I was just sitting in the back of the car while Neil drove, Dad sat in the front, singing his heart out to Frank Sinatra. I was remembering. Times spent with Dad, in the home and the trips that we frequently take him on.
One such time, we went to Waiwera, and found ourselves in an area that was not too familiar with me. It was along a single road, on the beachfront, but in an area that was quite private. We parked the car, and I helped Dad out. It was a lovely sunny day, so we ventured onto the beach, however, Dad seemed a bit unstable, so I held his hand to steady him.
It was odd. I hadn’t held Dad’s hand like that, since I was sixteen years old. One remembers these things. The moments when subtle little changes become the norm, and holding hands with your father was no longer the ‘done’ thing.
But on this particular day, he needed me. And I was there. I guess the little girl in me, needed him in that moment too. It didn’t last long, but it was just us, just a special moment in our collective history, that will always remain with me.
Walking through the home, alongside Neil, I held Dad’s hand again today. He was a little nervous, as we had to walk a different way than usual, but he gripped my hand as I led him through the maze of hallways.
He can’t think of much to say at the moment, but he does remark time and again, how much he enjoys Neil and I! It’s lovely. His shock of hair standing on end, his teeth seemed to have moved and he’s developed a lisp now. His hands, like my Nana’s, are bony and slender. His appetite seems to have returned, which is a big relief!
I knew walking into the theatre, that I was setting myself up for an abundance of emotion and tears. And I wasn’t wrong. But it turns out, they weren’t mine. Well, not till the last five minutes, and then I felt myself crack.
To my left was a young couple, who found the content too much, and left part way through the movie, utterly sobbing. With all of the best intentions, I wanted to go to that young lady and tell her it was ok, that she wasn’t alone. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her I completely understand; but I actually don’t.
You see, for each of us who are the child of a Dementia sufferer, there are coping mechanisms we have formed; there are emotions we won’t show; there are areas where our experiential expertise don’t cover. And therefore, whilst we should have empathy and compassion for all concerned, we shouldn’t go butting our imposter noses into other’s suffering. We need to be invited into the suffering, then offer ourselves to the one hurting.
The movie, ‘The Father’ is a brilliant portrayal of a Dementia sufferer, through his own eyes. I clicked onto that notion with a couple of scenes at the beginning of the movie. As the storyline unfolded, evidence of my own Dad, came raring to the forefront, and I was left feeling somewhat vindicated.
The non stop comparisons. The nit picking. The angry outbursts of swearing and cursing. The silent treatment. The endless demands. The accusations of being up to no good. These are all things that my Dad heaped on me, time and time again. Fortunately I have a wonderful husband, great brothers and a mother with the patience of a Saint – although since long divorced from my Dad – still a loving friend and a great listening ear for me.
If any of you are either curious, or have a loved one battling Dementia or Alzheimer’s, then I thoroughly encourage you to go and see this movie. It helps tremendously. It gives such a compelling insight into the mind of a former intellect, who now is at the mercy of this dreaded affliction. Anthony Hopkins gives a stellar performance, bringing all the pain, emotion and frustration right towards you.
I walked into Dad’s Dementia unit the other day, and there he was, sitting having a cup of tea and biscuits. His hair sticking up like a scarecrow, runny nose and scruffy jumper aside, the smile that greets you, is immense. He’s like a kid in a candy store, and he knows he’s about to have a lot of candy! Always the question, ‘are we going out now for something to eat then a drive up north?’ Always, a kiss and hug and the words, ‘you’re the best thing in the world.’ Of course I am; I’m the Sugar Fairy and Taxi operator! 🙂
Coming back from our afternoon excursion, I was shocked to see a formerly vibrant and active resident, now needing a carer on both sides, to assist her walking. Colleen, was a gummy bear, who refused to wear her teeth; could swear like a trooper; and propositioned my husband on our first day there, asking him to meet her in the laundry afterwards! She loved dancing, and could flirt up a storm; if only in her own mind. It was nothing for her to stroke my arm and do a little jig with me, then start weeping. On the flipside, she could spot me across the room and start marching towards yelling expletives, and promising to ‘get me!’
My heart is saddened, for I know the day will come when my Dad will need that kind of help too.
In the meantime, when he sits in the café with us, his latest fixation is on the ‘fire exit’ sign, alongside the ‘toilets’ sign. His most recent revelation? Toilets are where you go poos and wees!!
One week before we as New Zealanders went into total Lockdown, the Rest Homes and Aged Care facilities made the decision to go into full Lockdown for the sake of their ailing Residents. At the time, we were lead to believe that the Coronavirus, Covid-19 or Sars-Covid-2, was most lethal towards the elderly and infirmed. Unfortunately for our country, this proved to be true. Most of our small cases of deaths, were indeed in the Rest Homes.
