A Week In The Life

“Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late”

Dear Old Dad had five days in hospital recently.  That dreadful ulcer was doing OK, but his foot had started to go a bit red, and then became swollen, so having seen cellulitis on his leg before (which resulted in almost a month in hospital), before he could say ‘Gosh that doesn’t look too good’ we were at the hospital emergency department of the hospital where he previously received treatment for his cellulitis (why DO these things happen on a Sunday?).

He was sent home with oral antibiotics, with instructions that if it was not better in 48 hours, to come back.  So come back we did on Tuesday afternoon and he was admitted to go on to IV antibiotics.  Phew. He only needed to be in for five days (much to his delight – I’m sure he worries that any reason to go into hospital can’t be good and he might not come back out).  I raced home to feed Oscar and pack a bag with all the necessary accoutrements for a hospital stay.  I found myself explaining to the cat what was happening and had to talk myself out of the notion that I was going completely mad.

Many well-intentioned people thought this hospital visit was good for me – it will give you a nice break, they said. You can relax a bit, they said.  But it was not to be. While I didn’t have to cook his meals (he quite enjoyed the three course dinners with choice of meals), I still had to visit every day, feed Oscar twice a day (thanks to my spouse for doing the morning cat feeding routine).  Actually I didn’t HAVE to visit Dad at all; I wanted to. It can be lonely in hospital; plus I had to check up on what the nurses were doing with his ulcer dressings.  I’m possessive and neurotic about that ulcer.  And we had to keep the daily cribbage tournament going.

Dad in hospital

Hospital Cribbage – Still Smiling

But it got me thinking about the things I do for Dad, and decided to keep a running diary – while he was in hospital the things were a bit different from the norm, but here is a summary of the week that was:

Friday (day 4 of hospital)

Feed Oscar
Collect paper
Visit Dad in hospital – deliver paper, wondering if he is more pleased to see The Australian or me
Get beaten at cribbage
Meet his carer from Five Good Friends for a sneak clean and tidy of the house
Hose out his garage because #filthy
Take out Oscar’s chicken breast dinner from the freezer (spoiled brat)
Water new trees on footpath
Take home and wash doona and doona cover
Wash woollens – jumpers, vests

Later that day…


Collect mail
Wash dishes in sink that had been there since Tuesday
Empty bins
Meet carpet cleaning man
Go back and rearrange house after he’s been
Feed Oscar and give him some love and attention 

Saturday 

Feed Oscar
Collect paper
Go in to collect DOD from hospital – he is READY TO GO but we have to wait for the doctor
Change ulcer dressing because nurses are too busy (rolls eyes)
End up calling nurse as the man in the bed next to DOD was clearly distressed and some bodily function was happening.  Grateful for curtains if we can’t have walls
Game of cribbage while we wait for Dr to visit
Dr thrilled with DOD’s progress and signs him out with a ‘keep on keeping on instruction’
Pack his bags
Help DOD to main entrance
Collect prescription from pharmacy
Go to car park and drive back to
 front entrance
Get out of car and help dad in
Buy milk on the way home
Drag suitcase and other stuff up stairs
Unpack bag and put away contents
Make him a sandwich for lunch
Recharge his emergency alert
Make bed with fresh linen
Email DOD’s brother in Wales to let him know DOD home 

Later that day…

Take down dinner (no three course meal or choice of mains)
Game of cribbage
Check account from hospital emergency department  and call re discrepancy
Post letter
Pay carpet cleaning man

Sunday 

Put DOD’s hearing aids in for church
Drive him to church
Buy new mop and bin liners on the way home
Buy paper for TV guide for DOD .
Confirm with private nurse that he’s home from hospital for Monday afternoon wound dressing
Confirm with cleaner to come following Monday 
Put bins down on road
Wrap birthday  gift for my spouse
Provide card for DOD to go with gift

Later that day…

Collect DOD to drive to my house for dinner
Help him out of car, readying myself to catch him on the slope of our driveway
More cribbage.  I think I may have won a game
Drive him home
Rub lotion into his back (worst job in the world)

Monday

Drive to Dymocks for book shopping – his brother wants to me find soe books for DOD for his birthday
Try to ignore instructions from passenger seat on how to drive
Cup of tea and raisin toast at the shopping centre
To shops for bananas
Order more ulcer dressings accoutrements
Phone call to vascular specialist to confirm appointment for Wednesday
Texts with nurse re dressing change
Cook vegetables to go with sausages for dinner

