What happened to the past four weeks?  Disappeared without trace apparently.  Well actually, I had surgery – yes, again! – and I’m learning that medical stuff simply eats up the days and weeks.

It was a hip replacement operation, something that is so common among my contemporaries that it seems I am just keeping up with the crowd.  Everybody gave me all sorts of advice and information, and it all went off smoothly so I am now getting used to walking without a stick and am actually allowed to drive again.

The biggest changes to lifestyle have been firstly not driving, and secondly getting so tired that each day has only a small window of time for me to be actually doing anything.  These two issues balance each other out, because I am too tired to want to go anywhere so the driving hasn’t been too much of a problem.

I need not have worried how Don would manage with all the action and outings and conversation with visiting friends.  This was a friendship reaching back to student days and meant a lot.

Friends

Don was better than usual and very responsive.  Twice in one week an outing to come home for lunch!  And on the other days there were long visits with him in his room, but despite my concerns that he would be completely wiped out, he stayed alert and interested whenever he was with them.

A Scotch between Friends

Lunch together with mutual friends led to a stimulating time discussing theology, politics, books, feminism, the state of the world — basically life the universe and everything —  and although Don isn’t able to join in these sort of conversations any more, he loved being part of it as the conversations and laughter swirled around him.

Lunch together

Bless them all.

Shopping

Don hasn’t been out of the nursing home in three months.  Mainly that was due to my medical issues and fatigue, but then his pressure sores made it impossible for him to be sitting up in a chair for any length of time.  Those problems are now resolved.

He hasn’t been asking to go out, until Monday afternoon last week when he suddenly said, Are we going home tomorrow?  So I thought, well I guess going out is do-able, but not to go home because that’s pretty hard and I’m not really up to it yet — but an outing for lunch, and just going up the street, do a little shopping?  That might work out.  Also the taxi was only available for a short time, about two hours, so an excursion to the shops seemed a good option.

I have to say, it was not an unqualified success.  The series of vascular stroke Don has been experiencing means that he can’t control his emotions.  What he feels is what he says.  So when we are in the newsagent picking out a birthday card for our grandson and he suddenly calls out loudly, “I’m hungry!  I’m hungry!” I try to calm him and get him to the café as quickly as possible.  When lunch took longer than we hoped, he called out several times very testily and very loudly.  It’s a little embarrassing but you can see that people are very understanding and tolerant, and one elderly man came over and shook his hand gently and said, “Patience, my friend!  Lunch is on its way”, and that did seem to calm him.  The kindness of strangers.

Luckily the taxi was on time and we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes.

Shopping

I think it was a big thing to go out after such a long time being confined to the nursing home, and it was probably quite a strain for Don to be out in the world even for a few hours.  With friends coming to visit in the near future and stay with us for a few days, there will be some visits home for Don so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he will be able to cope with a longer outing than our shopping trip.

Had a phone call last Sunday night from a stranger, who had just called the ambulance for my son.  A bad accident on his bike, which the stranger had witnessed and stopped to help.  My son had gone over the handlebars and crashed to the pavement on his head.  This was about 10 pm, so I left for the hospital thinking it would be a “check him over and let him go home” but the injuries were worse than I had imagined.

wodge accident

Skull fracture, fractures in the cheekbones, a broken collar-bone, plus lots of abrasions and blood.  He came home after a couple of days but with your right arm immovable in a sling you can’t do much, including simple things like butter the toast, open the peanut butter jar, do up your buttons.  And a lot of pain, and movement quite difficult.

This has thrown plans into disarray as he was on the brink of moving out (again) and getting his own place.  Appointments this week include a face doctor (Tuesday), the GP (Wednesday) and back to the hospital a few days later for further X-Rays.

Currently improving but quite a long way from hale and hearty.

Wodge

Country Air

I missed last Friday afternoon at the nursing home, with a night away.  Visited family in the Blue Mountains and also friends in the country who live in an old stone schoolhouse and school residence which they have done up.  They live in the residence and have an art studio in the school.  It has been beautifully renovated and is quite idyllic.

Tarana

He was once a chef at a “hatted” restaurant in Paris, so meals are mouth-watering.  Main course was duck, with home-made black pudding, sautéed potatoes and salad.  Dessert was to die for, consisting of figs that had begun by being soaked in Drambuie, and a sort of creamy sauce that was simply exquisite.

The picture doesn’t give any appreciation of how good it was!

Duck dinner

Best day of the week in the nursing home is Fridays, on three counts.  Firstly it is fish-and-chip day — traditional I know, and probably not to everyone’s taste and it is the one day that is exactly the same every week whereas there is a lot of variety other days — but Don has always been partial to fish and chips.  Days gone by, sometimes he would suggest we all jump in the car and go out for fish and chips instead of a regular meal, a bit of a treat in a family that just did not do “fast food”.

