Month: October 2014

Scott Packer

I remember once, a few millennia ago, that there was a boy. A very small boy. He liked to wear his grandfather’s enormous tweed coat and aviators, to keep the ambiguity alive. Yet, being a small boy, there wasn’t much to hide. He had nothing to run from, perhaps excepting the cooties of girls his age. He hadn’t lived yet.

Or so they thought. See, this is the achievement of Scott Packer. He knew anything and everything, all and nothing of what he wanted, what the world meant and he could see the past, present and future of every being on the planet at any one time.

The boy in tweed fumbled in his pocket for one of the two notepads- both were of equal size and of equal thickness, leather bound and crinkled from coffee stain on the 4th page. They were a perfect simulacra of each other, and yet, the boy preferred only using one. He sat in the State Library of Kansas and wrote down every move of the small girl with strawberry-blonde curls opposite. Casually looking past his nose, he was in a mix of awe and horror at the vast forest of literature- both, non-fiction and history and overwhelmed at the stark silence of the forest itself. In the hall, they came and went and yet no sound of the cracking of twigs or migratory birds, made it’s way through the forest of books. And yet despite all the forest’s complexities, truths, originalities, faux pas, and jazz, the woodlands of literature had the adverse effect on Scott Packer. He turned to his notepad and recounted the number of times the small girl twiddled her hair, in relation to the amount of times she bit her lip. Che sera sera.

Closing his eyes, the boy in tweed fell. His head pounded, his stomach was pressed into his spine and his cheeks moulded to the shape of his teeth as he took a gasp of warm, fragrant air. 56 year old Scott Packer felt through his bristly excuse for a beard then dipped his leathery hand into his tattered tweed coat pocket, to fish out one of the two, leather-bound notepads. From their position perched atop his greying hair, Scott Packer retrieved his spectacles and squinted over the glare of the bonfire just in time to catch a glimpse of a silvering head of strawberry-blonde. He skirted around the carnival folk as they wiped off each other’s make-up and roasted marshmallows. Saccharine puffs of pink and white were released from their powdery encasements to reveal a sticky gloop that exploded in the mouth- but Scott Packer had no time to savour these marshmallows. Picking up the pace, he followed the woman into the side show alley to the room of kaliedescoped mirrors. From the outside, it seemed the room was no larger than a closet, but inside was a maze of mirrors reflecting off one another and each other. Scott Packer saw a feed of light from a gnat-gnawed patch in the blackness, a stream of light that failed to fill the room, but bounced off mirror to mirror to blonde curls to mirror. Scott Packer was dismayed at the rate at which the small girl had grown old- her once blonde curls disappointed him by being muddied with silver streaks. The curls of today were tightly sprung pencil shavings- curls with artificial colour at the end in an attempt to restore youthful beauty. But Scott Packer didn’t mind. This time, he recorded the lightening colour of the tips of her hair and the number of curls she had; as if it would equate to her pedantic and meticulous character. Hearing a soft, wispy, disembodied voice, he was blatantly told; “I’ve seen you before. Once or twice. And you always have a notepad. I think you’re a creep.” She eluded him once more. Che sera sera.

Frustration set in and 56 year old Scott Packer exhausted a long, exasperated sigh. Closing his eyes, his stomach pressed into his spine, his youthful body doubled over and his eyes felt as though they were spinning in their sockets. Opening them, Scott Packer no longer felt the weight of the tweed suit on his shoulders, rather the warm, rubbery hands of a tattoo artist pressing him into the cushioned table. He remembered, the money for this tat arrived in his 16th birthday card from Nan and the plastic notes were folded in the top pocket of his tweed coat, sitting on a chair in the waiting room. Distancing himself from the pain, Scott Packer thought about his notepad. He was nearly coming to the end of the first one, nearly filled it with pages of scrawlings- notations of the girl, how she had aged somewhat gracefully, what her pet peeves where, her habits too and where they got her later in life. She would have a good life, and so would he- he knew because he saw.

He had a strange gift  that didn’t come from kryptonite or radioactive spiders. No, Scott never lived under any stairs, never been to the Hundred Acre Wood and had never in fact left Kansas, (actually, he had… a few times). But he could see his past, present and future all at once and decided to write about it. She took his fancy with her peculiar mannerisms and air of fresh daisies and golden syrup. She became his muse. But in all their years, he never did have the courage to talk to her. I don’t blame him. Back to reality, Scott Packer was proud of himself, for sporting the bravery of paying the dodgiest man in town to permanently draw this à  just under his right collar bone. He saw it, somewhere once and decided to replicate it. Che sera sera.

