Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Good Neighbour

Every day it’s the same. Every day Nonna goes for a stroll to the local shops. Everyday she returns home exasperated as the location of the shops eludes her. Three laminated copied maps of the immediate locale are of no assistance, as the maps insist upon hiding themselves. For me, this was the solution, for her independence. For her, this was ‘dependent,’ writ large. It was a foolish and tactless error on my part, especially as I have no back up plan.

We whiz and plod through the daily routines. Whilst I hack onions I avert my eyes from Nonna’s little ritual, run the hot water to boiling point, half rinse the single breakfast bowl, wipe half clean and half dry with a hand towel, return mucky bowl to the wrong cupboard, replace wet dirty hand towel to further contaminate everyone else, nearly turn off the steaming faucet, completely ignore the dishwasher. I accept that it is pointless to attempt to change this habit. A habit of 80 plus years is ingrained. Far better to bite the bullet and focus on the far more important, back up plan.

My personal quality of life has improved greatly over time, as I have gradually learned to interpret and memorize the many hand signals, gestures and single word prompts that Nonna uses prior to word production. This in turn makes word production redundant which saves us both a great deal of time and frustration. We are now able to navigate the average day with a whisk of the hand here and nod of the head there, harmony enhanced. In fact, depending upon the time of day, I can almost guess the right conclusion as Nonna is a creature of habit, just like so many other people, who "thrive on routine."

Every time I catch myself cursing the absence of her “hearing aid” I remember that it doesn’t really qualify as aid in the true sense of the word. It is merely poor tool, that helps addresses some elements of "hearing impairment" but does not restore hearing loss.

When she sets off again, at one in the afternoon, without having eaten any lunch, I am powerless to prevent her. I debate. Should I phone her son? I never phone my husband at work, as he is only able to divert one brain cell to a conversation. I admit defeat, temporarily, and hope that we will merely repeat the previous days’ failures.

I spend the twenty minutes after two at the window, hoping I can catch a glimpse of her. Two twenty is time for the school run. I have twenty minutes to locate my husband’s mother. Each minute increases my sense of panic. As usual I am "torn."

There’s nothing for it, I gallop off to school and scan the locale for signs of Nonna.


We gallop home from school. We try to play ‘spot the Nonna’ en route but the resulting panic was entirely predictable.

At three o’clock I shut the garage door as the children tumble in the house. I check her room. I check for signs that she has returned, her bag, her coat?


I return to the window.


I dither. Who to phone? Personal search with children in car? I debate how to get the children back into the hated car? Since they are now undressed, unshod, un-snacked and pending homework this venture seems far too tumultuous for my tiny brain to fathom. A bolt of lighting hits me as I remember the new DVD, bribery in plastic wrap will save the day. I run around the house chasing my children with the DVD in my hand as there’s nothing like a real visual cue to prompt action.

“Yes dear?”
“There’s someone at the door.” I am not surprised that I didn’t hear the bell as the fire alarm clashes out at random moments to paralyze my brain and incite mass panic in small people. I dash to the door.

There she is! Nonna alive and well! I grab her for a quick bear hug, the kind you give to naughty children instead of slapping them up the head and back. I blink at the stranger by her side. Introductions are made. Nonna’s hand gestures are in full flourish with very little word back up. The stranger comes inside to explain what Nonna can not.

I am inclined to believe the neighbour’s description of ‘obviously flustered and confused.’ I am inclined to believe that Nonna would indeed be flustered and confused, if invited by a stranger into their home. Many thank you’s and breathless praise are foisted upon the stranger as she wends her way back to her own home.

Nonna exhales has she leans her back against the closed front door, “gawd! Wot is dah matter wiv dat woman?”
“I only asked er which way. She din ave to drag me into er ome!”
“Some people!” she beams, mystified by such hospitality.

For myself, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

1 comment:

Niksmom said...

I imagine you aged a few years in the waiting process, yes? *sigh* Thank goodness for neighbors.