Later that day…

Take dinner down
Game of cribbage
Write emails to three charities on his behalf telling them politely  to bugger off – someone gave his address to a commercial list seller.  Bastards

Tuesday 

Print off email from his brother in Wales
Take dinner down in afternoon with email
Take down his birthday presents with strict instructions not to open until the morning
Change ulcer dressing
Bring his ironing back home for my ironing lady to do
Suddenly remember to call carer and cancel her visit Wednesday afternoon because he’s coming here for dinner

Wednesday 

Happy birthday call to Dear Old dad – 96 today!
To his vascular specialist for check up – hearty congratulations and cheering on state of ulcer, which is much improved
Pat self on back
Call local chemist to see if they do compounding – no will have to go back to the hospital chemist to get prescription filled
Drive DOD to church and stay for mass because #birthday
Drive to Cathedral to collect donated stamps for him to sort and value
To shops for apples
Home for a cup of tea and cribbage
Post letter
Put rubbish in bins
Various texts re visits from carers
Text nurse with update from doctor 

Later that day…

Collect DOD for dinner at our place for his birthday
Take him  home after dinner

Thursday 

Woke up feeling ill with a cold – thanking goodness not much to do 

Take dinner down in the afternoon
Take DOD to physio
Take dog the size of small horse with us so I can take him to the park while DOD at physio
Call to make follow up appointment with hospital doctor
Back to physio – 
Make next appointment
Take DOD home
Beg off cribbage because #sick and don’t want to lose again

Friday 

Cook small roast dinner and take down to his place
Cribbage (two games!  Winner!!)
Change dressing – remind dad days nurse is coming (not Fridays any more)
Water trees on footpath
Take home typewritten letter to his brother and scan and send

Saturday 

Cook a weeks worth of meals – two casseroles
Bake cake for freezing in quarters for DOD’s morning teas
Take dinner down
Cribbage
Change dressing
Console him about expected cold weather

So there you have it – some routine some not; some fun, some not; some necessary some not but all done with love

He’s Not Benjamin Button!

Readers may recall I have written about my frustrations with the My Aged Care system before.  If you’re so inclined you can read all about it here (Part I), then Part II, then Part III, a story of Hope and Redemption, and Part IV here  (I kid you not).  My Aged Care is not user-friendly.  I still maintain that whenever we read about emergency services finding an elderly person dead in their own home, we should just assume that they didn’t have a daughter to make calls for them and that they died either waiting on hold at My Aged Care, or for a home care package to become available.

Dear Old Dad has a level 2 Home Care Package which gives him about 5 hours a week care.  A lovely woman comes twice a week and takes him to the shops, chemist, barber, library (not each time obviously) and manages to fit in a game of scrabble once a week.  She even wins occasionally, much to Dad’s horror.  I suspect her of practising online in between visits.  I like that.

Anyway…some months ago, Dad had yet another ACAT assessment and was assessed as being eligible for a level 3 home care package.  Part of this, I read in the report, was due to high levels of carer stress.  Remind me not to play poker.

Shortly after this the Federal Budget was announced and contained more funding for home care packages.  Excellent, I thought.

Because of holidays and visits from his brother, we were not using up all the hours allocated under the level 2 package and had a ‘pool’ of hours we could utilise while we waited.  So we did.

Today, I rang My Aged Care to check on progress.  Here is how the conversation went after the usual pleasantries and identification process:

MAC – “There is currently a 12 month waiting list”

(pause while this sinks in)

ME – “Really?”

MAC – “Yes”

ME – “Dad is 96 next month – he has to wait almost 18 months in total to get a level 3 home care package?  He will be 97. That can’t be right”

(pause while MAC representative no doubt rolls his eyes, and points at the phone to his colleagues and mouths ‘we got another one’).

MAC – That is the wait time at the moment, unless he has deteriorated.

(Me, in my head, screams ‘well he’s not Benjamin Button getting younger, healthier and fitter each month you moron’.  He’s 96 next month)

ME – “Well he is becoming more frail and unsteady on his feet.”

MAC – “Well I can organise another ACAT assessment to get his package updated. This will take approximately six weeks”

(me, rolling my eyes so far that I can see the back of my head)

ME – “Right.  Even though he has been assessed as level 3 he needs another assessment during which he will be asked the same questions AGAIN to get the same result”

MAC – “That’s our process”

ME – “Fine”

(This is a male to whom I was speaking.  I don’t think he realises that when a woman says ‘fine’ nothing is actually fine at all).

