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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Laid Up.

My day off. Haven't had much physical activity lately. Not well enough for cycling and walking. The weather's been conducive to hanging around the house. Most exercise I've had has been sweeping the floors and squeegee-ing the shower in the morning.

Last night I went to bed at 8.30 and managed about ten hours occasionally interrupted sleep.

Woke up determined to do my five k walk.

Dropped my insulin basal rate about fifty minutes prior to the walk. Did the ablutions. Walking gear on. Packed my emergency jelly beans and sultanas, keys, set my GPS tracking device and I was off, singing along to the Glee version of Hold Onto the Feeling. Down the street, turn left, bit of blue sky, only a bit of light rain showing on the radar but I had my rain jacket on so I'd be okay. I had hit my stride then WHOOOPPHH WHOP I hit the road.

Agony and I was lying on my side in the gutter on the street corner. I had skidded on the damp footpath? A leaf? There was a skid mark about a meter long showing my trajectory. 

My headphones were still blaring Everybody Wants To Rule The World. I popped my plugs out whilst still lying on my left side.

A couple who'd kindly pulled off the road to help leaned over me. She was wearing a uniform. How lucky, I thought. A nurse. You see, I was in pain and wondering if I'd broken something. 

No, I work in pathology, she said, still bending over me. Are you all right?

Do you think you could help me up? 

Suppose they were wondering whether I should be moved.

With one of them on each arm, I struggled to my feet, thanked them and began to limp up the hill, thinking I'd bloody well, do my five k anyway.

Until realised I was really hurting in my left knee and foot.

So I managed 1.98 k this morning, most of that limping. Now I'm ice-packed wondering whether I should get the foot x-rayed. 

Best laid plans.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Muddy in Budapest.

Here I am in one of the great European cities - Budapest - and I can't get past the packed camping ground and its environs. You can't help rain, of course, so it's no one's fault that we're parked under a tree in a mud pit. But it's a bit disconcerting when you can't flush your morning's evacuations. 'It kept bobbing back up and staring at me.' Al shook his head in horrid disbelief, as did I, having had the same deal in the women's.

The women's was like some crowded steamy eastern bloc sorority house with a couple of wide eyed children staring at sad elastic confined cellulite. I wasn't about to add mine to the swill so I opted for the facilities in the van instead.

We drove for five and a half hours on B roads from Vienna - glory! - to get here. As soon as we were over the border we were on a massive criss-crossing motorway in a megalopolis - Bratislava. The traffic moved faster, lane swapping was rife and speed limits were treated with disdain. 

We came on the B roads believing we'd see more. Lots of corn fields spread around us, similar to those in Austria. However, it seemed shabbier. (Hard act for any place to follow.) Not much of interest in  the many villages we drove through. I'm sure they're all living their rich lives but there was little evidence of it. Lots of locals out on bikes gathering nuts along the highway added a bit of zest.

The long drive is due to 50, 70 and 90k speed restrictions, to which we adhered. Well, someone had to.

Our camping ground is 2k from the centre. I'm hoping to eat some humble pie after we get on the bikes and explore later today, but yesterday's brief foray around the campsite didn't bode well: dingy, mouldering blocks of flats, weeds growing through cracks in kerbs and footpaths, broken glass, litter. The local shopping mall was a tad depressing. Lots of old store mannequins staring off in bad wigs.

Yes, I know. I'm a spoilt, smug, arrogant westerner. But I'm just saying.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Klosterneuburg in the rain.

We're on day twelve of a five week tour of Europe and it's raining, hence my feeling inclined to write something about our trip.

Al has been banging on about cycling the Danube since we came to Europe in 2010 and I've been successfully persuading him to go to France instead. This year, however, I conceded. And here we are in Klosterneuburg, about 14k by bike to Vienna, along the Danube. But tomorrow, if the rain keeps up as promised by the forecast, we'll take the train.

'The rain puts a dampener on everything,' said Al, helpfully. Dampener: to dull or deaden; to depress. Perhaps for Al. Me? I'm on holiday in Europe, with the love of my life studying the camping book at the other side of the table in our luxury motorhome, once again rented from McRent in Sulzemoos near Munich. (Seamless pick up of the van, BTW.) 