Spine snapped like a twig, innards thrust backwards and jaw crushed, Scott Packer fell again. Before opening his eyes, this time he let his mind wander a while. Wet grit between his toes, cold clumps of itch stuck to the little hairs on his petite legs. Huge, encumbersome coat of irritating tweed that half-clung to his wet thighs and the crash of a thousand rain droplets on a tin roof. Scott Packer, aged 4, was by the seaside, tunnelling his way through a wonderland of packed sand walls of a labyrinthine nature. After working for hours, the small, small boy swimming in tweed decided he was finished and that he had indeed, built himself in. Great. How was he ever to find the girl and finish his novel now? With a sigh, he called to his Nan, whom he was unable to see over the walls of his sandy prison. Ducking under solid archways and pattering through passages, Scott Packer lost orientation and forgot his way out. Was it- Leftways? Rightways? Slantways? The labyrinth had enveloped him and sucked him into its depths but he kept on running and he never looked back.

Then he reached a sandy bench. Instead of sitting to catch his breath, Scott Packer decided to use it as a leg up- where he pulled his arms up to rest on the beach’s ground level. Looking to his right- he saw Nan, asleep under a beach umbrella. To his left- a maze of rock pools, stagnantly and curiously hiding other worlds to explore. Later. He looked forward to the endless sea, then to the end of the world- where the sea dropped off the planet as it met the sky. The greying monster reared up, frothing white at the mouth, then crashed just short of his sand castle and labyrinth- which was being inspected by a small girl. Spotting her, Scott Packer delved into his tweed coat pocket to fill in the very last few pages of the second notepad that he had- his  novel was nearly finished. She walked over to him, peered into the pit and crinkled her freckled nose. Gasping, he looked down to scrawl in his notepad and note that she was biting her lip. But his eyes only made it to her ankles at eye level- there, was a temporary tattoo of this à , furrowing his brow, Scott Packer’s eyes flicked up to hers and she squinted at him for a second.

And she turned on heel and skipped away. His ideal had eluded him once more.

Scott Packer was left with two blank pages and no ending to his novel of life.

And that is my tale of how Scott Packer’s time travelling world ended, not with a bang, but a whimper.

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Dewi.

“Language is the armoury of the human mind and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

NEWS HEADLINES

Researchers study Language Attrition in elderly.

10 Jan 11 @ 04:47pm by THOMAS MORCOMBE

Language attrition is the weakening or loss of a first or second language by an individual. It is more common to speakers who routinely use one language more than the other.The phenomenon of language loss has caught the attention of two McMaster, Canada,  professors who are determined to explore how and why this occurs.

After observing second language loss in their own mothers who were native speakers of Chinese and German, Dr. Denis Yu and Dr. Selina Stroinska of the Department of Linguistics and Languages are researching the occurrence of second language loss in the ageing population. In other words, how non-native speakers who learned English and used it competently in adulthood, begin to lose elements of the language in their elderly years, reverting to their native tongue

Their research has lead them to discover that the older a person is, the easier it is to slip into their home language. If their current tongue is their second language, then the brain will, in later life, recede into a comfort zone where it can slow down and take less effort to process and think. Often they will struggle for words and meanings or not say anything at all. Research has shown that this tendency to slip into mother tongue is often coupled with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The majority of the elderly may just find it easier to answer/respond in a comfortable and familiar tongue.

The study looked at the environment of the senior; an area where only the person’s second language is spoken is more likely to strengthen this language due to frequency and exposure, however, it they are not being directly spoken to, then they may not employ this language. To accommodate this phenomena, there has been an increase in specialised nursing homes, such as the selectively Greek or German Speaking nursing homes.

_______________

Dewi’s Dilemma:

To change the T.V channel or not.

Affirmative

  1. This music is no good to dance to. The beat is too cepat[1].
  2. Duduk di sini[2], my back hurts a little bit. Getting up might help me move around. A young carer came in and changed the channel.
  3. Hari ini hari Minggu. Dia menonton V Video Hits[3].
  4. Aduh! I didn’t know women could move that way. I didn’t think it was physically possible.
  5. Saya suka pakaiannya, dia cantik sekali[4].
  6. I suka[5] So frilly.
  7. Televisi terletak di depan saya. Televisi dekat saya[6].
  8. Saya beragama Catolik[7]. Aduh! Perempuannya kasar sekali[8].
  9. This is Christian Aged Care. Bolehkah saya[9] have some “Songs of Praise” or something?
  10. Saya tidak suka penyanyi yang terkenal ini[10].
  11. Saya lupa banyak[11].
  12. Kadang-kadang, saya suka lupa. Akibatnya, saya tidak harus pikir[12].
  13. The carer is tonton ini[13].
  14. Saya tidak mengerti[14]
  15. Saya berbahasa Indonesia[15].
  16. Saya orang Indonesia[16].
  17. I wonder if they know we don’t care for their Video Hits.
  18. Laki-lakinya akan bermain piano[17].
  19. Laki-lakinya akan matikan televisi menjadi saya mendengarkan musiknya[18].
  20. Tetapi, kapan laki-lakinya, tidak di sini, Katrina mengunjungi aku dan bermain music yang tua[19].
  21. Saya suka sekali Katrina. Karena dia berbahasa Indonesia sedikit dengan aku[20]. Or, at least she tries to.
  22. Tapi saya lupa waktu[21].
  23. Channel dua? Atau tidak channel dua[22]?

