Sunday, 28 October 2007

Shaggy Saturday

They can be good, they can be bad and they can be very surreal – well, let’s face it if you’re not a sports-fan or of the Jewish faith they can be bit meaningless - but, whatever they are, Saturdays have to be dealt with.

For many years now, I have thought of this seventh day as the day everybody else has somebody else. In so far as I don’t see or hear (i.e. by ‘phone) anybody else. Invalid (in-valid?) that I am, stuck out here in the “pasture” that is almost Kent but really just the slower, quieter end of south-east London.

Oh, they used to pop in, at the old place, inner-city. One or two of them, once or twice just to salve their consciences (I knew it). Before things got a bit too obvious to ignore and their sympathy was forced, understanding feigned. Usually for about an hour (watch-watching), unexpectedly, on their way to somewhere else.

That was insulting. Yes, hurtful. I think, if you’re not careful, that sort of thing makes you bitter. But, hey, as long as you let them know you knew how it was and were happy anyway, everything was hunky-dory. And is – now that they’re nowhere to be seen – or heard.

It’s more honest and, therefore, much more easily tolerated. (But, while I’m at it, can you see why I find birthday/Christmas cards from these people so irrelevant and irreverant? Jesus told us, whatever we do for the least of His brethren (i.e. visit the sick) so also we do for Him (Mat 25:31-46). No one in my family - apart from Tom and brother Blob, of course - knows that scripture, obviously. And some of them ----- go to church!). Ah well. This is better.

And usually I wake up on Saturdays, filled with optimism. They’re my days. Free days (no official – i.e. social services/MS-related people. – ringing up. No council workmen outside or in). Just quiet and free. I can make of them what I will. And, neighbours allowing (dog next door, chldren upstairs), I’m going to make them good.

And Lucy and I will sometimes party!

Well, I say ‘party’. But that, of course, is normally all we do, say we’ll party. That is, I’ll say somehing like, “Let’s have a party today, Lucy!” and she’ll just look up at me non-plussed, but I like to thiink aware it’s a good moment. Indeed, sometimes I sound so excited and sure, she does jump up and down with enthusiasm. And, at least the mood is up-beat. we can go on from there.

Yesterday, though, didn’t look too hopeful. Things were decidedly ‘shaggy’.

It was dark outside – at ten in the morning – and when I, at last, managed to see clearly, on my second cup of coffee and cigarette, I saw the reality of the unkempt duo in the room.

Me – oh well, I’ve been a mess for a while. but seeing Lucy overgrown and slightly gray from too long without a shower, well, that was a downer. That upset me. Because there’s nothing I can physically do.

And there are reasons, and I don’t like those either

Normally the poor little thing would have been to the groomers in the past few weeks, but, ah, she just had her first full season. And it was horrible. In fact, so bad, that now I’ve actually booked to have her spayed. And I feel guilty and miserable, because it’s bringing back old memories (I had an hysterectomy for fibroids 23 years ago!) and can’t bear to see her go through any more suffering.

The first time was, apparently, at a few days old when – unbeknown to Tom and me (we’d never have allowed it) - the breeder and her vet docked poor Lucy’s tail ('...slugs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails...’ Ha, now I understand the nursery rhyme!) How barbaric. And, thank God, the law was changed this year (when we learnt of this practice). It tears my heart to contemplate. .

Then, about a year ago, she spent a couple of days in hospital after chewing and eating too much of a Nylabone toy. Our faults. For some ridiculous reason (someone’s not very good at reading small print on labels) we had believed it was edible. What fools. She was violently sick for days and, we realised looking back, had been ill for weeks.

The vet eventually diagnosed ‘gastritis’ but I suspected a lot more: for a start she was put on an anti-fungal medicine; then there was the lining-the-stomach clay, and finally soft food – for a couple of weeks. I still imagine there is shrapnel in her throat when she makes funny noises sometimes, and in her gut. Who knows? But, anyway, I dread her going through something even bigger surgically-speaking. That time she even got an infection from the puncture wound of the anaesthetic!

It makes my stomach turn and I can’t sleep at night when I think about it.

