A couple, found dead in their car this morning, were in their mid twenties, the newsreader said. They had parked in bushland outside of Ballarat, a town renowned for its winter cold. It seems the couple had been asleep in their car where they tried to stay warm with heat from the running engine whose fumes had overcome them along with their now dead dog.
My mother complained of cold yesterday, too, when the physiotherapist, all blond hair and youth, asked if my mother wanted to show her and her companion, the occupational therapist, how she could sit on the edge of her bed.
‘No,’ my mother said. ‘It’s too cold.’
And why did they want her to sit anyway? my mother asked.
The OT explained how they needed to get my mother up and moving to get her circulation going, and her lungs clear with breathing and exertion.
‘You don’t want to get a chest infection, do you?’
My sister and I stood at the foot of our mother’s hospital bed and watched. I felt the urge to pitch in and help but these two young women had a system for moving my mother and it was best not to interrupt.
My mother’s body in her blue striped hospital gown had shrunk, apart from her swollen belly, swollen through an attack of pancreatitis. Apparently, there is not much the doctors can do for my mother’s condition now other than offer relief. The gallstones that block her pancreatic duct cannot be removed through surgery or laser because of my mother’s age and so it is a matter of time before she cops another attack.
In the meantime, we try to keep her comfortable and work out where to next.
Yesterday, the social worker reassured my sister and me that nursing homes are not as they were in the past; not urine soaked wards filled with withered bodies in single beds, and old people, mainly women, languishing there.
Staff in nursing homes are equipped to assist people like my mother who cannot help themselves. They have hoists above the beds for lifting.
For a long time now we have promised our mother that when it comes time for her to die, we will do our best to ensure it happens in her beloved retirement village room.
But our mother is in this in between place it seems, neither palliative nor able bodied enough to get back to her retirement village, even with extra assistance. Once a person is palliative and confined to bed there is no further need for lifting and getting into chairs or onto walking frames. In that case she could go home to die.
I asked my mother if she thinks about dying. ‘All the time,’ she said.
I think about what it will be like, but I never was a worrier. What comes, comes. So we wait.’
My mother is sanguine when left alone dozing in bed but as soon as a nurse comes to take blood and cannot find a vein, or a physio arrives to test my mother’s mobility, she gets distressed such that I cannot not believe her mantra about not worrying.
Pain causes her to worry despite her optimism.
I had another rejection for my book yesterday. I want to say nothing about this to anyone. I want to hide the wound inside until the next time I try again in the hope that someone will see merit in my writing and undertake to publish my book, but the rejection sticks in the back of my mind and will not release me.
I flit from the thought that I should shelve my book. After four rejections, it’s not working, to another thought: the people who have rejected my book are not interested in my writing because they doubt its commercial value. They doubt that it will attract a broad enough readership. Fair enough. I have similar doubts, but then I think there’s a market out there somewhere for a book like mine.
I broke up with a boyfriend once many years ago. He was a stevedore who worked with the large transport ships that docked in Port Phillip Bay. He had come to Australia from South Africa where his wife, whom he had one day caught in bed with another man, had betrayed him.
He was a damaged soul, I reasoned, and one in need of all the love and care I could offer. But he offered little care or love in return. In time, I asked for more but he stonewalled. He was not interested in feelings, his, or mine or anyone’s. So I left him alone in his second floor kitchen in the St Kilda apartment that he shared with another man and never saw him again.
In those days I lived in Caulfield in a flat, which I shared with a younger sister. We had next to no furniture apart from a couch and television, the two beds in which we slept, a laminated kitchen table and four chairs. We were young, though not as needy as the couple in Ballarat.
Every Saturday I took my load of washing, sheets, towels and clothes to the laundromat nearby in Inkerman Street. On this day, not long after I had broken off with my stevedore, I had the thought that somewhere out there I was sure there beat a heart simpatico with mine.
Could not the same be true of a publisher, a publisher with a heart in sync with mine?
And in the meantime, I rattle through my life, attend to my family, my work, and along with my mother, I wait.