Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much. … Oscar Wilde.
I've been told my posts are too long, too daunting a task to read. I'm cutting this one down, even though to my writer's mind it's wrong to chop episodes so short. You tell me.
I was also advised to give a brief introduction to me in the bit about the Author at the side of this page. I don't know how to edit that, so until I find out how I'll just put a few words here in the body of the blog. I'm a mute quad in his sixties. A non-verbal quadriplegic. The only movement I've got below the neck is a slight bit in my left arm. My fingers have tightened up into fists, so to move my power wheelchair I nudge its control stick with my knuckles - or with the side of my fist on good, warm days when my limbs aren't so tight and I'm relaxed.
While I was lying in bed waiting for the carer to arrive this morning I was racking my brains for something to write in this blog. All I could think of writing was the negative things that go with being a quad. God knows there's enough of them, but that doesn't mean life itself is negative or bad. I should explain that, but I'm going to leave it for another time. Either its complicated or I'm too lazy today - take your pick.
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August 12, 1984 - Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged, Bendigo, Victoria
I was brought here to Bendigo today. Nurse Belinda the lovely was sent with me in the ambulance to watch over me. She’s very good at the Etran board, because when she was on night shift at PHH we'd sometimes talk away a midnight hour or two. We did the same in the ambulance. She asked innocently if I knew the road we were on. Did I know it? It was the road to my hometown! Tears streamed down my face as I spelled out that the previous one hundred times I'd travelled this road I'd been the driver whereas now it seemed quite likely that I'd never drive again. When I'd regained my composure the ambulance driver offered to detour to call in at Granny Thomas Gully, but I said no. I knew that having to leave again for more time in hospital would just crack me up.
We'd been followed along the highway by a car carrying Physio, Speechy, and the PHH social worker. They were coming to Bendigo to tell their counterparts all they needed to know about me. Physio had always struck me as a bit of a moralistic prude, but she was a physio and an amateur psychologist firstly and she'd defended my `bit on the side' activities when at PHH. She'd argued that my, um, nocturnal activities with the Other Woman were good physical physiotherapy and would help my deflated view of myself. The social worker had reason to meet the Other Woman a few times at PHH and although she had urged her to cut and run she was going to Bendigo to try to convince them that they had no right to interfere with my private affairs.
I didn't go to Bendigo Hospital like I'd thought. Bendigo Hospital is for acute patients and it does have full suctioning facilities and stuff. I was transferred to the chronic illness place, Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged (BHHA). BHHA's geared to long-term care and rehab for old people, but it was my only alternative. I'd imagined an old and decrepit building, but the main building at BHHA looks great from the outside. It's a beautiful old three storey brick building that's painted virgin white and sprawls to left and right. I'm in the recently-built character-less appendage of a rehabilitation wing around the side.
They lop off the occasional limb at Bendigo Hospital and send the amputee here to the BHHA Rehab ward until they're ready to re-enter the real world or until they suicide - whichever comes first. BHHA always has three or four amputees on Rehab, but that the majority of the ward's patients suffer from the ailments of old age.
August 13 to December 12, 1984- Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged, Bendigo, Victoria
At first I had reservations about BHHA, but I was wrong. Most of the nurses were trainees and were typical country girls. Compared to their city cousins they were fresh-faced, naiveish, unsophisticated. But as nurses go they were every bit as good as the best anywhere. The facilities for a specialized stroke patient were lacking a bit and the qualified nurses were rusty on trache care and suctioning techniques, but they went out of their way to brush up on these things immediately.
I'd been spoiled at PHH, because the main qualifications for entry into its nursing training program must have been good looks and good deportment, though the training ensured that these young cuties became good nurses. Forty was ancient for these city nurses, so in five months and over three hundred nurses I only ever met the one who looked to be near that age. When I arrived at BHHA my heart sunk, because the three nurses on duty were all at least fifty. I'd found in my first five months that people over thirty five or forty often have more trouble grasping the concept of my board, and as they climb in age they seem to be correspondingly slower at learning to use it - often never reaching the `nimbleness of mind' required to think ahead from my first few words to anticipate full sentences.
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My former travels. April 1976 - Turkey
I checked out the magnificent Blue mosque the day after I saw Krzysztof off, first washing my hands, neck and feet in one of the stone troughs outside specific to that purpose. While I was inside it crossed my mind that maybe it wasn’t really right that non-believing Westerners like me should be curiously in a mosque. Then I remembered how I didn’t question my presence when I was inside that little Greek Orthodox chapel on Lesvos, and in Singapore’s Buddhist Fu Lu Shou-Bugis temple and in the Catholic St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, even though I don’t believe in those religions either. That made me wonder why we pussyfoot around anything to do with Islam, and Islam alone.
On the steps outside the Blue mosque I was accosted by one of the many young Turks who latch onto tourists and show them the sights – for a not-yet-mentioned fee. His name was Ahmed. His English was fairly good but pretty-heavily accented. Somehow he got my name out of me before I brushed him off and went on my way. An hour later he accidentally came across me sitting at a table outside a Turkish coffee shop finishing a late lunch and a coffee.
‘We meet again, Danny, my friend. I am here to see my cousin. This is his shop.’
He sat down uninvited and plunged into conversation, not bothering to go in and see his cousin. I sipped the last of my thick black coffee, but not the potent dregs, then I brushed him off and went on my way again. Another half hour saw me looking hard into a small carpet-and-jilubas shop. That’s an incongruous combination – carpets and clothing.
‘Do not buy a carpet from there, Danny. From there they are a lot of money.’ Ahmed had accidentally come across me again. ‘My cousin has a carpet factory. I will take you.’
I had been staring into the tiny shop because it had a full-length mirror at the back for its clothing customers. I hadn’t seen myself in a mirror since God knows when. Not since back home all those months ago. I had fairly long hair and a beard back then but I kept it reasonably neat and brushed. Now the whole lot had grown longer and much bushier, beard and hair too. My plain jeans and neat navy-blue jacket didn’t scream ‘Way-out Westerner backpacking hippy’, but all that bushy hair on my head and face??? Even nothing-fazes-me me had a double-take. I immediately flashed on poor old Krzysztof and the remarkable way he accepted something so alien. I must buy a hairbrush soon, and get a haircut too.
I nodded dumbly at Ahmed. You had to admire his optimism. I mean - someone looking the way I did buying a carpet??? And I admired the way he persistently kept accidentally bumping into such an obviously lost cause. After three laneways and two back-alleys of cheerful selling-talk he stopped dead and took me by the arm.
‘You do not want to buy a carpet, do you Danny?’ he asked seriously.
I shook my head slowly.
‘That is good.’ he exclaimed, all beams again. ‘I knew that when we were at the mosque. Today is my birthday. I am not working today.’
Like I believe any of that.
‘My friends are at a party for me’ he went on. ‘I will take you.’
I told him he was on. I knew the day would end with him asking me for money for something or other, but I wanted to see how far he would go with this charade.