Wednesday, June 16, 2021

the lunatic waving a bag of poo

 I think I need to talk about the day that I had yesterday. It was a day of frustrations, disappointments, extreme stress, a fleeting moment of extraordinary good cheer, and then earth shattering awkwardness. Are you ready?... let's delve.

I woke up much earlier than I was ready for, in the dark, and the chilly winter morn, to walk my dog. When I got home I had to bring in the day's firewood, which I dropped on my bare foot. Don't worry it only tickled. Of course it didn't, it hurt like blazes. For goodness sake!

It was Wednesday so that meant it was grocery day, and it was very people-y out there and I Eleven-Out-of-Ten do not recommend. After completing my shop with the speed and efficiency of a well oiled machine, I sat in the car for over an hour waiting for my mother to finish her shop. Then we staggered home to COVID clean our groceries and fall on some muffins to save our lives. The muffins were okay-ish.

Now get ready, if you are one of my overseas readers, I am about to shatter some of the illusions you have about living in Australia. 

What people imagine my life in Australia is like:

I live on a massive property, the kind it takes a day to drive across, and there are kangaroos hopping around everywhere, and I have Koala Butlers, and we eat wattle seed ice cream melting over lamingtons and shout out Coo-eee! to help lost people find their way to safety. Then we all go swimming at Bondi Beach and play cricket and call in sick from work the next day even though we're just hung over. And when we prank call people we say "G-day mate!"

What my life in Australia is actually like:

Sometimes a kangaroo swims across the river and gets lost in my suburb and panic hops at high speeds into culdesacs and frightens the living shit out of my dog who tears my arm out of the socket as we run away. A patron of the drug dealer across the road drove their car into my house, I was inhospitable (I didn't crack open a cold one and wait for the police, I screamed "I am going to fucking kill you!") I hate cricket. And football. And my house is so close to my neighbour's patio that when I'm in my toilet yelling at my family to bring me some toilet paper, I can hear him laughing.

Which is to say, yesterday I had to repeatedly yell out for someone to please, for the love of God, bring me some fucking toilet paper. I really fantasised hard about having a butler koala at that time.

my fantasy Koala Butler

But to shatter another of your Aussie illusions... koalas are fucking lazy bastards. They sleep nearly all the time because they have barely adequate nutrition from eating only eucalyptus leaves and when they are awake they are mostly disagreeable, grumpy bastards. But we deserve it because we are destroying their habitat. Sorry about that. You have to know actual Australian people care very deeply about this, we just have really shitty government.

But still, I couldn't let go of the idea of a Butler Koala. 

Until my Dad wore his $8000 hearing aids in the shower. That was the cause of the extreme stress mentioned in the intro of this post. I can't even talk about this - which is really telling because I never shut up about anything. This was really unbelievably bad.

Then I took my dog for his afternoon walk, and was absolutely cheered to see my niece's husband driving the van used to drop off elderly clients after a social day, he was waving, and I had one hand bound in several loops of dog lead, and the other hand was carrying something. Okay it was dog poo. I waved a bag of dog poo with a massive smile on my face.

After dinner I messaged my niece's husband and said "you're not really my friend until I've waved a bag of dog poo at you" 

A couple of hours later I was messaged by my niece (not his wife, my other niece, who works with him) and she said "I waved at you today, but I don't think you knew who it was, based on the way you were waving"


The van has tinted windows, and I had dark sunglasses on, and I have shitty vision, and I thought I was waving at Stuart and I was actually waving at Amber, and to make things worse, although they work together, Stuart was not even in the van.

So... the first private message I sent Stuart in two years, (the last one was welcoming him into the family the night before his wedding) and that came in after... well... my niece and he might be (but probably are) separating was to say "you're not really my friend until I've waved a bag of dog poo at you" AND I HADN'T WAVED A BAG OF DOG POO AT HIM sounds like goodbye, you weren't even thought highly enough to have me wave a bag of excrement at you. Which is not the truth Stuart. I promise.

The one thing that cheered me up about this whole craptastrophe (crap catastrophe) is thinking Amber would have seen me when she was driving the van and said, "Hey, there's my Aun- [sees me waving a bag of poo] never mind, I don't know that person"

Amber tells me she totally would have still claimed me as her own, even waving a bag of dog poo at a van of senior citizens, and I believe her.

Because we are truly kindreds.

And Stuart is a mighty calm man, because when I did send him that, unfortunate message, his reply was not "what the heck are you talking about?" it was "I didn't notice" like he totally had seen me, just hadn't seen the poo. What a champ. 

And I am sitting here feeling a lot of love right now, for everyone in this story (except the druggie who drove into my house) and that is why talking about this stuff helps. Thanks for listening. Or reading. You know what I mean. 

So how was your day?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Along came a spider


Roy Orbison the Spider, a female banded orb weaving spider in Western Australia

On a hot summer afternoon, New Year's Eve 2020 to be precise, I discovered a spider in the middle of one of my lavender bushes, which was a trifle alarming as I was sticking my hand in to remove fallen, dead branch from the tree overhead. At that point in time I had little interest in spiders but thinking I might never see this one again (I've never seen one like it in my garden before) I ran inside for my phone and snapped a photo of it before it disappeared. This blog post is the journey of how "it" became "her" and then an absolutely revered poster child and the highlight of my day, every day. Its inconceivable how much this spider came to mean to me but with life caring for my dementia suffering father at home being so stressful, both my mother and I became obsessed with our little garden pet who was there, faithfully, unfailingly in any weather, day or night. She gave us a very great gift, an escape, and it became impossible for us to walk past without checking what she was doing, in short she was like having a television in the back yard - we watched every episode of her show, and here are the highlights, just for you...

