Lessons.

Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.

Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.

Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.

I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.

After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.

In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!

I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.

What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.

Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.

Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.

First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.

It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.

But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.

I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.

That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.

But coffee. And reheated chicken, turkey and chorizo in mushroom sauce.

The Korean Nurse.

I’ve just been for a biopsy of my kidneys. They leak protein and operate at an efficiency of about 30%. This puts me on the verge of stage 4 chronic kidney disease, CKD. I jokingly remark that they leak so much protein I could make a meringue with my pee.

CKD was diagnosed over six years ago, at which time the specialist seemed content to medicate and get it under control. I hovered in what was classed as stage 3 for years. More recently, however, following a few tests it was decided to find out why my kidneys were failing. This seems to be because I am edging towards stage 4. I show no sign of being diabetic, though I have been advised to behave as if I were since the diagnosis.

Hence the biopsy. I am 67 years old, and living alone in a caravan with literally no one around who can drive me to hospital, pick me up afterwards, and monitor me for 12 hours. This meant I had to stay in overnight for observation.

It all seemed to go well. The procedure was uncomfortable, and felt a little strange under local anaesthetic. The difficult part for me, however, was the obligatory 6 hours lying motionless flat on my back afterwards. It is a position I find uncomfortable. I have always slept on my side since I developed sleep apnoea. had my phone, so I facebooked and took photos of my feet and the ceiling.

I am pretty good at detecting bullshit, and recognising sincerity. My years spent interviewing in the enforcement period of my career, no doubt.  So I can tell when people genuinely care.

The care I received at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital was outstanding. I saw how busy the nurses, orderlies and doctors were, and their unfailing kindness and courtesy, even in the face of querulous complaints such as from the old codger in the bed opposite on the ward. I noted also the significant proportion of immigrant medical staff without whom the system would collapse.

So fuck Pauline Hanson and her ilk.

Late in the evening a nice young Asian nurse came round to my bed, took my blood pressure, checked my puncture site, then plopped down in a chair and told me she had to ask me some questions. She confided she was so exhausted she was glad to sit for a few minutes. The questions ranged from straight details of name, date of birth and country of origin, to medical history and my personal circumstances. Where did I live? Was there anyone to support me? Did I need someone? How did I manage preparing food and performing bodily functions, showering and so forth. Then “Do you know where you are?”

I looked soulfully into her eyes and asked in a confused old man voice ” Is this your house? Are you my mummy?”

I love it when nurses laugh heartily.

We discussed living alone, preparing and eating food. She confessed she lived alone too and survived on instant noodles. I hazarded a guess she was Korean and asked why she was not enjoying the cuisine of her country which I had tried and liked. She said she could not afford the ingredients and anyway, it was too much trouble when one lives alone. It was I then who launched into a lecture on the importance of a healthy diet, with lots of vegetables, concluding with the suggestion that maybe it was I who should refer her to a dietician.

She was clearly enjoying the conversation as much as I, and we chatted on about food, life and work until finally she reluctantly got up to finish off a few duties before the end of her shift. I thanked her and told her she was one of the beautiful people who had made my visit to hospital a pleasant experience. She told me she enjoyed our chat.

I have to confess I have fallen in love with almost every nurse who has lain her gentle hands on me.

Bless them all.

The machine that goes”ping!”