MAC – “let me just put you on hold while I do this”

…10 minutes later..

MAC – “Ok, that’s all done.  Is there anything else I can do for you?”

ME – ‘Nothing.  There is literally NOTHING My Aged Care can do for me.  But thank you”

MAC – “you’re welcome”

Phone calls followed to the Aged Care Assessment Team, Five Good Friends, my local Federal MP, my sister ( regular listener to post MAC phone call rants).

And it’s too early for wine.

Skeleton

 

 

“They Just Love It”

Because one can suddenly change moods from ‘everything is fine’ to ‘Oh my God what if the worst happens’ in a nanosecond, my sister* came to stay for a while and we spent some time investigating both respite and nursing home care options.  Just in case.  For those of you reading this who know my Dear Old Dad, you should, you know, shush.

Of course we visited the loveliest and most expensive option first.  It was all downhill from there.  But the one that was the most hideous experience was not the most hideous looking of the aged care homes.  Close,  but no cigar.

It was the one which didn’t allow visitors to call and make an appointment to have a look around.  Tours were conducted at 11.30 on Tuesdays.  Only 11.30 on Tuesdays.  It also bore the same name as a psychiatric hospital in a Law and Order Franchise.  Perhaps this should have been a warning.  We arrived a little early, desperate for a cup of tea.  I asked the receptionist if there was a cafe where we could make a cup of tea. ‘Oh no’, she said, the coffee cart only comes on Mondays.  OK then.  That, too should have been a warning.

My face must have been a bit of a giveaway, because shortly after this, she offered to make us a cup of tea.  Lovely!  What appeared was what could only be described as frightened milk.  Now, I know that many old people don’t mind a cup of tepid tea (my old person is not one of them and I am certainly not), but this could not be described as tea.  I did manage to drink some out of politeness (I know, I know that’s not like me) but the half full cup was put on the floor.  My sister’s remained full.

At the appointed hour when about eight women were gathered for the tour ( it’s always women isn’t it), Julie, the owner and tour guide  appeared, coiffed and perfumed, wearing sensible shoes, with a fixed smile and hands that indicated they didn’t get dirty very often.

The guests were all there for different reasons – we to explore respite, two sisters whose mother had dementia, another whose mother was in hospital and who didn’t know what a RAD was (my sympathy for her was high because one needs a maths degree to understand it all) – but the tour was the same.  And it started with the laundry.  The laundry and the types of labels we were to use were of GREAT IMPORTANCE.

We then walked up the corridor and looked out the window to the neighbouring property – where goats lived.  Julie told us breathlessly that once a week she drove the bus HERSELF to take a group of residents to visit the goats.  “Oh they LOVE it’ she said.  ‘They just LOVE it.  Such fun’.

At this point I wanted to leave, but I was encouraged by my less judgemental sister to stay the distance.  We have yet to speak of this.

Next we went past a common room where residents were seated gazing at someone at the front of the room speaking.  Julie explained that one of the activities the home organised was ‘reminiscing’ – that the old folk may not remember much of what happened yesterday but loved reminiscing about the old days. Today they were talking about the Brisbane trams.  My sister and I exchanged a glance, and I knew what she was thinking, which was the same as me – our Dad had asked that morning if one of us could find out from the budget papers in due course the total interest on national debt, as he ‘had some writing to do’.  Hmmm – talks on the tram system in Brisbane were not going to be his thing.

Then we went to meet Eileen.  Eileen loved having people being shown her room as she had a special quilt on the bed.  Unfortunately Eileen was on the toilet when we popped in and Julie quickly shut the door so that was not part of our tour.  Eileen’s husband was also a resident in one of the larger rooms – $1.1 million in RADs there so of course when Julie explained how she had driven Eileen to watch her grandson row at Kawana one day, and did her hair every morning, I understood why. ‘Oh she just LOVES it’.

Julie then told us lots of stories involving herself, and how the residents loved it.  Every Monday Julie herself personally made 55 cappuccinos for the residents when the coffee cart came.  Imagine!  ‘Oh they love it’, she said. ‘They just LOVE it’.

We had an explanation of the smaller rooms and some which were a shared facility – those who share a room ‘just LOVE it’.  They become GREAT FRIENDS.