Australian banded orb spider with zig zag web

It was exciting to me that every time I looked, right there, in the same place in the web, my spider was there, after two weeks I felt safe to give it a name, as an orb spider I decided to name it Roy Orbison, I did this before I even knew that Roy was a female, but the name stuck. So love it or hate it, my spider is Roy Orbison The Spider. Basically as soon as I posted the name announcement I decided to try and find out if Roy was male or female, so I googled, as you do, and stumbled into some fascinating but also horrifying information that I jokingly refer to as Violent Spider Erotica, which I will briefly recap, but you can read the highly entertaining account from Southern Forest Life here. I felt like I needed a stiff drink after I read it. 

Basically I became certain that Roy was female and I was prepared to look for smaller spiders around the edge of the web that may be males, and I learned that should they attempt to mate they were certainly taking their life in their hands, and if they survived it might be at the cost of some of their eight limbs. In fact those poor little virgin spiders are probably the only boys to have all their legs. The detailed description of the spider copulation had me amused and horrified but I tell you, as someone who has no interest in being courted, Roy became my poster girl. LOVE YOU ROY!

I also learned that Roy was not a Golden Orb Spider but a Banded Orb Spider - which to my eye, have the more interesting markings. Both the photos I've shown so far are of her underside - the most photographed side because the markings are so very interesting, and I could get closer and clearer images than from the other side. The image below shows her top side, and Roy was consuming a tasty snack of cricket, which was a very exciting day for us, it prompted another google search and I learned that she has no teeth but will suck the moisture out of her prey and then discard the shell - this took her about 20 hours and as a proud mama I took lots of photo, and some video.

Roy Orbison the Spider, top side view, banded orb spider

However, I've gotten ahead of myself sharing that image - that happened after what we call The Regrettable Incident. You see, as much as we loved looking at Roy, for a long time she really didn't appear to do anything. There were never any males hanging around the outside of the web, there was never sign of prey in the web, the web and her position in the web remained so very "same". Even the position of her legs was perfectly the same. She faced the same way every day. Still it wasn't until we had several days of extreme stormy weather, bucketing rain, thunder, lightning, severe winds and she just sat there in the open the whole time. Before the storm I had mentioned to mum a few times that I thought she might be dead. That she never took shelter in the storm made us sure she was dead. Still we just kept on saying "Good morning Roy" cheerfully every day, ignoring our growing sinking feeling that she was certainly no longer one of the living. 

One day I decided to lightly toss a little Chinese Tallow tree seed pod into the web to see if she would move. Nothing. I tossed another and accidentally hit her. Nothing. I thought she was dead. Another day I got a stick and poked it towards her in the web. Nothing. No reaction. I then video taped putting a twig near her front leg. Nothing. I posted the video on Facebook and can famously be heard saying "damn, Roy, you're dead"

Mum and I were very disappointed about it, but that sinking feeling had been with us for many days, I felt it was time to face reality. That's why the Regrettable Incident occurred. I got the pooper scooper and put it into her web to retrieve her body, I thought I could take a few close up photos and then maybe dispose of her. Well fuck me! She bloody fell into the bush, where I couldn't see her. I wasn't sure but I thought maybe her leg had moved as the blue plastic shovel touched her for the first time, but it was possible that moving the web made her appear to move, I mean the shovel was fairly trashing the web. But I went inside and told mum that I lost Roy in the bush and we moped a little bit.

In just three hours, I walked past that bush to find Roy building her web again. I ran to the dining room window and shouted "Roy Orbison is alive!" (which might be disturbing to my neighbours, but they probably already think I'm crazy anyway) and Mum jumped up and came straight away to watch as Roy Orbison The Spider spun her web again from scratch, in exactly the same place. We were overjoyed. Really, almost to tears of joy. So relieved. Then I realised that I owed Roy a massive apology. I am shit. And to be honest, what I would have looked like the time I gently poked her with the twig, is like the episode of Friends when they thought ugly naked guy was dead....

I swear I looked like this....

I can still feel what I felt that day, I was elated, just so, so happy to have more time with Roy. I also felt quite terrible about smashing up her web and probably stressing her out. With friends like me, who needs enemies! I was saying sorry to her all the time, and that triggered my next google search to know whether spiders can hear or not. I was glad to know that although they don't have ears, they seem to respond to sound, probably from vibrations. So I continued to apologise and say good morning every day. 

I tell you this though, life with Roy became a heck of a lot more interesting after the regrettable incident - she gave me daily Proof of Life, which was smart on her part because she knew what was coming for her when she died - a blue plastic children's sandpit shovel that serves as our pooper scooper. Who wants that when they die?

After that, it seems like so many more fascinating things happened with Roy, which I also took as more than just her waving hello with one leg, and giving me the assurance I needed that she was still with me, but I felt that with her beginning to devour quite large snacks for days on end that she might be preparing for sex, babies, and maybe even actual death. Most female orb spiders will die in late Autumn after having babies and we were in summer. I documented everything she did because I knew time was ticking by. Roy was here for a good time, not a long time.

