Friday, 6 February 2015

Injections and angst

One of the plethora of forms I had to sign and return this week, absolving the school of any and all responsibility for the safety and welfare of my children was a permission slip for Miss 14 to have an update of her anti-whooping cough shot. There's been at least one case at the college recently, so they've decide to bring the mass-vaccination forward by a year. Miss 14 is to be a victim. 

She's pretty stoic about such things, but eye-rollingly predicted sooking and fussing of monumental proportions, perhaps even some Emmy-worthy instances of bring-the-smelling-salts-I'm going-to-pass-out behaviour amongst the more practised of the teen drama-queens in her year level at the mere sight of a syringe with needle.

Flashback: Wendy stumbles along a pot-holed neural pathway and falls through the darkness of post-menopausal short-term memory loss to plop soundly into the squishy greyness of long-term memoryland...

'Injections. Daily injections. They're not especially large. You stick them directly into your stomach. It's easy. You can do it yourself. Just a quick jab. Perhaps your husband could do it for you.'

That was not going to happen.

Back when we'd first jumped on the IVF merry-go-wrong, he'd had to have a blood test. Just one. One small phial of blood. I was sitting for the mandatory ten minutes after the vampire pathology nurse had extracted about a litre from me and then replaced it with enough hormones to make a mad woman sane... or super-ovulate, which was, of course, the desired outcome. As I sat distractedly, a voice broke through the fog of my what-if and maybe-this-times:
' There's a man face down on the footpath.'

'That'd be mine. He's not good with needles.'

From the point of his hitting the footpath outside the hospital, during the I've-forgotten-how-many interminable cycles I endured, if ever he was required to make a contribution of bodily fluids other than those he deposited into a little paper cup after enjoying the privacy of his own room and whatever videos or magazines tickled his fancy, the nurses would fuss about him, insisting he lie on one of the reclining chairs while they fetched him a sweet cup of tea. 
Never mind me. Dignity checked-in at reception. Arms like a junkie. Enough laparoscopy scars to play naughts and crosses around my navel. I'll be fine. 

There was no way he was going to be able to inject me. 
I did it myself.

His reaction stretches back to when he was eight years old and fainted immediately after a trip to the doctor for a series of tests. And he says that every time he comes to, he is that little boy on the concrete beside the doctor's low cream-brick fence. Shocked and frightened. His mother embarrassed that her younger son is making a public display, dragging on his home-knitted woollen school jumper to pull him back up as she clutches the prescription for the phenobarbital she fed him for the next decade. 

The first time I witnessed his reaction to needles, we were preparing for our honeymoon and had just had our cholera shots. I was dutifully concerned and sympathetic. Over the 28 years since then, I think it would be fair to say my level of compassion has waned somewhat, but the power of deep memory never ceases to amaze me. So my external speaker told Miss 14 the story of her dad, counselling her to be  charitable. We all have our quirks and thresholds. Be generous to others. You never know anyone's back-story.

But the bitch inside my head was agreeing with her. 
She's right.
There will be squeaky wheels whining for attention.
There always are.
And I'm glad she's not one of them.


Monday, 2 February 2015

Boxers, breakfast and bitching

Just two days in to the school year and already the morning was a disaster. It ended in tears. This can be, in part, attributed to any or all of the following factors:
  • Miss 14 left her phone on the school bus on Friday and is visibly suffering  from lack of social networking.
  • The fridge broke down and until the mechanic can get the relevant exorbitantly priced part delivered from somewhere in Outer-Mongolia, all of the perishable foodstuff is located in the old-but-not-quite-old-enough-to-be-retro-chic refrigerator in the shed, which, of course, is situated at quite some distance from the upstairs kitchen and dining room.
  • As a direct consequence of the above point, no matter how often Mr Turning-17-on-Thursday stands with the fridge doors wide open, for the first time in his life, there actually isn’t anything to eat in there.
  • Bad Mother hadn’t filled in the multiplicity of permission forms the school emailed to me her last week, which all had to be completed and returned by this morning.
  • It’s Monday.
 But for me, the problem was that both of the human beings under the age of 20 who occupy the same house as me spoke lovingly and gave attention to the younger of our dogs and completely ignored the other. The old girl. Even when I asked them to include her, pointing out that she wouldn’t be with us for much longer and she loves them too, they didn’t.  At first that really rankled. Then it made my eyes leak.

My most beloved canine companion is unlikely to make it through another winter. Casablanca has already lived beyond the average lifespan for her breed, and in the past few weeks has suffered a couple of minor strokes. Her dear droopy old face has forever been described with those clich├ęs that must make Boxers want to accidentally drop a juicy lump of gob on the speaker’s foot, or better still, right on the head of the recently coiffed fluffy slipper such humans mistakenly believe is a dog. Such ignoramuses repeatedly and predictably say Cass has a face so ugly that either (A) it’s beautiful or (B) only a mother could love it. Well, I adore that face. To me it is the face of trust and love. But now, my companion's already polarising face droops even more. And she lists to the right when she walks.

Still, she loyally pads behind me wherever I go.  I try to instruct her to stay and wait when I’m just heading for the bathroom or the laundry, telling her I will be back in a flash, but she pretends she cannot hear me. So the trip takes me a little longer than if I was alone.

The wooden staircase is bothering her. Going up is fine, but she has to work up the courage to come down. Her hind legs have betrayed her a few times and she has tumbled the last metre or so. And yesterday, she almost… almost… didn’t bother to jump up onto the bed to lean against me snoring contentedly while I was reading.

I hate that with the brashness of youth, my kids have made redundant a companion they cannot remember living without. Made her less valuable than her younger counterpart.  Less deserving of love. Invisible. Because she’s old.

I know exactly how that feels. 

So when Miss 14 directed a particularly snarky and hurtful comment at me as I was dutifully preparing school lunches of crispy fresh bread rolls filled with left-over roast lamb and arugula, complete with Monica Geller's secret moist maker, I didn't pretend I hadn't heard it. I didn't smile wanly and tilt my head in that way that says 'I know you didn't really mean that to sound as shitful as it was, Darling'. I didn't politely suggest that she mind her manners. 
I barked.
On behalf of both of us, me and the other invisible old bitch in the family. 

And yes, then it all ended in tears.