I know exactly what I was doing a few weeks ago when I heard the news of my father’s court case. The verdict against the man who drove into him, and left him paralysed. I was busy making toilet paper policemen. A pretty delicate business. They kept coming apart and I had to re-attach them with sticky tape.
So as it turns out, the law is pretty flaky too. The message from the constable was that the accused pleaded guilty to drunk and reckless driving and paid R2500. She was unaware of the court date, nor was our lawyer. I have a feeling the prosecutor or judge did not get a chance to hear the full story. My father had no-one to speak for him at the moment he needed it the most.
Since then it has been a looong haul of many phone calls and messages. Yes, we are going to appeal, but goodness knows how long that will take or what the next step is.
I will take my mother’s advice and focus on other things. She has pointed that she has enough on her plate to deal with looking after my father all day long. And having spent the last week in PE with them, I can attest to that.
They start their day very early and there is a routine. Since my father has pneumonia he is on the nebuliser at least four times in a day, so that is slotted in. His morning ablutions also take time. He is lifted via a hoist onto a wheelchair that can be used in a shower. He has a morning nap. Food is given inbetween via a PEG – direct to his stomach. He has visitors. He has therapy (physio, OT, etc). He has exercises. He gets in the wheelchair for about two hours in the afternoon (afterwhich he is finished and wanting to go back to bed). In the evening my mom reads to him. He likes the paper. They are reading a funny book. Sometimes they work a bit on the computer if he is feeling well.
Every little thing you take for granted he needs help with. He has an itch. It needs a scratch. He needs water. He needs re-positioning. A fold in his clothing needs straightening. A painful shoulder that won’t quit. My mom runs up and down all day long. Literally. I kid you not. The carers do their share too, and she would be unable to exist without them. She told me she makes sure she gets sleep at night so they are definitely on duty then.
My heart breaks for him. His lost independence. Their lost dreams. But they soldier on and find things to be grateful for.
I had a very vivid dream while I was there about him walking down the passage and talking to me about a helicopter, moving his arms. And then I held him. And I saw him more closely. That despite all, he is still there. And then the dream changed and he slumped. And that reality hit me. A rude awakening.
There is a drought in PE. Rain has not fallen in ages. My friend has had to sell goats because there is no more grazing.
But in the midst of all this hardship, I have uncovered raindrops of hope. Sometimes a drizzle falls. Not much. But as if to remind us that we need to look more closely to find meaning. At little things that make me profoundly grateful.
- Nicky having fun at the beach. He loved it. We went nearly every day. He immersed himself in sea, sand and sun. He built sandcastles. He ran in the water even though it was winter. He begged me every morning to go. So we went. And he enjoyed it immensely.
- Nicky eating ice cream and getting it all over himself. And grinning about it.
- Nicky having fun on the farm. While I chatted to my friend, we met little baby goats and he had fun being pushed around in a wheelbarrow and climbing trees.
- Watching the smile on my dad’s face as he gets the wheelchair to work. One area he can control – although it is tough. He uses his arm muscles to move his fingers. The intense concentration and effort he puts in is very evident in his face.
- Watching the love between my parents. This is the steadfast, through sickness and health stuff. The real kind of love that surmounts all kinds of barriers.
- Seeing the support they have. The constant stream of visitors. The help of friends in practical ways such as fixing doors.
- Seeing the support my friend has from the community in little ways like feed being delivered for her animals.
- Seeing family and seeing Nicky building sandcastles and playing with trains with his cousins.
- Watching Nicky build lego on the floor and seeing how my dad enjoyed it, the carer helping him find lost parts and his masterpiece of a bike with ten wheels!
- My mom standing her ground against the intruders. Yelling at them to leave. Not being afraid to protect her loved ones and her home. Telling them there were no laptops or TVs and that they should leave. Being there for my mom at that time.
- Just being there. Just seeing how it all happens while admiration for my parents grows and grows.
It was a wonderful week. So precious to be with family. Despite the circumstances, that cannot be beaten.
Family matters. It really does. And I miss them. But I carry their unbeaten spirit with me into my life up here in Jozi.