My Dad’s a Goldfish – In the garden centre cafe

I know it has been a very long time since I posted on this blog. I haven’t completely abandoned it but life – various writing projects, a temporary job over the summer, a new book out – has got in the way. I am now, finally, working on pulling the Goldfish blog posts together to form a coherent (I hope) memoir.

I have also been writing more poems – I call them my dad poems. I’ve posted one or two here in the past and this is a fairly new one although I wrote a blog post about the event a while ago. I’m experimenting and really would appreciate comments on whether it works or not. Has the story been pared down too much? Does it work as a poem or does the story only work as prose?

In the garden centre cafe
You only manage one bite of banoffee pie
before you need to ‘spend a penny’.
I push the wheelchair to the toilets
but you want to go in alone
totter off, stick in hand while
I wait.

And wait.

Should I bang on the door?
Find someone to break it open?

Finally, you emerge, sadness
in the eyes which meet mine.
You hand me
with quiet dignity your underpants
sodden.
I place them with equal care
in my handbag.

You settle in the chair. In the loo
I use up all the hand towels
to dry the floor.

When I come out you have forgotten. Sometimes
I’m glad for the dementia. We return
to the banoffee pie; your favourite.

 

My Dad’s a Goldfish – A dangerous tilting to the side

Sometime after the Goldfish died we put his house on the market. The solicitor emailed me after the photos had been taken for the sales brochure. At the end of the usual solicitor-speak explanation of how things would proceed he added, ‘There appears to be a boat winch bolted in place in the hall cupboard?’ Like maybe I didn’t know.

I emailed back, ‘Don’t all bungalows come with their own boat winch?’ He suggested we remove it before people came to view the house. He didn’t have much of a sense of humour.

Why did we have a boat winch bolted to the floor of the cupboard in the hall?

It all began when the Goldfish started to tip to one side. He seemed quite unaware of the fact he was tilting over. 20141106_163917 (Small)

We’d encourage him to sit up straighter but there was no response. We tried propping him up with cushions stuffed down the side of his wheelchair but that didn’t work either. No sooner was he propped up than he started sliding over to one side again.

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Driving anywhere became a nightmare. I’d look in the mirror, see he had tipped over, head almost touching the floor, stop the car and hoist him partly upright, rearrange the cushions to support him and drive off. Ten minutes later, I’d have to repeat the process.

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We spoke to the Occupational Therapist. I think I’ve said in previous posts we were so lucky with our OT – she was fantastic. She really cared about the Goldfish. She should be cloned. She immediately referred the Goldfish to the specialists from Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital (succeeded by the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital). They visit the various regional hospitals and the Goldfish was lucky to get an appointment almost immediately.

The DH took the Goldfish to his appointment and was very impressed by their can-do approach. It seemed our problem was by no means unique. They could help. The only drawback was that, even when the wheelchair was ready, the team would not be back in Dumfries for weeks. When the DH offered to drive up to Glasgow with the Goldfish, they, seeing our desperation, agreed.

The DH was so excited when the Goldfish tried his new chair he texted me to say it was a miracle – he could sit up straight again. The chair was wonderful. It was easy to manoeuvre except for getting it in and out of the house. Neither Wee-sis nor I could do it. The steps were shallow and we had a ramp but the chair was unbelievably heavy. We did try. Coming down, even backwards was terrifying. I don’t know how the Goldfish felt about it – he seemed remarkably calm. One tiny slip and I knew the chair would be on top of me. tilt-wheelchair

We had to find a solution or acquiring the wonderful new chair would curtail the Goldfish’s outings unless the DH was always going to be around to take the chair out and in the house. Wee-sis and I could manage everything else, including winching the chair into the Doblo. It was the vehicle winch which gave us the idea – so we fitted a boat winch inside the hall cupboard, which was directly opposite the front door.

It worked a treat.

My Dad’s a Goldfish – pushing a wheelchair isn’t easy.

When I was doing my Threave Castle circuit today, which I wrote about on MarySmith’sPlace, here I met a woman pushing a wheelchair. The path is supposedly accessible to wheelchair users but the expression on her face clearly said ‘accessible it isn’t. I felt for her, remembering how I struggled on it three or four years ago – and nothing has been done to maintain it, let alone improve it, since.

