Mehdi seemed surprised to see me. Particularly when I asked him why I was there. He reminded me we had agreed I would not need to return until the stitches came out unless there was new information from pathology.
I agreed, and said that’s why I was surprised to get an invitation via the appointment app. this morning. Then it dawned on him. His face was a picture.
That’s what happens when you have automated protocols without human oversight. The results come in, an invitation is generated to make an appointment to discuss them. Anxious patients put two and two together.
As a dear old and wise friend used to say to me in a broad Norfolk accent – or was it a Norfolk Broad accent?;
“Doont joomp ta kon-kloo-shuns, lad”.
Sorry Norfolkers if I didn’t capture that properly. A fond memory. No piss-taking intended.
Mehdi apologised, I said I’d send him my fuel bill. He laughed. I smiled wryly.
He checked the wounds, expressed satisfaction that they are healing cleanly, but still won’t let me swim until the sutures come out. Bugger. If he had conceded that the trip would have been worthwhile.
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.
Yesterday, my favourite young nurse, with whom I am completely in love, helped me complete my health care plan for the coming year. I’m in love not because she is beautiful, although she is, but because she understands me. If only I was forty years younger.
We see each other only once or twice a year, and since my last visit much has changed. I can tell when people are gushing and cooing because it is their job to be encouraging, and when they mean it. Her genuine pleasure at my progress was touching. Her understanding of my mental state and my pragmatic approach to it tells me she has a black dog too.
It was she who introduced me to the MyFitnessPal app, which helped me get my main issue under control. I thanked her for that. Now at last we can turn to the matter of the legs and feet, and the pain. Not just to manage it, but to do something about it. That was not really an option until I shed some weight.
She laughed when I told her about the Really Really Fat Persons Support Group, she told me I was her favourite patient. I bet she says that to all the boys.
By pure coincidence, while I was waiting at the surgery, I received a call from Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, asking me to do another blood and urine test. They had already supplied me with the necessary form, which I carried with my medical summary in my man-bag. The pathology lab is right there at the surgery so it was a simple matter after my appointment to drop in, bleed and pee in a cup.
I then checked out the op-shops in Woodford for clothes. But I think I’m too fussy. I’ll try Caboolture later. On the way home I drove straight past Beefy’s for the second time this week. That’s willpower.
I felt so positive that rather than stop off at the pool for a swim on my way back, I drove all the way home, had a light lunch, hopped on the bike,’ and pedalled back to the aquatic centre. That’s dedication.
After the swim I rode home and immediately took a nap until 8 pm. That’s old age.
This morning I drove to Maroochy Botanical Gardens to enjoy a walk and a picnic with two lovely friends, Angelia and Mario. We had a delicious picnic brunch and walked around the sculpture gardens for a little communing with nature.
A couple of guests tried to join us for lunch, a scrub turkey and a currowong. Of course we fed them. The currowong even took food from my hand. I always like it when that happens. The currowong is a member of the magpie family and very intelligent. That she figured out she could trust me is cheering. The turkey on the other hand wants the food, but has no trust. Stupid bird.
The walk we took was quire a short one, and the path was concrete, so it didn’t cause me any problems except for a short cut I took over a lawn down a bit of a steep gradient. Going downhill is difficult.
I enjoyed the nature sculptures very much, but some of the more abstract works did not resonate so well. I’m no connoisseur but I know what I like.
I was well on my way home by two, and back on Bribie before three. I had my swimming kit with me, so I stopped off at the pool for a swim. I entered the water at precisely 3pm and swam solidly until 5:03 by which time I had completed 100 lengths exactly. A new personal record. 2,500 metres in two hours 3 minutes. I’d had to pile the pace on to squeeze the last laps in. I just missed my two hour target. But my goal of a 5,000 metre marathon is beginning to look achievable.
I was pretty pleased with myself until I saw I was the only person in the pool and the staff were closing everything up.
It turns out the pool closes at 5 on Saturday. It is only open until 7 on weekdays. The wonderful staff were very obliging, They brushed aside my apologies and let me shower and change without making me feel a total idiot. I’ve had nothing but friendly and cheerful support from them since I started frequenting the pool.
Back at home I had a light meal and spent the next three hours trying to transfer photos from my camera to my MacBook via WiFi. And failing. What I should have done right at the start was take the memory card out of the camera and insert it into the laptop. KIS.
The other day in the changing room at the pool I met Julius. Fit, firm, muscular and tanned with a shock of grey hair that rivalled mine before I cut it, he looked much like I aspire to. My casual “How are you going?” unleashed an expletive – laden account of depression and unhappiness that caused a conversation of over half an hour. His life had no purpose. His family no longer needed him, he had no job satisfaction. He was getting nowhere. He’d lost a lot in a property settlement. He wanted to be dead. Whenever he saw a report of someone being killed he wished it had been him. And so on.
