Who is this lady? She is elderly , yes. A grandma ,a mother a sister, an aunt ,a great grandmother. I don’t know. I have forgotten. Hang on a minute… Aaah yes there was this one time that I was sat in her house -plush , ‘propre’ , expensive and stylish and I couldn’t sleep. I kept on getting up to go to the the cupboard on the far right of la cuisine which housed all the gigantic cadbury’s chocolate .I ate and I ate and I ate some more. I always seemed to be able to eat more…. I didn’t it like it when she bought the dark kind. So bitter. So classy ,so not me.
But back to la cuisine. Footsteps pander lightly behind me. I turn and look around and I look into the eyes of of a lady with pure class-sans maquillage. This seems to counter my non- class evolved youthfulness. The lady asks me a question ‘Ca va? I’m expected to answer with the same ‘ca va.’ but it is something like 3 am in the morning. Obviously ‘ca va’ is not appropriate for this setting. I don’t know why I can’t sleep,I confess. I’ve shoved a load of pills down my throat in an effort to be like the one whom I shall term the Manic depressive. The lady sits me down and make me a Sleepytime tisane – I have uploaded a pic. Good shit. We sit at the kitchen table with our ‘Sleepy time’ tisane and I can’t remember what we talked about. I have a habit of forgetting, you see. It is so frustrating. I go back to bed feeling cared about. Why didn’t I feel grateful then?
No regrets.. Have no regrets. Okay.. I try not too. I wish I had paid more attention, then maybe I wouldn’t forget so much. I can hear her laughter in that loud roomy part of my brain, that promises that one day it will become a real auditory sound that knocks me sideways with fright turning me into a paranoid (already half) recluse. I have to remember that laugh .She used to laugh at my jokes. She loved me. She told me she loved me all the time.
She also loved another – another woman. Angelic looking, graceful, naive and I don’t know – wonderful? This lady helped me out with the angelic looking lady. Yes, I remember, one poignant night, the angelic looking manic depressive and I had a vicious fight. I took a braai fork to her neck. I was fucking going out to drink and get strung out on drugs and Miss Manic Depressive could mope in her stupid illness and fuck right off.
Well, she took that big FU literally. We have this stock of prescription pills that could take our local pharmacy out of business – bad joke- that’s why I rely on comedians for such amusements (Omid djalili and Gabriel iglesias being two of my favourites ). Nothing like a next day hangover and a shrill ringing phone to make me grab a handful of downers. I’m not ready for the sunshine just yet- maybe not ever. The lady on the other line wants to know if the manic depressive is okay. Of course she is ok……
…but she isn’t. She is one tunnel turn away from death. I need some rohypnol and valium and I need that lady.
She says she is going to get the next one hour flight from JHB airport to Durban and I need to get the manic depressive to a hospital. I don’t have health insurance. I’m 15 years old. A cocky shit who obviously knows it all but nevertheless in my narked up state I some how manage to get the angelic Manic Depressive a space in a run down public hospital in Africa – in a- I kid you not – broom closet. Sick people were lying on the floors covered in congealed blood in the corridors of this hospital. So I count my blessings that we have some type of room and a bed.
The lady meets me at the hospital. It’s touch and go. We are rooting for a survival on this one. Black tar leaks down out through a tube from some part of the manic depressives body. Hours pass..
She is okay- stable. She is in a coma.
The Lady transfers her to a more up market private hospital. She has the master card not I. We spend the night next few days at the Oyster box hotel – in a chalet. She takes on me and my two cats. Lilac and Mocha- and we all sleep in the same bed. United by our love for the angelic manic depressive one.
We don’t know if she is ever going to walk again. I mean it was an overdose with powerful intent. No, pithy cry for help as some believe a suicide attempt is. The angelic manic depressive on the far right of the picture is now an angelic Bipolar – standing by her mother. Yes ,this lady in the middle of the pic is my grandma- as you probably have figured out. We go and see her every week. She broke her hip back in Feb 2015 and can’t walk anymore.
Okay… so that happens with a lot of old people. Yeah, but this lady , my grandma has been stripped of her dignity, identity, memories, and she can’t remember she can’t walk . She is stuck on a loop – every few moments she tries to get up and screams in frustration when she can’t .This lady sitting in the middle is my relationship with someone I love who has Dementia and ALzheimer’s. I know I’m not writing something fucking profound but she means something to me and her family.She is living a world with no faces, no color and the world speaks another language to her. How is she meant to interpret all this shit?! People talking. Loudly, other elderly people not moving- crying, shouting, fondling themselves to remember that they too can feel. My Chronic Anorexic 10 stone self could envy my grandma’s current weight. 5 stone if that. She forgets how to eat. Imagine that?
What type of existence is this?
This is where I get political. Let people die with dignity.
I signed up to the campaign years ago. Who is this lady? She is so much more than she looks. She has had a life people probably can’t even dream up and a life where people would also be horrified how she survived such heartache, ( love is the answer here, folks) but for today we can’t go back into the past too much without forgetting. I don’t want to forget ,not today. Those two memories I can hang and frame in the gallery of my mind. They are mine. No one can take them away from me but ALzheimer’s can. Dementia too. You know what really makes me sick about all this? When a person with these illnesses die, Alzheimers and Dementia don’t take the credit. The diagnosis of death is usually a secondary symptom. How twisted and messed up is that?
Does she remember her husband? Where does she go?
I should have been a Neuro -scientist or something. I want to know what is going on in her head and fix it. All clichés but they are my clichés for today. Can you believe people are being diagnosed with these maladies at as young as 25 years of age?
I would rather choose to die than have everything taken from me. Would my Grandma say the same? I wish I had asked her.
Me: ‘So Gran, let’s talk about something so morbid as to how you would like to die.. ‘
I’m putting it out there. Me? I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want to feel pain and I don’t want to not be understood. That is not living that is stuck between two perverse worlds. I want my family to pay the ferryman and for him to take the money and take me along the river Styx to Elysium and let me die with dignity.
Information on the dying dignity campaign http://www.dignityindying.org.uk