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So it's my birthday today. Yep, has clicked over midnight, well a couple of hours ago. And despite requests of me to go to sleep, hmmm... I'd rather write. Lucky you hey. And, lucky me.
Anyway, this is a story about Peter. Of course, Peter's not his real name. And his mum, Margo. Ditto about the name.
So reception left me a message one day - "Floyd, there's a lady who wants us to see her son at home, can you go". Of course, everything that is difficult - there's an irritating person in my head which tells me, "you should do it". Now I was raised a Catholic. Hey - waiiiittt. And basically, I fathom that this voice is the idea of, or, the said, Holy Spirit. So, for every time someone knocks religion, remember - if you have a job for me personally that I might just not want to do, my own religion just might make me do it. Peace be with you. Anyway, I digress.
I can't remember whether I went the same day or the next, or the next, but I found myself scratching around looking for a house behind a house and I finally got to the front door. I knocked and an old lady gently unopened the door. There she was, tiny yet strong - Margo. With a resolute face which harboured so much uncertainty beneath those practical lines.
It was a two storey house, with an old organ and desk downstairs, the rest - I never quite found out. There was a curved staircase, with a stair lift which took you upstairs. Upstairs there was a room, with a beautiful view to the beach - wow, what a view. Old furniture, old furnishings. Trapped in time. Beautifully so. Margo led me through a narrow corridor. We passed a door to a bathroom, and beyond we turned left to the bedroom.
Peter sat on his bed, partly covered by sheets. His bushy beard at first made it quite difficult to fully imagine the shape of his face, yet you could trace it to be skinny and chiseled under all that. Peter had suffered an acquired brain injury as a teenager. He was in the wrong car at the wrong time and the rest, post a protracted visit to ICU, lead to the basis of this story. Peter's needs were high. Margo had made the decision from that moment on to dedicate her life to him. She was now over 90 and he was well into his 50s. With his father, Margo's husband, having passed away many years before, they had each other. Oh yeh, and of course a lovely, dedicated, young carer, Eric, who visited Peter weekly - on Wednesdays. Every week they would go out somewhere in Ernie's car. Usually - fishing. They'd grab a beer (Peter loved the idea of getting drunk, though rarely did), park Ernie's car at the edge of a bridge over a river, drop a line out of the window, and drink and fish. How's the serenity. The highlight of Peter's week.
As you could imagine, from a medical perspective, Peter wasn't in good shape. He hadn't seen a doctor for a long time. He wasn't moving so well these days, and sleepy all the time, hence the call for a home visit. There was lots of potential work to do. It would come down to what would actually happen to get done - all things considered. We worked through things, together.
Peter's bedroom connected to a balcony where there sat an old birdcage. In it was Brock the rainbow lorikeet, Peter's best friend. They'd talk for hours. Around Peter's bed, on the walls there were banners and trophies which represented his achievements prior to the accident. He was a very bright kid, excelling at a notable public school. In fact, he had been dux. His student desk, with his student books sat to the left of his bed, as you looked at it. Directly above his bed, there was a poem titled defeatism. The author, Walter Wintle. You may know it, but I hope you don't mind if I quote it still here, because as I saw it there, I want you to see it here -
As I read the poem, looked around the preserved room, observed Margo and drew my focus back to Peter, a flush came over my body and I would have broke out into tears, had it not been for the "role" I was called to play. I carried on.
I got along great with Peter. We joked about one day sharing a bourbon and coke, or two or three. I shook his hand and said goodbye.
When Margo and I left the room she took me to the bathroom and explained to me her routine of helping Peter have a shower, a bucket here, a seat there and all heart in between. Somehow I don't think an occupational therapist had quite visited. But that didn't matter - occupational therapy lay best in the strength of Margo's resolve and conviction. That's the story as I had learned it. And it grew more miraculous when she explained to me how she would get Peter down the stairs using the very old chair lift, and what she would do when it wasn't working. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
If not always, nowadays, Margo was struggling to cope. She knew that. But couldn't bring herself to change anything. From the early days of Peter being in ICU, Margo had made that fundamental decision to care for her son, for his life, as only a mother could. And now into her 90s, she hadn't strayed from that decision. Seemingly not for one hour, let alone a day.
I promised Margo I would help Peter as best as I could. In the time to come I was grateful that my fellow GPs who worked with me at the clinic were also kind enough to carry on the home visits. I don't know if they had the Holy Spirit... I reckon this is a name given to something in all of us, regardless of our conviction. Including in Margo. Thankfully.
Peter passed away. Margo later passed away. Their memory, for me, and the treasure in their plight, will never be forgotten. For it is that treasure, and similar feathers along the way, which have led me here.