This morning I awake to hear from the next room a fluent and sustained tirade/telling off delivered in high tones from one our care-workers who is obviously starting her shift. I don’t know what the subject of her ire was nor her probably well-reasoned justification for it but what I do object to is her tone of moral indignation. I also know that my neighbours are an old married couple; she has a rare type of senile dementia which involves wailing and moaning at night and he is stressed out and nearing the end of his tether. It reflects one of the underlying problems of the resources of a (western) culture barely being able to cope with the problem of how to treat old people in an ageing society. What she is now sister, you will be – Memento Mori.
(Someone has evidently popped a couple of moral high-ground tabs into her tea this morning).
Today is a hot Saturday morning in late May; I didn’t sleep well and wake with a thick head, like someone suffering from a completely underserved hangover; I look out onto the warm, red terracotta roofs and study a dovecot where pigeons take off and land, congregate, hobnob and generally shoot the shit about the morning’s columbo-gossip. I then listen to News Quiz on BBC 4 online, which is a funny, witty and irreverent view of week’s news in the UK; I chuckle appreciatively as I listen – I’m a great believer in the maxim «no day can be complete if one has not laughed» and indeed a sense of humour, however dark, helps me to endure my far from ideal existence.
These days I am more «autonomous in my sanitary needs » and now spend more time in my bathroom than an anxious teenager preparing for her first date; a lurching awkward dance between toilet and wash basin, between grab-bar and frame and, standing with legs carefully spaced and braced, I fumble with toothbrush and electric razor; but the result is, one may say, satisfactory.
Just before lunch I descend to the main floor and visit the nurse, to whom I offered my latest painting – Dream 0f Butterfly– last weekend, and am bathed and soothed in the presence of her niceness. Consider this person: drop-dead gorgeous and soft-voiced with a caring manner, she is smart (studying for a Master’s degree), very sympathetic and, get this, guess where she works – in the oncology department of the local hospital! Doesn’t the wretched woman have any faults?
Lunch is the usual uninspired and unappetizing fare; suffice it to say that the best part the meal is the thoughtful cup of coffee from the machine.
About six weeks ago I made the conscious decision to withdraw from the life of the Home and retreat to the fastness of my second-floor room where I have everything I need, my books for my delectation, my laptop for work and recreation, my TV for News, my DVD for movies, my bathroom for sanitation, my corridor for exercise and finally the terrace for fresh air and a bit of sun. I paint in the deserted library (or rather book museum) on the first floor. I would have it so. I descend only for meals, doctor’s appointments and, of course, my physiotherapy sessions which I prize above all things .
And so it has been this afternoon: I laboriously write this, drink water, walk up the corridor on my frame, do breathing exercises at the end, walk back down the corridor, continue to write this, drink more water, go into the bathroom and so on andso forth. The weather is close and darkening, the mutter of thunder can be heard. We’ll probably have a storm later, which will clear the air, will it not?
Tomorrow my two boys are visiting me – it will be good to see them.
Tonight after dinner, of which I’m expecting almost nothing, I’ll probably stay on in the calm of the deserted dining room with the hot evening sun slanting in from the windows at the side of one or two of the old dears who are waiting to go up to bed.