Secondly we have some friends who always come to visit every single Friday without fail, and it’s not only nice to have the visit itself, but sometimes I talk to Don in advance, “What will we talk to George and Wendy about today?” and that in itself can occasionally spur him to suggest something he’s interested in.

Main thing of the day, though, is Friday afternoon “Happy Hour”, where everyone gathers in the common room for a glass of wine or a beer, and the kitchen provides mini pizzas and spring rolls and cheese and biscuits, and one of our staff who is an entertainer in his spare time croons some old songs and encourages a sing-a-long.

A White Sports Coat

He sings things like:  Old Man River – A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation – Running Bear – Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree – Love Me Tender – I Could Have Danced all Night ….

It’s a nice day all round, and I try very hard to avoid commitments on a Friday.  Last week I had to be away but made sure the staff would get Don up after lunch for the concert.

It’s hard to know how much attention Don is paying, especially when he so often lies there with his eyes closed.  Sometimes I think he has gone to sleep but if I get up leave very quietly, he is as likely as not to open his eyes and say in astonishment, “Are you leaving?  Why?”

He has been keen for me to read David’s book “The Secret Code-Breakers of Central Bureau” but I know he finds it hard to follow the thread of anything for more than a few minutes, so when he closes his eyes I keep on reading, but thinking it is only for my own benefit.

So I was very surprised when I picked up the book today and started riffling through a few pages, he said, What about that woman who was the electrical engineer?  It was a chapter I had read last week, and is probably my favourite chapter in the whole book.  The chapter is called “Mrs Mac and her Girls in Green” and it tells of Florence Violet Mackenzie in Sydney who taught herself electrical wiring from books, wanted to become an electrical engineer but in an era when girls were not given apprenticeships this was not possible, got around the rules by opening her own business and apprenticing herself, then later realised a knowledge of Morse code would be helpful for the war effort and single-handedly set up a training facility for girls, which became highly regarded.

That potted summary doesn’t do justice either to the chapter, or to the woman who should be a household word.  But it was wonderful that Don had understood enough to be impressed, and even more remarkable that he remembered it five days later.

Our son’s second book has just been published.  Hopefully it will become a runaway best seller!!

Most people have heard of Britain’s code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, and the enigma machine etc, but our David has written about the equally important but little-known code-breaking team that operated in Australia. His book “The Secret Code-Breakers of Central Bureau” was launched a couple of weeks ago, at the Australian War Memorial, with some top bods from intelligence and defence in attendance and speaking.

codebreaker book

Also some of those original code-breakers from the Second World War, now in their 90’s, travelled to Canberra for the occasion!  This is a photo of one of them, Gordon Gibson, chatting with one of Australia’s most senior intelligence chiefs, Steve Meekin, who was keynote speaker at the launch.

Meekin

Being parents of the author, Don and I of course have a courtesy copy.  I confess I am not particularly interested in reading books about the war, or code-breaking, but I found the book completely absorbing and easily readable, and finished it in a week.

I keep a copy in Don’s room at the nursing home and read him a chapter every now and then.  The book follows a chronological thread but each chapter is more or less stand-alone, and it’s full of stories and human interest, so I just dip at random into a chapter that looks interesting, and that seems to work.  Despite Don’s difficulty with cognitive function, he is taking in quite a bit.

Nice that David’s son was there at the launch, whether he realised the enormity of the occasion or not.  I was there too.

Barb at launch

Most poignant thing, though, is the dedication.  Don became quite emotional when I read it out and showed him the page.

“To my parents, Don and Barb Dufty”
Feels pretty good to have a book dedicated to us.

I don’t think of myself as old, but things seem to be breaking down all over the place.  Having had the lump removed, apparently very successfully thank God! – I am now informed by the doctor that I need some follow-up procedures from other things that had question marks a year or two ago and although everything came up clear and normal it’s time to check again.  Hence a thyroid scan (the nodes still a bit funny but basically OK), a repeat colonoscopy planned for a couple of months (all clear last time but a polyp in a funny place they could not reach or identify) and most urgently, a bone person to look at my hips because I am not so mobile as I was.

Added to this, Don himself has had a problem with “pressure sores” which at one time became bit infected and now there is some scarring and outgrowths that need to be removed.  This of course is more major than anything I am undergoing, simply because of the transport factor and the planning required.  And his condition and being bed-ridden for so many years makes any operation more fraught than it would be for anyone else.  Arranging a consultation with the anaesthetist has been a frustrating exercise over the past weeks and we still don’t have a date scheduled.  Once that happens, they will arrange a date for the procedure itself, which will involve a hospital stay.

I have always believed the most boring conversations anyone can have are descriptions of medical problems and procedures.  Sorry about that.

flower show

Flowers and cards, and people offering to drive me places – feeling very loved.

And the follow up appointment tells me that everything is clear and nothing to worry about.  I feel very relieved and grateful.