Negative

  1. Which button do I press?
  2. V Video Hits isn’t on anymore. It’s an advert tentang di laut dan obyek wisata di Yunani[23]. I wish. Saya belum mengunjungi Eropa[24].

[1] fast

[2] Sitting here

[3] It’s Sunday and he’s playing T.V Video Hits.

[4]I like their clothes. So dressy.

[5] Suka: like

[6] The T.V is in front of me. I only need to reach.

[7] I’m Catholic

[8] These gyrating women are not being respectable.

[9] may I

[10] I don’t like these singers.

[11] I forget a lot.

[12] Sometimes I like to forget. Because of this, I don’t have to think.

[13] watching, this

[14] I don’t understand

[15] I speak Indonesian.

[16] I am Indonesian.

[17] That boy plays piano.

[18] That boy turns off the TV so that I can hear his piano.

[19] But when the boy is not here comes to visit and she plays old-timey music.

[20] I really like Katrina because she speaks a bit of Indonesian with me.

[21] But I forget when.

[22] To flick to Channel 2? Or to not flick to channel 2?

[23] about the ocean and tourist attractions in Greece

[24] I’ve not yet been to Europe.

Katrina’s Recipe for Success in Caring for the Elderly

Makes one Pumpkin Pudding

 

INGREDIENTS

2 Gentle hands

1 Loving Heart, opened

¼ cup Sympathy

4 tablespoons Patience

2 Attentive Eyes

½ cup Acceptance, pre-washed/clean

1 teaspoon Compassion

2 Listening Ears

A small pinch Unconditional Kindness, to season

 METHOD

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C or 160°C for Fan-Forced. This ensures Warmth.
  2. Melt to your audience. These are old people, patients at an Intensive Care nursing home. Be mindful that most of them are of Christian denomination, for this is Christian Aged Care. Think about appropriate behaviour and language.
  3. Spread love on the old people with 2 Gentle Hands. They are fragile and delicate. Gentle hands also promote an empowerment for the old person who may be incompetent, but they still hold dignity.
  4. Enfold your senior with 1 Loving Heart. It is crucial that this heart is opened, for they need room to move and breathe, yet help in their fragile age.
  5. Marinate your speaker/senior 2 Attentive eyes, however exercise respect when they are in need of privacy. They are under your 24 hour protection. Offer them your full attention, as this lessens their feeling of rejection and abandonment and heightens their feeling of being wanted.
  6. Knead ½ cup of Acceptance into the families who may be feeling guilty, as well as the patients. The patients may feel as if they were left and abandoned, however the families may have no alternative. This acceptance must be cleaned from prenotions of the anachronistic 21st Century life. Be mindful that these are the pearls of society, that they are from a past era and they have different expectations and values to you. A good way to exercise this is to create an environment suitable to the aged. Perhaps youth pop music is not appropriate, perhaps music of the Wartime genre is. Remember that your patients were greatly affected by this period.

** Residents such as Veronica were War time nurses and they harbour memories from the 1940s and hallmarks such as the War. Note that Veronica responds attentively to music by Glenn Miller and that perhaps an activity for the Recreation time on Friday afternoons could be a Wartime dance. Look into volunteers who are able to dance the Boogie Woogie, the Foxtrot, the Quickstep and Jazz. For lazier afternoons, introduce the Serenade.

  1. Soak in your senior’s story with 2 Listening Ears. Your residents are as old as time itself and they have seen and lived through experiences that you will not ever comprehend. When they begin to tell a story, cherish that moment in your day- it is a gift from a time gone by. They often want a listener, even if their speech is hard to comprehend.

**Residents such as Linda are selectively mute. She has not uttered a word for the past few months. However, note that she livened up when a visitor arrived to play the piano. (Log the piece and composer, perhaps attain a copy of this for when he is not available to play).