Banded orb spider, eating a cricket

Roy caught and consumed this cricket one Saturday morning as I cheered her on. And every time she did something I learned more and more. I was delighted to be able to see her pedipalps in this image (after checking what the heck they are called) more googling, lol. Actually when I googled "how to spiders eat" the first result google gave me was how to eat Roy because apparently she tastes like patè and I was horrified. That's not what I meant Google! 

Roy Orbison the Spider consumes more prey

Another snack, I was certain Roy was beginning to consume food almost like a bear preparing for hibernation - she needed energy for the big adventures before her - babies and death. I was excited but also aware that Roy wasn't going to be with us forever... so that's when I did a completely ridiculous and unnecessary thing... I designed a t-shirt with her on it.

Vote For Roy Orbison the Spider t-shirt

I considered making a shirt that said "security by Roy Orbison the Spider" but we were having a state election and I couldn't resist the thought of wearing this shirt to the polling booth. I also had some stickers made with a white background. Vote for Roy Orbison The Spider!

the last photo I took of Roy Orbison the Spider

When I took the very first photograph of Roy, I didn't know it would be the first of many and when I took the photograph above, I didn't know it would be the last photograph I ever took of her... but turns out... it was.

One morning I went outside and Roy was not there. The only time she was ever not in that web was the time I knocked her into the bush in an ill fated attempt to retrieve her body with a used pooper scooper. My heart sank. I examined the bush for any sign of her and here is what I found....

Roy Orbison The Spider's egg sac

something I thought, (to be honest) at least fifty percent resembled a bird shit, and the other fifty percent like a tiny green turtle. Another sprint to google confirmed that this indeed resembled known egg sacs of spiders of this kind, and we never saw Roy again. 

Genius that Roy is, she knew better than to leave me completely bereft by her sudden departure she left me her babies... which is not unusual her kind often fail to protect their egg sac and abscond or die after creating their first haven. I do think Roy probably died before I even found the egg sac, but certainly she will die this season if she has not already, and this is her eulogy.

A eulogy for a spider, because she came into my life, took my mind of the absolute insanity of caring for a dementia patient in my home, and gave me a reason to learn about as well as document nature, and she made me feel totally okay about my anti-romance stance. For the rest of my life I may never have the relationship with a spider that I've enjoyed with Roy - they come and they go, you see them once and never see them again, or you do but you have no way of knowing its the same one. Some of them are dangerous, but I've learned that I can be this involved, this absorbed with a spider and not have nightmares... not once. 

And here are Roy's babies, life goes on, she has left me a legion of babies... some will perish, some may eat the others, some will float in the wind off to new homes, and maybe, just maybe one will make a home in the lavender bush, and the story will resume. Only time will tell. 

about the size of a blackberry this teeming mass is a legion of baby orb spiders

the baby orb spiders disperse

Roy's babies begin to explore the world

Yesterday morning I found what looked like a blackberry in the web, but it is a teeming mass of baby orb spiders, if you look carefully you can see individual spiders with all their legs and stripes like their Mama. Today the blackberry is breaking up, the spiders disperse and begin to explore the world and its so exciting. I will have to be patient as once they disperse they are so tiny I'll never find them, but if, in time I find one or two have stayed in my garden, I will let you know. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

countdown of moments I really lost my shit in 2020


sample motivational t-shirt by Starzyia
Ten years ago, I designed and printed for myself a t-shirt that was supposed to be highly motivational (to me) it read: Success or Institutionalisation by 2020" and here we are, coming out of a year in which many of us were in some way, for some time, driven absolutely bonkers and taken out of circulation under some kind of lockdown. And if I were to be dropped off, or picked up, to go into a mental institution, here are the 10 moments of 2020 that would be responsible for said occasion:

1. When people physically brawled with each other to grab toilet paper.  

2. When I stumbled into some kind of juvenile grudge match with a feral couple and their two virtually rabid dogs while walking my dog. Said feral couple were walking towards my dog and I, and because they haven't trained their dogs (they've settled for simply holding onto the lead while they go absolutely insane with aggression) the man crossed the road with the two dogs and the woman walked passed me on my side of the road to wait at their car. Considering the absolute spectacle these two dogs were making, my dog was doing a beautiful job calmly walking on our side of the road, until we drew level with the rabid little bastards - he stopped. He stopped because if we kept going the dogs would be out of his sightline, behind him, and before he turned his back on two practically rabid dogs he wants to assess whether to do so is safe for him, and for me. I have a great partnership with my dog, so I allowed him this moment to stop. Feral Woman yelled out "KEEP WALKING!" to which I turned in amazement to say "what the fuck?" Lady I would like to keep walking, but your feral dogs are disrupting my nice, peaceful walk with my fully and beautifully trained dog, and you have no idea about pack behaviour - you out number us in dogs, in people, and with a large vehicle behind us, you represent an encircling threat and are the reason there is a problem. After a moment my dog is ready to go onwards, because he trusts me, and is a good boy. After walking on our way the couple drove past us, screamed out the window "learn some manners" and I yelled back "fuck you!" because I save my manners for people who aren't rude and ignorant in the first place. So they flipped me off out their car windows and I flipped them back. I mean, sheesh! Talk about clueless. I was livid. They've been rude to many other dog walkers in the neighbourhood and have a poor relationship with the general community of regulars, but have no idea the problem their dog handling skills pose.

