Grumpy grandad has turned yellow.
I have mixed feelings about yellow. It can be sunny and jolly and once I had a study painted yellow because I felt it was very condusive to creative writing but in clothes, for instance, it's a big no no (me being a winter and all) and in my grandad's skin it's all wrong.
But then it is all wrong, all this, getting to this point.
It was diabetes in the beginning but now it's Body Packed it In Disease which includes dodgy bladder, numb legs, dicky heart, several falls and (perhaps) a half tumbler of whiskey a night to get to sleep.
As well as being yellow (not exactly sure but I think medical term is "his liver=fucked") it seems that he will also need to have his leg amputated up to the knee. That would be that creeping infection in the bone.
They do that to you every time, those creeping infections. Start off as an ulcer, hidden in a pair of bedroom slippers, casually whistling, don't mind me I'm just going to loiter around and...fester.
Give them two toes and they take a limb.
Two weeks ago my grandad was already feeling that life deserved the big finger after day after day of botched and buggered up catheter business. The old feller was getting more action than it had ever seen in his tours of duty, except of course having a catheter inserted and reinserted and readjusted and repeat is very fucking painful.
At the hospital I looked at my grandad, helpless and yellow in his hospital bed minus his clothes, and teeth and glasses. And two toes. He is scared. If he survives the operation he will be in great pain and the lodge where he has a little roomette of his own will move him into the high care facility, the nursing home.
"You only come out of there in a chute," he told us once.
He is a big heavy man my grandad. He won't be able to walk and he won't be able to put himself into a wheelchair so there will be hoisting required and cunning bits of machinery...but the staff will be busy, said my youngest sister K, a nurse herself, and so they will end up leaving him in bed.
I stroke his hair, picking little pieces of flaky scalp off as I do and letting them flutter over the side of the hospital bed.
I rub his arm and note how his tattoo, the one he got after D-Day and the Liberation of Paris, is stained with blood.
My stepmother has been given a book on death and dying and I looked at it before I went into visit Grandis. It is a very good book (and when I get back to Newcastle I will note the name) with some very good things to think about. I took some photographs with me to the hospital, of the family, of my long dead grandmother, of my younger smartly dressed grandfather.
Yesterday we came back to Sydney to pick up Byron Bay sister T who has flown in to see him too. Later today she and I and Tricky will drive back to Newcastle while C drives for 6 hours to Country Town where he is working on an exhibition. Life continues.
As does death.
He won't be able to recognise these photographs, I thought. His eyes have been bad for a while and he's not wearing glasses, he won't be able to see a thing, but I was wrong.
That's Alma Louise, he pointed out. My wife. And there's old Pickles! Our dog! Now she was a ...um...boxer, that's it. And there's the girls when they were little. And there's us in Penang when we went to visit them...there we are sitting outside the Snake Temple...
Funny old photographs, faces long changed or gone, full of stories and memories of the past.
The colours had changed, I noticed, but they do that, old photographs. Too much time or maybe a reaction to the plastic sheets in the old photo album. And I saw how those long ago people, the woman in the hat and the smartly dressed man wearing glasses posing happily by a stone temple wall seem bathed in a sickly yellow light.
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