Ethel, whose mother was a resident but ‘got her angel wings’, continued to volunteer and made cakes and slices every week to bring in. ‘Oh they LOVE it’ said Julie  Again.  Apparently one thing that they didn’t love though was a glass of wine – wine and beer were not served with dinner.  Not necessary.

 

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We were ushered into the ‘Boardroom’ to have a chat and ask questions.  At this point I took out my ‘to do list’ and started working on it and wrote at the top of the list to never send my father here.  Followed by ‘speak to sister about gut instincts’.

On a positive note, we know what we don’t want for Dear Old Dad and we laughed and laughed in the car for a long time.  And had wine with lunch.

*Sisters are awesome

Faith in technology restored

Technology is great.  I love technology; when it works.

When mum died, one of the things we realised was that mum and dad only had phones that attached to the walls – one of the first things we purchased after the event was a phone with a number of handsets, so that dad had one in the bedroom, and a handset he could take around with him, and an emergency alert, which hung around his neck.  The idea was that if he was in trouble or had a fall, he could press the button and it would call five numbers in order; mine being the first.

Periodically, I would check that this still worked – in various rooms of the house and out at the clothes line. However, in the last seven years, on the two occasions he actually needed to use it, both recent, it failed.  The first time he fell and broke his wrist and had to crawl to the lounge from the kitchen to call me.  The company told me that the base station was too close to the phone which interfered with the system.

The second time he fell on the pathway to the clothesline and had to crawl to the stairs and pull himself up the stairs to get into the house.  Mercifully nothing was broken.  This time the company asked all sorts of questions including if the neighbours had installed any antennas that could interfere.  I couldn’t live with the anxiety of wondering if it would work or fail should he fall again.

Technology has improved over the last seven years and my sister found a new alert pendant, which operates via the 4G and GPS system.  It is kind of like a mini phone which hangs around dad’s neck.  Once purchased, five phone numbers are pre-installed into the SIM card.  If he presses the alert button it calls those numbers in sequence, and can talk into the device when the call is answered.  It is GENIUS.  AND – because it operates on GPS it will recognise a sudden fall and each of those five numbers receives a text alert from his pendant, saying his name and the words ‘Fall alert’.  Again – GENIUS.

Unless of course, there has been no fall.

So…last Friday my husband and I were engrossed in a new (for us) and gripping Netflix TV series called Broadchurch.  It is a murder mystery set in Devon.  We had previously finished one called The Fall set in Northern Ireland which required a lot of concentration because if the thick accents.  We like Devon much more.  Easier to understand.

Anyway, as I said we were engrossed, as it was reaching a climactic moment, when both our phones beep with the message “:Fall Alert”.  We both leapt up from the couch and bumped into each other (our couches were all crammed into the centre of the room because of painters having been in).  Me, panicking about getting to dad,  also with a broken toe going “ouch” a dozen times, almost falling over the dog,  to rush to the key hook to get my car key.    My phone then rings from the emergency alert and I answer but dad is not talking into the pendant.   Meanwhile my brother and sister, having both received the alert, are both texting me, and trying to call as well. So I am shouting at my husband to text them to tell them I’m on my way, at the same time as trying to speak to dad via his emergency alert.

My stress levels increase to the max as anxiety girl here manages to leap to the worst case scenario in a single bound, imagining dad at the bottom of the stairs.  So I hang up. Which then causes the cascade of phone calls to my husband, sister, brother and brother-in-law.   My husband and I are both in the car at this point, it’s pouring with rain and I speed down the driveway and then down the road.  Breathing deeply, gripping the steering wheel.  We get to Dad’s and my husband accidentally starts shutting the garage door as I am driving up the driveway.  More shouting from me.  Because it is pouring with rain, when the garage door is finally open, I hit the accelerator causing the wheels to just turn around on the steep driveway, so I have to back down and roar up again. My husband helpfully says something like ‘Well, that’s one way to get up the driveway”.

We race up the stairs and unlock the study door.  There is Dad, shirtless and without his alert button, sitting in his chair watching TV.  “What’s wrong” he said – “I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight”.  Husband and I both collapse into each other.  It turns out that with the hot weather we have been having, Dad had taken his shirt off and thrown it on the bed.  With the alert.  Which triggered the fall alert.  He was oblivious, even to the screeching of wheels, slamming of doors and a bit of shouting.  We started laughing.  He started laughing. We messaged the others that all was well.

As we drove off back home my husband just said “I bet you wish you hadn’t given up drinking this month”.  Never a truer word was said.