3. When the power went out and my Dad kept badgering me to check our electrical switches, both Mum and I repeatedly explained to him that we were not going to do that because the power was out in the whole street. After 30 minutes of bitter arguing I got my phone out and googled power outage in our neighbourhood and learned that a transformer had blown and 20,000 households were without power. To which he replied in all seriousness that we don't live in our neighbourhood. And I drank all the vodka. 

4. When my Dad brought home a book he chose from the discount table outside the newsagent that was described as being about a hybrid-demon and a girl who is used to playing dirty and billed with the nausea inducing blurb "passion like this will scorch you to the very soul" And again two weeks later when he complained the book was rubbish. And again at least once a week for several months as he kept the book on our coffee table for reasons unknown.

5. When I woke up in the middle of the night with an insane deathbed regret: I never won pass the parcel at a birthday party when I was a kid. Seriously this random thought had my heart pounding and seemed so important that I couldn't function, while the tiny unaffected part of me screamed "shut up, it doesn't matter, go to fucking sleep!"

6. When I accidentally ingested very, very expired whipped cream from a can during lockdown. It tasted a little piney but I kept eating. Then I thought, maybe don't eat this... and yeah it was months out of date. MONTHS. It was a long night, but not the worst night I ever had (food wise)

7. Another crazy night time thought was when, out of the blue, in the middle of the night, I thought about how my sister in law doesn't like cucumbers. I've known this about her for years. But all of a sudden I sat bolt upright in bed saying "oh my God, does that mean she doesn't like pickles?" I mean I really, really love pickles and all of a sudden I was dying to know if she doesn't eat pickles. It was like an emergency, only about absolute shite. 

8. During this year I might also have developed the reputation as a bit of a sociopath in the consumer focus group I'm part of. When we were asked about how we prevent ourselves from getting stressed out from being busy I just flat out told them "I prevent becoming busy by telling people I'm busy, when I'm not, and then doing whatever the hell I want" I'm either a genius or a sociopath.

9. Recently we have had to ban my Dad from having toothpicks (because he loses them all the time, he doesn't even notice they are on the floor) my dog has been caught chewing them up several times and so no more toothpicks in this household! Then my Dad became obsessed with the idea of sneaking out to the garage to find some sandpaper to rub on his teeth. Which just about finished the hatchet job on the sanity of both Mum and myself.

10. The strange incident at the dog park, where my dog, and another dog poo'd in the same area about the same time and the other owner and I both had to walk all the way there to pick poo up. I was coming from closer, so I got there first. I was just tying a knot in the bag when this man said to me "that's my dog's poo" It honestly took me a few cold seconds to register that this had actually been said. I had no idea why it had been said or what he was expecting... so I just waited to see if he would say anything else. He did not. Eventually I asked him "do you.... erm.... want.... your dog's poo?" while waving the dog poo at him. He said nothing. He eventually snapped the dog lead onto his dog's collar, and walked off. And I stood there thinking "what the fuck just happened?" Really what was that? Who was that? 

And somehow I made it through the year... maybe my sanity is a little dinged up but... its 2021 here and I'm sure I'll continue losing my shit every now and then, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that. So anyway, I'm glad you made it through 2020 too, and I wish you the very best for 2021. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

a strange tale about dog poo


O Captain, My Captain

Tomorrow I celebrate an entire year with my totally adorable sidekick, Captain, a kelpie x black lab who is  so funny and so sweet that he is the one redeeming feature of this dung heap of a year. I was planning to write a little tribute to him - but basically who needs it - we all know that dogs are the best! and rescue is fabulous, and of course I reckon he is the best dog and a GOOD BOI. 

What I can write about that is possibly the most unique thing that has happened to me this year is what happened when I took Captain out for our morning walk today. Which is incredible. Even by Mandurah standards.

So here we go....

This morning, Captain was in the off leash, and so was another dog. Now I'm not sure who started it but somehow both dogs were pooping in the same area at pretty much the same time. Maybe they were racing? Competing for turf? Who knows... but they both pooped and I had to walk all the way over to pick up poo and so did this other guy. 

I was just tying a knot in the poop bag when this guy says to me "that is my dog's poo"

Alrighty then.

Taken aback, I waited to see if he had anything else to say.

Which he did not.

So eventually I said, "Do you.... erm.... want... your dog's poo?" and held the bag out towards him.

He eyed me.

We stood in complete silence.

Then he clipped his lead on his dog's collar and walked off without saying anything.


I thought at first maybe he didn't want to pick up strange dog's poo (like germ wise?) and then I thought maybe he needed the poo for a sample for the vet? But he said nothing. The first and only thing he said to me is "that is my dog's poo"

How did he say it? Flat. Statement of Fact. Kind of soulless. A little bit like someone who has been brainwashed or hypnotised. Possibly stoned out of his gourd.

And there you go, it is Mandurah, after all.

And I stood there (possibly) holding someone else's dog's poo and wondering if I was supposed to pick up the second poo. And wondering if someone just totally played me to get out of picking up dog shit at 6.30 in the morning.

And I still really don't know.

But I've met a lot of people while walking my dog, and this one has just become a Hall of Famer. 

