ACTUALLY, IT WAS RATHER JOYOUS as we marched into the Nursing Home and tatted up father’s room-to-be. We furfled the furniture round, made a few notes about this and that and the strangest thing was that when we put a certain picture on the wall – despite it never having been anywhere near an area of our houses devoted entirely to him – the room became his.
We chatted with the staff who’d be wiping his bottom and we made friends as best we could and…
Mother didn’t come into it… at all. She’s down there, in the main hospital, just like him, and we don’t know if she’ll remember all we’re doing. Plus the irony of it: we break the deadlock of the travelling on the two buses to go and visit him, then she falls over and ends up in the same place just as we get him ‘home’.
Mad panic the next day as we try to find out when Mother’s going to be discharged from hospital and to delay it: yes, harsh, but they need to see how vulnerable she really is. They need to know that she’s really quite a hazard to herself… oh. Phone call with hospital: she went walkabout and fell over during the night? Good… goood. The trouble with the whole thing is that we are not heartless, it only sounds as if we are.
More phone calls: home safety guidance officer, doctor, social worker…
I get blunt with the last one; it was my phone call, alone at my home. My voice betrays my passion – yet it sounds like I’m crying with bewildered helplessness. ‘If I had been more involved with my father, then maybe some what happened could have been avoided… it’s not going to happen this time round. We – she – can’t go through all that again…’
Soc Wok’s cooed diplomatic assurances won’t wash, because I know the truth. Over the last few months, I’ve nudged and cajoled with little ideas and planting little seeds of thought here and there. On the long bus journeys I’ve chatted with mother about how frail she is and can’t lift him… about how he’s not quite himself any more and how she’s not exactly firing on all cylinders. How brother can’t cope either.
The only thing I didn’t mention is the day earlier in the year when I went in the back door, brother looked at me and weeping, head in hands, leaned back against a corner of the kitchen and slid to the floor telling me between sobs that he can’t cope; that I looked into the living room and my father – far more hale and hearty then than now – was standing in front of his chair, looking for all the world like King Kong on top of the Empire State Building trying to swat those pesky aeroplanes and mother quietly cowering…
And how I took all this in with one glance, thought, ‘this is totally broken,’ and turned on my heel and went straight back out again: Elvis has left the building.
I’m not guilty about that, because I did get right on the phone to my sisters for backup to begin to try to sort things out, but… if I had rolled my sleeves up and got right in there, maybe filmed it on my phone and played it to the doctor… anything other than turn tail and run…
But I was a coward, and I was selfish.
That’s why I agreed to do some of the things that I have agreed to. That’s why I have set about trying to get mother and brother to see that looking after my father at home was not actually feasible: even going so far – without blame or accusation – as to point out that he should have gone to hospital after his fall, not nursed at home.
Now all we need is the actual transfer to occur: it’s been put off until tomorrow for some –
he’s on his way!?