Still crazy here.

Fall alert

2017 in review

What a big year we have had.  Dear Old Dad is still going strong even though he said last Christmas that he thought it would be his last, and also said he didn’t think he would make his 95th birthday, and yet he did.  When I say he is still going strong, there is an almost imperceptible increase in his frailty, demonstrated by more caution when walking.

The  small ulcer on his left ankle has been gradually diminishing.  It has been such a big part of our lives that I feel it is almost time to give it its own name.  Ursula the Ulcer perhaps?  Ulysses?  Whatever, it celebrated its first birthday just a few weeks ago.  My sister suggested a cake with a candle.  But I dislike Ulysses/Ursula the ulcer intensely.

At the beginning of the year I had XYZ Care Pty Ltd coming to do the ulcer dressing change – bit this did not end well.  I keep saying it until I am blue in the face – the one thing aged care providers need to understand is that their business model needs to be based on the needs of the client, the elderly person, not the needs of the form filling bureaucracy they have created.  A different nurse came every time; at a different time, and there was no consistency of care.  So I became chief nurse – I could tell if it had changed, or was becoming infected.  And it is almost healed.  Fingers crossed it will be cleared up at the end of January.  That would be a lovely start to 2018 for both of us.

There were challenges at the start of the year, once again demonstrating dad’s resilience.  He gave up driving at the end of 2016 (although I keep joking that he has only given up driving from behind the wheel – he likes to drive from the passenger seat).  Shortly after that he had a fall and had a small fracture in his right wrist which temporarily  limited his movement – but not his ability to win at cards and scrabble

Five Good Friends has been godsend to both me and Dad – every Tuesday and Friday, a lovely woman comes, (the same person, at the same time) to take dad to the shops, library, barber, bank and any other local place he needs to go.  She also fits in a game of scrabble on a Friday.  Dad wrote to friends at Christmas to tell them about Five Good Friends and his own Good Friend who had become a dear friend, with a small ‘f’.

Our cribbage battle has continued throughout the year. Since I started keeping score in April 2011, we have had over 1500 games – when Dad wrote his Christmas letter it was  808 to him and 758 to me.  Crafty old fox.  I am not a particular fan of scrabble, however note that the two games we have had this year have each been won by me.

 

One of my neighbours loves scrabble and pops around on a Monday afternoon to have a game with him as well.

I put a call out on the neighbourhood Facebook page to see if there was someone local who could take his paper up to the front stairs and the call was answered by a lovely man who lives down the road.  In the same vein, the postman gets off his motor bike and puts Dad’s mail on a stand at the top of the stairs near the front door.  With all the horrible news in the world, there is a great deal of kindness as well.

Dad’s brother, our uncle, visited again in April this year. It is so lovely to see them reconnect after many years of not seeing each other.  My siblings and I are also blessed to have him in our lives, and I was privileged to be able to visit him in the UK in September, as was my sister earlier in the year.

 

Most importantly, at 95, Dad has continued to practice his faith and continues his Ministry – attending church twice a week, and doing intercessions on Sundays.  In the space of ten days in October, he gave the last rites to a dear friend, preached at her funeral, and travelled to Sydney for a weekend to baptise his second great grand-daughter, my sister’s grandchild, all of which he does in a manner which inspires respect and admiration.  It takes it out of him, he says, as he uses up a lot of energy doing these things, and yet it is these things which give him focus and purpose in life (apart from beating me at cribbage).

He celebrated his 66th anniversary of ordination this month.

He was awarded the Coaldrake medal by the Australian Board of Missions in November, in recognition of his work with missions, both in his time as Qld state secretary in the 1970s, and his continuing work raising money for their projects by analysing, sorting and selling stamps donated to ABM.

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Purpose trumps everything in my view, and Dad has it in spades.

Happy New Year!

Not Looking After Dad

Last week was National Carer’s Week. Apparently. I found this out quite accidentally when someone mentioned it at church after a family baptism (more on that later). 

*Makes mental note to contact Carer’s Association about their PR*. 

Apparently,  we were meant to be celebrating carers. Which is odd, because the people being cared for most probably can’t organise anything,  even though they are very grateful, and those doing the caring are just too damned tired to organise their own celebratory morning tea, or shout it from the rooftops. 

However in the spirit of acknowledging carers week, I like to think I celebrated early because for three weeks before this I was NOT looking after dad, and had a little holiday. 

