Saturday, 25 September 2010

Between flights

All went well. I finished the packing, the organising, made my loving farewell, caught a taxi, which arrived punctually, and got through customs etc, with great ease.

I met my friend, and although we were not able to change our seats, we were close enough together to drop in and have extended conversations. It was lovely having company. We discovered quite accidentally that we were travelling on the same day with the same airline on the same flight for the first leg to Singapore.

Now we are in the lounge at Singapore Airport, and I have had a shower, which makes me feel much better. As I did not get to bed until well after 2 am last night, and then could not get to sleep, I am very tired. This morning I revised my packing yet again and turfed out a few things, expecting the customary bag of toiletries would be bestowed on me by the airline. But no. Fortunately they were available in this lounge.

The day was quite a misty one, all the way across Australia. As we flew over the Darling River area, we could see the vast floods making their way down the country from Queensland, forming large lakes as far as the eye could see. As we crossed into South Australia we watched for Lake Eyre, which I had hoped to see on a weekend trip which never eventuated.  Seeing the floods from so far up in a sky gave us an extensive view, and I took photos, but of course they are not brilliant. Nothing like thick airport windows to detract from the quality of a photo, but at least I have a reminder of this rare event of the rivers flooding and slowly making their way down the country. It was so exciting.

Coming into Singapore by night was lovely, with all the boats, and lights, and the full moon reflected on the water.

There are another couple of hours to kill, which we are whiling away on the computers, before taking our next, separate flights.

I am on my way - after all these months of planning, hoping and wondering. Whoopee.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Tomorrow and to Spain

A very scatty post as I prepare for departure tomorrow on this long awaited trip to Spain:

Preparing for a trip has never been so exhausting, and I cannot believe how much there is to do. One thing leads to another, and unexpected occurrences swallowed up huge chunks of time. It is almost midnight, and I am still working on my itinerary documents, and sorting out what to take as hand luggage. I asked my friends Nora and John how much luggage they take and they said one bag between them. I cannot rival that!  But I was impelled to be rather more ruthless, and have put away quite a few things. Although we are warned we might need a raincoat, mine is staying at home, and ditto the umbrella. I am sure that if it should rain, hundreds of African pedlars will sprout from the soil just to sell umbrellas.

Being an information junkie I need a dictionary, a guide book, and some reading. It is a very long journey, via Singapore, Malpensa, Barcelona and finally Seville, where the tour commences. The material supplied by the travel company weighs a kilogram, and what a pity it is that they did not arrange for it to be given to us all on arrival, instead of making us all lug it ourselves. There has not been time to have more than the most cursory glance at this brick. Selecting books has been difficult, as the ideal book needs to be absorbing, entertaining, and something that need not be taken back home. A very contradictory set of criteria.

The carer I engaged to come in each day to help Dr P came today and we went through the routine and she will be back again tomorrow to go through it all again. She seems a good and nice person, and competent. The grandson won't arrive until Saturday, but I cooked a lamb curry tonight and there is enough left for Dr P's dinner tomorrow night.  After that they are on their own. All his medications are now in blister packs, the refrigerator has been cleaned, all the bed linen washed and clean sheets put on all beds, and  a huge amount of tidying and labelling of things has been done (why did I use the passive tense here? I did it all, item by item.) We had a pleasant day together.

There are a couple more things to do on the computer and then I can stagger off to bed. This new computer has a wireless keyboard, which is tiny and you can delete only from backwards and not forwards. It would save a lot of time if I just left in all my typos, many of which occur because the keyboard is so small. I keep hitting the g and the f keys! The old computer, which had its logic board replaced a month ago, suddenly went PHUT again the other day, so it has gone away to be fixed yet again - fortunately this time under warranty.

Tomorrow I can allow myself to feel excited!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Things to do before having time off for good behaviour

Today I took Dr P to see his diabetes specialist, who has been treating him for years. Dr P has type 2 diabetes. It is well controlled, just as well, as he has the most shocking and self-indulgent diet. As the grandmother of a  boy with type 1 diabetes, whose illness began when he was about 20 months old, I find his casual disregard of diet appalling. However I suppose it must be acknowledged that a man who has reached the age of 86 must have a very strong constitution, no matter what he does to abuse it. The pleasures of self indulgence and immediate gratification greatly outweigh the experience of self denial, as I know only too well from similar failures of will and self-discipline. Who am I to criticise?

For the last few years I have been going to all Dr P's medical appointments, in order to know what is going on, and to add to the information. (Dr P is rather inclined to gloss over certain things. As you do.)  Dr P was not very happy about this, but accepts it now. This appointment was sad - Dr P asked the same question about six times, forgetting each time that he had already done so, and his increased forgetfulness and decline were very evident to the specialist.

