‘Twas The Night Before Question Period

27 04 2012

‘Twas the night before QP when all through the House
Not an MP was stirring. Not even Head Lout!
The underlings were hung by their ankles with care,
In hopes the Greyhound soon would be there.

The Tories were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of strong mandates danced in their heads,
And Steve-O in his sweater vest with Rob Anders on his lap
Had just settled their brains for a long QP nap,

When out on the Hill there arose such a noise
Bev Oda spilled OJ all over the ^Savoy.
Away to the heliport McKay flew like a flash,
And off he was gone to a lobbyist’s bash

The cellphone in the hands of the now-fallen Sona
Gave rise to some bluster from Baird and pal Rona,
When, what to their wandering eyes should appear,
But a tweeter called Carroll, disrupting their cheer.

Over coals did they drag this lone tweeting Grit,
And in front of committee they forced him to sit.
But this bold Vikileaker was so lively and quick
They knew in a moment they were knee-deep in it.

With jowls all atremble Del Mastro did shout,
He jumped and he hollered and then did he pout,
When more rapid than eagles Carroll’s answers they came,
As he chuckled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dean! Now John! Now Peter and Tony!
Your smears are entirely made of baloney
Just hold up a mirror to see what I say
For B.S. on your side has always held sway”

And then in a twinkling they heard from below,
The prancing and pawing of a media show.
As they stared at each other, dumbfounded all round,
Down the chimney a new scandal came with a bound.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with the Opposition, mount to the sky,
Up to the House-top the F-35’s they flew,
With a fistful of hidden costs and an extra zero or two.

And then, in an instant, they heard on the roof,
The banging and clanging of a political spoof.
As they stared at the pilot, making the motor go round,
The F-35 got stuck on the ground.

He was grumpy this pilot, a right sulky old guy,
And we shuddered when he turned on us his evil blue eye!
A hiss from his tongue and a twist of his head,
Soon gave us to know we had much to dread.

He spoke many words, that made little sense,
“Fight me on this, and I’ll abolish your dear Cent”.
And holding his middle finger up in front of his nose,
And giving a nod, to the clown car he goes!

He slunk to this car, to his team gave a shout,
And away they all clugged, like an old man with gout.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“You guys are all Nazis!…Hmmm, think I’ll prorogue tonight!”




9 09 2009

The meeting with the doctors began as expected. How many of these meetings had we had over the years?  Enough to render us fluent in the medical lingo as it pertains to psychiatric patients afflicted with paranoid delusional disorder. Or was it schizo-effective disorder? At one time, with absolute certainty it had been bipolar, manic-depressive disorder. Regardless of the see-sawing diagnoses, what made this particular meeting unique was the physiological determination they were oh-so-diplomatically attempting to impart to us. Dimentia, the master puppeteer manipulating my sister’s life for so long, had been demoted to the level of lesser demon, ceding position as leader of the band, usurped by cirrhosis.   The denouement of her story, it seemed, would no longer be determined by a debilitating psychiatric disorder. The maestro may well conduct the opus with a baton forged of dissociative states but the composer of the final movement was the rotting liver she had inflicted upon herself with alcohol.

We had been informed, in previous conferences with medical professionals, that drugs and alcohol were not only the catalysts that unleashed her mental disorder but they whipped it into a frenzy. What did any of this matter in the end I wondered?  No one, no treatment could save her. Not even she herself, whose very existence was being tipped down the drain like stale beer, could fight the dual forces of addiction and mental illness. Was there any point, essentially, in discerning the medical etiology? How could we ever know whether a healthy life without alcohol and drugs would have produced a healthy mind? Perhaps this was always going to be her final descent, or ascent if you are more spiritually inclined.

As I pondered these questions I stared, with great intensity, at my unclipped toe nails – chipped, red nail polish not quite covering them as current good form required. I regarded each toe, individually rating them on a comparative scale to ascertain which of them was most in contravention of seemliness. This particularly dissatisfying survey concluded, I next considered my shoes, sandals really. They were supposed to be white… had once been white but now were a sullen grey, pocked with black splotches here and there. The leather was, indiscreetly, trying its damndest to separate from the base of the shoe. I flicked my toes, to encourage further deterioration of the shoe. I did it again and again, harder with each twitch. It was entirely pleasurable and fulfilling. I wished my shoes would fall apart right there and then. I sensed that the doctors, from their aeries high on the face of the societal cliff, had already pegged me much further down the evolutionary scale. Tatty clothing and frizzy hair has a propensity to do that. It would never occur to them, I was convinced, that I might actually have a very fine mind if not so fine morals and history.