I took the Goldfish down to Threave Castle to see the Ospreys, which were nesting there. He was always a keen bird watcher and was still able to identify and name them. It never failed to surprise me what things were kept in his memory bank, and what slipped away. His interest in birds started when he was a young boy, when he did as many young lads did in those days, he collected eggs, only ever taking one egg from a nest. Perhaps those  memories laid down in childhood are the strongest.

The path goes across farmland and there is often stock in the fields so there are quite a few gates at junctions with fields. I scarcely notice them when walking on my own but it was a different matter when having to negotiate them while pushing a wheelchair occupied by a fairly heavy man.

Eventually, we worked out a reasonably effective method. I pushed the chair as close to the gate as I could, leaned over, opened the gate and pushed it away from us. The Goldfish helped by prodding it further open with his walking stick then, as he removed his stick, I rushed through before the gate closed.

From time to time the Goldfish offered to get out and walk to give me a rest! I assured him it was no bother – though it was hard work, much harder than I’d ever anticipated. Short stretches of path were cemented but mostly it was rough path with unexpected dips and hollows.

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As we round a bend and the castle came into view, it was worth the effort as the Goldfish was delighted, saying he’s never been so close to it before. I vaguely wondered if I could get him into the wee boat which ferries people across but dismissed the idea. We moved on to the Osprey viewing platform where every year volunteers set up a telescope trained on the nest across the river. We are very proud to have ospreys nesting here and Wee-sis and I are regular visitors in the evening, as are lots of local people so it is quite a social outing.

At first the Goldfish couldn’t see anything but after the telescope had been adjusted I heard him exclaim and knew he’d seen the bird on the nest. The Goldfish looked round at me, beaming with pleasure.

We returned to the car park – it was much harder work going back as there is more uphill work but we managed. I mentally thanked my Pilates teacher for my strong core and decided it was a great workout for my arm muscles.

A large banner advertising the ospreys was hanging outside the visitor centre. The Goldfish read it out aloud then turned to me and said: “Ospreys, my, they would be something to see.”

My Dad’s A Goldfish – in hospital (still)

cropped-goldfish-87-1254566814ncva1.jpgThe Goldfish had been in the infirmary for almost two weeks when he was transferred to the community hospital for ‘rehab’ before coming home. During his time in the infirmary following the seizure, he had recovered from two bouts of pneumonia, had had other seizures we were not told initially about and after so long in bed had lost his mobility.

The first time we went in he was sitting in a chair beside his bed. On the notice board above his bed it said he couldn’t walk unaided and he must have two people helping him with his walking frame. The Goldfish obviously hadn’t read this and several times had attempted to get up and walk.

He was transferred on his birthday so we arrived with cake, cards, including one from the young lad with a collapsed lung who’d been in the bed opposite the Goldfish in the infirmary and gifts, Although he had no idea it was his birthday, and the news that he had reached the age of 88 didn’t seem to mean anything to him, the Goldfish was happy to tuck into his chocolate cake. He choked a few times but this in no way put him off.

Next time I went in the Goldfish had caused a bit of a panic when they’d lost him. Maybe he had read the notice and thought: “I’ll show you who can’t walk.” He’d borrowed another patient’s walker and taken himself off to explore – or maybe he thought he was going home. What worried the staff most was that they had left a door open and feared he might have got outside. They found him sitting alone in the physiotherapy department and escorted him back to his chair. Then, they fitted an alarm – an electronic tag at his age! It was a wire attached to a box gadget which sat on the bed. If he stood up and moved away the wire would slide off the item of clothing to which it had been attached setting the alarm off. A nurse would appear before he had the chance to go walkabout.

On my next visit – we went several times a day during visiting hours and at meal times to make sure he was fed – the Goldfish decided he was coming with me. He stood up and I watched for the wire to unclip itself as he moved forward. However, he picked up the box and slipped it in his pocket so the wire remained connected. I swear he winked at me.

Next time I discovered him down a corridor, sitting in a wheelchair he’d ‘borrowed’. He used it the way Fred Flintstone drove his car – feet going as fast as he could make them. “Hello, dear,” he said when he saw me, big beam on his face, eyes twinkling. Those moments of utter lucidity and clarity are astonishing and precious.