Here, There, and Everywhere…

January 30, 2009 at 8:23 am (Uncategorized)

I had a Nana day today, hence the late post. She’s doing all right, thanks to those miracle workers from Uniting Care, and she was in good spirits though there’s no short-term memory left to speak of. She’s got a month of respite care coming up soon in a Dementia-specific facility that’s very close to my sister’s place on the north coast, and I’m hoping so hard that it goes well and that she enjoys herself. I popped into her chemist on the way home to see that she’s been coming in to take her medications, and the assistant, who’s been a fantastic support, told me Nana’s come in three or four times a day some days, and that she sometimes turns up after 7 pm at night. I found myself explaining that Nana doesn’t know what day it is, let alone what time it is, and that she’d have no recollection of having been in earlier in the day. The assistant tells me these things in a way that suggests to me that she expects me to DO SOMETHING about it, but I can’t think what I could possibly do. So far she’s not doing anything potentially dangerous; she sticks to her routine and replays it. Over and over again. She has Alzheimer’s, so it’s to be expected. I also think it’s good for her to get out and about rather than sit in her lounge room staring at the wall and the pictures of animals whose names she can no longer recall. It’s better that she’s out in the world, I think, taking a bit of exercise and talking to people and completing her tiny series of tasks. What harm if it’s the third time that day? Having said that, I haven’t believed for a long time now that Nana’s in any state to continue living independently, as I’ve said before. I cannot help thinking she’d benefit far more from a controlled and structured environment. I guess we’ll find out when she goes for this month of respite. Oh pleeease let it go well….

In other news, Varuna’s Alumni Association had drinks in Balmain last night, so I was able to catch up with the other two Sydney-based Darklings as well as Peter Bishop, Charlotte Wood, and others, including lots of new faces. Llew bravely accompanied me – a risky proposition given all those conversations about first and third person, not to mention the on-going and heated debate about past and present tense… I think he did experience a couple of twinges of regret, but he’s a very good sport and a pretty sociable chap, so in the end (and who do you think was still standing at the bar then?!) a very good time was had by all. And it seems the extraordinary good fortune of our Darkling bond really is something of a unique situation. Don’t get me wrong, we tell ourselves we were a special group all the time, we constantly top ourselves up the way other people take Vitamin C with their breakfast juice, so it’s not like we needed the outside reassurance. No, we’re pretty sure we know precisely the size of the jackpot we won by landing on Varuna’s well-trammelled doorstep at the same time. Still, it was INTENSELY satisfying having it reconfirmed. I don’t mean I gloated, I hope I didn’t, but there was definitely part of me that felt gleeful all over again about the extent to which I scooped the pool simply by signing up for September. Oh, happy day. The other good news is that I have stuck to my moderation resolution for the month of January – hoorah! Not missing hangovers, not missing them one jot.

Anyway, I’ve been zigzagging across this very sunny and warm city nonstop for the past 24 hours, and I’m beat. Monday I’m going to have to tell you about John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces – I haven’t even finished it yet and it’s already become one of my all-time favourites. I love it. If you see a copy, grab it. It absolutely buries, finally and absolutely, that tired, tedious suggestion that humour in fiction is somehow “low-brow.” This novel is so smart, and so funny, and that combination makes for some damn fine reading.


  1. litlove said,

    How worrying to have a grandmother with Alzheimers. I, too, have my fingers crossed that she enjoys her stay in the facility. I can imagine how much better you’d feel to think she was receiving proper, dedicated care, but who’d be the person to take another’s freedom and familiar environment away? It’s tricky.

    Who is Varuna? Who are the Darklings? I’m coming late to a story here. And I look forward very much to hearing about Confederacy of Dunces, particularly now I know what its genesis was….

  2. doctordi said,

    Being the one who ultimately makes that decision for someone else is hideous, there’s no two ways about it, but all anyone can do is try their best to do the right thing. I saw Nana again yesterday because my sister and her kids are in Sydney, and Nana was very amenable to the idea of a holiday up near Kate (ie. the month’s respite). Her openness was a very pleasant surprise (it may change a hundred times between now and then, but let’s just take the glass that’s half full). Let’s hope the actual stay goes just as smoothly.

    Varuna, the Writers’ House, is a writers’ retreat in the Blue Mountains where I completed a week-long Professional Development Residency with four other writers in September 2008 (I posted while I was there, Sept 1-7). Varuna was originally the home of Australian author Eleanor Dark; her son Mick Dark, in an act of extraordinary generosity, gifted the house to the writers of Australia via the establishment of the Eleanor Dark Foundation. Hence the five of us from the September residency audaciously christened ourselves ‘the Darklings.’ Varuna runs programs on and off-site throughout the year, some selective, others not, and works in conjunction with publishers including HarperCollins. For example, the shortlist I’m on is for a MS Development Award run in partnership between Varuna and HC. It’s an amazing place. As a resource for Australian writers it’s potentially life-changing – it certainly has been for me.

  3. litlove said,

    How fantastic about the writers’ retreat! Thank you for filling me in – what an amazing experience to have had. And bon courage for your nana. I know you will just know what to do when the time is right.

  4. doctordi said,

    Yeah, it is something else, Litlove, it really is! In Stephen King’s On Writing, he recalls a descriptive passage of an idyllic writers’ colony in T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel East Is East, and reading his take on it, I kept thinking, ‘Hey, that sounds just like Varuna!’

    Thanks… I hope you’re right! If the respite goes well, we might all be okay!

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