Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taking my old mum for a haircut

Arrived at my mum's aged care facility - ACF - at 9.40 this morning to take her to my hairdressers in the far flung suburb of Taylor's Hill. Taking mum with me queers my pitch just a tad. I don't think I'm alone in enjoying a precious forty minutes or so having my hair done. But mum needed a haircut and Paul, my lovely hairdresser, was able to squeeze her in at the last minute.

Doesn't pay to book a haircut, or a podiatry appointment too far ahead for mum. I've turned up to collect her for an appointment a couple of times to find she's made some private arrangement with a visiting provider. No good writing it in mum's diary. She doesn't check it.

As I pulled into the car park at said time, a staff member key-padded mum out of the front door. Was pleased to see mum's clothes were well coordinated: padded short black jacket over a long sleeved striped tee shirt; black jeans; good black leather zip-front shoes. (She's not so keen on the lace ups these days.) Her hair was nicely combed. Good effort, mum.

I'd prearranged for mum to be waiting for me at 9.45 so I was actually early. 'I've been waiting for ages,' she said, not unhappily. 'Since 9 o' clock.' I suppose she was keen to get out under whatever pretext. I would be.

She didn't mind, she said. She'd had lots of company, as she would have sitting outside the nurses' station in the busy reception area. I was slightly annoyed that she claimed she'd been waiting for ages and 'thought [I'd] never get there.' Once I'd have automatically believed her.

It's a fair drive out to Taylor's Hill, a newish labyrinthine north-western suburb. I was about to drive across busy Mount Alexander Road heading for the free way when the questions began. How's Al? Pete? Didi? Do you ever hear from your sisters? And so on. Cruelly, I suppose, I nipped the interrogation in the bud, only because the loop would have ended in five minutes and I'd have to answer the same questions again.

"Don't start blathering, mum,' I said. That's an expression I learnt at my mother's knee. 'Just listen to the music.'

'Cross the roundabout and take the second exit.' That's Jane, the sat nav. I needed Jane because I hardly know Taylor's Hill  having only been out to hairdresser Paul's new premises once before.

'You needn't worry,' says mum, who's miffed, to me, not Jane, 'I will never speak again.' She does that if I'm abrupt with her. She always has. I glance at her. She's set her face and is staring ahead.

Half an hour later, we're at the hairdressers. As I sit in my chair, looking into the mirror, I see mum who's sitting behind me - me in 25 years? - looking back at me. I wave. She smiles. It's warm, she has a coffee and the winter sun's shining through the huge windows. There's a new, green reserve across the road with playground equipment, tables and a few young trees coming along nicely. They certainly build amenity into these new suburbs. Still don't know where I am. Neither does mum.

Mum gets a lovely haircut, as opposed to the generic ACF trim. Both hairdressers praise my mum's gorgeous thick white hair which has been beautifully cut. Mum beams and preens.

I was considering keeping mum with me for the day. It would mean a dawdling time and lots of inane albeit animated repetition, not unlike the time I spent with preschool children in some ways. But as I drove towards the city, mum anxiously reminded me, again, that she had no idea where she was. She needs reassurance that I'm onto it and that I'm not going to abandon her and expect her to find her way back to wherever. Because at this stage she has forgotten where she lives.

The sadness begins. 'I feel like weeping,' she says. 'Weep,' I say, 'go on.'

Yes, I'm harsh but this is self-preservation. Why wouldn't she have this nebulous melancholy, that is, when she's not being the life of the party, buoying up the other residents at her ACF? She doesn't know why she feels this way but I think I do. I feel it too but bemoaning and crying doesn't achieve anything.

I indulged that sadness after Monday's visit when mum asked me where my dad was. 'Your dad didn't die, did he?' she pleaded, contorting her brow. It caught me off guard. 'Where was I when he died?' she asked.

'Mum, you were there and you did all the right things,' I said, straining to stem the tears.
'Did I?' she asked.

