Going to Jail

Why would a middle class, middle aged suburban housewife and mother, mature aged university student, go to work in a jail? Well, when that career of a quarter of a century of marriage and motherhood crumbled around her, she found herself on the margins of society, a sole parent on a pension. Part time work over that quarter of a century had been structured around family responsibilities, not career trajectories. Studies in  an Arts degree majoring in Medieval Literature did not hold promise of a career, but as some wits suggested, maybe were entirely appropriate for a career in the NSW prison system!

What surreal world did this employment decision catapult her into? And how did this decision enable her to advance to becoming the inaugural manager of the first pre-release community-based transitional centre in this state? And then to write a published memoir, Careering into Corrections?

Well, that’s another story.

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No Place like Home

but how come I’m out almost every day? The gym, the voluntary work, the grocers, the dentist, the doctor, the podiatrist, the ophthalmologist, the pathologist, the radiographer! What is it about the ageing process that takes so much time? Well of course, there are the movies, the galleries, the ballet, the opera, the concerts – all at concession rates.

Home is Bondi Beach, and today was a day at home. I could have gone for a swim – the weather had cleared, the tide was flat – no explosions of foam over Ben Bucklers rocks.The water temperature is warm – I dipped and ducked in the ocean last Sunday – water beautiful.

But decided on a brisk walk down to Bondi IGA, with a concise list of 3 items. So how did I end up in Vinnies? No, it is not on the way to the the IGA, it’s up in the next block. But I was only going to browse for specific items, so how come I came out with another handbag and a jumper? To my credit, I did buy only 2 of the 5 items I’d selected, so that shows some discipline. And I’m giving back a jumper from my existing stock. It’s lovely, but actually, I never wear it.

The grocery list stayed almost on target – bought only two extra items (on special). And I had promised to indulge myself on this day at home with coffee at my favourite coffee shop, Gertrude and Alice. But blocking my entrance was a tub full of marvellous, quirky greeting cards – $2 each or 6 for $10. It would have defied all budgetary common sense to resist.

Now for the latte. Oh goodness, what has just hit me in the eye? Oh, a gorgeous spelt berry scone. Why not? After all, this is my day at home in Bondi Beach.

Of course the brisk walk home morphed into a ponderous plod, as extra bags and groceries combined with an indulgent afternoon tea dragged my steps into a slow,  arduous journey home.

But hey, a day browsing in my own territory doesn’t yet threaten my entitlement. And there really is no place like home.

 

 

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Strata Living

Dear Resident of no. 16

 

 

Although we’ve never met in the eighteen months since I moved here, I feel that not only do I know you, I know you intimately. Late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, I am able to track, somewhat reluctantly, your very audible movements. I share, rather unwillingly, a range of your activities with you as you wander from the bathroom, to the bedroom, to the lounge room. And have you, I wonder, thought of WD40 for your windows? I would be happy to give you mine if this would subdue some of your nocturnal operational activities.

 

The fluid sounds from your bathroom have particular resonance, as they tinkle unhindered through hollow, aqueous conduits. Or perhaps, more accurately, stream down like Niagara Falls surging through a narrow spout. That’s how I deduced that you have a particular appendage suggestive of the male of the species. You know, I have just read that apartments in Switzerland have by-laws regulating males to sit, rather than stand, when performing functional rituals at a late hour. I know this is not Switzerland. We live in the legendary land of the tough where ‘the boys don’t cry,’ and a dead-eye dick aim is a long bow from an apple on a Swiss hero’s head.

 

And I do understand that every Tarzan needs his Jane. But in keeping with evolutionary progress, you and your Jane don’t swing in a hammock slung between the tops of trees. Rather, you plump down on a somewhat rickety bed, which creaks loud complaints in time with the rhythmic stresses percussing its unstable frame. And your Jane is a vocal spirit, who soars off into operatic shrieks of ecstasy. Allow me to congratulate you on an admirable application of skills and equipment.

