When Life Slips Away
When Life Slips Away
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
On Christmas day 1992, this coincidentally was my mother’s birthday, my father passed away. He had suffered from lung cancer and a brain tumour for many months. Having smoked heavily from the age of thirteen and after a healthy life it finally caught up with him. Before he was placed in a hospice, unable to care for himself and awaiting the inevitable, he was cared for in a Repatriation home. It was a beautiful place, well-appointed and set in beautiful gardens and bushlands. At that point my father was paranoid, angry, constantly spouting stories of mistreatment and bouncing back and forth between cognizance and melancholy. His connection with life was slowly ebbing away.
I used to take the kids to see him and it was the only thing that put a smile on his face. If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny, because of my Dad’s dissatisfaction he would try to escape the home. Some two hundred metres away from his quarters, on the main road and entrance, there was a bus-stop. It was one of the most popular spots in the home. The old dears, clad in their dressing-gowns and slippers would somehow get by all the nursing stations and shuffle up to the bus-stop, to make good their escape from this harsh prison-like place. There was a constant parade of nurses escorting their patients back to the wards. Dad would tell about his exploits and giggle, just like a naughty schoolboy.
Later, in the hospice, Dad’s mental state had deteriorated considerably. He was a mere skeleton, his foot red raw from a constant rubbing on the sheets, like an unconscious tick.
When I would visit, I was never sure whether he even recognised me, but if an attractive nurse passed the doorway, he would lift his head and give a knowing grin. His favourite activity, I was told, was getting his daily sponge bath. I guess some things never change.
Perhaps his lack of awareness was a mercy, given his slow and undignified demise. But I’ll always remember the Home, his escape plans and will, the last thread of his connection to life. Now he is at peace, and his memory will live on in those who loved him.
The following is a poem I wrote in memory of that time.
Tony DeLorger © (9/08/06)
He sat hunched over, lost in his misery,
Feeling helpless and alone, with no-one on his side.
His deep brown eyes rimmed with white,
Now dull and lifeless, stared into nothing,
His plight seemingly hopeless.
Then, as if released he turned and spoke of escape,
Formulating an intricate plan, to show them all
That he would not stand for this treatment.
But he slips back under the spell and recedes inward,
In silent pain and grievance stricken.
‘Poppy’? A high-pitched voice resounds,
And he turns to the child and smiles,
for a moment forgetting.
He lifts his bony hand and gently touches the child’s face,
In some way recognising himself, remembering life.
He mumbles some hapless remark then closes his eyes,
The sun’s warmth a fine thread of connection,
To lost memories.