It was true, I had left home in a hurry to get to this meeting but appearances aren’t always a reflection of the person, contrary to my mother’s preaching. Didn’t it, in fact, prove how much I cared for the dissolving mass of humanity formerly known as my sister? Didn’t the fact that I left my home with no regard to my external affect, to attend to her well-being, prove that I was a person of substance with a caring heart?  Or was it more likely the reverse? I did these things in an effort to reclaim a modicum of morality and philanthropy long lost in the rush of life? Whatever! I had dashed out without brushing my teeth or so much as a glance at a mirror (although the latter may have been more for my benefit than anyone else’s).

“We drained 7  litres of fluid from her abdomen yesterday and even though there is a substantial amount still left we didn’t want to risk continuing due to the risk of infection”, the impossibly young, gorgeous doctor was explaining as I continued twirling my shoe on the end of my unsightly toes.  I intensified my focus on this activity to escape the envy that gurgled up through my awareness. Envy that some other woman had managed to snag this man. A fact blaringly attested to by his wedding ring and, a fact that was clearly intended to emphasize the idiocy of my own marriage.

“We will wait at least another week and then reassess the situation before deciding whether to remove more”, he finished.

“7 litres of fluid” I thought, “that’s like 7 huge bottles of Coke. My son could drink one bottle, at least, in one sitting but imagine 7 bottles!”  Outwardly, though, I continued focussing on my feet. I knew this doctor had noticed my podiatric condition and was politely ignoring it.

“Because of her cirrhosis we’ve had to reconsider the medication we’ve been prescribing for the psychosis and paranoia. We are going to take her off clozapine and put her on…” (Some long-ass named drug that I can’t recall let alone pronounce) “Clozapine is very hard on the liver and we don’t want to exacerbate the physical repercussions any more than we have to. “

“What about her incessant itching and scratching?” my mother asked, her focus never wavering from the doctor giving instruction.  The incarnation of caring, really caring, was my mother. Running out of the house without care for personal hygiene was certainly no sign-post of caring, not when illuminated by the intensity of this woman’s gaze and the sincerity of her voice.

“That is a symptom of her deteriorating liver. Fluid retention, jaundice, dementia and the itching. We can give her some medication that will reduce the itching and make her more comfortable”.

He paused for a moment to let this sink in. The silence became almost visible, I could just about see it throbbing in the nether.

“At this point, even though she is in palliative care we need to discuss your options. I know you have power of attorney over her medical needs, right?”  the older doctor, filaments of concern webbing across his face, questioned my mother. She nodded in silent reply.

“Well, you have some decisions to make.  As things stand at the moment the only medical treatment we are giving her is to make her comfortable, like removing the fluid from her abdomen. But we need to discuss what you would like us to do if any her of symptoms become acutely threatening. Do you want us to resuscitate?  “ His voice was almost hypnotic – calm, thoughtful, and resonant with compassion.  His deep brown eyes were bracketed by bushy eyebrows which, although in need of a trim, cushioned his sharp gaze. Had I misjudged this man? Was he as riddled with self-doubt and insecurity as I?  The spark of humanity, a quasar at the center of his being? What a lovely human being. This man, although discussing the details of my sister’s imminent death, had managed to lull me into a sense of tranquility and comfort as if discussing the sunset  shimmering on the coastal waters of Bora Bora.

They had shamed me, these doctors, these selfless men. It made me curl my toes under and try to hide my feet.  I considered indulging in self-righteous anger for this trespass but was loathe to let the warm feeling pass. I could save my anger for my husband…he always did something to warrant it…

“I don’t want you to resuscitate her”, my mother’s firm voice barreled through my reverie. “There really isn’t any point in prolonging her suffering”. I could see the tears forming in the corners of her eyes and I had to turn away.  The most tragic decision a parent ever would have to make had befallen her and I didn’t want to intensify her suffering.

And so, with that, my sister became a DO NOT RESUSCITATE.

Bureaucracy Trumps Psychosis

28 07 2009

I had learned early in life that, when faced with uncomfortably, difficult options, it is best to disappear, either in actuality or in mind. A dichotomous childhood riddled with the tenderness and fun of a mother’s boundless love paired with physically obtuse discipline at the hands of my, now repentant, father, had shepherded me down the road of avoidance. Simply refuse to decide, refuse to act, it’s easier. Unfortunately, I had also learned, that sheer refusal to act is an act in and of itself, and it’s only easier because it is a downhill path which, the zombie blindly marching to gravity’s unfaltering dictates, always ends at the bottom.