In an ideal world I have another 10-15 years with Captain and a lot of people to share wonderful and awkward moments with. So here is to my dog, Captain, long may he live.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

One year ago, today

A year ago today, my beautiful niece, Diana, married the man who was absolutely without question made for her: Stuart, and our family and friends looked on with such joy and pride. Which makes it time for me to wish them the happiest of First Anniversaries, and also give thanks that my life didn't end in a fiery car crash on the way home from that wonderful wedding - not that I was in a crash at all, but as you will see when we relive our post wedding wrap up - it could have happened.....

On a beautiful day in late Autumn, nearly Winter, the weather was gloriously kind for an outdoor wedding in the gorgeous parklands at Araluen with a light buffet and beverages provided by bride and groom - and transported by family friend Mick, and me, proud aunt, not without some hijinks and cursing.

When Mick arrived to pick me up for the drive to the park, he was sweating, cursing, and basically freaking out - the catering trays didn't fit in his car fridge and when he opened the door at least one tray of sandwiches and wraps fell onto my driveway. Luckily he came to the right place. Operation Esky came into play. We got an extra esky out of my garage, and filled it with these 2 litre juice bottles that are filled with frozen water and kept in our freezer for emergencies just such as this (only kidding, they are for when we defrost the freezer) the platter trays wouldn't fit in the eskies Mick and I had, so we got all the largest tuppawares in the house and filled them manually with food knowing we had to keep them as neat and tidy as possible and later transfer them back onto serving platters in the park before the guests arrived. Mick literally thanked me a hundred times and said "don't tell Diana until after" and I said "absolutely!"

I hadn't even had time to get my hair and makeup done.... this was me on the day waiting to get picked up... it wasn't exactly what I had in mind but I was stoked to be able to do anything for my niece on her wedding day!

We left in the height of haste with grated carrot, lettuce, and all kinds of scraps littering my driveway in what was surely going to become a carnival for the local birds and dogs, and tried to relax with some light conversation on the way. The definition of light conversation: embarrassing stories about my family and a lot of walking down memory lane.

Mick and I made it to the park in time, and I can't tell you how magical that first sight of the wedding area was with the little white chairs, the arbour, the flowers, the welcome sign... just gorgeous and as every new guest arrived it was all building up the excitement waiting to see, or hear that the bride had arrived and we could witness what we were all just dying to see happen.

This day would not have been complete without the little prince - my great nephew Owen in his suit being carried down the aisle ahead of Diana and her mum, Cheryl (my sister with all of my heart) and for some reason the bridal party were absolutely hysterical with laughter.... its not out of character for them to be laughing, especially if a little nervous or over excited but what, what could possibly be so devastatingly hilarious? Turns out right before they were entering the wedding my sis in law said "I look like a drag queen" the poor love had submitted to having her makeup done as part of the bridal party and the result was incredibly heavy handed and comedic. We couldn't help agree that my bombshell sister was looking, well, like a dehydrated transvestite.

More hilarity ensued in the ceremony which included heartfelt speeches by bride and groom, with Diana regaling us with the story of how Stuart used to carry the dog poop bag for her when they took her dogs to the beach. And we all felt he was even more perfect than we already did.

We laughed, we cried, we celebrated love, we watched as a young mother, father, and baby became formally and for all time forged into a family, and the day is etched into my heart forever as one of the best days in our family ever.

We talked about it for days, and weeks making sure we all filled each other in on all the little things we couldn't possibly have all been party to, but made our memory and experience of the day stronger, brighter, and more complete. And so we get to the part where I informed Diana of my car ride home with the gallant Mick and thank him for not veering off the road or into oncoming traffic when this all  transpired....

It is out there, I warn you that, but it absolutely fits into the gloriously awkward realm in which we live, and I've gone all the way back through a year's worth of messages to find it for you.

Still with me? Cool... so without further ado, I'd like to wish Diana and Stuart the happiest of wedding anniversaries. It is no secret how much I love my family, and I want to make it absolutely clear how much I admire Stuart and include him in that love I feel towards the most wonderful bunch of weirdos you could ever meet... my family.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Invisible Friends, Imaginary Enemies: what happens when a narcissist has dementia

What I'm writing about today is really hard, really honest, and not a comfortable read but I've been getting a lot of sympathy lately, and not a lot of empathy and when you get sympathy instead of empathy you might as well just disappear - because its empathy that helps acknowledge you and sympathy that for all intensive purposes sweeps you, your thoughts, and feelings under the carpet. The truth is that the cookie cutter sympathy people give the families of dementia patients is incredibly condescending, and very painful when we are lumped all together as if our dementia journey is the same and that we are all witnessing the decay of a brilliant and beloved family member to a savage condition and that the ways in which dementia patients act out or lash out is a new behaviour they cannot help. There are families in which the dementia patient was always abusive and the ill-fitting sympathetic noises the family members receive is adding to a lifetime of being marginalised and unacknowledged. This article is about what happens when a narcissist develops dementia.

In order for you to understand the double whammy that is narcissistic personality and dementia, please allow me to take you on a journey of what it was like to be raised by a narcissist parent and what that parent's baseline was before he developed significant memory and cognitive impairment.