Yesterday was a very messy day, physically, and not pleasant. We had been invited to lunch with friends, but Dr P did not feel up to it, and went to bed. I was intending to go to lunch after finishing all the cleaning up and washing, when SD1 arrived. I never did get to the lunch. We wound up having a discussion about the care arrangements for Dr P while I am on holidays. This was both a Good Thing and a Rare Event. It is a relief to have achieved some actual communication. It transpired that SD3 won't arrive until the end of the month - this information had not come through to me, somehow, and so the care will be undertaken by SD1,  her 21 year old son, and SD3. SD1 did not feel she could put her son through the ordeal of dealing with Dr P's ablutions and dressing - too confronting, she feels. I do sympathise - but yet! So we discussed low level respite care accommodation and she arranged for us to go and visit a place with a vacancy. Dr P had been talking about some such sort of care, so it was worth investigating.

So we all went together today, after seeing the specialist. It was depressing, and none of us felt that it would suit his needs and comfort. We agreed that we would investigate paid, home based care, and I have made inquiries, which I hope will bear fruit, to have a carer come in each morning to do ablutions, dressing breakfast, washing and a light tidying and cleaning. I will also try to reactivate the home based respite care, which I had hoped to have had organised weeks ago, but which Dr P then strenuously opposed. We have probably fallen to the end of the queue again, but such things are sent to try us. It is quite stressful trying to work out what best to do, and when I made the earlier attempts, Dr P's condition was much better than it is now. There has been a significant deterioration.

Apropos of the confronting aspects of caring for people, I remembered that at the age of 15 I had kept house for the whole family while my mother was in hospital having her seventh child, my youngest sister. My older sister had started her nursing training, and was living at the nurses' home. When the baby was six months old she developed a blockage of the bowel, which required emergency and life-saving surgery. She has a colostomy for a year, and I helped my mother with the cleaning and dressing. Colostomy bags had apparently not yet been invented, and the dressings had to be changed frequently. The baby had suffered an infection in the hospital which had left raw flesh, which had to be kept clean.  We never managed to get it to heal completely. Cleaning was very painful, but it had to be done - too bad if it was confronting! My sister has a very sunny, optimistic and happy nature, even with that start in life.

There is much to be done before I leave, and I should probably not fritter away time with all this idle persiflage. But hey! Whatever!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The week that was

Well, actually it was quite exhausting. Challenging, anxious, and exciting, with sadness, but with gladness and hope. Good decisions have been made.

Last Friday I drove to Canberra to help my son.  All went well, despite very wet weather and a couple of dark and stormy nights. In fact just about everywhere in southern New South Wales and Victoria had lots of rain and there are now many flooded areas, giving emergency services workers lots to do, filling up sandbags,  rescuing people, etcetera. Wonderful people, they are.

My son moved into his new house, and into a new life. My daughter and I helped care for the little boys, and with the organising, and the making of lists - things to buy such as toilet paper, a bucket, broom, dustpan and brush, cleaning things and groceries. I donated some surplus items from my kitchen and linen cupboards. This had meant going through all the kitchen cupboards and the linen cupboard, and cleaning and sorting everything- the sort of hideous housework which is (wisely) embarked on only every few years. My car was full of stuff.

While I was looking after the little boys on my own, the little one, aged two and a half,  darted to the TV, which was playing a DVD of Shrek, and pressed some button or other. I was totally unable to fix it. Now, I suppose it is understandable that a two year old child would want to turn off Shrek, as it seems that all children have watched it at least 149 times, but at this stage there was nothing else to do - there were no toys or books, or effective forms of outside entertainment. So I got a bit stressed, as telling stories, drawing pictures and singing songs had no effect whatsoever, and all they wanted to do was to run up and down throughout the house opening and shutting doors. This made me feel I was failing Elementary Grandmothering....In the Olden Days, my children were not allowed to touch switches or press buttons on TVs or anything electrical, but evidently times have changed, and so has the speed of the greased lightning at which they move.

Ah well, their father returned in due course, and of course he knew how to put Shrek back on. The rest of the time I spent with my daughter, who has been doing a lot to help her brother, especially child caring. We went to the horse paddock to feed her horse,  and to the shops to buy a few spare clothes, and sundry other useful things such as rubber duckies for the bath, which squeak gratifyingly, and hobby horses to ride around on.

My youngest grandson just LOVES being outside, running around, playing with water and splashing around in muddy puddles. Although he was shy with me at first, by the end of my visit he was playing Chasey, and Boo, and has been enjoying all the contact with his aunt and cousins.