,A lot of what he said resonated with me. I told him I had an inkling of how he felt and that I shared some of his experience. I was very concerned not to enable his suicidal thoughts and looked for ways to talk through them. I asked if he had sought medical help. I told him I had found a lot of help with Prozac. It might not be for everyone, but there was undoubtedly something similar that might help in his case. He was dismissive. He did not want to put that stuff in his body. I asked if he preferred to have sadness and sorrow. There was an alternative. I have been on medication for ten year’s over. It helps.
He asked how old I was, I told him.
“Christ, you’ve had eight years of this shit more than I have”.
I could only tell him that it wasn’t all bad, and though I had been right where he was not so long ago, there is another side. I urged him to get help. We talked on for a while. In the end he shook my hand, told me his name and asked mine, then bid me goodbye, saying he was pleased to have met me.
I don’t quite know what to make of that encounter. On the way home I pondered whether there was ever a time when it was ok to decide one had endured enough and there was nothing left in life to give it purpose and meaning. What circumstances would make it a reasonable decision?
From his physical appearance, Julius has no reason for such despair unless he has been diagnosed with something as yet invisible but terminal. From a social and mental health perspective it is harder to comment. There are creative and intellectual considerations. There could be matters of conscience.
Though I have been where Julius seems to be, I don’t think it was ever more than a passing moment of self-pity and self-doubt that was easily managed by an appropriate dose of fluoxetine and a jolly good talking-to.
“On the other hand, there are plausible circumstances that I can envisage. Perhaps, should there come a time when the pain is too much, the prognosis too bleak, and the point has been so completely lost, I may need to think along those lines. If so I’d like to think I shall make the decision rationally, deliberately, and without despair. At such a time it would be wrong to dissuade me. I would not have “so much to live for” any longer. There would be something unpleasant to avoid and nothing still left I’d care to do. Particularly if the cost of doing it was too great. Then the inevitable end should be embraced and welcomed in a manner of my own choosing, rather than slowly, fearfully and painfully. At such a time I would prefer to go gentle into that good night. Joyfully, even, knowing I have done, and had, enough.
This could have been a very depressing encounter. Oddly, in the end I concluded I was ok. I worry about whether I shall see Julius again, and what I should do if we meet. Should I invite him out for a drink and a chat?
I’ve been a wanderer all of my life, and many’s the sight I’ve seen…
There is no Aberdeen to which I long to return. My whole life has been spent moving on. There has never been anywhere for me to return to, because it was no longer there after I left.
I can remember two homes in England before I was five. We had five more homes in four towns in New Zealand before I was eleven.
The most stable period of my youth was my teenage years in West Auckland. After that I moved around a lot again, until I acquired a family and had a second, relatively stable, period with them in only three locations. And that didn’t last either. Not nearly as long as I wanted. It was not my choice. Which does not mean it was not my fault. I don’t know.
What I do know is there is nowhere to which I can return. No family seat, no family. Just scattered relatives. A few friends.
In the small hours I wonder “What if?” There is no answer except the soft early call of the magpie who roosts in the trees behind my caravan.
I ponder the events that led me here. Living with anyone is difficult. When does the effort become too much? Is the person wiser who decides “enough” or the one who keeps trying? Who is at fault, when someone calls enough? Perhaps the fault must always be borne by both.
I am trying to be more zen in my introspection and self-appraisal. I accept what is, but still can’t help wondering what if? I am the sum of my memories. I owe it to myself and the world to ensure my memories are honest and clear.
I was not a good son, I was not a good brother, I proved to be a poor husband, Twice. I truly don’t know any more what kind of father I was. I want to write accurately about my memories. Of what made me what I am. That will not always put me in a good light, but it also may not please those who get to see themselves as I saw them. They may see my perception of causality as blame. But one does not blame the sun for sunburn. It is what happens.
Well. Wow. I didn’t know that was where I was going when I started this post.
In the laundry yesterday I met a man with one leg, and a Cornish accent. His prosthetic was a pretty good approximation of the peg leg of yore. He would make an excellent pirate, I thought. In his eighties with white hair and beard, he towered over me, at least 6’4”. I considered offering him my pirate flag to fly from his caravan, but in keeping with my resolution to think before I speak I forebore to do so. He might have taken it amiss.
Besides, I like my flag and may not find another.
We exchanged stories. He is a retired policeman from the UK. He has been a Grey nomad here in Australia for eleven years. He has seen all the places I’ve been and more. I thought he seemed quite interesting, and when I learned he was travelling with his wife I considered inviting them both over for a meal and a drink.
Then he said something racist, and I was glad I hadn’t. Again I thought before I spoke, and by the time I had gathered my wits for an appropriate but non-confrontational response he revealed that he and his good lady would be moving on later this week, heading south.
When the dryer announced it was finished with my washing, I unloaded it, shook his hand and wished him safe travels.