It’s a Dog’s Life?


Tuesday 13 September 2011: 5 years on … Advantage ED

My Dad was born in Muizenberg, Cape Town in 1915 – ninety six years ago today. He died in Paarl in May 1976 just short of 61 years old. In 1969, when I was in Standard 5 (Grade 7) he had a stroke that left him paralysed on the right side and unable to talk (other than two or three words).

For seven years we cared for him at home: my eldest sister, Lynn, was in High School when Dad became ill, Ingrid and I were in Primary School and June was not yet in school. Those were difficult days for us as a family, and I always said that I would not like to sit like that for so long.

Now paralysis (and whatever else comes with CBD) also stares me in the face. As I write this, my left hand and leg are possibly the worst that they have been since I became ill. I have to bend my left arm open with my right hand when I wake up because the elbow stiffens up at night. My left leg tries to do the same at the knee – my foot just wants to curl upwards and my calf muscle is always tight.

So Tuesday mornings is my date with Julian Fletcher. He is a sports therapist and gives me a real deep massage. It feels so good and I am sure that it is keeping the muscles moving.

In order to get there this morning, I had to leave our new 9 week old Jack Russell puppy with Barbara, our domestic assistant.

Life has been hectic since Charlie arrived in our household last Monday. He is extremely busy, to say the least. His arrival has been quite an adaptation and very ironic.

When Pera and I got married in 1990, I had said “No kids and no dogs!”

However, the kids arrived in quick succession – Sean in 1992, Phillip (1) who was still-born in 1994, and Phillip (2) three months prematurely in 1995.

Till last Monday, we still had no dogs!

When I went to Graaff-Reinet two weekends ago to “hunt”, Helen Harris asked whether I would like a pup (from their new litter of seven). The family have really always wanted a pet, so I thought that in my retirement I would relent. I texted the boys to ask them if they wanted a pup and I got a reply from Pera: “Has the disease spread to your head?” (Well, in fact, the disease is IN my head!)

So Graeme’s folks brought him down to Port Elizabeth last Monday.

It’s like having another baby in the house. Life has surely not been the same since then. Feeding bowls, toys, basket, cuddles, barks, bites, howls, fences, gnawed furniture, eaten-through cords, walks, leashes, pellets and wees and poos have become the order of the day (and night). As with our boys, I am not good on the night shifts, and barely much better with the day shifts! I guess babies, puppies and I just don’t go together!

So all the activities of the last week have taken place (or not taken place!) with Charlie’s welfare in mind.  He dictates the pace, and sometimes I rue the day when I relented. However, he takes my mind off the CBD which I believe will be a good thing in the long run. Talking about runs, I’m not sure whether I took him for a run on the golf course this morning or whether he took me!

Last Thursday was a busy day – first my weekly visit from Sister Gill le Roux (and sometimes Sister Janice Malkinson) from the St Francis Hospice. They, together with social worker Jenny Nickell and Isaac Rubin, do an extraordinary job in keeping an eye on me, and we shall always be grateful to them and to the Hospice for their assistance.

Then, I spoke to the monthly meeting of the Parkinson’s Support Group in Walmer. It is a humbling experience to see so many people who live life with Parkinson’s disease. We have many symptoms in common and hence many stories to share. It helps so much to realise that you are not the only one out there, and that help and assistance are just around the corner.

When I first became ill, the neurologist thought that I may have PD – and hence my relationship with the support group since then. It is also where I first met Briar Wright, mother of the Wright clan that I have written about previously.

After the meeting, I headed off for my weekly hour and a half session with Julian, which also now includes doing a set of exercises on his newly designed exercise “cube”.

Then I had a meeting with Pierre-Louis Lemercier about (anti-)fracking at The Deli, one of the sidewalk cafés on the newly transformed Stanley Street in Richmond Hill – the now trendy place to be!

And then, after a quick supper, off to the Grey Junior Grey Way Concert at the Feathermarket Hall. It seems like just the other day that Sean was playing the trombone and Phillip the sax in the Orchestra and Jazz Band. Now they have moved on, and we just attend because it’s really good.

Friday morning was the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Then lunch at Old Grey, the Wrights arriving for the weekend, dinner and a very late night (maybe I should say, a very early morning!) In fact, in time to watch the two early rugby games broadcast from Aetearoa (the land of the long white cloud). Breakfast was squeezed in before the England/Argentine game, then a snooze and then off to the Bartons for our personal official launch of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

Each couple came dressed in the clothing of their country of choice (we chose Ireland) and brought the appropriate food and drinks from that country. Another good party was had by all there!

By the time Sunday morning came round, I was feeling rather tired when the Bokke took on Wales. Possibly, I was just as tired as the players when they came off the field with that oh-so-close 17-16 win for us! So tired I was, that I did not make the Outdoors Expo (and the artificial snow ski ramp!) that was pencilled in on my calendar – that will have to remain for next year!

The last commitment of the weekend was a visit to the Walmer Methodist Church to discuss the logistics of Phillip’s baptism next Sunday.

Who said it’s a dog’s life?

Charles Dickens said in The Tale of Two Cities:It was the best of times. It was the worst of times!”

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