Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back on-line?

Eighteen months ago, I'd never have imagined how my life was going to buckle and take a very different course.

Despite the evidence of my dad's terminal illness - and let's face it, life is terminal when one is 83 - in some naive part of my then 55 year old brain, I couldn't imagine him actually dying; couldn't imagine the debilitating grief that would unexpectedly unhinge me and come in waves. I knew the theory, but having been a child migrant, I hadn't really felt much when grandparents, aunts and uncles died. I was detached and numb back when I was sixteen and my mum, driving us home from a horse-riding outing, had pulled over to the side of the road to convulse in sobs over the steering wheel of her blue Austin 1800 because her mother had died. (Yes, I see that there is perhaps some redundant detail there, but the occasion of my grandmother's death did imprint itself so that those details are easy to recall.)

(Perhaps I'm inclined to writing long sentences today because I'm half-way through Peter Carey's extraordinarily brilliant page-turner, Illywhacker. God that man can write!)

My brain has been somewhat off-line for the past five months or so. (The fact that I'm now writing, and reading a complex novel, tells me I'm healing a bit; returning to what is normal for me.)

My dad's death in May last year, and its immediate aftermath, didn't help me to prepare for what we've been dealing with since April. During that time I've had to become my mother's gaoler. I've shared this role with one of my sisters and our husbands. So we've had to take away our mum's autonomy, albeit because she could no longer manage to live alone on her isolated coastal property.

Ultimately, because this living arrangement was no longer sustainable, given mum's dementia - hate that word - I've had to put my mum in an aged care facility. If you think leaving your infant at childcare or school is hard, think on. Hope you never have to deal with your beautiful mum begging you not to leave her; telling you she'll do anything, just give her another chance. 

That was the worst experience of my life. Absolutely no other option. It came down to my sanity, and that of sister, Reggie, or continuing to share custody of our tricky old mum.

But this tale has had a happy outcome. My mother loves her new home and she's struck it lucky, not only in the place she's living, with beautiful Queens Park, Moonee Ponds as her front garden, but also in finding a new female friend with whom she can stroll around the lake and reminisce.

All the stress has dropped out of our lives and my mum is calmer and more relaxed than I've seen her in at least three years since my late dad's diagnosis.

Still, I think it was a bit cheeky of the 'entertainment' - think piano accordion and drum machine - to be playing Please Release Me Let Me Go and I've Never Felt More Like Singing The Blues to a captive audience of octogenarians in the home.

The irony wasn't lost on my mum either as she sang along.