I was sitting with Don in the nursing home this morning, and he told me he is feeling depressed today.  “Any particular reason?” I asked.  “Or just feeling low.”  He nodded, said he just felt a bit down. 

So we watched a bit of TV, and we went through the morning’s mail, and then he suddenly said, “Do you know, I don’t think I’m ever going to get out of here.  I think I’m going to be in this place until I die.”

I didn’t know what to say.  So I looked at him and said, “Not necessarily.”  I couldn’t say any more with sincerity.  So I added, “But, it’s OK for the present, isn’t it?  Just spending time here together, and coming home a couple of times a week to spend the day?”

“Oh yes”, he agreed.  “It’s all right for now.”

Don’t look ahead.

This morning the lake was as still as a mirror.  Occasionally a fish would jump, creating long ripples.  A pelican sailed lazily along, and when I took the dog for a walk we watched three ducks swimming.  It was so peaceful.

I remembered a little verse I’ve known for years, but no idea where it came from:

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass bank beyond;
A blue sky in spring,
White clouds on the wing.
What a little thing
To remember for years;
 —  To remember with tears ….

Don is remarkably accepting about his condition.  (He puts this down to his background of Presbyterian Calvinism…)  Doesn’t complain, doesn’t go on about all that he has lost, all that he can’t do.  Yes, there are times of real despair, such as my blog post about a year ago, Psalm 46.  And he suffers from depression, which apparently is an intrinsic part of multiple sclerosis, although I am sure that the depression is also a normal consequence of living with the limitations of MS and the frightful future one faces.

But you can take facing reality only so far.  And lately, I have been having some very difficult visits with Don, because he wants me to drive him to Griffith in the Riverina, to visit his mother.  She is 97 years old, and is in a nursing home, and they tell us she has not been well.  Actually she is in better shape than Don in a lot of ways, as she is able for example to get herself to meals independently, with the aid of a walking frame.  But now it seems she is deteriorating.

At first I just did the usual thing of being rather vague, and expecting by next day it would not be raised again.  Don has raised the idea a number of times in the past, but has not persisted.  But now he will not drop the idea, and is insistent that we go to Griffith for one last visit to his mother before she dies.  And is quite pressing about it, and practical too, wanting me to bring a suitcase so we can pack his things, and working out what time we would need to leave to do the trip in one day, stay one night, and then drive back the next day.

So I said we would need to work it out with our son David to come with us, as I needed someone else to help get Don in and out of the car, wheelchair, bed, etc.  And that would probably mean bringing our 4-year-grandson as well, so not to be undertaken at the drop of a hat.

But staff told me it would not be feasible even with someone to help, but we would need to hire a lifter and other equipment at the other end.

Eventually I said to him, Look if we were able to go to Griffith and stay overnight, you would be living at home with me, because it would mean we could manage.  So he got a bit cross and said huffily that I was trying to make difficulties, that I just didn’t want to go to Griffith.  My response was, that in fact I am more concerned about when his mother dies, because it seems unthinkable for us not to go her funeral, but I’m blowed if I know how we could do it.

Don is to be discharged and will be coming home in a few days.  They are ordering some equipment (electric lifter, special chair) and also arranging for community nurses to come and help at various times.  The geriatric doctor who made the assessment — well, he’s not a geriatric himself, but you know what I mean — can authorise what sort of assistance, or level of care, a patient needs.  He knows more about multiple sclerosis than most other doctors we have seen, and he gave us advice on how best to manage at home.

Then he said, “There’s something else I need to do.  With your permission, I will put your name down, Donald, for a high-care facility” — jargon for nursing home — “so that when the time comes that you can no longer manage at home, we can make a smooth transition.”

After he left, Don was very subdued.  We just sat together, and finally he said, “Did you hear that, Barb?   I’m going to end my days in a nursing home.”  Another silence, then he added, “Not just end my days; I’ve got my name down to go in now.”

“Not for ages,” I said.  “We can manage at home for ages.”

He sat silently for a while, then in a tight, quiet voice he said, “Would you get the Bible?  Read me Psalm 46.”

My voice was thick as I read: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  …  Be still, and know that I am God!  I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.  The Lord of hosts is with us…”

Don said quietly, “Though the mountains shake.  We will not fear.”