Dealing with not seeing Dad was something that I was consciously aware of when our Prime Minister started to make daily addresses to the public regarding Lockdown. Then the day hit when I realised there would be no visiting him at all, and I didn’t get the chance to warn him! However, all was not lost, as I was able to speak to him on the phone, and the home was able to arrange a couple of Skype calls.
Dad was actually quite funny on those Skype calls – he recognised us, but couldn’t understand why our faces were appearing on a computer! The whole conversation lasted three minutes and fifty one seconds.
Yes folks, that enabled me to stop worrying indeed.
When I was able to visit Dad eventually after ten weeks, I had to go through a whole routine of sanitisation, form filling and mask wearing. Dad didn’t even realise it was me until I quickly lifted the mask up so he could see my entire face!
He understood that I wasn’t able to take him out, he actually was more concerned that there were other patients coming up and staring at me, and he was trying to shoo them away J
I have to say, in this instance there was so much unprecedented things happening in our world, but I learnt not to worry about Dad. The staff again, were utterly brilliant and would keep us informed with emails, texts and the occasional photographs of Dad. He was being entertained and kept busy, so that relieved a whole lot of pressure off of me. Phew!
I’m not here to bash our Prime Minister, I believe that she is doing what she can with the knowledge and resources available to her. Nor will I bash our Health Minister, because he again, is being guided by all the statistics, the resources and the information that is given to him at all times during the day. I won’t bash the workers who have relentlessly put themselves out there in the public, dealing with all the confusion of masks, handwashing, sanitisation, social distancing, and taking large pay cuts. I think of those who have lost their jobs and who now are facing an even more uncertain future. I am so mindful of the children, here at home, being homeschooled and trying to be taught by parents and care givers who may not have the experience, expertise or the patience to delve into academia.
But I will address, the New Zealand public.
By and large, I know that most people have tried their best to follow the ads on tv, the things to read on the internet, the messages from the Prime Minister and the Health Minister. I know that a large majority of us have tried to follow the rules, do what’s best and keep safe.
But there are those of us who have been horrible. Those who have blatantly flailed the rules, have gone out of your way to do whatever it is they wanted, when they wanted, and to hell with the rest of us. Those who have walked into the places where my daughters have worked, and have gotten up in their faces, have verbally abused them, have terrified them and have left them shaken. Those who have yelled and abused myself, my husband and my son when we were deemed Essential workers, and had no necessity to do so. We had the paperwork, we followed the protocols set out for us and yet, some felt that from their homes, from behind their fences and just from their front yards, they could just yell whatever they wanted at us. Well they can’t!!
We as parents, made the decision that even though we could have carried on, we won’t work under those pressures, nor allow our son to carry on in those conditions. Now that the level has dropped and the run has resumed, we have still said no.
I can’t count the amount of times that my strong daughters have walked through the door straight into my arms, bawling their eyes out after a shift of non stop abuse. But yet the self entitled ignoramouses think it’s ok to speak to others on the frontline, like they are a piece of dirt. I was more than mortified when it was named that OUR supermarket made the front page of the news for a woman my age punching one of the shop’s Managers. How is this ok? The other supermarket carpark had fights breaking out and brawling, over things that I can’t even remember.
In all my years walking the roads of Aotearoa, New Zealand, I have never been more ashamed and baffled with my fellow brethren. I can’t even begin to look at people the same anymore, because the fact is, we have changed – as a people and as a nation. We have a wonderful aspect to us, being Kiwis; we are renowned worldwide for our kind, caring and laid back nature, our welcoming attitude, but I dare say that has by and large changed now. It’s interesting that if you scratch the surface, what’s been festering underneath sure does come out, and this Lockdown has proved that to us, here at home. The insistance of over the top narcissitic monstrosities who think they are better than the rest of us, and do deserve the right to speak to others like they are dumb animals, well I do declare, that isn’t right!
I wish that this Lockdown had brought about a greater sense of community and unity amongst us, but to alot of us who’ve borne the behaviour of the walking dead, we’ve seen society’s nastiness in full bloom.
There is so much for us to fear, so much misinformation. None of us know who to trust, where to get information that is correct and true, rather than fitting the accepted narrative. There is also much for us to look forward to. But we as a people, we as a nation, we have to do better. We can’t expect to abuse each other and then when the final level of Lockdown ends, think we can just carry on with normal life – normal life has gone now. None of us know who and what, where and how things will be, laws that have quietly been implemented, technologies that have been invented and new rules that have been put forward.