I’m glad Lucy doesn’t sleep in here (sitting-room) with me any more. She actually chose some time ago to go in what was my bedroom with her crate - to get away from the cigarette smoke and commode sounds, I imagine. But maybe, also, just not to be woken up by late night home-comers (we’ll come to that)!

‘Glad’ because that time just missing her was painful. Hopefully this time she’ll be home the same day. As long as she’s well enough.

As you know, I have progressive MS, it gets worse. It has got worse since every other day there’s been. I won’t be able to help her as much as I did last time and that means Tom has had to take time off. And will need to be patient. And kind. And supportive. Oh, hell, it’s scary – can we do it? And what will be the goal afterwards if we do? For any of us?.

Oh poor Tom. He’s lived with me so long, keeping me going and “allowing” me to manage without carers who I (gentle!) would rather not have!

And now all this and giving up precious holiday-time from work.

Well, no wonder he drinks (but, of course, I wish he wouldn’t) - 27, with so much on his shoulders.

And that’s the second reason Lucy looks un-clean. It’s not easy showering a toy-poodle, who’s naturally a “water-dog”, when you’ve got a hang-over. You have to be able to share the euphoria and not mind getting very wet! It’s a bonding experience (one I’ll never have with her) which Tom usually enjoys and puts his all into.

But not recently.

And that’s why [another meaning of the word: ‘marked by a lack of order, clarity of thinking, planning and performance’] yesterday seemed such a ‘shaggy Saturday’. Dark and dismal outside. Not so bright on the inside. And nothing illuminating to plan towards. (except – God willing – Heaven!).

Ah, but you all know me better! Would I let it stay like that?

Heck no. Not if I can help it. And, by the grace of God, I may not be capable of much physically but when it comes to morale, well, that I can keep up. Mine and Lucy’s anyway, Tom doesn’t want to be cheered up here any more (he might want to stay!).

So, on went the light-box and off went the chatter: about the weather in Rome (still sunny, hot); about it being sabato there [related to ‘Sabbath’ - which of course it is, even for Christians though we might not call it such (isn’t that why we have the “weekend”; the Sabbath still for rest from work and Sunday (the ‘first day’ (Genesis 1:3-5) of the week) as the Lord’s Day to praise God? Makes sense to me].

And then, before we (I) went down again remembering the non-visiting family – sabato o domenica (Saturday or Sunday) – Lucy and I were moving through the day.

First - and most important - the herbal regime (see MS- My Scene (Oct 07)), with 'Daily Mass' from EWTN to keep me going through the rest...

We had ablutions to deal with: semi-strip-wash for me and brushing teeth; bowels from both of us – always the biggest bother of the day; pain (me again) to contend with as the legs grew more spastic wih the increasing hours, and fatigue.

Oh, but we also had nibbles: mainly Lucy – Kibble; more coffee/herbal teas. crisps and Hob-Nobs for me (though she wants them and I shouldn’t eat them: gluten/sugar!).

And the writing got going again.

And by 5 o’clock we were learning Italian. I was teaching “Lucia” a few useful words (humour me, dear reader!): “Andiamo!” (“Let’s go!”); “il sole” (you know that one); “Che giorno bello!” (“What a lovely day!”), and so on. Till Tom came home from work.

Looking shaggy, but in a good way (i.e. longer hair, tied back and five days growth on chin). Looks good!

And (very rare on a Saturday night) stayed in. And bought take-away curry, to enjoy while we watched ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ on DVD. Then he even played an alphabet game – “A-Z of places you’d love to visit.” Well, that was just perfect, matched the mood completely.

And hey, guess what, it turned out to be a pretty good Saturday and not too shaggy at all.

And today (Sunday) Lucy got her shower.

P.S. Is this a “shaggy-dog story”?

Well, literally, yes. Lucy is a ‘shaggy dog’. But, then again, no. I didn’t think of the genre till after it was written. (Thank you MS!)

In the long-run? Oh, probably. In my last, interrupted, “autobiography” I compare the attempt to Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, and that definitely is.

We’ll see...

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I never liked dogs...