As I walked into the office of the Justice of the Peace, I sang this lesson over and over to myself. Besides, I knew that my mother needed me now just as I had needed her as a young, diaper-clad child.  This was the right thing to do. I had filled in the forms requiring my sister to be picked up by the police and held in a psychiatric unit for at least 72 hours.  I had done it before and, although the familiarity lent some sense of normalcy, the pit of my stomach was rumbling to the contrary.

I sat down in front of a cold looking man who clicked on his tape recorder.  He adjusted the glasses on the long,  red, pointy protuberance on his face, whose only aesthetically viable purpose was to act as the medium between his lungs and the oxygen upon which they depended, and then he barely glanced up at me. Already I was overtaken by a deep, purple urge to shake him into reality.  Before I could act on this impulse, he ensured that we were aware that this entire encounter would be taped, the monotone never giving way to the slightest inflection. “Really?”  I wanted to shout, “I didn’t know that the machine you punched with such a flourish was actually going to tape us, I thought you were just entering the next number in your count-down until your day was over?.. I thought you were just using an adding machine to calculate the number of idiots who walk through your office door!” But I didn’t, I managed to focus on his lopsided, half red, half grey moustache that framed the cracked, drawn lips with which he uttered the following;

“So, what do you want from me?”

Insanity floods this world for little wonder. We come up against people every single day whose persona ostensibly form the weft and weave of sanity and rationality, but rather than embrace us with their silken fabric, they steward us in to a Kafkaesque nightmare.  Emotionless and arctic in their approach to a humanity crying from hurt, from need, they are unaffected and placid in its onslaught, almost irritated by things more human than they. So unaffected did my interrogator appear, I was fleetingly tempted to storm out of his office as if that might awaken him to the emotions pulsing within the neat forms he held in his hands that I had so painstakingly filled out. Instead;

“My sister is very ill. As you can see from the forms I filled in, she has been psychotic for some time. The police arrested her last week for …”

He actually had the audacity to interrupt me. OMG! Grey matter had long ago given up residence within his cranium. It had clearly been replaced by red tape.

“Psychosis in and of itself is not necessarily cause for a Form 2.”

Was this man (and I use the term loosely since it is a derivative of the word human) really going to listen to me, to consider the outward and inward impact of my sister’s condition? Or did he just have some quota to fill? 10 nutbars issued forms today, 20 turn-downs, 30 bails accepted, 15 bench warrants…

“I am very familiar with the Form 2 requirements. I’ve done this before. My sister is a danger to herself and others, but mostly to herself. The police caught her running up the middle of the highway last week, naked and flapping her arms. She said she was on her way to visit Alice in Wonderland. She said Peter Pan was leading her because he was a personal friend of Jesus Christ and that Neverland was where the sinless people went who Christ bestowed with a special permit. She was naked and dancing up the middle of a road with a 100Km/Hr speed limit. She doesn’t look after herself anymore. She never showers, brushes her teeth, changes her clothes. She won’t take her meds.  In the last 15 years doctors have diagnosed her as manic-depressive, schizo-effective, schizophreniform, alcoholic and everything in between. She needs to be in hospital.”

“Do you understand all the ramifications of this order that you are asking me to sign?” was the monotone, staccato response.

Is his ivory tower so prophylactic that he barely perceives the ants scurrying below? Would he need a magnifying glass to catch a glimpse? If he had a magnifying glass would he use it to burn us out of existence given half a chance?… A shake of the head, a reorganizing of thoughts, and I realized that he is not the source of my anxiety. I may try to blame him for something from which he is totally detached in every way possible, but it will never stick.

“Yes, I do. “

A few more questions, further explanation of the Mental Health Act and I left his office clutching the Form 2 not certain that I had done the right thing.  My lack of confidence would only be underlined by events that would take place later that night.  The arrival of the Emergency Task Force, bullet-proof shields out, weapons drawn and then, finally, my sister dragged away in handcuffs would leave me forever questioning the haleness of my choice.   In an effort to force treatment on a vulnerable person suffering from paranoid delusions, I went a football field or two in the wrong direction, the denouement of which was to utterly confirm her paranoia. Mental health patients are not of the same genus as gangsters, pedophiles and murderers yet we deal with them in exactly the same way.  Is it any wonder insanity is profligate in the world.