I’m sorry that my honesty may have offended some individuals, but I can no longer sit back and allow people to treat my family and those wonderful Essential Workers nationwide, like utter crap.
Will we do better when the next thing hits?
I pray we do.
When I wrote the above piece, I chose to leave out a very important part — I now have permission to write about it 🙂
Both our girls started to present with symptoms that were congruent with Covid-19. At the insistance of the Manager at one of their workplaces, they both spoke to a Registered Nurse and were told to immediately head for the nearest testing station, in our case, up in Wellsford.
After the initial ‘brain tickle’, the girls had to spend a few days home whilst awaiting the results. I had fortunately bought some high quality Silver Sol, which is more potent than Collodial Silver, and had administered this to them, alongside very high doses of Vitamin C. We then had to lock our gates, put a notice on said gates and quarantine ourselves until the results were in. I’ve never felt such stress in my body before. It wasn’t until the very last morning that I got a handle on it, and by that afternoon we received the results.
To date, this was the hardest part of Lockdown!
So, until next time peoples, stay well and God bless you all <3
And so here we are celebrating you, the wonderful glorious young woman Stephanie Dannella Alexandra Hornell!
What a privilege and honour to be your Mumma, to be your friend and rival Unicorn admirer in this life!
I’ve wanted to write about you for the longest time. but I couldn’t find the words.
Today the words found me….
I can’t remember life too much before you, it simply doesn’t seem worthwhile to do so. You were the prayer most deepest in my heart, the cry of my soul, the longing for the greatest and hardest job ever – Motherhood. I didn’t want a great career, loads of money or even a husband actually. All I every truly desired deep in my truest soul, was you. When I discovered on my 22nd birthday that you were there inside of me, well I think you know I felt, and still feel to this day. As a person who cherishes words and likes to express them, Steph you left me speechless.
I think most people know you took a VERY long time to arrive (52 hrs peoples!) but when you got here, the rejoicing was endless. Uncle Tony doing his version of an Indian Rain Dance; Aunty Caroline holding you and smiling deep into your eyes; Nana just dying to get hold of you; Poppa holding you and singing; your Dad just overwhelmed and me……..looking into your dreamy eyes and feeling whole for the first time in my life. Knowing that I did something right, and you were IT.
I remember that evening, being surrounded by eleven people around my cubicle in the hospital, just mesmerized at this wee baby, and my how you slept. Six hours straight, and I just didn’t want to sleep because I was so afraid that you were a dream. That if I woke up, you wouldn’t be there. And there you were, and here you are now.
I’ve watched you grow up and marvelled at different aspects of your personality as you grew. Your only dolly that you really loved, you renamed Ashley after your baby cousin, and that dolly is still in this house. You were more of a matchbox car girl, playing out in the mud and being a racecar driver! You were certainly far more interested in burning ants outside with a magnifying glass, than being inside and raiding my make up cupboard – that delight went to your sister 😉
I would scratch my head and throw my hands up in the air when you had dismantled something YET AGAIN to see how it worked, and then struggled to put it back together! That’s been the mainstay in your life – your mind and your inner workings are still such a mystery to me, but I behold that gift with great majesty and wonder.
Then when things like puberty hit and your body started changing, that was such a hard time for you. Horrible comments from family members about weight etc, they were arrows in your gentle sensitive soul. The nastiness of some around you have weighed heavily on you, but somehow you manage to rise above it and still remain so beautiful, whilst I’m wanting to lop off their heads and tell them to sod off! You have known great rejection and abandonment in your life, yet I’ve never seen you reject a single soul.
Loyalty and faithfulness are big for you, and I so deeply apologise that others have not honoured that within you. I again, have stood by and marvelled at how others could treat you so badly and then smile at your face 🙁 I only know that in time, they will reap what they have sown, and that their own pain has clouded their own beautiful souls.
I have witnessed your unconditional love towards your siblings – all of them – and your love runs so deep, you had their initials tattooed on your wrist. I didn’t understand at the time, but I do now, and that you did that to physically show your love towards them blesses me immensely. Your Mumma is so proud darling <3
Your head wobble thing you do, your sass, your individuality and knowing who you are deep inside – these are things that I couldn’t teach you, they are what life has taught you. Your humour and quick wit are still a wonder to behold – who knew I would birth a frecken comedian?!
You bring so much love, so much goodness to our world, and I’m so blessed to have been the one to raise you. I don’t take my job as your Mother lightly, I never will. You were the greatest gift I had ever received and every day I am so grateful you are here. Your being, your soul, your heart, your talents, your goodness, your grace – they bless this world and we are surely all much better individuals for knowing and loving you.
My girl – my first True Love, I honour you today with all that I have, and thank God for the woman you are: Stephanie Hornell.