I needed a break, and a long one; not just a long weekend. I needed not to have to think about ulcer dressings, transport to and from church, buying special cheese, trips to the doctor and physio, cooking meals, and all the other things I do for dad.

I needed not to be looking at my watch at 7.35am, hoping that Dad has just forgotten to call at 7.30am as he does every day (just to let me know he is up and about!).

I went overseas.  To a different country, and a different timezone. It would not have been possible with my village – but especially my sister, who came to stay for all but the five days of the three weeks I was away.

Image 24-10-2017 at 6.07 pm

 

She, together with the regular help from Five Good Friends, and additional help from them on those extra days, and my husband, I had a complete and total break form the ‘every day’.  I went away with a friend, both abandoning husbands and children, for three weeks in the UK.  The bonus is that most of that time we spent with Dear Old Dad’s brother, my Uncle, in Cornwall and Wales. It was heavenly.

I read a quote once that said something like ‘You don’t know how heavy the burden is, until you no longer carry it’.  And that is true.  I look back on the photos of that holiday and I see that in the first few days my smile did not reach my eyes.  By week two that had all changed.  I felt lighter, and definitely more relaxed.

You see in order to get away, the preparation and organisation required was enormous- even for a very prepared and organised person.  The week before I was to go away Dad’s ulcer had become infected and a whole new dressing regime was required – so I was typing out instructions with photos of the different steps required in the days before I left.  He needed a new phone, so I set up all his regularly called numbers and SOS call button.  Plus a colour coded tabulated document with day by day activities and phone numbers of every person who may possibly be needed.  [Plus I had a dated, colour coded day by day itinerary for my holiday – naturally].

The best things about the holiday other than me just having one, sharing it with a friend and my darling Uncle – watching boats in the harbours of Cornwall, and the beautiful scenery in Wales, visiting the birthplace of the Mitford sisters, having afternoon tea at the Wedgwood factory (OMG!), lunches at two Michelin star restaurants (I won’t go on)?

One is that while Dad was anxious about me going away, and being alone for a few days, it was good for him to have a change of scenery in terms of people seeing him every day, and he coped very well with all the changes. Resilience is still one of his strongest character traits.  But the best thing is that I came back refreshed, and ready to get straight back into life at home, including caring for Dad.  I arrived home from London at 8am; by 9am I was down at his house, changing his ulcer dressing, and telling him about my trip, and good times with his brother, my Uncle.

 

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Short Story

I have written before about the bureaucracy of our alleged Aged ‘Care’ System – you can read those posts here, here and here. Oh, and again here – plus there is another story to tell but I have been so traumatised by it I can’t bring myself to tell it yet.  Here is my take on the stories one often reads in newspapers about elderly people being found dead inside their own homes, having lived in ‘squalor’. I now know that this is because they gave up trying to get help because it is so complicated and inefficient, or died while on hold on the phone.

The end.

Father’s Day again

Father’s Day has come and gone again.  My Dear Old Dad has been a father for 61 years now. It would have been 63 but for the death of his and mum’s first child.

For Dad right now, and me, every day is Father’s Day!  Sometimes it’s also a bit like Groundhog Day, but the actual Father’s day is special.  Being a Sunday, the best gift he can have is to have me join him at church, followed by morning tea with his friends there.  He joined us for dinner so we could also celebrate Father’s day with my husband and children.

I am conscious that at my age, I have many friends who are now without their fathers, or who do not have a good relationship with their father, and Father’s Day must be difficult.  and I will be one of those people one day, which while inevitable, makes me feel very sad.  I can’t imagine a world without him in it.

Father’s Day makes me ponder what it is to be a father.  My favourite quote is from someone tragically named Wade Boggs, who, it seems to me was destined for a job as a plumber, but was in fact a famous baseball player.  He once said “Anyone can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a Dad”.  And my Dad is a special person.

We didn’t realise it at the time, but we grew up in a very forward thinking environment. Workplace flexibility and working from home are buzz words in the workplaces of today, but with a parish priest for a father, our Dad had his office at home.  He worked from home (although was often out of course), but of the many childhood memories I have, sometimes having afternoon tea with Mum and Dad after school, or having Dad pick us up from school, are highlights.