8 07 2009

Truthfulness doesn’t have to be an external expression to have effect.  I hide my truth, I wrap it up in a cloak so thick that it is impermeable to even the purest oxygen. But I peek inside that cloak, I know what it holds enfolded in its tight-fisted embrace.  On occasion, very rare and only when circumstances somehow have mutated to such a degree that the familiar daily landscape of my life has become alien, do I allow a fleeting glimpse to others of what lies nestled in the germ of my conscience.  The allowed viewing is not done in anxious nervousness with shaking fingers but rather with a flourish, as if, once having decided to bare my truth I bare all. The outside participant must be quick to catch it for no sooner has the seal been broken, the innermost sanctum penetrated by light and air, than it is obscured once again, withdrawn within my self.

And so I found myself this day in July. This day so surreal  a viable mist had enveloped all that was habitually known to me.  This day, standing next to my sister’s hospital bed, the middle of it cranked up to its apex and she perched atop declaring the air so fresh and invigorating there on Mount Everest. She would slide down the bump she had made of the bed as if tobogganing and clamber her way up again. The physical exertion of her exercise had given her jaundiced face an almost rosy glow. She seemed happy, joyous and this irritated me enormously. I, who normally prized my patience in the face of almost everything (some may call it apathy) had grown weary of the delirium. There was nothing amusing about watching a grown woman, her legs and belly distended by cirrhotic fluid retention, blissfully ignorant to her imminent demise, display for the world a mind pocked by disease. A disease of her own choosing, I kept trying to convince myself.  Not a scintilla of sympathy was I able to net in bearing witness to this spectacle. No maudlin childhood memories of happier days paraded their way through my awareness to buffer the tragedy unfolding before me. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.  Had my heart hardened to this stranger in front of me?  While grappling with this paradox, anger forcing its way up my throat, the unravelling drew me into its fold. It gave me the answer. She, this sad, bloated facsimile of my once vibrant sister, was my mirror. She was my future, my present and my past. It humiliated me. It terrified me. The reflection so powerful it blinded me.

Tectonic plates shifted, the volcano lunged and I exploded at my mother,  ”Why aren’t you doing anything to stop her?”

My mother’s breath caught in her throat, her face all shades of hurt and shock. Silenced by my outburst she just stared quietly at the great lump on top of the bed, perched and ready for another slide down the face of her mountain.

“Where is the nurse?  It’s got to be time for her medication. I cannot stand to watch this any more in good tempered acquiescence.” I continued, ignoring the pain I was inflicting.

I knew in that instant that I had revealed my truth to my mother. I knew, that if she hadn’t been so all-consumed by the parody taking place on the bed, she would have seen my fear, my reality for even as it was fleeting so it was blatant. She would have seen and said nothing.

Discomfitted by my own revelation, agitated by the stark insanity pervading the atmosphere, I left the room. As the door closed behind me I believed that the reality the room contained would be imprisoned in there by that door. I felt that I was exiting the rabbit hole, the mist dissipating in the cacophony of midday traffic. The noise, the smells, the crowds, this was my stress. This was the stress I knew intimately and could juggle blind-folded.  Even as I absorbed the everyday  and felt comforted by it, I knew where my path lay. And it wasn’t forward into the clamour of the city but back into the disjointed, deformed charade of my sister’s hospital room.  I sat for a moment, lit a cigarette and emptied my thoughts, discarded my anger and quietly folded the cloak back around the kernel of truth pulsating inside. It would always be waiting there for me if and when I dared befriend it.  There was no urgency  I was convinced, a realization which induced a deceleration of my heartbeat and brought a fragile peace of its own. Although it was a tranquility that balanced on the exquisite dance of avoidance, it would suffice for me, for now. I floated in thoughtlessness for some minutes, smoking automaton fashion and then with a great sigh I returned, in the grand style of Sisyphus, to the hospital. To the room.

Chaos In The Garden

19 06 2009

Her hands – wizened, manicured, whispering character – worked quickly and efficiently. The July day day pelted her with humidity as she perfected her garden, a gem she continually buffed for the benefit of others. A limpid reflection of her commitment to organization and neatness. She stopped and, for a brief moment, admired her handiwork, glanced up and down her leafy Beaches street where she had lived for the past 20 years and then returned, resolutely, to her toil. As she dug the moist, rich and slightly acrid-smelling soil, her thoughts wandered, undulated, as if in a sensual tango with the grass in the summer breeze.