In a nutshell a narcissist has:

  1. An extreme preoccupation with their own importance.
  2. A lack of genuine modesty. When modesty is expressed it is shallow and used as a means of fishing for compliments.
  3. A deep emotional need for things to be about them - and to have attention placed on them. They will dominate conversations and are notorious show offs.
  4. Shallow charm - often seen as charismatic and entertaining their public persona often masks deep bitterness, pettiness, and a quick temper.
  5. They are never wrong and never sorry.
  6. A lack of empathy for others. While it is easy to injure their feelings (pride) they have little understanding and no sympathy for hurt feelings in others. 
  7. Relationships scarred by a pattern of praise followed by disappointment, abuse, gaslighting, and threats.
There are two ways you get hurt by a narcissist. The first is directly - what they do and say to you. The second is indirectly - its by the way other people treat the narcissist or how they treat you in comparison to how they treat the narcissist, or how they treat you because of what the narcissist has told them about you.

Socially, my father has always been praised as good natured, cheeky and charming but few people use the word charm correctly - its actually not a good thing, it literally means control, manipulation, deception a type of confidence trick. My mother and I have witnessed my entire life the way other people respond to my father, as he is coddled, favoured, given preferential treatment, and treated as an endearing overgrown child. 

Behind closed doors he has struggled to exert control and the ultimate power over his family a very difficult thing for him to achieve when he is neither the brightest nor most able person present and the only way he could achieve such a thing is through an extremely volatile combination of threats, manipulation, and emotional blackmail. 

Like all bullies, he works by isolating his subjects. Mum never returned to work after I was born, and I was systematically brainwashed to think that I was "an uncontrollable little monster" and taught to think that "if anyone ever finds out who you really are they won't love you" and that all my family and friends would be horrified to find out who I am and that he was protecting me from their disapproval. But really I was being taught not to trust the people I loved and given no protection from  the emotional rollercoaster he was taking us on. I could not tell anyone what was happening to me for fear that it would backfire on me - "if people find out I have to treat you this way they will think you deserve it and you don't want that to happen"

There were times when I was simply howling with tears saying "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good!" and that was seen as backchat and that in his day children were to be seen and not heard. My mother never defended me or stood up to Dad, so the only thing I could do was try desperately to say that I was not bad. Sometimes he would get the phone book out and pretend to ring a children's home to come and take me away, (now as an adult I know he was pretending to look up a phone number and dial and its a bit embarrassing but he intended me to believe him and I did. I was 5) I was hysterical begging for my life crying "please don't, I'll do anything you want! Please!" and that is the one thing he absolutely wanted to hear, so he'd hang up the phone and I'd get to run off to my room in absolute turmoil between two concepts of myself - my own truth that I was good and had done nothing wrong, and his truth that I was being repeatedly and traumatically exposed to.

Dad was completely comfortable causing that level of distress in a very young child and to this day is alternately oblivious to, or satisfied by, emotional distress in people around him. He experiences only his own rudimentary feelings - mostly pride based - and views hardships in life by how they impact on him.

Late last year when my mother fell and fractured her face, the ambulance hadn't left the street when he said "now we can buy dinner". There was an entire roast nearing completion in the oven, but Dad is in the Chicky Nuggies stage of wanting to buy junk food as often as possible and views Mum as an obstacle to that. When Mum was two days into her recovery from that accident Dad threatened to leave her because she would not let him drive - which he is medically not allowed to do. He screamed at her that she was against him, and that she hates him and that "I can see I will have to leave you"

When I was trying to prevent my dad from having a fall himself, he growled "I wish I didn't have a daughter" a little stung I countered "I'm sorry I didn't die in my infancy!" and he was completely happy to leave me hanging on that. He likes to have the upper hand and he will never reach out, reconcile, comfort, or apologise. That one hurt a little more than you'd think because he used to have a favourite tangent when I was growing up about how he didn't want to have me and had to be talked into it by Mum (who hadn't had any kids when they met)

In one of the more humiliating moments of my life I can remember a dinner when Dad's artist friend and his wife were staying at our house where Dad went into the tangent about not wanting to have me, and going on and on for so long about it and I was frozen in my chair with these tears quietly streaming down my face and the guests were not saying anything because they were horrified but you think he's eventually going to say "but look how great things turned out" but you'd be wrong.... its just a really long, really awful speech about his life and the way he feels and how he was manipulated into having me. Funnily enough those guests never came to see us again.

I think that actually stands out as the only time my father has revealed that side of his personality in public and I think it was an accident - I don't think he realised he looked like an asshole or that anyone was disturbed by it. Normally its good news for Mum and I if people are around because Dad is happy to show off and talk their ears off. His good mood is our bit of relief although it can be trying when someone comes to visit us and he insinuates himself into the visit and takes over the entire conversation. I have a friend who every time she comes for afternoon tea, Dad gets his book out (the definition of his book: a book of poetry written by someone and illustrated by Dad's art work) and he has to show off the entire thing and talk about it for the entire time they come and then the next time she comes he'll say to me "get my book out" and I'll say "no we're not having the book, you've shown her your book" and he'll go and find the book and make her look at it anyway. Or my Mum's cousin from interstate came for a short visit for morning coffee, they hadn't seen each other for 30 years and will probably never see each other again and he has to do all the talking - show off about his art, regale them with his very dramatic and long winded heart valve replacement stories - and every time someone manages to get a word in edgewise and change the topic... well he has the best stories about that topic too!

