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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

San Andreas earthquakes

Yesterday I had a day at home with a wicked bad sinus headache.  You know the kind that comes with a low pressure weather front, that makes you want to peel off your skull at about cheekbone level just to get a little relief. 
I wasn’t tired, just very sore so Homeboy put on a movie – “San Andreas” with the Rock.  Ironically it’s the fifth anniversary of the Sept 2010 7.1 earthquake on the 4th. 
I thought surely after five years I must be fine to watch a movie about giant and unlikely earthquakes.
I found myself just a little tense and sitting in weird poses. 
Like the first movie earthquake hit, it decimated Los Angles.
It was a 7.1 and I was on the edge of seat with my arm outstretched and my eyes were very watchful. I have no idea what I thought was going on but my fight or flight senses were on, super on.
And it didn’t get better as the pretend earthquakes heading north up the San Andreas fault line towards and into San Francisco.
I lived in the South Bay to the south of San Francisco.   I spent heaps of time walking the streets of that hilly city overlooking the bay.   Every street in the movie looked like somewhere I had been, probably wasn’t though, I wasn’t that energetic. 
So seeing another place I ‘knew’ crumbling wasn’t that enjoyable.  Thankfully it started getting ridiculously outlandish and I found my equilibrium again. 
Although it could also have been because I moved to the couch and snuggled up to Homeboy. 
Earthquakes are easier when there are two of you.
Even fake earthquakes.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Palmerston North

It was John Cleese,
not a man of tact and one would like to think
he says everything he says to be humorous
but y'gotta wonder sometimes.
John Cleese said in 2006,
"If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to,
I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick."
 
 
It is a soulless place and
I live in Hamilton so I should I know.
 
Tomorrow I will get on the 6.15am flight to Palmy
Yes that is a 30 minute check-in so I will be at the airport at 5.45.
driving at 5.15,
up at 4.45am.
 
That's in the morning 4.45am.
I am shuddering at the thought of an early start.
I shudder at the thought of being in Palmerston North by 7.05am.
People are still getting up at 7.05am,
people I will have flown over in my wee bubble of an aeroplane.
 
Yesterday I was speaking to one of our Group Managers
who will be at the meeting also,
and she said oh yes, we catch the 6.45am flight to Dunedin.
Like it was the same thing.
Gee when she arrives at the airport,
I will be aboard my tiny plane setting off south.
She will be heading the Koru lounge to have a hot drink
and then board a much bigger plane than the 20 seater I'll be on.
So not the same thing.
 
Worse.
After an all day meeting,
all day means we start when the senior managers arrive
at about 10.15am and go to about 3 maybe 3.30pm
so they can get home before 5pm
My homeward flight doesn't leave until 6.20pm.
So while all my workmates are heading home,
of not already there
I'll be sitting in uncomfortable seats thieving wifi at the airport.
 
Yes I am complaining and
I am very conscious that I am.
I get paid very well to make day return flights with rental cars
and Koru lounge memberships
so forgive me my first world problems and
indulge me. 
 
My weekend is a write off of exhaustion.
 
Palmerston North was where my parents met.
Mags training to nurse,
Greg an junior insurance agent freshly moved there from Wellington.
There is nothing wrong with Palmerston North,
shoot I wouldn't be here without it.
But there is nothing particularly right about Palmerston North either.
There in lies the problem.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

struggling to make sense


My mother, Mags has been diagnosed with Stage One Dementia. 
That’s Stage One on the New Zealand scale – America has five, though this may be confused with the Five Stages of Grief, it’s dementia after all.

There have been a few struggles with this but mostly its things that we can laugh at. 
Boy I am not looking forward to the end of the laughter.
So far she is very chatty, very, very chatty. 
Every car ride we take is full of surprises at new buildings and different roads. 
There are stories about that shop or this corner that I’ve never heard – I was only just told my standard 2 teacher broke her neck falling off a balcony at Waihi Beach not that long after she taught me, this may or may not be true. 
This has nothing to do with any of the stories my mother told me about her years of shopping in Hamilton East. 
Her memory’s concept of real time fluctuates. 
One moment its 1982, next it’s 1953 but mostly it’s still 2015,
she checks regularly to be sure. 
Problem is she introduces a long past story or asks a question as if it is current observation without any reference to the conversation she has planted it in. 
To be fair this is not a recent thing but then the dementia symptoms have been creeping up on us over a significant amount of time. 
Probably the hardest bit to deal with at this kinda early stage is when she gets really sad, just super sad.
And teary. 
It’s quite something to come across someone who is sitting quietly weeping, just silent tears running down her cheeks.  She weeps about loss, loss of unknown things, things beyond her grasp.    She weeps about things being beyond her control, things that were within her control not that long ago, things that are now on the edge on her knowledge but too far to manage. She weeps because things that were familiar are no longer. 
So many things on the edge of her memory. 

The other morning, Mags woke to a room filled with morning sunlight and warmth from the heater oil fin heater left on overnight. 
I had just stepped into her room to leave her morning pills by her bed. 
She seemed alert, she seemed like she had had a good sleep. 
She asked how long we had been here.  I said, you for a few weeks and we had been there for some months.  She asked if I were going to work and would I be home for lunch.  I said I was about to leave for work but wouldn’t be home for lunch. 
And then she asked how long we had been in the Hawkes Bay – we live in the Waikato – and I realized we had been speaking to two different things.  When I queried her, she said that she had been dreaming of holidaying in the Hawkes Bay and covered it up as much as she was able.  But for the first five minutes of her morning we were on holiday in the Hawkes Bay, enjoying summer sun and she was looking forward to a day of reading and resting outside in the gentle warmth. 
Not a bad way to start the day I say. 