A soft banner of consciousness drifted – family … dinner … stock market prices … the news. She took pride in her in-step ability to accommodate experience in life – adversity was her passport and strength her ticket. Lately, however,  her focus had shifted, almost imperceptibly at first but more overtly now.  It had drawn her attention away from deftly managing the tedium of quotidian life to putting her post-mortem affairs in order. Dread ran through her veins whenever she considered the possibility of leaving household affairs and personal entanglements in a state of disrepair for her son and daughter and their sons and daughters to tromp through after her death. Invariably it led to memories of her own mother’s death and the ensuing chaos which she alone, an only child, had to unravel.  A tiny bachelor apartment stuffed to the rafters with 85 years of bits and pieces; 283 decorative, unused tea towels, 323 band conductors’ batons, 3 boxes of correspondence, 3 boxes of newspaper cut outs, 50 bed sheet sets (what had her mother been up to in her later years?), cartons and cartons of photographs, 653 sample-size bottles of shampoo, 567 sample-size hand lotions, close to 5,000 unused greeting cards, 45 rolls of wrapping paper…the list was infinite and the miscellany were stored in no discernible order. Some of the 51 tubes of toothpaste were in the medicine cabinet, some in the bedroom, some in the kitchen pantry and some, inexplicably, tauntingly in the roll-top drawer!  The newspaper cut-outs managed to insinuate themselves into almost every nook and cranny of the tiny bed-sit. She had been shocked at the monumental disorder. It was the job from hell. Mourning her mother’s death, 5000 miles from her immediate family and trudging through these mundane, disorganized tatters of a life.  Disjointed, disconnected, that was how she felt. it seemed as if she was spying on someone without wanting or intending to.

When this industrious, now old, woman had emigrated from England 55 years earlier, besides her meagre belongings in a tattered suitcase, she had brought the renowned British, stiff upper lip, and unparalleled, elocution (the Queen mother’s) and etiquette. The perfect execution of good manners scored through the roof in her world. She was also accompanied by realistic, down-to-earth values, an encyclopaedic memory of her father’s astoundingly practical adages which she was able to draw from to underline any circumstance, and a finely tuned intellect. The culmination of these qualities had produced, ironically, a successful but hectic and unlikely life. Her challenges had been many, her sorrows plentiful and her drive unstoppable. And so she carried on, the many moments of life  the weft to the weave of an unshakeable moral code.

Into this reverie came a rude, obnoxious intruder…the incessant honking of a car horn. Irritated, she scowled ferociously at the offender, a man in a white, convertible gas-guzzler. “What the hell does he want?”, she wondered in silent admonishment of him.

The man at the steering wheel of the offending car had a full head of shockingly white hair and, from this distance, appeared to have hung onto a modicum of his boyish charm and good looks. This irritated her enormously and she wasn’t certain why. Yet, at the same time she was drawn to him.  He got out of his car and approached her with the swagger that only a man in his 70’s in dire need of  a hip transplant can effect.

“Oh my God! He’s coming towards me. What the hell does he want? “, she wondered again in a panic. She felt slightly nauseated and accutely tense. “I’m sure he doesn’t want to rape me”, she convinced herself, closely monitoring every painful step he took. And then he was there, right beside her. Now her palms were sweating and her equilibrium undone.

“How are you?” he quizzed, grinning ear to ear.

“I’m fine”, she tendered,  hesitation and discomfort colouring her tone. “Do I know you?”

“Well, I hope so”, he grinned back at her “We were married once.”

The solid grip on reality which had always been a source of great self-admiration and which she considered to be the underpinning of the essential her, dissipated in the gentle breeze. She was momentarily suspended in an alternate world, as she studied his face for anything she could recall, anything familiar.  Recognition dawned in the ephemera of a synaptic clap. She had been married to him once upon a very long time ago, if only for six, or was it three, months. It had been a whirlwind of passion, a mistake and it had ended badly. In step with her character she had succeeded in obliterating it from memory.

“Oh my God”, she managed to get out. “How are you?”

“I’m good,” he grinned back at her, “but I can’t believe you live on this street!”

“Why? What is special about this street?”

“We got married in the church just at the bottom of the street. Don’t you remember?”

Suddenly a tsunami of half a century of living wiped out the familiar landscape, memories from an entirely different life flooded in. The church where she used to take her grandchildren to the “drop-in-centre”, the church that she passed every day on her way to work before retirement,  window-dressing in her regimented, organized life…now, forever changed. She had been married in that very church and had never put the pieces together in all this time. The fact that she hadn’t realized was alarming, yet discipline forced its confrontation and recollection…The confetti, the children (3 from his first marriage and 3 from hers), the minister, the 2 witnesses.

It made her panic momentarily as it dawned on her that meticulous and careful planning really didn’t prevent the world from rushing in with its chaos. This feeling didn’t last long, however, before it was replaced by the much more comforting knowledge that, this too, she could handle, after all if was her stalwart, British character. And, with this revelation, she let out a great, huge guffaw.

This entry was posted on May 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm and is filed under FictionShort story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Edit this entry.