[A piece I wrote for the MSS book, MS TALENT (published next month) but pulled out for two reasons: 1) I could not condone their recent advertising campaign which failed to support the “progressives”, and 2) it’s the only thing I ever wote that made Tom laugh outloud!]

In fact I hated them. Thought every dog was male and every one, a rampant, raping, pillaging, pooing, parasite. At the very least – even if I couldn’t see them – they were barking, brainless (why didn’t they realise no one was coming and just resign, quietly?) noise pollution. At the most/worst they would bite me, rip me to shreds and leave me dead.

So what is this I now see sniffing round my crippled feet? What is this pair of brownest eyes looking up at me, pleading and tender in the morning light?

And, what, as I sip my wake-up coffee, is this strange sensation of wet-warm licking on my nerve-numb legs?

Is it a dog, Virginia? An actual canine living and breathing in the same space as you? Have you lost your mind?

No, just my body.

I don’t feel like moving today. Don’t want to move. The whole of my physical being cries out: “Leave me alone!” I just want to close my eyes and surrender to the end in peace.

And so, what is this, this bundle of curls, insisting I placate its demanding for food and affection. It’s the antithesis of everything I need, isn’t it?

Well, no. Apparently, aged 54, Virginia has learnt yet one more truth of the world: “A dog will love you unconditionally”. And so she does...

This toy poodle, who isn’t a “what” but most definitely a “who”. Lucy. The only one here, who still wants to be with me. Who suffers my struggles and staggers through the day, just as surely as I do.

And comes running, and licking and loving whenever it’s tough and she knows there’s a need.

And doesn’t mind – in fact, probably enjoys – that I am not washed. When every human being would, and does, turn away.

I look down to Lucy, from the chair I would be stuck in without her, and sure enough she looks up (with those eyes that are prone to conjunctivitis as mine are to optic neuritis) and meets my soul. And I ask her how she is, tell her everything will be all right. And we’ll get there in the end. Yes, of course, I am talking to both of us! And she jumps up, all energy where I have none. So I say, “Let’s get this show on the road!” and sort-of jump up. And she follows, little tail bobbing (I wouldn’t have let them dock the tail if I’d known that’s what they did - thank God now it’s banned) with enthusiasm.

Before I know it, I have fed her some Kibble, hydrated her with fresh water, cleaned up a poo (most in a cat-litter tray, a little on the floor) and given her a love – as I am licked clean by that cute little tongue!

And the day has begun and I offer it to God and thank Him.

And I remember Saint Lucy, the patron saint of those with eye problems and, also, writers.

I might write something today. Maybe tell how I got over my phobia of dogs. And why.

But not before we’ve both had Eyebright (the herb) in the kitchen...

Oh wow, I’m moving again.

In search of the end of the day

[Subtitle - as it should have been to be true to Steinbeck!]

Steinbeck subtitled Travels with Charley, ‘In Search of America’.

Well, not for Lucy and me such grandiose ambitions. Oh no. Not for me a middle-aged frustration and rebellion against the end of my life. I’m content.

No, all we ask is to get from the beginning to the end of the day, without too much to contend with: no serious mishap or calamity to befall us (a tall order given that I’m falling about all over the place with MS and Lucy depends entirely on me!).

That, and for me to be able to do something, by God’s will, for somebody else. Even, as often, without seeing or speaking to another human being.

I thought the only way was through prayer.

But now we have blogging!

And suddenly the world has opened up. We can - in theory - talk to anyone. Anywhere.

Oh, just imagine bringing a smile to someone’s face through something you write. Or maybe helping, by example, with some annoying problem.

So, this is ‘where I’ve been’ (see ‘Intro.’ to this blog) - getting to know how to blog (which meant learning how to use the Internet first!). And it’s taken ages to get this far.

But I seem to have time – praise God!

And thank you Blogger, Google, Bill Gates et al. Lucy is especially grateful for a wider audience - more people to love and amuse!

At the end of the day I thank God for getting us there. And also for my lap-top and the ability to use it. (In this society where family is less tolerant of the infirm we need this virtual interaction!)

Then I lay down the cross of my physical suffering at the foot of Calvary.

It’s what our Lord asked us to do (Luke 9:23). And there’s a peace in that.