Thursday, 26 April 2012

groundhog afternoon

Regular readers know what I do for a living, but as there are a few new members to the flock (welcome to you all !) I will tell you about my job again.

I am a carer for a man, Paul, who has a brain injury. He is by no means incapacitated physically, if you met him you probably would not realise - at first, but when five minutes later he wants to know who you are again you might get an idea that something was up. He does get tired easily but his biggest issue when it comes to daily life is his lack of memory. Since he can't be left alone, but doesn't really like going out, my role is mostly to be there so his wife and family can go about their busy lives without worrying that he will do some DIY and destroy their house about him and assist him in whatever he wants to do.
Like make sure that when he decides to make a bacon sandwich he remembers that there is bacon cooking under the grill, or hold the cable if he wants to mow the lawn so he doesn't forget it's there and fry himself cut through it.

I've been good friends with Paul and his wife since before he had his injury which was acquired after a heart attack that caused his brain to be starved of oxygen, and surprisingly he does remember me from before. Well if you were to hear my voice ( I am a bit loud) you would know why that isn't really that surprising, but actually what this means for me is that I am lucky to have a job where going to work means sitting around drinking coffee and watching TV spending the day with friends.

Even if it is like my own personal groundhog day.
Paul can have a conversation with me about something he watched on the TV the night before, he is still very intelligent and has always loved history, especially anything to do with wars. But two hours later will completely forget we had that conversation and so we have it again.

There is a photograph in the lounge of a couple on their wedding day, the picture is one of his daughters best friends who was actually his carer for a couple of years when he first became ill. At least once a week he will say "who are those people and why have we got a picture of them ?"
I find it amusing, even he laughs when he asks me and I tell him that I've already told him twice this week. My nickname for him is "Memory Man".

His sense of humour was not damaged, in fact we often have a laugh and it will be at either his - or my - expense.

But today took the biscuit.

I was sat in the kitchen sorting some stuff out. Pauls daughter came back from the shop with a newspaper and sat with me while she read it. She held it up to show me a picture taken in China of some dogs that were kept in cages waiting to be eaten.
It was pretty horrific, but I said that if it was chickens we probably would not be so shocked. In China dogs are traditionally food in the same way that chickens are here, so perhaps the Western world needs to stop judging the Eastern world by its standards. After all, even though we are all aware of how bad the conditions are for battery hens a lot of people will still buy poultry products that are not free range as they are cheaper.

[I should add that I ONLY buy free range products, and I'm not comfortable with the idea of people eating dogs - but that's because I can afford to pay the extra for free range and I am from a culture that does not eat canines. If I were on a tight budget, or Chinese, I'm sure I'd feel different.]

The next item in the paper brought to my attention (she read it to me) was about a soldier who was being prosecuted for punching an Afghan prisoner who was trying to escape - at the cost of two hundred thousand pounds of taxpayers money.
My thoughts on this - if he had shot him in battle he wouldn't be being charged, but even in wartime there has to be standards, and you can't just go around punching people. There are rules about how prisoners of war should be treated after all, and while I don't agree with ANY war I can see how there might be justification for reprimanding that soldier.
What I really took issue with was the cost, especially when soldiers are dying for the lack of proper equipment due to cuts in the defense budget.

Anyway, she finished with the paper and went out leaving it on the side.

Twenty minutes later Pauls brother in law turned up, came and sat in the kitchen and picked up the paper.
"Oh my God Cowgirl look at this picture. . ."
Yup. The dogs.
Same conversation. I guess he didn't care for my (voiced again) opinion so went back to reading.
"Good grief, listen to this . . . "
Yup. The soldier.
Same conversation. That went down like the proverbial lead balloon, and he went off to find Paul who was watching the TV.

Half an hour later Paul came out to the kitchen for a coffee. We chatted for a bit then he picked up the paper.
"Blimey, look at this. . . "
You guessed it. The dogs.
At least he saw the point I was making with my opinion on the subject. Then carried on reading.
"How fucking ridiculous..."
Yep. The soldiers.
And again. At least Paul and I can have an intelligent conversation even if we disagree.

And even if by now I'm starting to feel like the afternoon is stuck on a loop.

A couple of hours later Pauls wife came home, and sat in the kitchen, and picked up the paper and said
"........ "
You know how it goes by now I'm sure.

