05 November 2011


Excellent piece by Matthew Parris in The Spectator for 29 October asking what is the point of the storytelling bore?

I am the expert on repetitive bores and I'm forwarding this link to my fellow caregiver contacts in case it gives them any inspiration on how to cope with those endlessly burbling Groundhog-Day droners.

I've lived with my 91-year-old mother for five and a half years and lost most of my brain cells just sitting captive thru endless observations/reminiscences - all worn threadbare to the bone like a busted brake pad, all repeated word perfect.

I once made contact with various caregiver groups with one question:

How do I stop myself going crazy with this endless garbage?

Parris absolutely nails it over what exactly is going on when the droners spew.

Precisely zilch is going on, it's just senile turning over of the musty grey matter, what's left. Just tongue-jerk trotting out of whatever happens to be on the slab.

I mean, the damage they cause to those within range - and there isn't even a fucking light on upstairs.

Results: worse than useless. All these experts could come up with was

  • Arrange with your caregiver partner [! - a fine thing] to vary/share your hours

  • Arrange with your caregiver replacement to 're-direct' the flow of conversation to something more 'in the present'.

  • Arrange for friends and relatives to drop by on a more regular basis and keep the conversation 'light' and flowing.

    Mewl mewl mewl.

    Every suggestion depended on A.N.Other being around; none dealt with my situation of a carer trapped alone, 1:1 with the blather; nowhere to run. Useless, and I let them know it.

    The closest I've come to a remedy and protection - and I've had reports of success from others - is to keep a notebook and meticulously record those repeats that threaten sanity.

  • This can in fact develop into a fun game, tracking which topics come in and which fade [only to rebound with vengeance!].

  • Remember when you were a cherubic chorister and that 'Vicar Cricket' game to ease the tedium of the sermons? One sort of wave for a 4, another for 6, another for No Ball. Like that. Except you're playing for your marbles.

    This will distract you from listening and will sooner or later catch the eye of the Burbler. The initial effect is wonderful, like a punch to the face because of course they have no idea they are such a literal pain. Just as funny is how irritated they get at your note taking.

    "Will you stop that infernal scribbling!"
    (Work it out, chuckle)

    My mother can tell the same story twice in six minutes, five in the same hour ~ and the content and wording will never change, so it's vital I note the exact minute in order to capture the true agony of the occasion. It also makes for better Excel charts that you can hang on the wall and track against newcomer topics. Hall of Fame stuff.

    Two years ago when I was getting worried about my sanity under this barrage of repetition, I asked around my mother's pals how they themselves coped with her Repetition Dementia.

    Most of them said they simply shuffled away. Not an option for me, trapped at the dinner table, 3 x daily, seven days x week.

    What amused me was one devout church member who sees my mother perhaps twice a month and even then doesnt have to sit next to her.

    He suddenly rounded on me with a,

    "You know what? I sometimes want to grab yer mother and bellow into her ear,

    "Change the record, Marjorie! Change the fucking record!!"

    I told him, "Blimey - and I thought it was me asking you lot for sympathy and advice."

    I once bought a spanking little revolver downtown for seeing off cats and strange dogs.

    Natty little thing that'd fit into the kitchen drawer.

    Someone once described me as,

    "Dear dear Chris ~ a life of endless repetition ad murderous nauseam ... and the rest is gardening."

    And it's true, including the gardening bit.

    The times I have sulked and pleaded and argued and shouted that, surely, by way of reward or small thanks for the times I have spent in the garden, surely - surely - I might be spared the chatter? I've tried every permutation of reminders - zilch. I've even tried walking from the table at the first mention of gardendry.

    I have one last resort which I run through my head as my mother gurgles on.

    But it does require playing by the rules and observing a legit segue cue.

    For instance, if my mother veered into garden gab and used a phrase such as " ... but once planted they never give you a moment's rest", I would then be allowed for me to jump in with a

    "Speaking of never a moment's rest, that reminds me of how never any success ramming home the message that this unceasing talk of gardenry is completely - sickeningly - lost on me.

    After five years', how else are we going to tackle it?

    I know, let me try a different tack. How about this way? Maybe this will clarify my situation ..."

    I remove the pistolet from the drawer and place merciful barrel en bouche. It feels like all my trials soon be over. The ultimate slap in the face for all the dronings on and trudging the treadmill of futility.

    Pull trigger.

    The only drawback is that there are so many other occasions when this gesture would also fit that I'd be loth to waste it on a dud.

    Also, I'd want my girls there, to see the vileness and mirror dementia to which repetition also reduces the 'carer'. The sheer rock-bottomness of our fate. I'd want them to feel the anger and contempt for the damage wreaked by that selfish fuckwit gardenry hobby - oh and pray pray pray they carry the message on through their own lives.

    I suppose the trick is to set the camera up on a tripod with a good view out of range of the blood splatter and have a stamped addressed envelope for the camera card and precise guidelines on how to Youtube it.

    If just one person could be inspired to concrete over just one hectare of green, burn one row of plantery, my blissful cup of escape would run over.

    But I'd need to get the phrasing right on the 'let me put it another way' nonsense because that could be fun and even get into some book of quotations. There'd be cartoons of burly non gardeners, Magnum tucked behind their back, smiling sweetly at nongenarian maternal crones ... lemme put it anuvver way, mum.

    Boom! Flash! Splosh splatter. Have Cee-lo Green thunder from the speakers and a slide show of the more miserable corners of the garden I've trudged thru ...

    But i digress ~ I've marked the Spectator cover with the page number of the Parris piece and run a big red splash down the page itself. Now to make umpteen copies and scatter them through house, church and glove pocket as well as nailed to utility poles next to those fiches de mort.

  • 1 comment :

    Simon Baddeley said...

    '...sooner or later it’s all going to fit together into what could be called a plot.' Is it possible that to be as totally unbarring as you, Chris, you must suffer the opposite. That now qualifies me as foremost among Job's helpers. But what a fantastic piece. I've immediately written to Carrie who's not here right now, well - tell a lie - she is here but not at this moment, because she's ...Well anyway I've told her what she has to do when I go repetitive, as at 70 I suspect, no that's not quite true, I mean probably I already do...well, yes, in fact definitely, yes, yes. Did you hear me the other day. I was proclaiming that no-way had I lost my marbles - touch wood - knock knock - "come in!". (Seriously brave witty posting..blah blah)