Of course having a father at home meant that our mother didn’t ever have to say “wait until your father gets home”, and I knew I was in trouble when I was summoned to Dad’s study.  The worst punishment was being told by Dad that he was disappointed in me.  I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Going away for weekends was something we did not do, with church services on Sundays. But when we went on holidays, Dad was really on holidays.  We grew up with no mobile phones or internet, so our holidays involved visiting with cousins, going to the beach, and once, what seemed like an interminable caravan holiday (scarred me for life).  But holidays always  included cards, board games, and french cricket.  And lots of laughter.

Now that Dad is 95, who knows how many Father’s Days we have left.  So we must treasure every moment, even when it is upsetting or stressful, caring for him.  I have to remind myself that no matter how hard it is for me (and my sister) from time to time, it must be so much harder for him, becoming frail and dependent.  I think Dad would agree with Euripides (Greek poet, not a plumber nor a baseball player) that:

“To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter”

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The Nervous Nineties

Cricket lovers will understand this expression. The nervousness of a batsman or batswoman making it to ninety runs, hoping to score a century, not out. The anxiety of hitting the ball and getting singles. 91. 92. 93 etc. Each one more difficult and nerve-wracking than the last.   I imagine this is what it must be like in your nineties, although some whose health is not the best may not wish to reach their century.

When Dad was heading for 90, he resisted plans for a 90th birthday party on the basis that he might not still be here.  This is a recurring theme, so convinced is he that his life span is all but over, all indications to the contrary.  But a party was had and it was a wonderful celebration at our home on our patio and under a marquee – high tea, with proper bone china cups (tea always tastes better from bone china), mum’s collection of tea spoons, with an endless supply of cake, sandwiches, and scones. Most importantly, many family members and friends were present for the celebration.

cups

cakes

 

 

 

 

It’s not often my dad is lost for words, but on this occasion he was, no doubt emotional that mum was not there to celebrate with him, but also to see so many people there that day, celebrating with him and wishing him well.

That was 5 years ago, and this year, like then, Dad, even six weeks beforehand, resisted any celebration of his 95th, on the basis that he might not be here. This year’s birthday was a much simpler affair – a morning tea after church, dinner with us at home, and then dinner out a few nights later on his actual birthday.

 

dad and daughter

Dinner at the Golf Club 8 August 2017

He still has the same gorgeous smile, and enjoys the many bottles of scotch he receives as gifts. That sounds worse than it is. He enjoys one glass of scotch late in the afternoon and his birthday and Christmas presents of scotch last him for months!  There are very few novel gifts one can purchase someone who has everything he needs.

Imagine what someone of his age has seen:

Living through the depression
Transport moving from bicycle to car – and now the news talks of driverless cars!
Plane flight going from a luxury to everyday
Man landing on the moon – and passenger space travel a real possibility
A World War and the horror of that war, and its aftermath
Television as entertainment in addition to the ‘wireless’
Computers and mobile phones (no phones attached to the wall now!)
The abdication of King Edward VIII, the coronation and death of King George VI, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth – he may well see Prince Charles become King
The fall of the Berlin Wall
Twenty-three Australian Prime Ministers (four of those in the last 10 years alone!)
Twenty Queensland Premiers

I can’t work out how many elections in which he has exercised his democratic right to vote.

So much change and development has occurred in his lifetime, and with the pace of change accelerating, he is sure to see much more change in years to come.

The one thing that has not changed is his vocation and he recently celebrated 65 years ordination to the priesthood.

So here he is in his 96th year – will he crack the ton and get his letter from the Queen?  Or perhaps it will be King Charles? Time will tell, but every run he adds to his score will be celebrated.

Time does not heal all wounds

C.S. Lewis once said that “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear”.  Sixty three years ago today, my parents’ first baby was born and died.  Her name was Ann.

I can’t imagine that kind of grief.  My mother was younger then than my own daughter is now.  She must have been filled with fear each and every day of each pregnancy and though each hour of labour before delivering each of her three subsequent babies. As I’ve written before my mother never spoke of this event, and grieved silently in all the years that followed.  Dad said that sometimes she just stayed in the bedroom all day – that she remembered the detail vividly.  I often wonder how Mum coped with so many people no doubt telling her that the death of her baby was ‘God’s will’.  She must have wanted to scream, but instead kept that grief bottled up.

When Mum died, it was like a cork stopper came out of a bottle and Dad was able to talk about that horrific events of that day and beyond.  And all the years that followed.

Part of caring for an elderly parent is more about caring about them – and that means caring is sometimes doing nothing but sitting and listening and giving a long hug, even if you’ve heard the story before.

Thinking a lot about both my mum and my dad today.

Dad at springsure