out of her hospital bed, but the nursing staff are all arguing she is not well enough to move yet. Lovely government funding cuts of course lead to staff and bed shortages.

Just taking it a day at a time, a day at a time, but in the meantime, don’t even think about getting old!