And the book! And his paintings! My God he'd give the mailman a painting. Every man and his dog gets a copy of the book pressed into their hands even if they don't fucking want it. Any doctor who has ever treated him gets a painting or a book. I can remember when he wanted to write in a card (to go with a gift of the book) to the doctor who operated on his cataracts. First of all he didn't even know how the surgery was going to turn out - we didn't know if his vision had improved or not or if there were going to be complications - and he's already writing in this card.... and he wanted to write this glorious, effusive message to her... a near complete stranger that has no personal relationship with him and kept asking me what else to say and I said "this is really inappropriate this is what you say to someone you know really well. You don't even say this much in a card to Mum" KABOOM nuclear explosion. You'd think suggesting saying "dear Dr ---, many thanks, from -----" on an unnecessary and maybe not even deserved gift was a personal attack on both him and the doctor. Lordy, back away.

So, with narcissism you have a really difficult, troubled personality that is on its own especially taxing to deal with and what happens when you add dementia into the mix is that you have all kinds of chaos. Dementia naturally causes a strong degree of self interest and loss of awareness of other people's feelings but it sends an actual narcissist into frenzy.

In the prime of his power, my Dad was someone who was afraid and threatened by the goodness and ability of other people, incapable of taking on board advice and ideas and hostile to those who offered them. In short My Mother and I have been his invisible friends and imaginary enemies my whole life.

Now as Dad loses his ability to remember, learn, and even reason or follow instructions, he needs to rely on other people - all dementia patients find this frightening but someone who has never appreciated the ability of his wife and daughter finds it extremely impossible to cope with.

He simply cannot believe us when we answer his questions. We can't be trusted to know what day of the week it is if he doesn't know. We can't be trusted to know if the bills have been paid if he doesn't know if they have been paid. He repeatedly asks questions (a hallmark of dementia) but one reason he has to keep asking is memory, but a large part of the reason he has to ask them repeatedly is because if he doesn't believe the answer he ignores it. He won't take in information he does not trust. And we have never been as trustworthy, capable, or good as him.

He has always doubted and ridiculed us. I was called a slow learner when I had trouble with my homework or left the hardest math problems to the last moment because I didn't want to have to sit there with him and be screamed at for an hour. If I were to treat him as he treated me it would be elder abuse. 

He cannot remember being told he cannot drive, or the medical reasons, so with great hysteria and paranoia he battles us almost daily to extreme duress by all parties involved. 

The cute show offy habits he had before? Well now I will be out walking my dog and total strangers will tell me "oh your dad is the artist, he invited me around to see his paintings one day" OH MY GOD. Please do not come to our house!

Now he can't always conceal his real personality - I was in the middle of Bunnings one day with him waiting for Mum to return to our waiting spot and explaining to Dad that we need to wait here so we don't lose Mum and he screams "I don't like listening to you!" in front of all the people. 

I know Dad, I know. Whenever I open my mouth he has two responses - one if, I can see his face, is to pull a horrible face that is bitter rage and irritation that I would dare to speak, and the other if I'm behind him is to screech "Who's talking?" He is reverting to the "children should be seen and not heard" mantra and basically my role here is to be the servant and not have any say in anything. But if he needs an audience he will stagger all the way down the hall and into my office to talk to me, and then get cross at me, end up shouting, and leave in a huff.

One day I had some new photographs taken to be used as profile pics and just in case pics for my business and he wanted to see them. He took one look and said "you've gotten ugly". That stings a bit whenever you hear it from anyone, but from your Dad? When your profile pics look so much better than how you look with no makeup and shitty house clothes on? From the person who even if it was true, would be the one to say "you look beautiful to me?" And then I look up and realise he didn't have his glasses on. I let out this huge sigh of relief and said "you can't see properly. You haven't got your glasses on and you have cataracts" (this was before his surgery) and he screams at me "don't show me any more photos then! Agreed. I wouldn't want to anyway.

And this dementia phase of his life is the final stage of my mother and I becoming completely invisible.

It took me a long time to grow up, learn to speak for myself, learn to enjoy my personality, and I don't much care for being invisible and I definitely don't look kindly on comments that strip me of my identity or feelings. So I don't enjoy the sympathetic response of actual professionals in this industry when they say"it must be so hard for him". All I want to do is scream "he was always a cunt!" He has the same personality he always had and to treat him like an unfortunate victim is to spit in the face of the actual human baggage he leaves in his wake. Dementia patients are human beings, they are not saints. They come from all walks of life. They have all kinds of personalities, and have done all kinds of things to all kinds of people. 

Sympathy is belittling and dismissive and assumes entirely too much. Empathy is finding out what a person is going through and reflecting that back to them in a way that indicates to them that they have been witnessed and acknowledged. Empathy brings someone who feels invisible into the light and warms them with your kindness. 

Ask, explore, nurture... don't assume. Care. 

I wrote this to help people understand dementia in people with narcissistic personalities because I see hardly anything about this online, and to support people who are carers for parents or partners and family members of narcissists. Fight hard not to be invisible. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

tales of quarantine and demon sex voyeurism

I'm not sure when exactly were the "days of wine and roses" but the days of quarantine and demon sex voyeurism are right now, in the latter days of March 2020. If you're not entirely sure how the two things go together, sit right back and let me tell you how my family and I are faring so far in our preparations for (ideally) surviving the Corona pandemic.

I am a young(ish) adult with autoimmune disease who is shacked up with two elderly parents - one in particular is very infirm and ticks every box for being at extra risk of COVID19. As someone who has worked from home for over ten years, and before that was unemployed from home, and the age difference in my family meant that even with two older brothers I was raised in the same conditions as an only child... I am uniquely qualified to enjoy time in my home as long as I have books, Netflix, and food.

