A young attendant at the care home told me recently that I resemble my mother, “especially those deep lines around your mouth” he said. This is worrying, particularly as I bumped into a long lost friend the other day who said something similar. She was serving behind a counter in a supermarket and asked me in Greek “Can I help you?” I didn’t reply but just stood there and looked at her… “Excuse me, can I help you?” she repeated. Then the penny dropped and she ran from behind the counter, threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest of hugs, “Rosanna mou” she cried “I didn’t recognise you. You have become so … old!”
Talking about old folk, I spend rather a lot of time these days at St Anthony’s Care Home where most of the residents, or should that be customers, or clients, or patients… are elderly. It’s a Quality Street of a home, caring for people with dementia, people in need of medical assistance, some people with learning difficulties, some recovering from surgery (all ages) and some just plain… old. Mum used to say “Look at this lot - all old or mad; I’m glad I’m not like that”. Good job she doesn’t realise that, actually, she very much is!
The care workers at the home are brilliant… one of them in particular shows tenderness, compassion and kindness even to the most challenging of residents; another remains perpetually cheerful and sometimes puts on a cd to get people clapping and dancing or singing along to the music. When I was there a couple of days ago one elderly gentleman was doing a very impressive criss-cross knees dance… which made mum and I chuckle. The food at the home is fresh and home-cooked and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, I even get fed (hmmm do they think I am one of the residents I wonder? I do spend rather a lot of time there). The other day I had a yummy dish of meat and mushrooms cooked in wine with jiggly potatoes and tender dwarf beans cooked in a fresh tomato salsa.
Mum is well looked after and the other day she was even given a shave! I’m not sure she enjoyed the experience as she kept referring to the care workers as “kakko kopelas” (bad girls!). Life for mum is a difficult, painful and tiring existence; she’s continually being pulled this way or that as she is washed, dressed, fed, etc and she often says wearily, “evarethiga” (I’m fed up with all of this). The staff provide for most of mum’s needs but the teeth thing is generally reserved for moi (whoop, whoop), which I don’t mind really apart for the slight panic I had a couple of weeks ago when I asked mum to prize her teeth out for a scrub and only the top set were in there. I knew she hadn’t swallowed them (they are too big for sure – eat your heart out chatty man). To cut a long story short they eventually turned up on a shelf in the nurse’s office alongside the books and ornaments; apparently they had found their way into the laundry and so had been hot-washed and tumble dried… they were very shiny!
When I began writing this posting last week, I was sitting with mum and she had taken her tablet (medical sort…not technological) and so was beginning to doze off. The sleepiness was probably the combined consequence of analgesic, another weary afternoon of sitting with the other residents and generally being unwell. Today was another day and inevitably I found myself sitting, yet again, at mum’s bedside in the early evening as she dipped in and out of sleep. Nowadays I have to crane my neck and peek over a “wall” to see her face, as a safety barrier is strapped to the side of the bed to prevent mum from falling out… again! It’s so weird because, not so long ago mum used to recite a poem about us being on either side of a wall (I suspect it might be part of a poem about Pyramus and Thisbe) … loosely translated it goes “I’m over here and you’re over there and the wall is in the middle; light a candle to Holy Mary for it to deteriorate and fall to pieces” (I know, I know, but if you say it in Greek it does rhyme). I recited it to mum this afternoon but she looked at me “gone out” – there was a time, not too long ago, when it used to bring a smile to her face and some of my readers will have seen a video clip, taken earlier this year and posted on facebook, of mum reciting the poem.
A couple of weeks ago Mum went through a phase of slight improvement, which I thought at the time was probably a combination of Divine intervention and the nursing staff having “nailed it” in terms of finding the right balance of feeding and drugging. My hopes in her slightly improved condition were ill-founded though as since then, the speed of mum’s deterioration has continued to escalate, with her body seeming to shut down bit by bit… like the lights going out in a building – one by one. A few weeks ago she stopped eating solid food, then she fell out of bed and bumped her face, then she stopped walking so is now in a wheelchair and over the past few days mum has virtually stopped talking altogether… sorry to bear this sad news, the decline has been rapid.
True to form though, and as if to prove me wrong (and in spite of everything) there are still moments when mum peeps through. .. Like the day before yesterday when a staff member was talking (somewhat patronisingly) to mum. After she had gone mum looked at me, gave a wave of her hand and raised her eyeballs sky-ward as if to say “Does she think I am a child?”
… and like yesterday when I took my cousins from Australia round to visit her. Mum was lucid for a short while, and was clearly delighted and so pleased to see them. She thanked them for coming… they were moved to tears. Apparently mum’s enlivened condition was partly attributable to increased levels of drugs.
Well, I didn't stay too long today and I’ll be back there tomorrow. On my way out of mum’s room I noticed that her clock has stopped ticking. It’s a chiming wall clock with a pendulum that was mum’s pride and joy. I wound it up yesterday but it seems to have given up… I must ask the nurse tomorrow for a shot of something strong to liven it up a bit.