Hello my dears – I am back at the embarrassingly grand monstrosity that is my desk (Stephen King would not approve of its immodest size nor its position in the centre of the room; he advocates a small desk in a corner, just to keep us all honest. Sorry, Stephen, but it just won’t fit anywhere else, and we had to have it). It’s been an admin day today, and I’m not even close to done. I think I have to do my tax return tomorrow – the good paperwork fairies still won’t be roused, try as I might to persuade them. Instead, very bad paperwork ghouls have taken over my apartment and, from what I can gather, Australia Post’s mail run, and the result of their handiwork is a big pile of super boring bills and Aged Care Assessment type things that, when thrown into the air in a fit of frustration, fall back to earth spelling ‘UP YOURS, DI.’ I can hear those ghouls sniggering now.
But speaking of aged care, you’ll be pleased to know the road trip with Lady Alzheimer’s went off with nary a hitch. All things considered, Nana behaved like a dream passenger. Oh, we had our confusion, all right, but I was fully expecting a total debacle that might well have ended with our filing a missing persons report at a police station somewhere on the Pacific Highway. On the way up to Ballina, we pulled into a classic motel for the night (they are so filmic, I just adore them, even the really cheesy ones), and I thought there was every chance Nana would wander off in the night with nothing but her rosebud nightie. This was no idle fear. Nana went over the wall during a hospital stay a few years ago, so I knew she had it in her. She was rescued that time by a kindly cabbie, who saw her attempting to scale a perimeter fence like something straight out of The Woman in White, but who knows what may have befallen her had she left her motel room to explore the unsuspecting township of Taree?
Travelling with Alzheimer’s requires resourcefulness, you see, because I knew she’d wake up, much like the unconscious buck who’s been put on a flight by his hilarious friends on the eve of his wedding, with no idea of where she was, how she got there or where she was going. And that would be AWFUL. A really nasty experience for her, and one bound to lead to panic and, well, a flight response. My solution was packing several poster-sized sheets of cardboard and a permanent marker. Once Nana was happily ensconced in her room, I went to ours and wrote out big notes for her that I distributed around her room in key zones: next to her handbag by the bed, by the door, and on top of her suitcase. They were all variations of the following: NANA, DIANA AND LLEW ARE RIGHT NEXT DOOR, ROOM 8. WE’RE IN TAREE, ON THE WAY UP TO BALLINA TO SEE KATE AND KIDS. STAY PUT!!
I’m pleased to say – quite chuffed with myself, actually – that these notes did the trick. I asked Nana if they were helpful when she woke up, and she said, “As a matter of fact, yes.” And although she was confused about just about everything else on the way up, she wasn’t confused when she woke up in the morning, and that was a win. Unfortunately we had incredibly bad and dangerous weather the entire way – driving rain that they could better use down south to douse those bloody fires – which meant a slow trip and a running (read recurring) commentary from the backseat that occasionally had Llew gripping the wheel. He’s not used to the repetition, you see, whereas I’ve become quite accustomed to it. At least, I know it’s coming, I know it’s not her fault, I know she doesn’t know it’s tedious, I know there’s nothing we can do about it, so I know there’s no point getting frustrated.
“It seems to be taking a long time to get to Newcastle,” was the quote of the first half.
“We’re not going to Newcastle, Nana, we’re going to Ballina to see Kate and the kids.”
“I’ve been to Newcastle before, you know.”
“Yes. And I didn’t think it was this far away.”
So it went, and so it goes. But the good news is, she’s now there for a month’s respite. St Andrews is BRILLIANT, and my sister and the kids are seeing her every day so far, and Nana’s finally been persuaded (thanks to the attentions of one or two of the resident gentlemen – yes, already, they’re frisky these old boys) to do away with her wig and get her own hair styled instead (long story) at the on-site salon, if you don’t mind. I am just so thrilled and relieved to think that she’s enjoying herself so far – when Kate arrived the other day, Nana was off at Bingo. Dare I say it? Bingo!