 

I don’t know an easy solution for this. Perhaps I should withdraw the offer of the WD40, and suggest you keep your windows closed, to muffle the crescendo of climactic trills.

 

I have one last request. As you lumber around your space, would it be possible to tread more lightly on your floors which, in their natural, uncarpeted splendour adjoin the flimsy, porous substance of my bedroom ceiling? So could you try not to drop whatever it is you drop on the floor? And to refrain from dragging furniture, or dead bodies or whatever it is that you drag around, at such uninviting hours?

 

Yours of the bathroom and bedroom below in

 

Unit No. 8

ã 2004

Cleo Lynch

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THE NIGHTLY BATTLE

 

I could no longer put it off. Bodies had been washed and cleaned, and caked-on excrement sponged off and disposed of. The final cups of tea had been slurped and sucked, and the evening shift was coming to an end.

 

Except for one last chore. The glasses beside the beds wait expectantly to receive their gruesome charges.

 

Plunging my hand into the first mouth, I grope around soggy clumps of biscuit crumbs jostling with pieces of masticated corn. Drooling secretions ooze between my fingers, covering them with a slimy film as I poke and prise.

 

There is always a struggle, as some faint memory of ownership reasserts itself in a painful clamp on my hand. Releasing it from harm I start the process again.

 

Success at last, as I drop the dripping, discoloured teeth into the glass. Particles of food, released from crevices, float sluggishly in the water.

 

Now for the lower set. As my stomach heaves up to my throat, I gag it back, and again plunge my hand into the unwilling mouth.

 

Cleo Lynch

ã 2006

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PATIENT LIVES

She stood there, a small, stocky dog with short, light-brown fur and squat legs squarely planted on her rug. A leash trailed listlessly beside her. I passed by her as I obeyed the therapist’s direction to walk briskly around the edge of the gymnasium floor, with my fellow participants in the heart rehabilitation program.

 

Her eyes bored into me before I actually saw her; Large, doleful, brown eyes, fixed expectantly on the walkers and their shuffling responses to the therapist’s directive to walk briskly.

 

Not an especially beautiful animal, yet without moving a muscle, she inveigled her way into your awareness with an unwavering, pleading stare. Undaunted by the disorganized pedestrian shambles, the dog gazed wistfully at us, patiently alert to the semblance of a nod, a sound rising on a positive inflection, any human sign which could be interpreted as an invitation to trot along with us around the edge of the gymnasium floor.

 

But bound by canine obedience, she remained rigid on the rug, only her eyes giving any hint of movement. Although one day during exercise class, her owner suddenly broke off in the middle of neck stretches, and reiterating sternly, ‘No, no,’ left the class and marched over to where the dog waited. Or rather, to where she should have been waiting.

 

But the rug was vacant. The dog had moved sideways to squat in front of two elderly women. Their sympathetic noises, and invitations to patting and stroking and other doggie indulgences, had proven irresistible. Succumbing to this attention and affection, the dog had recklessly abandoned her rug, to grovel in canine subservience at the feet of the indulgers. Inevitably there were consequences for this breach of obedience, and with stern reminders of her canine status, her owner asserted his authority and herded her back to her rug, where she resumed her mournful vigil.

 

As she rivets me to her gaze, mounting her silent plea, my mind swirls with memories of another dog, whose photo sits on my bookshelf, a ginger haired mixture of beagle and labrador. Of average size and well proportioned, she was bigger than the dog at the hospital. White fur patched her face, and flecked her coat. Her doggie eyes gaze out at me from the photo, feigning a look of innocent naivety, which masks an innate, canine cunning. Her name was Kelly.

 

Years ago, Kelly inhabited our household. Mind you, she was meant to inhabit it externally, but with passive canine persistence, she crept vigilantly around identified obstacles until voilà, she finally succeeded in beguiling her way through the back door to the laundry. Tail wagging incessantly, she feigned an air of deceptive innocence, to distract from this boundary breach. Once in the laundry it was only an elongated slink to human company and the comforts of kitchen and lounge room.