Just before I left on Friday there was a general power failure, and this delayed my departure somewhat. When the power came back on, I ran around resetting clocks and microwaves, and also turned the computers on. However I did not wait to check whether all was well. The family rang to ask how to get it all back on. I HATE other people touching my computer, especially if they are not real family. I came home to find it still did not work, and had visions of lengthy phone conversations with the support people. Somehow the computer had switched itself off. They are not supposed to do this, are they?

However. Last week, without really having a clue what I was doing, I used the Migration Assistant to transfer things from the old to the new computer. It told me I had done this, but there was no obvious difference. Evidently full implementation depended on turning everything off and on again, which is what I did when I could not get the computers to start. The other slight problem was caused by my new-fangled wireless keyboard, which had gone off as a result of the power failure, and needed its drippy owner to realise it has an on and on switch. (The design is so elegant and discreet that said switch was hard to find.) Finally all worked, and lo and behold, there was all my old stuff on my new computer.  But what had happened to all the new programmes which came with the new computer. Good grief, don't tell me I had mindlessly obliterated them all? Finally I worked it all out. Sort of. Well, actually there are a few minor details yet to be revealed, but maybe they can wait until I get back from Spain and start having serious computer lessons. I have had to go out and buy a new printer. It does not have the printer driver inserted into its position, and now I have to work out from the rather confusing diagrams where exactly it goes.

Life is full of challenges. I suppose if they concern only technical problems we are fortunate. There is generally an answer, if we know how to look and who to ask. Changing the pattern of our lives is much more complicated and fraught, and can involve great anguish and worry in knowing the problems and in finding the solutions. We do what we can to help, we offer our love and support, and our hope for the best possible resolution and rebuilding. I am caught between my concern for those I love, both near and far.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Lurching on

Although I fear we are headed for an conservative Abbott government, and am trying not to care, tonight's news that Independent Andrew Wilkie is supporting the ALP has revived some failing and faltering hopes.

It is amazing how you can fall into casual yet impassioned conversations about politics with total strangers. Yesterday at the bus stop in the city a woman sank onto the bench beside me and complained loudly and eloquently about her exhaustion resulting from the delay in knowing what make of government we are about to have. So I gave her the benefit of my views and she cheered up somewhat, notwithstanding missing her bus, which she had failed to hail as I expounded my views. Naturally it shot right past her. Talk about transfixing an audience. I am tempted to rent a soapbox. Oh well, an electronic one will have to do for now.

It is depressing how few people have any idea of the work done by politicians and the Parliament. Yes, they actually pass laws, generally designed to benefit the nation - although sometimes they mistake the nature of the benefits. And yes, most of the laws are complex and very technical, and would make the average eyes glaze over. But it is not all personal abuse and name-calling, as in Question Time.

For those who cannot follow all the complexities of the average taxation or superannuation laws, those affecting the health system, Commonwealth State relations, and economic management, let alone climate change science and emissions trading schemes, it is necessary to adopt a form of shorthand in order to make political choices. This involves looking at the different values held by all the parties and groups, and trying to decide which of these best suit our needs, values and interests, as well the the welfare of the whole nation.  Parties do try to simplify their messages, and to appeal to as many voters as possible. Inevitably political messages get diluted. But it IS possible to do some homework and to find out more about policies, legislation and programs. The Parliament's website is not a bad place to start, and there are available summaries of legislation, and much other useful information.

I get very depressed and discouraged when I overhear people grumbling about how politicians are a self-serving lot, how they are all the same, and not worth a crumpet. Some are, some are not, but in my experience of the Parliament for 30 years most of them work hard, and are dedicated and able. Some are sleazebags who give any rational person the creeps, but most are not. People think it is fine to pay business executives millions of dollars, and to give them huge termination payments (such as the couple of millions paid to the David Jones man who lost his position because he (allegedly) habitually sexually harassed female workers, and that American Sol Trujillo who ran Telstra although perhaps not according to the general welfare of the industry or the nation - what was his payout? about $10 million?) but complain that the ministers still in office continue to be paid - they are, after all, probably still attending to the business of government.

Whatever happened to that nice British saying 'Mustn't grumble'?

Well, enough of all this. I am off to Canberra tomorrow to help my son and grandchildren move house. Our family is pitching in to help. Dr P is very lethargic, and is sleeping for large parts of the day, and says he feels he will go to sleep and just not wake again. I don't think his condition is as dire as this. I hope not, anyway.  V, the SD1, and/or her son B1 will be taking care of him. As usual, I am totally frustrated by their incredible failures in communication, and I hope they do not get up to anything in my absence. And that all goes well with my trip, and that I will be able to indulge in some motherly and grandmotherly care and devotion.