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These pages are a collection of stories from the Writer's Group at Box Hill U3A.

Through Another's Eyes

The worst part is not the constant trickle of phlegm from my nose. Though at first I found this as embarrassing as it is annoying. It's not the shaking of my permanently gnarled and clawed hands. Nor is it the permanent stoop from my spinal curvature that renders me constantly straining my neck to look upwards just to see in front of me. Surely, you are thinking, it is the loss of bladder and bowel control and the untold humiliations that come in the wake of such a tide of incontinence. Or perhaps you have singled-out my short-term memory loss to be the very worst of my symptoms. The fact that you can come here each week and tell me things, and have to repeat them all next week without me registering any recognition, that might seem to you to be the greatest hardship. But it is not.

So you must by now have come to the conclusion that If this loss of my immediate past is not the greatest of my calamities, then my greatest affliction day in day out must be my stutter. This impediment is so severe that it renders speech all but impossible. Despite the exhortation to speak loudly and breathe deeply, l can rarely make myself understood. I can feel your embarrassed sympathy as you watch me try again and again to articulate a word. The faltering finger of my twisted claw edging towards the first letter of the desired word on the alphabet card. You strain to pick up a clue from my incoherent articulations. You guess at a word, its not right, I slump, as much as a wheelchair bound hunchback can, further into my chair, exhausted.

No these degradations pale into insignificance against the greatest frustration and hurt of all.
The constant waiting. Waiting for someone to turn on my radio or television, to bring the paper, to get me a book, to feed me, to wash me to take me, to the toilet. To get me up and to put me to bed. Eighty to ninety percent of everyday is spent enduring frustration as I WAIT in the hope someone will come, someone will notice my head slumped down so far I can barely breathe, waiting for them to notice I am drowning In my spittle. Waiting, waiting, waiting. That total lack of independence. My life, such as it is, at someone else's whim.

That is the worst part.
I'm just one more ABI needing total care in a world where there are far too few carers or people to care, or people who do care. Or in my case a person who would prefer not to be cared for at all. But I can't even make this decision. I must just WAIT.

Valerie Bourke