Thursday, October 7, 2010

Career change

Whaaat? You haven't seen an obedient dog with a dog on its head before?

I'm currently in the process of getting police checks done.

It appears Jazz is about to embark on the next stage of her 'career', from backyard marauder and general lay-about to aged care petting dog. Very respectable.

I'm not quite sure if I'm meant to be doing the police checks for me or her, come to think of it.

But the managers of the local residential aged care facility took one look at her today, covered in sludge from nose to haunches (she fell into a blind puddle en route to her thrown ball at the park across the way), and still wanted her to come back. She sat, dropped and looked dutifully doleful in a "please pat me, I'm starved of love" kind of way. They warned me that the elderly - specifically, the residents in the dementia wing - have a habit of asking the same questions repetitively and was I okay with that. I assured them I would leave my bat for smacking over the back of the head at home.

Jazz already has experience working with the elderly
"The Elderly" has warmed to her since these early days

Sort of...

Is it possible for The Elderly to look any more disdainful?

No, really, I volunteered at an aged care residence when I was a teenager. I adored it. I adored all the people. There was one woman I particularly remember, she was 98 years old and I never saw her without a full face of makeup. She was gorgeous, inside and out. So refined. She would invite me to her room for cups of tea. Somehow she had wrangled a double room for herself (she had been a resident there for a number of years, I was told, and used to share the room with her husband who had passed away some years before) and it was kitted out like a beautiful bedsit. All her ornate furniture surrounded her, there were pictures on the wall, she had a beautiful dresser and a little tea-for-two setup, complete with fine china, in the window. It was magical. From what I could ascertain, she did not really mingle with the other residents, who used to congregate in the depressing lounge and dining rooms on stiff-back chairs, not talking to each other but just ... together. They would invariably light up when I walked in the door once a week.

I gave up my Saturdays for six months as a 13 year-old and I would get there under my own steam. I rode my bike (which had no gears, I'll add) there and back every week - it was a good 5-10km's (Wonga Park to North Croydon, if you know the area anyone reading... no paved footpaths and no flat bits either, I might point out too!). I'm not entirely sure what lured me there each weekend. Perhaps the honour of listening to their stories and respecting them as individuals who had had to give up their possessions and their lives as they knew them, basically. I found it really heart-rending, even as a youngster, seeing my grandparents in a parallel existence - they were still alive and (not necessarily well, but fending for themselves) in a relatively palatial home that they ran on their own. I never wanted to imagine their end to be as lonely and bleak as this.

As fate would have it, my grandfather would die less than seven years after my stint in volunteer work - he spent a week unconscious in hospital after suffering a major stroke at home. And my grandmother, who would end up a major character in my book even though we were not close when she was alive, would die (five years after that) of a cardiac arrest very suddenly right before my eyes, also while still living at home and looking after herself.

The nursing home around the corner here has been calling me for the past three years. On a whim today, on our way home from the park, tired, wet, thirsty (and that was just me, let alone the LGBB and Jazz) and not at all looking like we'd impress anyone, I ventured in. And was warmly welcomed.

Will keep you posted how this goes! Who knows, Jazz could whack some poor sweetheart off her rocker on the first day. Her career as petting pet might be extremely short-lived. But I have a feeling that I, if not Lolly along with me, will become a regular visitor there, if for nothing else than wandering through for a couple of hours a week to give a wave and share a yarn... quite possibly the same yarn each week. Gorgeous.

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