 

There were, inevitably, some lapses of judgment, such as the ill-advised attack on the baked chicken I had rested momentarily on the open oven door, right beside the laundry. A quick canine calculation balanced the disadvantages of resisting temptation against the consequent explosive, but short-lived, tirade of anger and outrage. Indeed, that dog established a case for virtuous innocence, portraying herself as the confused victim, powerlessly wafted through the open door on the aroma of the chicken.

 

But that brazen, illicit sampling of roast chicken was a severe setback on the course of domestic integration, and strategically, she literally went to ground, practising every fawning gesture of subservience as she sought to ingratiate herself back into the forbidden domestic boundaries. During long doggie days she would watch and wait, plot and plan, alert to the smallest gap through which she could slither and begin to pad her stealthy path back through the laundry door.

 

As usual, she would frequently sabotage her best efforts with minor, petulant canine outbursts when she felt excluded and starved of attention. Unfortunately, digging up the newly planted garden as payback for being left home alone was the wrong sort of attention, and she knew it. But so pathological was this canine need to be noticed, she would herself alert us to the wrongdoing, responding to our cheerful calls with head hung down and tail between her legs, sure indicators of a guilty doggie conscience. Any kind of attention it seemed, was worth the consequences.

 

There was the time when she took advantage of my trustful inattention. Walking into the lounge room to collect something, I caught a furtive movement from the corner of my eye, and turned my head to investigate. There, slinking down from the sofa to the floor, like one of those slinky toys that oozes its way down steps, was Kelly, in a contorted simulation of slink and grovel. Had she not moved I would never have known she was there. But some vestige of canine obedience pricked her into a guilty retreat, exposing her to an outraged reprimand. To be in the lounge room was one thing. But to be lying on the sofa! This wilful flaunting of boundaries flabbergasted me.

 

But for Kelly it was only a minor distraction. Perseverance and patience, those dogged qualities, which over centuries had defined the relationship between her species and ours, had imbued her with an indefatigable ability to triumph over any adversity presented by humans.

 

Predictably, she was eventually ensconced in the house, fixing us with that same steady, mournful gaze calculated to make you feel guilty, like the dog at the hospital. A brief snack, the indulgence of a meat pie, would see her planted squarely in front of your feet, doleful eyes scrutinizing every mouthful taken. No matter that she may have just been fed, or rewarded with some titbits. Nothing deterred her from this guilt laying-on ritual. You felt like a glutton stuffing yourself in the presence of a starving waif.

 

That dog! Always contriving to present as an innocent, dumb animal, while maintaining a vigilant alert to any disruption to her comfort! We would only have to mouth the word ‘bath’, and she would disappear, way under the house, where we couldn’t reach her. Her bathtub, the wheelbarrow, was anathema to her, regarded with heightened suspicion even when used for its legitimate purpose. Human wiliness had to be pitted against canine resistance to cajole her out from her hiding place to endure the indignity of a bath.

 

Beagles are fetchers, invaluable to hunters, and in the absence of birds and small animals, Kelly had evolved into an obsessive fetcher of balls and sticks. Strategically placed on each back step was a stick, mute symbols of canine optimism that one of them might be thrown out into the yard so she could indulge her passion.

 

New neighbours, beguiled by this benign, tail wagging creature whose friendly overtures were always accompanied by a stick, would enthusiastically hurl the stick, only to find it back at their feet faster than a returning boomerang. Enthusiasm would soon subside into exasperation as the exhausted stick-throwing victims tried stoically to ignore this pesky animal.

