Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bearing Gifts

It's just over two years since my mother died and I have thought about her every day since.

In the early days I could remember only how she was when she was in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease. Her helplessness and despair as the mists began to swirl and she knew she would soon cease to be counted as a person who mattered and become instead an object of pity - someone of lesser value. Then that blank stare, the rage in her eyes when she became agitated in the late afternoon. 'Go awaaaay!' she'd scream.

It was so painful and exhausting to watch, relieved only by the joy of witnessing my father's devotion to my mother - his sweetheart of 65 years.

These days I remember other times. She was funny, my mother, with a wide smile that revealed one slightly crooked eye tooth. I remember how excited she was to see me, how she refused to allow me to help her in the kitchen when I visited because I was her honoured guest. It's hard to lose that kind of love and especially hard  to lose it to Alzheimer's.

But my mother's disease also brought with it many gifts, one of which was completely unexpected.

When my book, Alzheimer's: a Love Story, was first published, I dreaded hearing readers' stories. My own experience was so raw I thought it would be too painful for me to hear about other people's. But to my surprise I found that I loved it, and I could see too how much it meant to these strangers to share their stories.

Gradually I realised that it's because these journeys we take as we farewell those we love are so lonely and so difficult but also so rich and rewarding that they change us forever. When we tell each other about our journeys, these readers and I, we recognise our fellowship and we feel less alone.

I mention all this now because I am discussing my experience next Sunday at the Well-Being group in the hall at 2pm at St Mark's Anglican Church, 21 Beatty Street, Reservoir (just off Gilbert Road).

Come along if you're free, and join us for what I know will be a moving and enjoyable afternoon.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wombat Ben

It's been many months since there was an occupant in the Onemilebridge wombat Hilton. So long in fact that today Farmdoc and I opened the door to allow wallabies to come in and graze on the grass there. It's about waist height.

Yesterday we had a little preview visit with its next occupant, wombat Ben, who'll be coming to us at the end of this year. For now he still has some growing to do. Until he comes to us he will live with his foster parents. There he has the run of the house, with occasional supervised visits outdoors.

This visit was a special treat because by the time wombats come to us they are too old and too large for cuddles and human affection, and for their own sake we don't encourage them to bond with us. Our job is to prepare them for the wild.

But at eight months wombat Ben is still young enough to need cuddles and affection in order to develop properly.

He weighs six kilos right now and is still bottle fed several times a day. 

And, like any toddler, he  takes his naps in a sleeping bag in a cot surrounded by snacks and toys.

My brother and sister-in-law came with us so they too had the rare privilege of a cuddle with a young wombat.

Keep growing, wombat Ben. The wombat Hilton will be ready when you are.