Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And so that was Christmas

The reverse psychology performed by the weather was all that was required to put paid to my anti-buzz. It was rolled out in the following steps:

1. At the start of Christmas week, plant seed of foreboding that the roads will be too bad for travel

2. Capitalise on fear from Step 1 (best achieved by making car slide on short journeys)

3. Add some more snow

4. Place weather at the top of every news bulletin every day

5. Close all airports

6. Hype up warnings to motorists of “treacherous” conditions

7. Repeat the word “treacherous” again. And again. And again.

By the time we got to the eve of Christmas Eve, I was suitably terrified that I would be stranded in Dublin. There were flashes presented by the Ghost of Christmas Short-Term Future – Regina alone in her apartment with a pizza for dinner and the warring factions next door for company on the 25th.

It did the trick. Dragged me out of the doldrums into which I had readily slumped for the early weeks of December. It made me determined and fearless of the nasty roads, and most importantly it restored some of the giddy spirit that I have long since enjoyed at this wonderful time of the year.

And so the five-hour car journey was undertaken with the suitable attitude. Slow and steady. It will be worth it. Just keep flicking radio stations to find Driving Home for Christmas. No matter what, I need to get home. It has been a rough few weeks at the end of a rough year, and what else is there to do now, but run away home to mammy.

The happiness on arrival was off the scale and it lasted through to Christmas Day, despite the problems brought on by the freezing conditions. No water. No central heating. But look outside. How beautiful is that view, dazzling the eyes, replacing the forty shades I have looked upon since forever with one splash of heaven’s own brand of brilliant white.

Admittedly, the lack of water did create some difficulty for my hand-washing. But that’s the nice thing about coming home. There are people here to help, perched on either side of the sink, throwing bottled water over my Hibiscrubbed hands.

Everything on Christmas Day was as it has been for several, drama-free years now. There was the new baby in the family to behold, but aside from that, there was O Holy Night at Mass, Mid West Radio in the background as dinner was prepared and my mother reciting her same seventeen-verse poems about various emigrants who only returned home to Ireland after their own mother had died.

Now there comes a New Year. I have a paralysing fear of the song Auld Lang Syne and must thus avoid any gatherings on New Year’s Eve. The lyrics make me feel intensely suicidal.

But the promise that Saturday brings; the shiny, new feel of the first day of the first month of 2011; the slate wiped clean. That makes me feel happy. It also makes me feel hopeful that there will be better times ahead.

Enough of 2010 now.

Good riddance to it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The War Next Door

There are nights when I can’t sleep. Too many in the last while, but that is down to other matters outside of what I like to call “the science bit” of my life.

The insomniac dialysis patient has few options for the slow hours that follow after midnight. You can’t go out for some air or wander about the house very much, because you are attached to your machine, and for those eight hours of treatment, your world is bound and limited to however far your patient line can stretch.

One can only spend so much time reading, so when any other night-time distraction comes along, it is a blessing. Like last night, when the couple next door got into a massive fight.

I have been following the difficult relationship of this couple for the last year or so, because everyone loves to eavesdrop, especially on a good row. Once the shouting starts, I drag my pillow into the hall, sit down and listen to the sad song of their broken strings.

It surprises me that they are still together. While I would like to think it is because they are very much in love, I fear they are one of those twosomes who are a couple of habit rather than by any design of Cupid’s arrow.

The woman in this couple fascinates me. She has a voice that sounds like it was honed since the day of her birth for extensive nagging. It is the kind of voice that scratches at you, that travels through the wall that separates our living spaces with a clarity that confounds me. Having never actually seen her, I admit in my mind, she has manifest herself in the likeness of the Wicked Witch of the West.

For many months, the voice and the image automatically had me taking the side of her boyfriend, he being in possession of a more dulcet intonation.

But recently, I have developed some sympathy for the girl. She is plagued by that brand of insecurity that hampers the relationships of many females in an era when it’s becoming more and more difficult to look perfect and be perfect. She accuses him of flirting with other girls and of not finding her attractive anymore.

She has made the mistake of believing that by stating her fears, she will be gifted the reassurance she craves, and has also made the mistake of believing she can make this man love her in the way she wants and needs to be loved.

This saddens me. While he may accede to her demands that he call her more often, or check with her before he makes plans, or include her in his view of the future, I always wonder how she can count these small steps as victories. To nag him into submission; to berate him until he agrees and responds. Is that any achievement at all?

But don’t feel too sorry for this guy. He too is guilty. He is a cocky man, sure of himself and of his hold on this woman, and he has his own demands. He speaks about the way she dresses - that she doesn’t make enough of an effort. He has even in the past criticised her for not shaving her legs.

He is one of those guys who is not grateful for the love in his life, but who concentrates on the dressings and accessories. He is arrogant enough to spend his time commenting on how well-kept and socially acceptable his partner is, rather than appreciating her, protecting her and being proud of her. Too caught up with making comparisons and casting insults, he does not deserve to have a hand to hold.