What's more, I've got 150ml of Italian 'chardonnay' in a plastic beaker. Would have bought a wine glass, cos they're not provided by McRent - don't understand why not, guys - but have missed out on those Disneyland-esque French supermarch├ęs given we're not in France, so I haven't bought one.

Seems to be a rule about what an Austrian 'supermarket' can sell. Strictly groceries, well, at Billa and Spar, the grocery stores we've found along the way. No kitchenware, even at Aldi, which seems to sell lots of other paraphernalia. If I wanted a hi-vis jacket I'm in. A wine glass or a mug, not so much.

Have also been drinking tea and coffee from the same plastic beaker, given one of the heavy ceramic mugs was cracked. Was quite relieved actually. Thought I'd been dribbling.

Had a walk into town in our wet weather gear earlier. Think dorks in plastic ponchos, especially Al, with his 'I'm an Autralian' wide brimmed hat on top of his yellow plastic hood.

We circumnavigated an enormous significant cathedral. Ventured inside as a tour guide opened a steel grill to admit his three tourists then clicked it shut on us. He even did a little sneer as he locked us kids out of the main show. Not very Christian of him. Must have been the ponchos. 

I saw enough. Have gawped my way around sufficient cathedrals for a life time.

Wasn't a wasted trip. Found a shop that sold cheap ceramic mugs. Hurrah.

Also spotted a Chinese restaurant that looks promising for dinner. Spare me another schnitzel.

Probably should add that the 78k ride we did from Krems to Melk and back yesterday, in glorious weather on Al's 62nd birthday, is one of the best rides we've ever done. Blissful.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Didn't see that one coming: new BFFs

I'm a bit obsessive-compulsive, in case you didn't know. Last year, to lift my spirits and Get Out More, I decided I'd accept every invitation. 

So there we were, stepping out of my comfort zone on a Saturday arvo - I forced husband Al along for the ride - to attend the flat-warming party of one of the young teachers from my school. Think she invited everyone on staff. Probably didn't expect the oldies to attend. She wasn't to know about the little pact I'd made with myself.

Wasn't too bad. I ended up chatting to another English teacher; Al was apparently chatting amicably with her husband. We all seemed simpatico, being empty nesters and occasional travellers. Swapping emails - not keys - appeared to be a good idea at the time.

Didn't really expect any further contact but let's call her Mary emailed me a few days later. Would Al and I like to join Mary and let's call him Bernard for a movie and 'a bite to eat'?

We accepted, and a bit like kids going on a first date, we met Mary and Bernard at the cinema, watched a comedy then had a bowl of pasta and a bevy. Quite fun. Conversation seemed to flow although Al expressed some reservation. Wasn't his usual kind of beery gig with his besties. 

We met again a couple of months later for another film and 'bite to eat' date. This time we ate before the film. After the film I suggested a coffee. 'We can't drink coffee because then we won't sleep,' said Mary. Odd, I thought. 'Have tea? Chocolate?' Whatever. Thought it might be an age thing. In their mid-sixties, they're a bit older than us.

Our next date was just Mary and I. Lunch and a bike ride. Quite enjoyed the outing, finding lots of common conversational ground about our aged parents and our young adult kids.

Nearly went pear shaped at the next meal/movie. Al and I sat between Mary and Bernard through a turgid but beautifully drawn animated film. The dark cinema hours dragged. Didn't want to disturb our new friends by not paying close attention to the film they'd chosen. Couldn't leave, trapped as we were between them. Was so relieved when, at the end of the film, they both confessed to having slept through most of it. And there was me, being so good.

Mary had chosen that film based on film critics, 'Margaret and David's', four stars. When we parted ways, Bernard told us we had to choose the next film, ha ha, to avoid another disastrous choice by his wife. Kiss, kiss, off we went.

To be honest - and why would I lie? - it was all a bit forced. Al continued to go along for the ride, but with reservations. He was never entirely relaxed with Mary and Bernard, and neither was I but they were pleasant enough.

I almost let it go, but a few months later, out of guilt, thought I'd email Mary to see if they were up for another date, given that it was my turn to make contact. Instant affirmative reply, so off for another Saturday night film. 

Al was a bit white knuckled on the drive in. He'd prefer it was just the two of us going out, he said. Fair call, but we'd made a date; too late to back out.

