Thursday, January 29, 2009

Diary: The big A

Time is a strange thing. You don't notice it creeping along until it seems to have suddenly zoomed away, catching you off guard. Today was one of those moments.

This morning I took Mum to see a memory specialist at the Prince of Wales hospital. I really thought it would be a bit of a waste of time to be honest, or maybe I've just been fooling myself. Mum has always been a bit ditsy, that's why I gave her the grandparent nickname Ninny (as in Nincompoop). But lately she's been ditsier than usual, looses her handbag, can't find the front door of our house, says something completely daft. Family friends have phoned me on more than one occasion, worried about her forgetting lines on stage but I've been advocating retirement for years. There have been other phone calls though, about Mum bursting into tears. Confusion, anxiety.

But it all adds up doesn't it? When the right questions are asked a pattern starts to appear. The nurse asked if Mum gets agitated from something she described as 'sensory overload' and a piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Mum is repeatedly commenting on planes going over, how many cars are on the road, so many people everywhere. Suddenly I realised why Mum has been so overbearing when I've taken her out with Tom recently, why she has been so fearful and difficult and why the last few excursions have been such a disaster with me loosing my temper then berating myself afterwards. I've been irritated and annoyed, not realising this is actually a symptom.

The doctor had Mum do some brain tests. Simple things, like knowing what day, month and year it is. Can you remember an address? Can you think of twenty words that start with the letter P? How many animals can you name? Can you identify simple pictures of objects? Can you repeat a drawing of a wireframe cube? Can you draw a clock?

Like I said, it happens in small increments, so you don't see it coming. Mum defers to Dad to answer questions or finish sentences, but it feels like she's always done that. I start to wonder when I accepted this. Mum used to speak her mind. I used to complain of her stubborness. She used to command the microphone at functions, not stand blithely by a stage manager. Stupidly I've been taking it personally that she doesn't seem to make any decisions lately without deferring to Dad. But now I see how lost she is without him prompting her.

The brain test has been completed and marked. I look over the answers as the doctor speaks and recognise Mum's loopy script. There are false starts here and there scribbled out in biro. The clock face has been drawn a couple of times but not completed. A picture of a crown has been labelled 'cake', then crossed out and renamed 'king'. There are five animals listed. Although my head is starting to spin I reassure myself that at least this test is quantifiable, that these results will show the line where Mum's eccentricity stops and her 'memory problems' as we've begun to call them, begin. At least now I'll know what I'm dealing with.

The doctor is a kind man. He has very pale skin and large ears, his voice is reassuring and gentle. The perfect bedside manner for dementia patients I think to myself. He seems used to hearing odd answers that don't match the question he's asked. My parents ramble on about how Mum's career got started, I've heard this story one hundred times or more and question its relevance. But the doctor doesn't seem to mind or be in any hurry. I hear Dad say "my wife was a party girl" and I remember her when I was young hosting dinner parties and cooking her signature 'thousand leaf cake'. The doctor speaks with measured words and hesitates before he announces his diagnosis. Mild to moderate Alzheimer's. I am in shock.

Suddenly it seems, my parents are old. Dad has to repeatedly visit the men's room, cane in hand. His hands look papery, not plump like they used to, and I notice them tremble when he's using them. I look down and see Mum's toenails painted bright red, visible in little white toe-peeper shoes. More skin than nail has been painted and I'm struck with sadness. I hear Dad telling the doctor they've only recently retired, finished the big house move, they want "a few good years", he sounds like he is trying to bargain. The doctor can prescribe medication but it is not a magic bullet. They talk to Dad and I about the importance of structure, familiarity and routine. Things I know about with regard to raising children. They look worried when Dad mentions the idea of going on a cruise. How bad is this, I am starting to wonder.

It is a strange family I belong to, my parents thank the doctor and his assistant repeatedly and discuss how nice they were on the way home. Dad thinks it didn't go too badly. Mum is more worried about me feeling cold in the hospital's air conditioning. Do they not realise the implications of this diagnosis, or are they keeping their true feelings hidden? I decide on the way home the first thing I will do is hug my husband and children, and I will live today, not for tomorrow.

Not to be printed without written permission of the writer Katie Little.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

The year of the Ox is predicted to be a conservative year, one of traditions and values. Not a year to be outrageous, but a slow and steady year. Patience and diligence should bring stability and growth. 

It is easy to find out which horoscope you are on the internet - if you were born in January or February though be careful looking up your sign as the day of Chinese New Year changes according to the lunar cycle. A good place to find out your sign is here 

2009 Horoscopes
Rats: A stable and joyful year for family life. Career wise, Rats will take on more responsibilities and will feel the pressure of extra duties. A good year of steady progress.

Tigers: Because of the slow pace of the Ox year it may be frustrating year. Tigers like things to move quicker so they will need to show restraint.

Rabbits: The Year of the Ox is well suited to the Rabbit nature. The slower pace will see you spending more time with friends and family. A good year to renovate or for buying and selling a house. 

Dragons: Keep your head down and you will make steady progress this year. In business and romance the key word is integrity. Established relationships will be comfortable and easy. A slow but sure progress will be made.

Snakes: A terrific year for Snakes! Act on opportunity - this is your year.

Horse: Although Horses are rearing to surge ahead, they should show caution. Not a good year to strike out in new directions. Consolidate your position instead. On the brighter side, love will bring comfort this year.

Sheep: The Ox is the direct opposite of the Sheep, therefore expect challenges in all areas. Keep a low profile.

Monkeys: A year of moderate progress for Monkeys. Work will ease allowing Monkeys more personal time. Also more quality time with friends and family.

Roosters: Great opportunities for Roosters! Great progress can be made at work, reaping rewards of your labour. A good time to recoup losses. Prestige and reputation improve and emotional ties bring joy.

Dogs: Simple pleasures will bring happiness this year. Put more attention into home matters and spending quality time with loved ones.

Pigs: A year for Pigs to follow their instinct, laying foundations for the future. This is a bright and hopeful year for the Pig. Do not take unnecessary risks though.

For more in depth horoscopes check out this page.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Diary: Summer Holidays

The break is nearly finished and just like our visit to Luna Park the holiday has been quite a rollercoaster ride. 

The build up to Christmas is always so busy and exciting. 'Santa' brought many presents this year and then Tim's family came to stay which was action packed - six adults, five children (and two dogs!) in the one house. We visited Luna Park, the Powerhouse and Maritime Museums, went ice skating, and watched the New Year's fireworks from Clarke's Point Reserve. The kids got along so well and there was always someone up for cracking a beer or bottle of champagne. Peter and Tim went out walking each day and comparing photos online. Boopy swept, Susan washed and folded, I unpacked the dishwasher. Tom and Tommy raced trikes and ended up with matching elbow scabs. Charlotte discovered coco bombs. Ella danced like Upsy Daisy and clapped Miss Mary Mac with me. Holly listened to her iPod and wore her Miss Chatterbox Tshirt. Greg loved my homemade dips and practiced reading with Ella. And we all discussed many ways to put in a swimming pool.

But alas, the party had to end - the guests flew home and our responsibilities returned, as did access to our bathroom. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Diary: 2009

Today it was very windy and I was trying to fold a very large doona cover that flapped loudly. All I could think about was this wonderful mental image of being lifted into the sky by it, like a modern day Mary Poppins. Little me, pulled away up into the sky by a big parachute of clean laundry. 
Where would I be taken to I wonder? 
Somewhere sweet and gentle I hope, tender and loving and kind. 

Social Media Share

Get widget