 

But the obsession with balls was a boon to the neighbourhood cricket team. Kelly was always on the team, a fast, reliable fielder. All the kids in the street loved Kelly. She never tired of fetching the ball, which enthusiastic batsmen belted up and down the street, over fences and down gutters. She could even catch it on the full. And she played to the rules of the game, always surrendering the ball, drooling with saliva, immediately she had retrieved it. No one seemed to worry about doggie germs back then, as the ball was immediately scooped up in an attempt to run the batsman out.

 

She was an energetic dog who exuded robust health, but there was no escaping the onset of old age. An intermittent limp was the first symptom attributable, the vet claimed, to degenerative rheumatism. He had a simple remedy. She was he said, to rest, and stop running after sticks and balls. But this dog was the Peta Pan of canines. Not for her a quiet, dignified old age. She relished youthful exuberance, revelled in the attention and affection that rewarded her feats with sticks and balls and jigged around expectantly, waiting for the game to begin. The pain from a gammy leg could not compete with the thrill of the chase.

 

And then, one day, quite suddenly, in mid-ball catch, she staggered and collapsed. She had sustained a stroke. The vet was cautious in his prognosis. She might survive he said, but if she did, would be unable to get about, and remain dependent on intensive medical treatment. So it was to be vale to Kelly. Tears still come to my eyes as I cast myself back to that day when I had to make the decision to determine Kelly’s fate. I have never heard, before or since, such anguished cries as those of my son, although as the youngest of six he had already set an unrivalled precedent for volume. It was his birthday, but Kelly’s demise rendered celebration impossible. He would always, he loudly sobbed, connect his birthday with her death.

 

Kelly had been his companion since he was a toddler. Like him, she was an unplanned addition to our family. A phone call had come from an erstwhile brother. One could never judge the accuracy of the information in such phone calls, but as we had just lost a dog, we decided to risk the veracity of this call. Friends of his he said, were expecting their first baby. They wanted to give away their dog because they felt she wouldn’t adjust to competing for attention with the new arrival. The dog had undergone, my brother assured us, obedience and other training, although given many of Kelly’s later lapses it is doubtful that she ever graduated. So telling the children we were collecting a surprise for them, we crossed Sydney and took ownership of the dog.

 

When they saw her they were ecstatic. This was a surprise beyond their expectations as our house extensions were still not finished. To our youngest child the dog became an inseparable companion, a reliable source of unquestioning affection. Kelly for her part, revelled in her new surroundings and seemed to have no qualms in relinquishing her old home and settling in with us. If the children were all out she went in search of them, taking advantage of the unfinished back fence to make her escape. She would go no further than the local school where the attention she craved was lavished on her. Kelly quickly became a neighbourhood identity, and the school would either notify us, or children would make a detour to ensure that she arrived home safely.

 

For a number of reasons we never replaced Kelly. For me, she could never be replaced. But as the dog at the hospital fixes us with its gaze, I am overcome with nostalgia for that time in my life when a dog’s tricks, a dog’s antics, a dog’s personality, a dog’s needs, were a part of my everyday existence.

 

As its owner berates the dog at the hospital for daring to move from its rug, I am reminded of the chicken, the sofa, the dug-up gardens, the dogged canine persistence in inveigling its way into our hearth and our hearts.

 

But for now I can only look at the photograph on my bookshelf and treasure my memories of the Kelly era.

 

ã 2007

Cleo Lynch

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Pyrmont Markets (Last day in April)

PYRMONT MARKETS

It was a glorious day when spring had not yet surrendered to summer, and I was making a rare trip to the Growers’ Markets at Pyrmont Park. The ferry chugged across the harbour, shredding curtains of mist that trailed listlessly into the atmosphere, exposing cobalt patches of sky.

Impossible to miss the markets when the ferry docked! The park was submerged under a canopy of umbrellas. Although I had caught the earliest ferry, it was evident that I was not early, and the prospect of lingering over a leisurely breakfast soon dissipated in the thronging crowds.