It is difficult to see a future for my couple next door. But what do I know? I’m just the single girl on the other side of the wall, attached to a machine to stay alive and passing time until I grow tired enough for sleep and escape from another day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letter to Santa

Santa Claus,
The North Pole.

Dear Santa,

I haven’t written you for many years, because somewhere between James Bond Junior and Sweet Valley High, I stopped believing.

I remember the first Christmas I didn’t write and you didn’t stop by. In my mind’s retrospective eye, that year, Christmas was toned down from the most beautiful and bright of colours to an unwelcome grey, and smothered with a feeling of being hard done by.

Since then, there have been good and bad years. I re-adjusted my expectations to the more adult setting and made do with versions of cheer, no longer in the form of the imaginings of reindeer on the roof, but in the form of nights out and good food and proper ‘Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’ on the television.

This year, I am allowing myself the indulgence of childhood hope. I want to believe in something again, and so I am starting with you. Of all the things I have believed in throughout my life – the love of my family, my own personal strength and every storyline in Home & Away – nothing ever brought me so much joy as my belief in you.

I am not expecting you to leave anything under the tree for me on Christmas Eve - you have enough little people to tend to in the world. But I am asking that sometime between now and close of business on Christmas Day, you could send me some of your magic for the year ahead.

I know you’re more in the business of making toys and that I should probably be forwarding this to my fairy godmother, but she abandoned me a while back. Between you and me, she wasn’t up to much anyway.

They say it is important to look forward and concentrate on the future, but I admit my view of the road ahead is unimpressive and pitted with what looks sadly like more of the same. I know this is because in my heart I cannot accept I am going into another new year, still on dialysis.

This letter is about hope though, and I have to hang on to some optimism that the year 2011 will bring me the healing I require, some direction in my life again and some purpose to my days, which are currently silent and empty.

Any one of those three would be wonderful – all three would count in my eyes, and possibly in the eyes of the Vatican, as a miracle.

When I was young, I used to try to out-do my brother in the number of 'pleases' I could put at the end of my letter to you. Thankfully, I now have more words in my vocabulary with which to appeal to your kind nature.

So I will say, I would be most grateful if you could consider my request and make me a believer once again.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please x one hundred million trillion, to infinity and beyond...

Regina Hennelly
Aged 28.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The joys of this upheaval

There is only one word to describe the gait I have adopted over the past week or so, and it is the word feeble.

I have been moving across footpaths with the velocity of a tortoise on his way home from a heavy night’s drinking. Inching forward, eyes fixed no more than one metre ahead, speed reduced to about a quarter of my normal pace. It has made the darkened days seem longer, but only because each polar expedition to the shop or to the bus stop has seemed epic.

Largely, it has been fun. I love snow and I love anything that interrupts the routine of huge sections of the populace. In a fractured society where I know nothing of my neighbours, it is nice to occasionally share something, even hardship.

I had my Elephant Island moment last Wednesday, when after standing on O’Connell Street for half an hour, I accepted there would be no bus to transport me back to Suburbia Land. I set out on foot with my friend. She was the Shackleton to my Tom Crean. Only TC didn't get pegged with snowballs by gurriers on Clanbrassil Street.

There has been the joy of not having to go near my stupid car for a whole week. My car has always been stupid, since the stupid manufacturers first gave it a stupid engine that requires me to put oil in it before each and every long journey I undertake.

I only keep the stupid car because public transport would not entertain me these days. One cannot travel light when you need to bring a dialysis machine and lots of fluid everywhere you go. A camel would be my only alternative means of transport and I cannot fit one of those in my apartment.

The car will be the first thing to go after transplant. Actually the second. After Brendan. Maybe I’ll put Brendan in the stupid car and push them both off the edge of that same cliff where Thelma & Louise met their doom.

The upset of routine and the ignoring of the car have been welcome, but
the difficulty with moving on foot has been most annoying. I am terrified I will break something. The loss of even a baby finger for a few weeks would be a disaster. It would make dialysis rather impossible. Three-minute handwashes would be difficult with a big plaster on my hand. A big plaster which in lay-dialysis-man’s terms is more like a big hive of potential bacteria that will land me with a peritonitis and a whole lot of pain.

Breaking a leg/foot/toe would not impact on the handwashing, but unless I could craft a way to carry the 5 ltr bags of Physioneal fluid in my teeth while hobbling on crutches from the spare room to where Brendan resides, it would also leave me in a pickle.

So I’ve been shuffling along with the other old dears in my neighbourhood. Cautious to an embarrassing level, the subject of ridicule by the childer-beasts in my estate and even by the reckless adults who chose to give those little brats life.

The snow is melting now, but as anyone from the country with country parents knows, that’s not where the real danger lies.

The two most terrifying words in the lexicon of potential threats in this scary and violent world. No, not "nuclear attack" or "terminal cancer."

You know what I'm talking about.

"Black ice."