I don’t mind these collisions of memory and desires. 
But I borrow worry for when the memories are no longer there and the desires are increasingly simplistic and needful. 
I am watchful for change.
Noting incidents and words, unsurely judging their relationship to reality and time. 
I worry that I am too watchful, reading into silliness something more serious.
Then I worry that that I am not watchful enough. 
 It worries me that she will slip out of the house and slowly walk across busy and fast roads to the shop and it worries me that she doesn’t. 
It worries me that she is too compliant. 
It worries me that she feels useless but can’t be bothered doing anything. 
It worries me that she is losing herself and gaining timidity. 
 It worries me as I wash her back that her bones are so small and close to the surface but it also worries me that her tummy is too round and she only wants to eat ice cream but devours everything I put in front of her.

For now it mostly it bothers me that I can keep her safe and that she doesn’t push back like she used to.  I want her to walk away by herself. 
I want to her use her independence while she has it. 
I want to her feel free to be herself and to have no pressure as her world slips away. 

We are nearing the end of Stage One Dementia and there is nothing to do but wait and make the most of the time we have listening to stories that get stuck in a repetitive groove and smiling at silly things, being playful and simple. 
I’m trying to make life like one of those long summers afternoons that never end, that holds only warm goodness and pleasant relaxation of slowly swinging hammocks and perfect summer dresses, of fresh sandy feet and the smell of sweet ripeness in the air. 
Those days that wrap themselves around you like a sleepy sigh.  
But I am failing.  I can't not fail.

Monday, August 10, 2015

family reunions


Family reunions are funny things.

They are usually dreaded events that actually turn out ok.
Dreaded cause there is time to over think them, remembering painful long weekend with the parents ignoring us while we ran wild.  I have a vivid memory of when all the adults in my family smoked, except my dad, and them sitting in the kitchen in Silverstream wreathed in blue haze getting blotto (that’s a polite and old fashioned way of saying shitfaced).
This time last year I had a brain wave and I should know to ignore those.  Somehow I followed this up with saying to my dad and Dors that we should have a dad’s side reunion. 
This idea was floating along quite nicely without any great need for action, nor a date and a vague idea of a location.   Until cousin Jen and her son Zane were killed in a car accident last Mother’s Day. 
Then it was the cousins who wanted a reunion and the old generation who were like "organise it and we will be there".  And then some stipulations like accommodation standards and types of food.
Then it needed to fitted in between other family events – these would be celebrations I wouldn’t be invited to mind, and never mind either cause now I’m in two minds about this family reunion with a date and a location and me organising it. 
Let’s clarify the cousin relationship here.
There are four siblings and the first Aunty Prue had two really big kids.  Then the other Russell’s had three girls, the Pecks had two boys and a girl and then my dad, the late starter had me, a boy and a girl. 
As with families of cousins there are bands of ages. 
I’m the tail end of the eldest cousins, then my bro is in the middle and naughty groups and the my widdle sister Pippapotamus is a baby of the babies.   
I was a little too young for my older cousins but so not hanging out with my naughty, somewhat dangerous middle cousins. Maybe it was just me being awkward  in between and let’s face it when you only see your cousins every couple of years, it’s hard to be friends like your parents expect you to.
So early next February I’ll be dreading the family reunion and then on the last weekend you’ll see me enjoying myself in Rotorua (yuk)  with my family doing white people* things, talking about lost photos and experiences and getting some context to so many things that start to make sense with adulthood. 

 

*This in contrast to the upcoming Muti family reunion which will be full of typical Tongan family things…eating and eating and eating, screaming with laughter at the expense of some poor fool and more eating.

Monday, August 3, 2015

we are family

It's been an interesting weekend for my homeboy husband.
 
Last week he had a dream
that may or may not have been prompted by 
Mags and I laughing over old family photos.
 
He dreamt that he needed to call his aunt,
sorry he has so many I can't remember her name,
to ask for photos.
 
In the dream it didn't specify photos of what or of whom
but just that he call.
 
This is a man that I have to chase aka nag to call his mother.
Anyway he woke filled with conviction that he needed to call said aunt.
So he didn't but what did happen was that
an unmet cousin unknowingly posted a handful of family photos.
 
It was at this time I discovered that my homeboy husband
had never seen the face of his father.
This was a man who he never meet as he died when Homeboy was about two.
 
In the time between Homeboy's birth and his father's death by car accident,
his father lived overseas,
in theory attending university as by all reports
he was a very intelligent and inspiring man.
In reality Homeboy's dad was sowing his wild oats
while his wife staying on da islan raising his first born.
 
Turns out there is no denigning parentage there,
same nose, same thighs, same skin colour,
would be the same abundant hair if Homeboy had enough
 
Hard on the heals of Homeboy's dad came
and private message on the old Facebook
from a sister he had never heard of,
well sister plus one more.
 
So a face he has never seen materialised plus two sisters.
They knew about him but he knew not of them.
They are so his sisters too,
matching noses.
Nuff said.
 
It was a bit of a teary and exciting weekend.
 
And then, then, THEN!
Today we finally heard that Homeboy has New Zealand Residency.
Oh happy day!