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Thursday, 25 December 2014

A solitary Christmas

It's 27 degrees Celsius and I have just eaten a breakfast of overripe bananas and white coffee. The streets are virtually deserted, as though everyone on the earth had just stopped breathing at the same instant, and died. A lone garbage truck runs down the street to the communal bin, to empty it. In an hour or so I will do my only chore for the day: I will go down to the food store and pick up a roast chicken I ordered for Christmas, so I might have some comestibles today that resemble a real Christmas lunch. Apart from that, I will be continuing to sort through my father's old records, shredding the useless and bizarre and keeping the useful and interesting.

I never planned to have a Christmas day as bleak as this.

Out the window the nacreous sky is half overcast and half clear, like some paisley patchwork of God's design that isn't quite finished. It reminds me that I am just halfway through a major transition that started really back in March when the idea of moving my mother into permanent residential care first arose. It would have been around the time she and I went to see her regular geriatrician. He listened to my concerns and suggested a nursing home to mum. I can still see her sitting in his hospital chair, curved and tiny like a doll. In my mind he has odd socks on like he always did. One of the loud shirts he always wore. He is bending down to speak directly into my mother's face from where he perches in the consulting room on the day bed.

I often spoke to my mother about a nursing home after that but she always said "I don't think I need to go into a nursing home yet." We would discuss the realities. We talked about how G and I were doing all the work while she was just getting more and more forgetful every month. If we came around to an understanding one day, that understanding would be completely forgotten the next day, and she would just switch back to her default setting: "I don't think I need to go into a nursing home yet." This state of affairs continued until June.

In June, we got the accountants involved because of the changed rules the government was introducing after 1 July for how payment of aged care was calculated. In future it would be based on a calculation of not only income but also assets. I worked with the accountant to see how the family would go, if we would be better off or worse off under the new regime. During those discussions with mum, me and the accountant - a firm the family had used for over 30 years - the penny finally dropped and mum started to acknowledge the wisdom of moving into care.

I don't remember exactly why I started to look into nursing homes again in November but it might have had something to do with the government assessment of mum for care levels expiring in April. In any case, I had decided that April would be a good time to move, for financial reasons. Aged care is not cheap and we had to find cash for the bond. Out of four nursing homes I called on the phone only one had places free. It was in Sydney. I had decided I wanted to move back to Sydney, and mum's moving into a nursing home was the ideal time to do that. The facts form into patterns and split apart and float free. Reasons emerge complete, and then dissipate into indecision. I cannot remember precisely what happened in what order. All I know is that we finally came to move mum down to Sydney on 10 December, two weeks ago. And that is why I am celebrating Christmas alone.

It's a bit odd celebrating Christmas when the thermometer is sitting at 27 degrees Celsius. I think it's got something to do with the pioneer ethos (I look out the window and see noone on the streets, the streets are virtually deserted today). You make do with what you're given, you improvise, and you thrive. Under the Southern Cross we have adapted the rituals of Christmas to suit the climate. The old forms take on new meaning when they're given new colours to dress themselves in.

1 comment:

Neil said...

So you are back in Sydney then. I am spending Christmas with a cousin here in Wollongong -- probably the last time this particular cousin and I were together at Christmas was some time way back in the last century and in The Shire.