That made for a sad evening. Once I'd started crying in the car park after I'd left mum, it was hard to stop. And then I felt so washed out. Best not to begin.

Happily, compensations of memory loss, mum forgets these moments, just as she's forgotten that her husband died over three years ago.

When I left mum today, she looked amazing. She'd applied a bit of foundation and lippy; several staff had complimented her on her new haircut.

Just as I was about to make my escape, mum got me by the shoulders and looked into my eyes. Hers were brimming with tears. 'You know,' she said, looking down at me,' if you think of ringing me, or dropping in later, don't. Just leave me alone in here.' A rebuke.

But, weather permitting I'll be back to take her for a walk and a coffee on Saturday. And she'll be as delighted to see me as if I've been away for six months.

Monday, July 6, 2015

No Day But Today.

Didn't shower today. Wearing the same clothes I wore yesterday: heavy black oversized hoodie; baggy kneed black track pants and mauve sheepskin 'scuff' slippers. You may be pleased to know I haven't left the house. The weather's not conducive anyway - noisy cold morning rain clearing to gusty miserable.

It's the winter hols for me in inner suburban Melbourne. I'm reading/studying Bruce Dawe's poetry, some of which keeps popping back into the front of my mind from some previous youthful reading. I enjoyed it then and I'm enjoying it now, even though I'm inclined to over-analyse.

Does everything have to be metaphoric or can untethered dogs just roam around the 'sixties inner Melbourne streets? "No street but has its canine tributary/ - Confluent in lanes,/They swirl about in bright-eyed vortices,/Whirlpools of snap and sniff and pink-tongued grin." From Dogs in the Morning Light by Bruce Dawe. That took me back to mid-1960s Avondale Heights and packs of dogs chasing my bike and me with my feet on the handle-bars.

Reading Dawe is good for my brain in all sorts of ways. It's made me feel like writing. It's liberating reading about Dawe's meaning of life contemplation after a bad hair-cut and the discovery of a bald patch. "And I couldn't get home quick enough to hold up a/round shaving mirror/Over my head like a silver third eye which would reveal to me/What all the world knew.../Then it was - just then/- I came upon it, in retrospect; the place of baldness,/That solemn high country some get to earlier than others/And some not at all." From The Place on page 111 of Sometimes Gladness.

Perhaps reading poetry will stave off dementia, although it didn't work for mum who, when she could still hold a thought, loved dipping into her Les Murray anthology .

To take a break from Bruce and to get moving, at least around the house, I folded laundry. Three piles: mine, Al's and mum's. Mum's in an aged care facility with a laundry service but I do her laundry. If I was in a Hollywood movie I'd be sainted; St Fraudster. I'm referencing Vincent, in St Vincent, doing his wife's laundry. It's no big deal. Perhaps, like me, Vincent - Bill Murray, what an ugly yet attractive man - didn't want his wife's smalls getting mixed up in the communal wash.

All the while I was listening to Eddie Perfect's Songs From The Middle, loving the music and the lyrics. Was unable to discern most of the lyrics at Perfect's recent concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Made me get the digital version though. Perhaps it would be even more brilliant if I could hear the words. (It is and it isn't. Something about live music.)

Can't get through that album without crying. Actually sobbed today. They say women become more emotionally labile after 'the change'. But I've always been like this. Perhaps I have unresolved issues. Perhaps I just cry at something so beautifully, wistfully evocative.

I wiped my eyes, tweeted my regards to Eddie and despite feeling wrung out, resumed the ironing.

I'm a bit foisty and greasy, sans shower. A make-up wipe just doesn't cut it. I'm house-bound waiting on a plumber - who may not even turn up - to replace the hot water service that died a couple of nights ago. I'm pressing the hell out of Al's worn business shirt - one more trip left for that one before the op shop bag.

That was when my shuffled music on iTunes decided that I needed a bit of Idina Menzel. A reminder.

No day but today

Here's some music from Eddie Perfect.

Now back to Bruce.