Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Old Hand (or Notes from TWATEOTU #4)

OK, well, I'm here now.  It's taken a few days to settle my head in properly this time, because this time it really is very different.  Almost identical to any one of the dozens of times I have previously come to stay at respite in terms of how I packed, what I brought, what had to be done behorehand, but then it's the teeny differences that give the game away. For this time I have not come to stay a spell at respite; I have moved to Hospice.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon as planned, carrying the same bags I always carried, into the same room they put me in whenever it's available, 8D.  It's at the end of the row of four more-or-less identical rooms on the wing, and is wonderful at this time of year because it alone of the four gets late afternoon sunlight streaming in.  It also tends to be the quietest, being furthest from the common kitchen/dining room.  Really, just like home.  In fact, now, it is home.

The NW view from my verandah, out across the valley.

The thing that feels most different now is my sense of comparative self when I consider my neighbours, of whom there are currently two, both women.  I'd not really consciously noticed it before, but previously I'd tend to assume that my neighbours would more likely than not be leaving - permanently, that is - before I did, as I expected to return home as my next thing.  Now I have no such assumption whatsoever.  At one point yesterday afternoon, as I lay half-dozing and half-listening to another round of Loud Talking Family Continually Trying Very Hard To Quieten Down The Kids From Squalling, Really, Sorry, We're Trying, I was suddenly seized by a maddeningly itchy curiosity to know my neighbours' prognoses.

I know, horrible, right?  In the middle of all this profound realness, bathed in the sidelight of our humble ward's proximity to the glow of the Other Side, my ego still wants to rank itself longevity-wise against its peers. Pathetically habitual. It didn't last long, but boy did I notice its fierceness as it arose.  It was the part of me that looks to know the pecking order; nothing more sinister than that old social habit.

We all do it, scan the entire proximal human landscape with our finest sensor arrays and seek to position ourselves in an internal landscape that matches pleasingly with our self-perceptions/delusions if possible just so as we can be comfortable making human contact.  But seriously, playing who's sickest?

Sure, I'm sure it's natural, it's just that I never looked at it before.  I was always in some ways still just a visitor, with all the usual disclaimers about certainty in life in place as usual.  Now I realise I am in fact one of those folks whose names I'd see repeatedly over the months.  In, out, back for longer or shorter ... then here for one last visit.  Sometimes those last visits would announce themselves symptomatically, and you knew from the sound of things - or sometimes from the giveaway presence of a tidal wave of family - that it would be a short stay.  Other times you just knew they were here "until."

I am now here "until."

Of the three of us, I am the "old hand."

I'll keep y'all posted.

The view from my armchair. Nice, eh?  That's my Echinocactus grusonii in a pot.  It's my favourite plant, so Meeta brought it up.  Soil from home, and all that. I have had it since it was smaller than a golf ball.

Maybe one day it will grow up to be a big fine specimen like one of these, eh?


  1. I run that script in my mind all that time. I walk past Michael Booth's memorial bench in the Park every day: nyah nyah! we were born in the same year. I was born in the same year as George Harrison and Lal Waterson - but I gave up smoking: nyah nyah! Joni Mitchell is two weeks older than me, but she has Morgellons syndrome, and I don't: nyah nyah! Sam Shepard was at least arrested for DUI more recently than me. I'm much better preserved than Keith Richard who's a month younger. And there must be something wrong with Robbie Robertson and Mick Jagger ...

  2. Ha, even I, at the ripe young age of not more than forty, started playing the "not dead yet" game in my head. I can' remember when it started actually, maybe about the time a friend first overdosed fatally I suspect. So, well, when I was a teenager. Never got done for DUI, which is something of a minor miracle in itself, and a thing for which I ask everyone's forgiveness. Sorry I drove on your roads stupid drunk people. I won't do it again. Promise. Nor will you, I wager, my mmagus-tic friend. :-)