Having explained to my parents the concept of social distancing and also voluntary isolation (different from required isolation or quarantine) and having my Mum say to me repeatedly "if Dad gets the corona virus he'll die" and with me sharing what I know from my overseas friends where the pandemic is more advanced than here (we will soon catch up to them at the rate we are going) I thought it was excellent when they agreed with my plan that we would go out one day a week to shop for food, and otherwise stay home except to attend necessary medical appointments.

I feel tremendous weight upon me to uphold this isolation, a pressure that is coming not just from family, friends, and neighbours but from total strangers (and celebrities) who are diligently choosing to stay home for our sake.

This is how the first week of that plan went down:

Day 1, Monday: Mum and I went to the mall to do our grocery shopping. We were lucky to get food and not encounter the feral bogan riff raff who you will have seen scrapping over toilet paper. There is a joke somewhere in there about this footage going viral on social media.

Day 2, Tuesday: My 88 year old father was taken by his volunteer (who we pay... long story) for his weekly one on one social outing. They went to an art gallery. While Mum went to a hall packed with old ladies for her weight loss meeting (she does not need to lose weight). I stayed home. I insisted that Dad's social outings be cancelled until after the Apocalypse. Mum's weight loss club has been suspended in the wake of more stringent social gathering rules so that helps me out tremendously, thank you Australian Government.

Day 3, Wednesday: Both parents attend the local GP and pharmacy. Okay, not ideal, but better they go now before too many people in our community have been exposed to COVID19.

Day 4, Thursday: Mum goes to have a hair trim. I begin to think I am in a losing battle.

Day 5, Friday: Dad wakes up with a limp arm, we have to check if he has had a TIA or stroke.

Day 6, Saturday: I think, wow, no one has any appointments on the weekend, maybe we will slide into this isolation gently over the weekend.... but no my mother decides she has to go to the petrol station to buy a newspaper because she absolutely has to have a TV guide. And when I ask her what happened to our plan she screams at me "I have to have something to do!" Well she won't be bored when we are measuring my Dad for his coffin.

Day 7, Sunday: I share with Mum the news I have from overseas friend about how people won't get permission to leave their home to attend hospital but have to stay home and die, and how fucking hard it is to get an ambulance. I discuss with mum what options we have for if we need to quarantine one of us from the others within the home. Mum emphatically states that if Dad gets sick she will still share his bed. I begin to think that I am going to be trapped in this house with two people who will not lift a finger to protect me... even though I've been a good little girl and stayed home. I'm pretty sure they intend to take me with them when they leave this mortal coil.

This is seriously beginning to undermine the enjoyment I had at the start of the week for a calm, orderly, and really quite leisurely period of living it up at home. I had a binge watch list, a to-read list, and social media to grow. What else can I do, no one wants me to try and sell them jewellery right now they are worried about finances. So it should be play time?

A nice day of reading on the bed with my sweet, cuddly boy dog should be just what the doctor ordered. Well now, there's just one thing: a book lover like me should not have to share quarantine with a bibliophile's kryptonite aka... My Dad.

I stopped buying books for my 88 year old father after he came into my office and shared his unsolicited review of the last book I got him for his birthday. I had chosen what I thought was a moderately nerdy book about the world's first chess tournament held in the Ottoman Empire in 1546.

My father shuffled up to me when I was at my desk working and said, "I finished that book you got me" Oh yes? "It had lots of sex in it" Oh Dear God! Then he leaned in, delicately grasped the excess fabric of my sleeve, checked left and right for potential eavesdroppers before mock whispering "and FORNICATION"

I have no Earthly idea what my Dad thinks fornication is but I could tell from his voice that it is a great deal worse than sex and that is enough for me. Anyway that is the day I stopped buying books for my Dad. It did not stop him from constantly asking me if I had anything to read, and, Heaven help us all, he recently came home with his latest book choice.

He returned from buying lotto tickets at the mall with a discounted book called Eternal Flame with the book blurb "passion like this will scorch you to the very soul"

A quick scan of the back cover synopsis has me ready to take drastic self preservation measures, and that is why it is time for me to pluck out my eyes, cut off my ears, and incinerate my brain. Oh to be anywhere else when my Dad reads a scorching book about a hybrid demon and a girl who is used to playing dirty.

Yeah I just vomited a little bit in my mouth. Debate in our family raged: people who don't live with us giggle and suggest he is now into erotica. Mum and I are more exposed to his declining cognitive ability and suspect he simply did not understand the words "hybrid demon" on the back cover, and may not even be able to read the back cover as his eye sight is also pretty terrible these days.

It was two weeks ago that he bought the book and very quickly discarded it as "the worst kind of rubbish" which lead to me victoriously emailing family saying "see, I knew he wasn't a demon sex voyeur!" But he has now picked it back up and is ploughing through it whether or not he understands a word of it and God I hope I have heard the last of this book that I look forward to burning when we run short of fire wood this winter if we are still here, in quarantine, in our house of questionable repute.

So in these days of uncertainty and financial strain, I hope it gives you a giggle to think of me, with my 83 and 88 year old children and their sex books in this: our time of Quarantine and Demon Sex Voyeurism. And may God have mercy on our souls.