  1. Lightly season your patient with a few sprinkles of Unconditional Kindness. This cajoles them to see another day.

**Residents such as Dewi have Alzheimer’s. Implement your kindness when people like her become forgetful or distressed. See that she feels comfortable in a familiar environment and that she has a doll with her. Her doll is her lifeline.

  1. Combine your preconceived notions with ¼ cup of sympathy. If they spill their tea or lack in personal hygiene, remember that they are timeworn and can’t help it. Sympathy and a pinch of consideration go a long way.
  2. Blend in 4 tablespoons of Patience, because these patients are slowing down and reaching the end of the race. They may not approve of your actions and they may not approve of your way of washing them, cleaning them or feeding them. But know within yourself that it is for their benefit and try not to carry their burdens on shoulders of your own. This may be a little easier when coupled with 1 teaspoon of Compassion.

Note:

Don’t just save this recipe for a special occasion, share this recipe as often as possible. Serve warm to enhance sweetness and share with family and friends.

Liberation

She sank deeper into the plush leather sofa, allowing it’s hand to support her weight, take in all her burdens and offer them to the ether. She recounted the past couple of weeks and sank a little deeper.

***

Wandering through the nursing home, she peered to the left, noting the resident’s room. In an explosion of colour, she saw small faces, happy children in a frozen smile to last the ages. As she walked on, she noted the room to her right and saw a shrivelled shell of lady, surrounded by four family members, each of them, eyes resting lovingly on their beloved as she survived the days.

On she walked til she reached her grandfather’s room. She placed the fresh peonies in a vase beside his bed, pushing her lonesome Get Well card to the far end of the table. Doing so, she rearranged them so they could see the view from the barred, fourth floor window, perhaps lean a little to the peeking sunlight. Turning to her grandfather, she took his hand and locked eyes with him. Pushing a stray length of hair behind her ear, she learned forward and smiled a warm, yet toothy grin. From behind his thick rimmed lenses, a pair of glassy eyes looked beyond her and asked; “Who are you?”

***

Sitting in the senior common room, this girl sacrificed her study period; a mountain of work would have to wait, impatiently in her locker, while she attended to more important issues. She held the hand of her friend, occasionally rubbing it for emotional support. Her friend’s tears lined down her cheeks, making her foundation run, showing the world her true skin colour, freckles and all. As the girl comforted her friend, she nodded, listened and absorbed the woes of this girl, looking past her flaws to see the strength of the woman within. She offered advice and consoled this girl, so that this girl, who was a stranger to her own life, became known and felt loved.

***

She sat alone. And thought of her grandfather. And thought of the friend who was now fending for herself in the wide world beyond closed doors. Knowing that she was at breaking point, she found it hard to focus on her own things, hard to focus on the little areas of work that were not allowed to be compromised, but were. She offered a little prayer to the ether, addressing the Lord directly, for He was the only constant in this world of madness.

“…God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

… hate being told to smile… weak…  can’t even deal with my own problems…  prefer to handle other peoples issues, I see a light at the end of the tunnel for theirs… hate having to put on a face to meet the faces you meet… they don’t even know I’m hurting… what if pain on the outside,  other peoples’ pain, what if that if the only way to distract me?… weak…

“…Grant me the courage to change the things that I can…”

…I see a problem, I change it… help me to find a way to solve everybody’s problems…they might enlighten me as to how to solve mine… can’t believe I need distracting… it’s hard to function is I don’t have something to distract me…an unsolved problem eats at my soul…weak…

…The wisdom to know the difference…”

…I need to unpack the backpack…look at my issues…if you can’t solve your own problems, how can you look at other people’s?…

***

A boy in her Religion class leaned back. “Psst, hey, what did you get for Question C?”

A haze of white noise crackled in the background, intensifying solidly. She sighed. She passed the paper, but her classmate grimaced. “This. Has. Nothing. It’s a blank piece of paper.”

She looked at the paper, then back at the boy, who moved his attentions to the next girl along. Silently, she deliberated about how she could do that. She’d just given him a blank piece of paper and the guy moved on. Easy as that. The white noise lifted and the world was clearer to her ears. She didn’t need to extend herself, put life on the life for others, she could merely say no.

Liberation.

May.

“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no-one ever comes to sit by it. Passersby see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way” –Vincent van Gogh

On her frequent travels to the City, she catches a train that zips through the underground tunnels, eagerly rushing towards the vibrant pulse of the centre.

On the infrequent times she catches the all stations, the wild train is tamed and stops at the timeworn Nursing Home, to pay its respects to the elderly, then races on leaving few on the station. Many travellers offer a passing glance, hardly aware that they are seeing a compound of society’s jewels cowering behind laminated door numbers.

