Saturday, 4 April 2009

There was a funeral yesterday

for Colin. Colin had Alzheimer's and it was several years since I had seen him. He would not have known me if I had visited. I doubt he ever really knew my name. I was probably never more than a face he recognised and the rider of a tricycle.
We know his wife, a marvellous, competent and loving woman who stayed by him after an accident that also left him mentally impaired. Listening to her talk about him I wondered again about the capacity of people to truly love one another, no matter what. Her relationship with Colin was deep and complex and caring. I admire her for it.
Colin and I had a much simpler relationship. Earlier on he would wander down to the shops for a packet of cigarettes. In those days he was a little odd but functioned fairly normally. I found him crouched down by my tricycle one day, trying to work out how it worked. We had a little chat. In the way of such things, more little chats followed.
As Colin became more impaired he wandered further afield. People in the district knew him and would point him in the direction of home. Colin loved his garden and other people's gardens and thus the garden centre a couple of kilometres away. He liked to wander down there but would sometimes lose his way, especially on the way home. More than once I found him and he would say, "I was waiting for you." In reality he was lost. Whatever I was doing I would ride next to him and see him home as he chattered about gardens and trees and even single leaves. He would repeat himself over and over. As long as I listened he seemed happy.
I had to deliver something for his wife one day. She was not home but Colin was. He was supposed to be doing some tasks around the house but I was a good excuse to stop work for a while. He kept eyeing the tricycle and patting it so I finally said, " Colin, you don't need a helmet up and down the driveway do you want to try riding it as far as the gate?"
He took some time to consider this. I thought he was going to ignore the idea altogether and then, with a grin like a schoolboy up to mischief, he hopped on and took off. He zipped up and back several times. I held my breath hoping he would not head out into the street and, helmetless, into traffic. He did not. When he had done the circuit several times he stopped, climbed off still grinning. "I always wanted to do that!"
Not long afterwards he spent a night out in the bush. The police and rescue services had to search for him. It was a frantic time for everyone but Colin. He was confused but quite unfazed. He had been 'walking home'. It was time for him to leave home too. I am glad he had that ride.

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