Stalls bordered the waters edge and the immediate boundaries of the park. Some encroached on the centre, and others formed an endless line on the far side. Everywhere crowds bustled and jostled their way to the counters to look, to touch, to taste, to carry off produce in triumph.

There were bread stalls with myriads of varieties of freshly baked organic loaves. Mouth-watering fruit loaves, their fresh dough crumpled with fruit and dimpled with whole almonds, tumbled seductively against robust, gluten- free sourdoughs. The pale, diffused gold of pumpkin loaves was a delicate contrast to hearty Aussie dampers.

Home baked, culinary creations festooned the cake stalls. The ginger cake was clearly a masterpiece, its unique flavour attributable we were assured, to a spicy secret harbouring three different types of ginger. Australian Bush Christmas cakes, heavy with fruit and spice and decorated with opulent glace flora, were nostalgic reminders of an era when the icing on the cake was the artistic signature of the dedicated, homespun expert.

Wandering from stall to stall, I salivated over swollen, plump knobs of marinated baby figs luxuriating in rich, dark liquid. Jars of jam, lids removed to flaunt their decadence, flagrantly touted for business from stall counters. Bunches of riotous colours paraded along the edges of flower stalls, and the smell of fresh blossoms permeated the air, throwing out a sensory challenge to the irresistible reminders of brewed coffee.

The creamy textures of butters, cheeses, yoghurts and their marinated medleys enticed the wayward wanderer to indulge in furtive flirtations with the lurking dangers of cholesterol. Fruit and vegetable stalls, chaotic displays of fresh, organic produce, attracted relentless crowds. Moisture glistened on the greens, and the wild rocket conjured up visions of vigorous salads bursting with reckless energy. Bunches of miniature beetroot promised colourful embellishments to mundane meals.

The crowds surged around. Dog walkers, stoically claiming their right to space, presided with benevolent tolerance over territorial canine clashes, which threatened to disrupt this spectacular event of organic harmony. Young parents manoeuvred deluxe model pushers with unwavering purpose, scattering careless loiterers from their path. Venturing back to the stalls, I joined a short coffee queue, and performed a precarious balancing act with the morning paper, a shopping bag and a takeaway coffee.

Having resolved on a ‘look, but don’t buy’ day, I limited my purchases, but was already planning for future indulgences, such as the wild hibiscus flowers to drop into glasses of champagne. We called these rosellas when I was growing up, and rosella jam was a common, everyday jam, stockpiled plentifully at every fete and street stall. But now, no longer the Cinderellas crushed for jam and boiled with sugar, the whole, red, transparent flowers are packed in jars of syrup, waiting to burst into bloom with the kiss of champagne in a wine glass.

I strolled back to the wharf. The bright sunlight cavorted on the water, glinting and shimmering like quivering diamond facets. Exotic images and aromas pursued my senses as the ferry chugged back across the bay. Growers’ markets are a modern renaissance, a luscious display of human endeavour and creativity.

Senses sated and spirit nourished, I felt the balmy tranquillity of the morning seep through me, lifting me above the jangles of a world that is never quite right, and harmonising discord into a celebration of life’s simplicity.

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THE WEDNESDAY GROUP

Two days a week attending the initial rehabilitation program had disrupted my life. Instead of settling into a predictable rhythm, I felt disjointed and unable to achieve some harmonious flow to my weeks. To provide some distraction from this disrupting impact I enrolled in evening courses in singing, writing and philosophy, hoping to establish a pattern where the focus would not be on my heart attack.

 

After completing the introductory rehabilitation sessions, I graduated to the Wednesday group. Although I knew a few faces, I felt quite disconnected. The group is huge, a blend of stereotypical academic and genteel respectability, and inner city battlers. But I got the impression that for some participants, it is more a social occasion than an exercise session. While we waited for the staff to arrive, the conversation ranged around topics from local politics to football.

 

‘I go for two teams every weekend,’ an inner city loyalist boasted, ‘Balmain, and whoever plays against Manly.’

