There are many topics I wish to discuss.
France and President Hollande's unusual tax ideas.
The real reason as it seems to me why the digital age advanced so quickly.
Why the Kosovo - Serbia agreement is so precarious.
A little musing on why Marcel Aymé back in the 1940s was so prescient on the economic mayhem we have now.
Also probably a little something on why David Cameron has quite clearly lost the plot altogether regarding the EU.
All these things can wait. Because what is P-for Prussia really in fact all about? What is the purpose?
I see dead people.
No, don't worry, not like the little boy in 'The Sixth Sense'. I haven't completely lost my mind or discovered psychic abilities.
I mean doppelgängers of people I have lost. Or to sound less sinister, mere doubles.
|Adorable yet agonising|
Anything can do it. And quite often does. I generally keep these things to myself because actually it would probably send me to a mental asylum and leave me with even less friends than I have now.
I was sitting in a coffee shop with the Puppy, trying to make the Russian grammar system make some sense to me before this week's class. Chewing the end of my pen, gazing around, my glance hit upon a crumpled man standing near the table behind me. He had little parcels piled on the floor and on the chairs at his table and he was standing there looking quite vacant. Counting and recounting his change in his hand with great precision. I looked away and stared at my work. There was something about him I couldn't shake. He bothered me. Massively.
I looked around at him again and he was still standing there, this time fidgeting in his inside jacket pocket with little cards and other bits and pieces. He looked very stern.
The Puppy was trying to beg for food at the next table and I turned to concentrate on making him behave and chat with the little girl whose cookie he was after. I caught sight of the people with her looking behind me, looks of disgust really. Did they think he was some vagrant? A nutter? A drunk maybe?
I gave up on the work as my brain had gone into overdrive. I put my pen down and looked behind me. After fifteen minutes of fumbling about he was now sitting at the table with his long cold coffee. He was staring at nothing. Into the middle distance, holding his coffee cup at a dangerous angle, shaking ever so slightly. He looked like he hadn't shaved for a while or at least made a bit of a hash of it if he had. His hair was untidy and he kept fidgeting with his scarf with exact measure, seemingly trying to put it straight. Though it was fine.
My eyes began to well up.
No, he did not look physically like my father. My father was tall, handsome, tanned with sparkly blue eyes. But this man in the coffee shop is exactly how Papa was he was when he had Alzheimer's.
I felt like I was having a panic attack. My heart was racing, my palms had become clammy and I felt frankly like I was going a bit mad. I wanted to reach out to him, to say something.
But what? I was in a coffee shop, I didn't know him. He didn't need any help. People would think I was weird for going up to some random man, and a fairly odd looking one at that.
I looked at my books and picked my pen up and told myself, 'This is not your father. This man is no one to you'. But the lump in my throat was getting worse and I felt like I was choking. I pondered packing up and leaving.
All the horrible weirdness about dementia that took over my father came flooding back to me. Seeing my tall father become so crumply, so weak. So peculiar.
Mama and I went away to Italy long before he was even diagnosed. I rang him up to ask how everything was and how the pets were. He talked gibberish to me. Rubbish about utter nonsense. I nodded slowly and looked blank. Mama was asking questions in my other ear asking for the phone so she could talk to him. I didn't pass any of the twaddle onto her and I said goodbye to him and told her everything was fine; that it was expensive to phone home so she couldn't talk too. She seemed placated. It was just the beginning of my anxiety about him.
It was me that suggested he had the illness and to go to the doctor in the first place. I wish I had been wrong. Sometimes being right really sucks.
Poor Papa. Poor Mama. Poor me.
I am not about to write about the horrific effects of Alzheimer's and how it affects those around the sufferer. I hope no one who reads this ever has to experience it on any level. If you have already then my heart goes out to you in empathy.