Mary chose the film. I didn't mind. I was out on a Saturday arvo and I was taking an extortionately priced glass of chardy into the cinema with me, as was Al. Not Mary and Bernard though. Perhaps they didn't want to add an extra $20 to the $38 for the tickets.

The film was good and afterwards we headed for an Italian cafe for dinner. Was all going swimmingly, I thought, until i noticed Bernard seemed a bit distracted at the other side of the table. I'd ordered a second glass of wine after the meal, despite no one else joining me. Fuck it, I thought. It's eight o' clock on Saturday night and I'm having one.

'Bernard, if you want to go, go, don't mind us,' I said.

'Yes,' he said. 'we'll go.'

Seemed a bit blunt, but I didn't really care. Mary did though. 'It's not even 8.30,' she protested.

'Well, I'm bored,' he said. 'The conversation is boring and depressing.' I'd been talking. 'Tell me something interesting; something funny...'

Don't  remember the rest of the sentence, given my heart was breaking out of my chest and heat was threatening to explode my face. I was being boring, my biggest fear, and this guy was the first person who'd had the guts to call it? The fragility of my self-esteem alarms me.

'Okay, thank you.' Very polite; very calm despite the flight or fight heart beat. 'You'll be pleased to know you'll never have to put up with us again. How about you pay your half of the bill and I'll just sit here and finish my wine?'

Al said nothing. Why have a dog and bark yourself?

Bernard and Al got up to pay the bill and left me with an apologetic, heart-sloughed Mary, who blamed her husband's rude behaviour on the television on the cafe wall. 

'You'll have to forgive Bernard,' she said. 'He gets tired and I don't think having a TV on the wall helps.'

So much for accepting every invitation. Better off at home with a cheap chardy and a box-set.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dexcom CGM and I.

Just 'secured' my Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring sensor in place with Bear Brand masking tape. My set's positioned, this time, on my left upper abdomen. I alternate between left and right. My aim to to get 14 days' use from one 'sensor set'. I've been CGM-ing now for nearly a year. (Just in case you didn't know, sensors read interstitial blood glucose and they're injected just under the skin.)

Ideally I'd change sets when a session expires at 7 days cos the sticking tape starts to lift. However, these mothers cost $80 AUD each, non-refundable on NDSS - National Diabetes Supply Scheme - or medical insurance. (Given how indispensable these sets are, that's a pisser.)

I've been securing my sets with expensive Tegaderm skin preparation 'ovals', cutting two of these these into halves to secure the edges of the lifting tape which is supposed to hold the set in place. (This is difficult to describe, btw, given it's a 'specialist' topic.) But while Tegaderm sticks valiantly to skin it doesn't get much of a grip on the tape. Consequently the tape pops out from under the Tegaderm while I'm showering meaning I need a new set. I've been managing about ten days per set using Tegaderm to secure sets, fewer if I go swimming, which I rarely do.

Now I'm giving the cheaper masking tape a go. I've had a trial piece stuck on my sensitive inner forearm for the past 24 hours to see how it stood up to the rigours of domestic life and whether it caused skin irritation. Passed both tests. Had to give it quite a rip to remove it too. That bodes well.

Continuous glucose monitoring is expensive. However, I budget for it because, for me, it's brilliant. It has greatly reduced my hypo anxiety. Prior to CGM I would do finger prick blood glucose checks about ten times a day, including during the night. Couldn't even consider sleep unless my BG was above 6mmol. (When I was on injections, prior to insulin pumping, I couldn't settle if my BG was under 8mmol, and even then I'd wake every hour to check. That was bad.)

The CGM alarms if my BG drops below 5mmol. This wakes me given I'm a light sleeper, probably due to 33 years of living the diabetic dream.

Hypo anxiety has also disappeared from my teaching life. I'm now totally focused on what I'm supposed to be doing in class, rather than teaching in a state of subliminal panic, which tended to raise my BG but didn't stop me second-guessing whether or not I was hypo.

The knowledge that the CGM will alarm if my BG drops below 5mmol, or if it's dropping too quickly or if it's too high, has allowed me to live more normally, albeit with two different sets injected and plastered on my belly. Not a good look but at my age in my circumstances I'm past caring.

Meanwhile I hope that with Bear Brand masking tape in place I can get another seven days out of this sensor.

I wrote the above post pre-shower. The Bear Brand masking tape came off in the first wash. Ha ha.