It has been a big two weeks.
Last Friday (the 21st), Charlie died. Charlie started dialysis at our unit in 2000, when he was 68. Our BigD community (us, our families, and ‘our’ clinicians) is a long-term proposition, like a special interest club. We all have a common interest (kidney stuff), we spend time together (no matter what!), we learn from each other and some of us become close friends. Over the 13 years Charlie was with us, we got to know him pretty well. He was a good guy: friendly, supportive, inclusive and well-loved. He was a gold-class BigD club member.
Charlie was Italian. He immigrated here after WWII. He soon married and they had three sons, who now have children of their own. Shortly after he started the BigD he lost his wife to cancer. But he soldiered on, drawing strength from his family and friends, his local Italian Club and I think from his friends at the BigD club. Nevertheless he often said how much he missed her and how lonely he was without her. This was especially so after he turned 80 last year. He was dispirited and gradually became more and more tired, until he passed away in his sleep sometime during Friday night, from a heart attack.
We went to Charlie’s funeral yesterday (Thursday). It was a full house. Along with his sons and their families, his friends and relatives, the whole local Italian community was there. So were we, his BigD community: four other long-term BigD-ers and at least six staff from our unit. Most of us sat together first through the Rosary, then the Requiem Mass and finally the Eulogy. There were tears. But also, after the service, many stories and laughs about our time with him.
We will miss him, but he is in a happier place, with his wife beside him.
Of course, others here last year were also absent. They left the club permanently during the year, when their time came or at a time they selected. Our notice board often has a funeral service sheet pinned up as an ongoing reminder. I’ve written before about how we BigD-ers can cash in our chips, and the options we have that most other people don’t.
In the quiet of the service, it’s hard not to think of other funerals I’ve been to. Especially my Dad’s and then Mum’s. What we said, how we felt. And that we all line up eventually. I think it’s healthy to visits those feelings now and then. It makes you realise how great our life is, and how much we want to hang onto it.
So what else happened since I last wrote?
My eldest grandson is due to start school next year, so his parents are checking out the options. One I have been pushing is a state run primary school near them that teaches in Mandarin two days per week and in English the other three. What a perfect opportunity to learn Chinese; when your brain is still young enough to absorb things effortlessly. So because I have been learning Mandarin for a few years now, my daughter-in-law arranged for my son and me to visit the school during school hours, to see the program in action.
It was excellent. Prep kids (5 to 6 years old) sitting on the floor listening and responding to the Chinese teacher with the same ease they do in English. Year 2 and 3 kids writing Chinese characters and sentences, making stories, answering questions. The children were a mix of races, most speaking English as their local tongue.
As we were leaving, I shook hands with the Principal and turned to go. But lurking on my blind side was a coffee table, which I duly walked into and began to fall. The Principal, still holding my hand, held me up. I banged my shins and tore some muscles in my shoulder. Naturally I bounded back up. “I’m fine, I’m fine” I said, and made a hasty retreat.
When I was young and bulletproof, I would have brushed this off as simply embarrassing. Now, I immediately prescribed at least a week off the gym and in place of it, a sleep-in each morning. That was 10 days ago. Today, my shoulder is just about OK. And I have learned another valuable life-on-long-termBigD-lesson: slow down and look where you are going. Do these lessons never stop?
Next, last Tuesday night another of our long-termers, Norma (not her real name) was offered a kidney from a deceased donor. The call came during dialysis, while she was connected to the machine. Norma has been on dialysis for eight years, turning up three days per week for four hours per time. She has been quite healthy, and was very nervous: what if the transplant fails? She may actually end up worse off. But her nephrologist said it was a very good match, so she decided to go ahead. Three hours later she was admitted and prepped and the transplant happened that night.
We got news on Thursday that it was a success and that she and the kidney were doing well. On Friday one of our BigD-ers visited her. She looks well, and may be home by next Monday. It took just six days to change her life. I love a good news story.
Finally, we had a big political upheaval only two nights ago (Thursday). Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard was voted out of her leadership of the Party (Australian Labor Party) role and Kevin Rudd was voted in. Only the Party leader can be Prime Minister, so she then resigned her commission and Kevin Rudd took it up. Actually he took it back, because the same thing happened to him three years ago when Julia Gillard took the leadership from him. But I had come to like Julia and dislike Kevin, so I’m not particularly happy. It’s a big deal to change the leadership of a country without getting the people involved. The only redeeming feature is that it was done by voting; no guns were involved. But the next election is due soon, so I will have my say then.
What will the next fortnight bring? I’ll keep you posted.
Share your Garden?
By the way, I heard of a great website during the week, which sounds ideal for many members of the BigD club who no longer have the energy to look after their garden.
It’s called Landshare and it brings together people who have a passion for home-grown food, connecting those who have land to share with those who need land for cultivating food. Since its launch in the UK in 2009 it has grown into a community of more than 55,000 growers, sharers and helpers. It’s now also in Australia (I’m not sure about other countries, but it’s worth Googling).
Landshare is for people who:
- Want to grow their own fruit and vegetables but don’t have anywhere to do it
- Have a spare bit of land they’re prepared to share
- Can help in some way – from sharing knowledge and lending tools to helping out on the plot itself
- Support the idea of freeing up more land for growing
- Are already growing and want to join in the community.
The website is basically a matching service for locals, say someone who lives in a high-rise with someone with a garden nearby that they can no longer tend.
Here are the web addresses:
Worth a look!