But this man reminded me of all of it. I couldn't bear it anymore and I just picked the dog up and went over to the bar and asked for another drink. I looked back at the man and knew I had to break this absurd feeling. So I casually went over and asked if he would like a cup of tea as I was due a free one on my loyalty card. A lie of course, but no one likes pity and charity piled on them. He looked up at me with sparkly green eyes on a dishevelled face and said he would prefer coffee!
So, I got the coffee, much to the waitress's bewilderment, and set it down on his table. No thank you. No real response at all. This man was no drunk. He was no deviant. He was a dementia suffer and I do not need a degree in medicine to know that. I'd seen all of it before.
I told him my name and asked his. Eamonn he said. And that is all he said.
I sat back at my table and did some work and after a while I looked back at him and smiled, he half smiled back with a vexed look. Was he even smiling at me or just at some random thought he had?
But it was enough for me. I didn't need thanks. I didn't need any chat. My concentration was improved.
My friend told me I was 'paying forward' a kind deed that had happened to me earlier in the day. I don't agree.
They say no act of kindness is truly selfless , maybe that is true. I did not do it to be kind. I did it because I had to shake the madness out of me. I had to shake the image that had appeared of my father, to remind myself this was not my father, this was a stranger. I was not acting out of some kind of misplaced guilt.
You know what? I got an extra stamp on my Caffè Nero card for buying another drink. So who benefitted?
He got up abruptly after he had finished his second coffee which he had sugared and stirred with a fastidious intent you see only in OCD or dementia sufferers. He picked up all his funny little parcels and bags and strode purposefully to the door and left. No look at me , no goodbye. Nothing.
I picked up my pen once more, my heart rate had returned to normal, my brain seemed to be functioning as it should (Russian verb conjugations notwithstanding) and I sipped my tea and gave the Puppy a little bit of my hardly touched cookie. No one looked at me. No one cared.
As my mother always told me, I am not that important or special. I am just a human being like any other.
I just needed to reach out to another at that moment. So really aren't I the pitiful little mess in this story?
Do people not look at me and regard me in the same sad way? Well no, probably not. Because we all have our own back story. I do not have a sign hanging over my head flashing in neon the words ORPHAN... WIDOW. It was me who needed to do what I did. No one needs to know why.
He went off on his way, without a second thought to me, but he helped me to remember painful things, to face them and get over them.
I suppose in normal circumstances I would have a family and close loved ones to share these things with but I do not. So my interaction with other human beings might at times seem very odd to others. But actually they are very, very normal and human.
I recently made contact with a very old, and dear friend who was shocked to hear about my parents dying. She remembered my parents with such darling clarity it rendered me totally shocked. She had recalled things I never once would have thought about let alone thought others might. Thanks to her I find it easier to remember my parents with things that a daughter should think of. Fun things. Stupid things. The things I miss the most. Natural, normal stuff that make up memories.
When I first started visiting the nursing home as a volunteer with the Puppy I encountered an elderly man with severely advanced dementia and at first I stepped back as found it too hard to be with him.
I did in time sit with him more and found I could cope, but it was an ordeal for me.
If today's coffee shop incident had happened then I am not sure I could have overcome the panic as efficiently. Today was different. In part this is due to time healing and also my friend's wonderful words.
Proust wrote,' We are healed from suffering only by experiencing it to the full'.
I am not sure I have experienced it to the full because I am not brave enough. I have suffered yes. But grieving entails going over it and talking about it. Some things will always be left in boxes marked 'for some time in the future'. But really, they may never be opened at all.
I am not going to advocate that we all reach out and touch others' lives in some hippy annoying way. To be honest, it might end in you getting a slap, or worse. No one likes a do-gooding nosey parker.
I did not pity Eammon. I understood him. And that is what all of us really desire more than anything else in the world. To be understood.
But because I understood him, I could understand myself and my own feelings.
As I have said many a time, there is no positive to bereavement. However, maybe it is good for the little grey cells. As Proust once said........
"Happiness is beneficial to the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind".
Surely I should be a genius in that case.
And fear not, I will get onto some of the afore mentioned important topics very soon!