Pitfalls of Being Cared For

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
An unfortunate end.

Submitted: March 13, 2019

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Submitted: March 13, 2019

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I missed Hooks’ funeral because I was some out of the country. There’s only been a handful of people who ever knew him as Hooks, and only a couple of us used the name regularly. We don’t remember which of us came up with it, but it was during a fishing trip up the Ahuriri. You see, he was always a competitive bugger and played to win, but fairly, however we had a culture of playing tricks and it was one of Hooks’ tricks on old Gib that birthed the nickname. Gib was the best fisherman, and the luckiest, so to give the rest of us an edge, Hooks secretly removed the hooks from Gib’s favourite lure! He thrashed the water that day with a useless line, but poor old Gib was never going to catch anything.

Hooks was a keen sportsman, playing rugby for as long as his body stood up to it, and cricket until the local club ran out of players and went into recess. We had our share of adventures together on hunting expeditions and we both shot competitively at the local small-bore rifle club. It was during a break in the shooting that I cleaned him up at darts! It wasn’t often I beat him at anything and he demanded the right of a rematch, but just to get under his skin, I refused, never to play him again. He nagged on for years about me denying him the chance to even the score! We played badminton in Bill Burgess’ hay barn, both of us without distinction, and after the cricket team wound up, he concentrated on golf and bowls with a certain amount of distinction. I didn’t join in on those two activities.

Throughout all of this, Hooks was a confirmed bachelor, and as bachelors can be, he could be cantankerous, he was staunchly private, stubborn as a mule and entirely happy with his own company. He had a dog that was as mad as a hatter! He kept the loyal with him, admitting to being the cause. While practicing golf, at point blank range driving a golf ball he whacked the dog square on his head! I’m good enough with dogs but this little bugger would fight me for the chair next to his master. Hooks used to laugh because nobody could control that dog, even him!

The signs were there. His diet failed him and when age slowed him down, he developed a paunch, with it diabetes, so he ended up self-injecting. But he remained house-proud, in his way of it, and on my weekly visits, he would invite me to inspect the place for dust. I didn’t find any. We kept up our competitions growing begonias, hyacinth and tomatoes, and he built a special conservatory for orchids, an activity I didn’t join him with, but it was the lack of care in the orchid house that marked the start of a downward spiral. His blackouts and stays in hospital saw the authorities taking his driver’s licence, but the bugger still went to the local store – on his ride-on mower! I admonished him for that because he had to cross the main road, and while he didn’t fear his own demise, whoever hit him would likely carry the pain for the rest of their life.

He wasn’t sleeping well because his paunch had pulled his backbone out of alignment. He used one of those heatable wheat bags to ease the pain, but while heating it one evening, his microwave caught fire because he set hours instead of minutes! This was the main reason he had a carer imposed upon him. They thought he was losing the plot and wanted to keep a closer eye on him. Sure he was forgetting a few things but he wasn’t very different to others I know (or knew), worse though, he was losing his mobility, mainly because of his back. Yet he kept up the begonia, hyacinths and tomato growing by kneeling to do the work. He was crabby with his carer for bossing him and for invading his privacy, and he didn’t like the decline in housekeeping that she was supposed to share. His niece had power of attorney and he began to tell me that he was destined for an old man’s home! I had no intention of influencing him, but many times we did discuss the pros and cons… he just didn’t want to go.

One Sunday morning, I called to see him, but he was gone. It took a week before I found out he’d been taken into a rest home ‘as a trial’, but he told me that he doubted if he’d ever be allowed to go back home. He liked the food there, hated the communal bathroom and toilet and was annoyed that he had no money to jingle in his pocket. His cheque book had been taken off him a year or so previously and his bills were paid for him by his niece, but she never thought to give him any cash! He was also annoyed that he wasn’t provided with a newspaper. His favourite pastime had always been to read his morning newspaper from cover to cover and he was lost without it. He had frequently requested one, but the rest home staff seemed to think he wasn’t capable of reading it, or wanted to save money.  I went up to the desk and simply asked, it was as easy as that, so maybe he asked the wrong person.

Hooks didn’t like to leave his chair, several times I suggested we go for a short walk but he wasn’t at all keen. He said his back wouldn’t stand it and he didn’t like the idea of sitting in a wheelchair either. He began not to trust those who were supposed to be looking after his property and assets so he asked me if I would take him for a drive to check on his house. I asked him if he was sure and if it would upset him, but he was determined to go. I asked the rest home boss who said it would be a good idea to take him. During the half hour trip he was interest in the countryside and the changes since he had been in the rest home. His house key was unimaginatively hidden under a rock beside the back door, ‘his special hiding place’. Once inside, the first thing he notice was that his washing machine had gone, as had his chest freezer which had been full to the brim. In the kitchen his fridge had gone. Whoever had gathered his clothing when he left for the rest home, had emptied his drawers onto the bed and not tidied the remainder. Teeth gnashing, he wanted to go out to his garage. On the way he noticed all of his firewood had gone.

His back or legs gave out so I helped him to the ground where he rested for a while, as he sat there he spat tacks about all his missing stuff! He was heavy, almost a dead weight, so getting him back up and mobile again took all of my strength, but laughing didn’t help! In the garage, his car had gone, as well as his store of begonia corms and hyacinth bulbs, there was a vacant patch on the floor where his ride-on mower used to sit. Because the lawns had been recently mowed, he suspected that one of his bowling mates had taken it and was storing and using it at his place. Back inside, we checked for ‘valuables’ and found his primary school dux medal. He glowed with pride and told me what it meant to him to have it, and happily took it back to the home. He remained angry with the state of his affairs that gave him no discretionary money to shout me a meal or even an ice cream! While I was happy to do without, I could certainly see his point of view.

It became apparent that the trip revived his contrary nature and he stirred up the people close to him! A couple of phone calls came my way asking first if it was me who took him to see his house and second to explain to me what had happened to his stuff. Explanation or not, the bottom line was the stuff had been pilfered without his permission! Assumptions had been made that ‘in the circumstances he wouldn’t mind’, missing the point that his faculties we far more together than they gave him credit for. And yes he did have a generous side, but thanks cost nothing.

The episode didn’t really change anything, a short time later his house was sold without his knowledge. All the poor bugger really wanted, was to be respected and kept informed. Just before we left for the UK, Hooks’ health packed up badly and he was sent to a care facility in another city so I never saw him again. However, we had an understanding and were comfortable about nature’s law of mortality. In all of nature, after ripe comes rot!

Despite modern medicine we are not all destined to ripen, and from what I’ve seen, a ripe old age is the toughest task of a lifetime. Respect the aged and treat them kindly, your turn is coming.

 

 


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