 

I forbore to mention that my kids and grandchildren all barracked for Easts, who’d maintained a steady losing streak that season. Although, to insure himself against any disappointments on Grand Final Day, my eight-year-old grandson confided that he was now going for six teams, Balmain being high in the optimistic stakes.

 

The gymnasium doors finally opened and we all forged in. I felt lost in chaos, but as the morning progressed, began to understand how the program worked. The Rivkin look-a-like was there, as was the film scriptwriter. Both are pleased with their progress, and have made positive adjustments to their lives post-heart incident.

 

A university student on placement was to be assessed on a presentation that day, a contributing factor, one of the staff confided, to the chaos, assuring us that it wasn’t usually like this. Another student conducted the circuit under the supervision of a humourless young woman, who insisted on a full two minutes for each activity. It soon became obvious that this time far exceeded the norm, and the responses ranged from moans and complaints to open revolt and anarchy. Little sympathy was shown for the protestors, who were brusquely exhorted to work harder.

 

The next few weeks will be another period of adjustment as I adapt to the new program and its dynamics. But the place was so crowded. The coordinator agreed, and said there would be a cull in the immediate future.

 

Shortly after I commenced the Wednesday group I took a brief holiday and on my return, found that there had indeed been a cull. With much-reduced numbers the crowded chaos had been streamlined into a smaller, more manageable group, and tentative attempts at socialisation were not so daunting.

 

Most of us arrived well before the staff, who were often delayed on the wards. Queued up this day, waiting for the doors to open, I was caught in the crossfire of conversation and complaints about the young woman who’d insisted on a more rigorous approach to the circuit exercises.

 

‘And if we get that ethnic girl today, I’m going to tell her that I know how hard I can exercise. She’s not going to tell me how hard I should be working. I know what I can do,’ one elderly woman was holding forth to the group.

 

Giving every appearance of having lived through tough times, she had paid strict attention to her grooming. Her hair was cut short, accentuating, rather than softening, a squarish face, and spiked up in a harsh bid to distract from her stocky, middle-aged stature. Today she was wearing a carefully chosen ensemble, a white T-shirt, with decorative red loops, to team with red, cotton capri pants. Protruding from the pants, her bare calves and ankles dragged the eye down to matching red and white joggers on her feet. On a cold August day, was this an optimistic prediction of an early spring? Or a defiant rebuttal of the resolute waning of bygone springs?

 

‘You weren’t here before,’ another woman turned to me. ‘We used to have such fun. You could have a joke and talk,’ she grieved. This is the raffle lady, who maintains a position of benevolent importance.

 

‘Oh,’ I said, trying to inject a degree of tolerance into the dynamics, ‘we get it for nothing, so I’m happy to come along and do whatever.’

 

‘Ya not gettin’ it f’nuthin,’ grated the middle-aged man beside me, a short, stocky figure, sporting the well-padded emblem of the inner city, working-class battler. ‘Y’ve bin payin’ ya Medicare levy f’years.’

 

The flat, definitive monotone signalled an end to the conversation.

 

Always desperately in need of new equipment, the gymnasium seems to be a low priority in the hospital’s budget, and raffles are run to raise funds. The prizes are reminiscent of the Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day gifts in school stalls, and indeed, may very well be the recycled offerings of grandchildren. A tempting range of goodies, including cakes of soap, hand knitted knickknacks, soft toys, biscuits, chocolates and little ornaments, is meant to be the irresistible inducement to purchasing tickets. I once won a cake of soap in a hand-knitted container that smelt so strongly of naphthalene, I almost had an asthma attack.

 

This year the Father’s Day raffle had an impressive line-up of prizes. There was a bottle of port, gift boxed with a glass, and a small, wrought iron wine rack, one of those ubiquitous wares in the myriads of gift shops that have proliferated. Or perhaps it was the discarded prize of another raffle, or a bowls competition?

