Tuesday, July 16, 2013

one two / one two

Alf’s daughter Susan answers the door.
‘He fell in the living room,’ she says, standing aside to let us in. ‘I tried, but for some reason I just couldn’t get him up this time.’

Alf is lying stretched out on the carpet, a cushion under his head. Ten years ago he would have been a formidable figure, six feet tall, broad, powerful, a haze of navy tattoos up his arms, a boxer’s nose. But Parkinson’s Disease has undermined all that, wreaking its particular horrors alongside the blander depredations of old age. Alf has been felled like some grand old oak of the forest.

‘Who’s this?’ he says, straining to see.

Susan is dressed in a black t-shirt and slacks. She’s pale, quietly spoken, hunched over. Her mother Vi is there, too, an eighty-six year old projection of the daughter, same profile, same demeanour, but thinner, quicker. Lighter on her feet, actually.

‘What do you want?’ says Vi. ‘Cuppa tea or sommat?’

We get Alf back on his feet. He staggers, holds. We try to walk him to the toilet because he urgently needs to go. It takes ten minutes to make it as far as the kitchen, just next door.

‘Come on, Dad. Don’t forget,’ says Susan, holding his hand. ‘One, two. One, two. Like they said.’
He does the Parkinsonian shuffle, like someone glued his slippers to the floor for a prank.

One, two. One, two.

 ‘It’s going!’ he says. ‘I’m losing it!’ He voids his bladder on the laminate flooring.
‘Not to worry,’ says Susan. ‘Let’s get you a chair to sit on, then we’ll clean you up and fetch you some clean pants.’
‘Sorry,’ he says.
We clean him up.

Things aren’t progressing well. Alf is shakier than normal; the worry is that on top of everything else he’s developed a urinary tract infection. He’s not safe to leave at home, so after some discussion we decide to take him to hospital.
‘Just a minute,’ says Vi. ‘I’ll fetch him down his jimmies.’
It’s extraordinary to see how she goes up the stairs. She’s like some hyperactive, octogenarian spider, taking the steps two at a time, hauling herself up by the handrail, her knotty back crooked and bobbing, her slippered feet digging into the plush.

She’s back in no time.

‘There you go, darling,’ she says, dropping to her knees and manipulating Alf’s legs to feed the pyjama bottoms on. ‘Don’t you look a picture.’
Before we go, she cradles his face in both her hands and gives him a big, sloppy kiss on the lips.
‘See you later,’ she says. ‘Be good.’


Cassandra said...

That's nice to see his family standing by him, even though he's deteriorated so far. They aren't impatient or rude, they just matter of factly deal with the problems and love on him. That's great.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Cassandra
A really lovely family doing the best they can to cope with a devastating illness. They kept a beautiful garden, too - I can just imagine Vi out there in her housecoat, taking care of the borders!

jacksofbuxton said...

Bloody awful thing Parkinson's.I cut the hair of a couple of people with it.Nice to see the family so committed to Alf though.

Spence Kennedy said...

It certainly makes the top ten of things you hope you never get. Any of those degenerative neuro conditions. But Alf's family were very inspiring. Just getting on with it, really. Alf strongly reminded me of my Uncle John (which is probably TMI, but there you go). :)

Anonymous said...

oh Spence you've got me in tears again, poor man but with a lovely family.
We rarely get close these days and to see that lovely woman cradle her man is true love - blessing to them all and you too

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Lollipop

Getting to meet people like that is def one of the perks of the job. A lovely family, doing the best they can under dreadful circumstances - the more dreadful, of course, because he'll only get worse. The good news about that, though, in some small measure, is that when he does deteriorate, there'll be more help available.