Then this evening I'm on the train home and I hear one of the people sat in the seat behind me say to the person next to him . . .
"Look at this picture of these poor dogs in China".

I moved seats, I really did not want to hear another version of the same conversation I'd been having all fucking afternoon.


Update - just read a post on JWMoxies blog that has got me fuming. If you care about anti-discrimination the rights of LGB people then please go and read it, and sign the petition.
Click Here.

And while you're over there have a read of the rest of her blog.


  1. I had never heard in so much detail about your work before Cow Girl so this was a seriously interesting read. My grandmother's struggling with brain damage right now so I know the feeling very well and it's always tough to read about.

    1. Sorry to hear that Yeamie. He is fortunate in that he won't get any worse - if anything he is much improved from when it first happened, although he will never get "better". The best thing you can do is be supportive, which I'm sure you are, I know that it was his family that helped Paul through the beginning - but I also know how hard that was for them.

  2. How long does it take for him to forget what you told him? Suppose you tell him the same thing five minutes later? Will it still be news? You could do some interesting experiments with this fellow.

    1. It really does depend on what I tell him. Some things seem to "stick" better then others, stuff about his family for instance. But then his wife will tell him she is going out and where then 20 minutes later he'll ask me where she's gone - although I dare say a lot of men don't really listen to their wives - so who knows.
      Be my luck if I tried that he would remember - and then he'll tell me (again ) that I'm just as bad as him.

  3. Wow, sounds like you job is full of challenges. Glad you can deal with them with a sense of humor!

    1. It's not really that challenging Eva, compared to the jobs I had with teenagers it's a walk in the park, but we do spend a lot of time laughing. I know he is different to how he was, but I treat Paul just as I did before - as a friend, because he is - just one that needs keeping an eye out for.

  4. Hey look at this... Just kidding. I'm sure the third and fourth people were wondering why you were being such a know-it-all bitch.

  5. I used to work with someone like that, except she wasn't that intelligent and so it wasn't as nice as Paul sounds. It could get a bit tiring. I'm going to try not judging China for eating dogs now. You make a fine point. It is kind of annoying to have the same conversations time and time again though. It's one of the secret downsides of blogger. Especially if you're someone who replies to comments. A lot of comments (and the replies to them) can be very similar.

  6. It sounds like a lovely job, made that way because he does still have a sense of humour.
    Ha haha - you really ought to put the same newspaper on the table tomorrow and see if it happens again...

  7. It's like you never left the world of special needs! All that repetition in a days work...does you it just make you so DAMN HAPPY?

  8. Sounds like a tough job DCG. I owe you a slang see..... I've used unit. What other term has a Brit may have not heard? How about "Hey, remember that day it didn't rain?"

  9. My mom has Alzheimer's and thankfully her sense of humor has stayed in tact (on most days). People like you are priceless. Thank you!!

  10. I often think that as long as you keep your sense of humour then everything is bearable.
    It's great that there are people in the world like you :)

  11. I don't think I have any brain damage and neither do my friends, but we have the same conversations over and over. Yes, all the time. Just one conversations after another, always the same things. Isn't life fascinating?


  12. That was pretty funny. I would hope that I would keep my sense of humor about me if the same thing happened to me.
    I've had free range chicken. It actually tastes better.
    And I really liked that picture about killing people. Not the killing part....geez, that just sounds awful. Hope you know what I mean.

  13. After reading your post, I made my way over to youtube just to look at the way these dogs were treated on their way to being slaughtered. I had seen it before, but it never ceased to disturb me to the very core. I don't have an issue with the fact that the Chinese eat cats and dogs. I was fed rabbit in Mexico many years ago. I did not know I was eating Thumper until it was too late. My issue is that I believe you can be a meat eater with scruples. A life, and every and any life should be respected. It hurt my little heart.

  14. you are right y' strange as it sounds we cannot rely on absolutes with some things....without sounding all postmodern (ugh), we cannot use our moral template to judge others for what they eat...we can though use it for how those things are kept before they are eaten and things like puppy farms kinda freak me out...i trust i have not dug myself into a philosophical hole here...
    great post dcg!

  15. I usually prefer to live in ignorance to things such as animal cruelty because it makes me so sad. China eat dogs, but they also eat insects. In fact, I'm pretty sure they will eat anything at all. Ew!


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