 

Whatever, raffle drawing assumed all the trappings of a special occasion, with the raffle lady decked out in carefully creased slacks, and a white cotton top resplendent with glittering purple swirls. Quite clearly the emphasis for her today was to be on a more important function than the mundane activities designed to rehabilitate one from a heart incident.

 

Many tasks seemed to assume greater importance than those aligned with health maintenance, and served to exonerate the organisers from participating in the physical exercises. More tickets had to be sold to those who had missed out in the previous weeks. Then the tickets had to be folded and placed in a container.

 

Finally, the moment of excitement arrived, when various volunteers were withdrawn from the circuit to draw the lucky tickets, to the accompaniment of distracted applause from staff as they tried to maintain the training schedule. And by the time the raffle lady had fussed and tidied up, put everything back in order, and smoothed down her neatly creased slacks, the program was nearing the time limit. Rehabilitation had undergone a re-interpretation.

 

The Wednesday group is like a social event, although another cull sent the raffle lady and other sundry participants on their way. Staff now organise the raffles. Unlike the ‘we used to have such fun’ mentality of turning up and doing little, for most of us rehabilitation and working co-operatively with our bodies and the therapists is the main objective of attending the Wednesday group.

 

But we do have fun in the way that people who feel at ease with one another can interact, laughing at ourselves, and sharing our fears and setbacks. Newcomers come on board, and some drop off after a short while, while others attend spasmodically.

 

We occasionally resort to minor sabotage, as when the young male therapist inflicts his loud doof-doof CDs on us. A collective objection prevails to the ramping up of our action to his pace. The sound is particularly jarring to the professor of mediaeval music in our group, and it is not unknown for the offending CDs to have been temporarily mislaid, until the session is over.

 

A regular Wednesday group attendee, I am now an established client, one of a core group of old timers on the program. If one of us is absent once, twice or more, then we know that the others miss us, are concerned for our wellbeing, and alert staff to our concerns.

 

‘She’s been very depressed lately.’ ‘OK. We’ll give her a ring. Thanks for letting us know.’ ‘He had an appointment with a specialist, and hasn’t been back since.’ ‘Right. We’ll try to contact him.’ It is reassuring to know that others are thinking of you.

 

There are still days of chaos, as elderly figures shuffle aimlessly around the circuit, looking for an exercise they ‘can do.’ By the time they’ve fixed on one, it’s time to move on, and so begins another shambolic search for another ‘can do.’ This is particularly frustrating when students on placement conduct the sessions; it is difficult for young people to assert authority over reluctant or insecure participants. And they deliver their instructions in tentative tones, too soft to penetrate the resistant hearing of senior citizens who, like recalcitrant children, are only too willing to deploy diversionary tactics.

 

On these days I become exhausted when I observe the energy invested in avoidance, and feel that the therapists would be justified in resorting to something much stronger than caffeine to restore their sanity and professional equilibrium.

 

I attended the Wednesday group for over three years, but it seemed that a lifetime had elapsed since my heart attack. The event itself still seems surreal, it happened so quickly. The hospitalisation and medical procedure washed over me like a blur. It did change my life, but not too drastically, although the cost of travel insurance triggers a reality check.

 

Funding was withdrawn from the program, and although it was subsequently reinstated, I opted to move on and organise my own fitness and nutritional regime. My local doctor supervises ongoing health prophylaxis and concerns.

 

The children and grandchildren have recovered from my shock, and slotted me back into the role of hardy survivor, as they press on with their busy schedules. The attack has been factored into a predictability of durability. The stent, I am told, has a long life, all going well. I’ve become a statistic, adding to the survivors of heart attacks, and boosting the number of women who’ve succumbed to a heart attack.

 

But as long as I remain a fluid entity in the burgeoning ageing population, I’ll always be thankful for my health and a daily engagement with life.

 

Cleo Lynch     ã 2008

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