She is one of the few who opt to visit the old place, but walking up to the Nursing Home, the feeling of bravery is lost. In retrospect, she admits that, when walking past countless doors, choosing one number to behind which to explore only deepens her heart ache and she fights back tears. She visits the nursing home to see her grandfather, Brian, but during her long hours there, she calls in on a few of the other residents.

Today, she walks over to Veronica and sits by her bed.  As usual, she notes the figure of the Holy Mother on her bed-stand next to two cards of well-wishes, which provide a bloom of colour to the bleak room. To the fragile woman’s left, a sepia version of her youthful self in a Nurses’ uniform. The younger Veronica smiles up at the camera and from this, May notices subtle differences between the Nurse Veronica and the fragile Veronica. Presently, Veronica’s face is wrinkled, to the extent of which the lines may be traced to roads on a map, each offering a path that leads to an experience she had whilst in that uniform.

May sits and offers her hand, then cradles Veronica’s (which by stark contrast is icy cold). Her skin if lax and smooth, each finger ending in painted pink nails, (from the carers who decided to ‘pretty her up’). As she grasps May’s hand, she looks not at fledgling visitor, but through her and with each twitch of her mouth, Veronica clutches her hand stronger.

Today, she tells a story. One that doesn’t take long. One that May struggles to understand. Her speech is of incoherent and her listener must pause to decipher what she’s thinking. Her eyes smile and somehow, May finds she does indeed understand and proceeds to lose herself.

blind roger 43 / roger 17

Sits

balanced

on the edge of the chair

As if the soft cushion can support his current equilibrium

As if the soft cushion can break his fall

Reaches for a cup of tea

but can’t              just        reach

Has to feel around

-smooth laminex-gritty crust crumbs-flimsy paper plate- thin plastic cup (oops)

Tackle plastic cup

Misjudges and

loses the fight with the cup.

Cordial slu

rps do

wn the front of his shirt

Not that he would know

what colour his shirt was today anyway

Chest, however, is still warm and dry.

Katrina must have put a     napkin there

Rock      back

Rock      forth

Recognise Katrina’s gait                tha-thump

Reach – soft, light and feathery but slippery, her hair slides through fingers

Feel higher- rough felt and itchy prickly balls, perhaps pompoms. Felt is jaggered, inconsistent, like a tree branch. One conclusion. Christmas Antlers.

Hand is quicklybroughttoface

Breathe                                                deeply

Vanilla. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Custard Tart. Honey.

This is Katrina.

Elvis, but-

voice pauses      awkwardly.

vibrato held for too long.

hollow sound.

No crackle.

No fuzz.

No, This Elvis is Not Real. Earlier, Elvis talked. Said my name. Definitely not the real Elvis.

Crying in the Chapel?

If it weren’t for the antlers,

Wouldn’t have known it was Christmas

Sits

balanced on the edge of gravity

teeters on the last hope of equilibrium

perches on the stinging, scalding metal of the see-saw

Clings to the rubber of the handle-bar for relief

F

A

L

L

S

but not far. Springs back up again.

Inertia pulls neck down, while violently lifting his body to the heavens.

Strong thighs     leap       off, into the sand pit.

Grit in shoes. Grit in undies. Grit in hair. Grit in eyes.

Rub eyes, inflamed.

Open.               To a Caribbean Blue sky

So cloudless you could see Saturn

If you tried.

Eyes-

Drink in the wholesome blue of the sky.

Dazed by a bright red tartan picnic rug

Rock      back

Rock      forth

Small boy with lime-green overalls. Overalls that have obviously seen a thousand and one paint balls.

Small boy has artistic skills.

Small boy has balance and courage. Those monkey bars have humiliated and defeated many a brave warrior.

Boy drops, hearing the barely audible call of his mother by the red tartan rug.

Head down,

sprint towards the boy,

swoop down,

lift up,

Size 4, mud-stained volleys fly up in a flurry of giggles. Hazel eyes stare and twinkle with mirth.

Pause                the live combat,

Nose to the air.

Woody, incensed, sharp and fragrant.

‘Tis the season to be back-burning.

Meaty, salty, sharp and fragrant.

‘Tis the season for family BBQ’s on a public griddle. (Entrust the hygiene of the entire extended family to a squirt of lemon juice on the hotplate before the feast).

This. This is Christmas.

Sunrise

The sunrise is full of light. It’s a gradient of dusty pinks and powder blues that form a wall through the fog and creep between twisting trees.
I walk outside. The beautiful smell of backburning. The fog is a sweet mix of water droplets and the smoke from bushfires. Old Man’s Valley puffs a pipe again.