Often hard to write. Now why is that? Well, in this culture of keeping private things private I am obviously a boundary breaker. Trouble is that if we all conform to the keeping private things private thingy, then nobody learns nothing. My dad would have had a conniption at that grammatical twist.
This journey (that word irritates me a lot) is one of watching and waiting. Of wishing and not wishing, of hopes dashed and of the longest moments/hours/days and nights. When I write, ‘hopes dashed’ I am walking into the fire. The slow road of dementia is nothing but cruel torture. This poor soul is falling apart and, what’s worse, he knows it, he feels it, he fears it. As do I, the nurse/keeper/watcher and both our lives are on hold. Which, by definition is something neither of us can control. I could say it is in the lap of the gods, but as I don’t believe in gods, I won’t be saying it. However, you know what I mean. If I admit that ‘hopes dashed’ means not what you might think, I will face judgment. I will enlarge on that.
This morning, my man was grey and very frail. He could barely walk, barely talk. I could see his face was a bit lopsided and the nurse in me stood to attention. This could be another stroke. I gave him water ( he is right on the water thing since his last stroke in Africa, brought on by dehydration) and some food, and settled him by the fire. He slept and woke and slept and woke and every single minute I am watching him, checking him, ready to take action. By noon I am knackered with all this watching and readiness planning. I hoped he would just sleep on, that he wouldn’t have to face the gods with laps, the long slow demise. I felt a frisson of guilt, but a frisson is nothing but mist, that quickly clears, as long as you keep the windows open.
Every time this will happen, there are children to contact. Every time there is a nurse to alert, a carer, a neighbour. What will I do with the wee dog if this cants into an eruption in the darkling night with the wind blowing and not a ferry in sight? What do I need to pack? Should I do it now? All of that, and more. This is the sentence, the jail of dementia, or any illness on the cusp (which could be the size of Africa or a sliver of moonlight) of chaos, with not a butterfly in sight. And, as we know, dementia and other mental illnesses can take their time, dandling all of us in their laps, playing time games and teasing, always teasing.
My man is better tonight. Still grey faced, still wonky chops in his walking, still frail, but it seems the ‘danger’ has passed. Was it only in my mind? Possibly. Was it just a lack of spinach for the Old Popeye? Perhaps. But what it changes for me is absolute. I say ‘absolute, when nothing outside of science is ever absolute, but I like the word, for now. Do I spend time with my best friend for a whole week away? Do I go to help my son move house? Do I, do I, do I?
Responses to those questions will be by the book, (yes, they will) Of course you need to go, to do, to be! What about your life? Well, what about my life? If anyone seriously imagines that a life is a singular occupation, then they are reading the wrong manuals. Life is a group thing, big or small, but still groupie. It’s what we humans need and crave and long for. So, it follows, then, that when one of the group is sentenced to the slowest of dyings, we all feel pain. We also feel fury and loneliness and the desire to punch a hole in the universe. We watch and we wait and sometimes, we just want the one who never asked for this, who provided and protected and made our whole life into a wonderful crazy, colourful, noisy adventure; who took us up mountains into wild seas, who taught stamina and strength and ‘don’t you bloody well ever give up’ ness, to sleep on. I know this is bare truth, but there is only one sort of truth.
In the words of Iris Murdoch, who went the same way and knew it…….
|The good artist is a vehicle of truth, he formulates ideas which would otherwise remain vague, and focuses attention upon facts which can then no longer be ignored.|