Death, Booze, Ninja Granny and Big Tuna

Everyone here in this end of our little apartment complex is facing their mortality today.

Eighty-plus year old P. has cancer and some mental problems. He is a hard drinker and at times he would become overwhelmed by life. He would sit on a small wall outside his little apartment and loudly tell people he could not see, and probably didn’t exist, what he thought of them. He hasn’t being doing it so much lately, until yesterday.

Pete would go over and sit with him for hours. They were both old country people. Bushies. When Pete started going over P. stopped having those terrible confused and lonely moments. He had a friend who understood

Peter

Everyone loved Pete. He and I would sit and chat about people and places and jobs we had done. I guess that is what he shared with P. He would struggle down the stairs by his apartment and share the morning sun with the two women in the ground floor apartments quite often. He was a beer alchemist who spent many years studying the best way to get a good homebrew. He traveled a bit although he was getting close to being blind. He had some good friends and would often be found returning home with a rosy glow in his cheeks after a regular “therapy” session (a few drinks with his mates) He loved collecting baseball caps and was very proud of each one he had as they all had a story. I gave him a few I had from my brothers and had to include telling each one’s story before he accepted them.

I kept one or two my brothers had given me with stories I value.

P. is out on his little wall looking up at Pete’s porch and telling him how much he valued him and what a great friend he was. He has been there since yesterday afternoon when they took Pete’s body away. I went out with a warm jacket some time last night but someone had put him to bed. He was back up as soon as he could see light. There is country music playing. They must have shared a love of country music. He isn’t playing it because one of us requested it. He has been drinking hard and is beginning to lapse back into his angry rants against invisible tormentors in between his cries to his lost friend. I thought I was alright but that guy has been hurting so bad I cried.

Everybody started asking about Pete last week. He feeds the birds and they sit with him for hours. There were none in the trees. I went up Saturday morning and knocked but rumor had him being on another trip. His traveling companions turned up asking about him after midday and we knew he wasn’t on a trip. They took my ladder and got up to his window and saw him there in bed. I watched as the realization ran around the group and grief hit them. It hit both his traveling companions and P like a brick. I sat with him so he wasn’t alone but he didn’t say it was hurting. People here are tough and they are damaged. The guys are often very brusque if you attempt to connect emotionally even at times like this. I am staying away from him right now. I may be wrong. Pete would have gone over and had a few drinks but my medication makes me sick after a drink so it wouldn’t help!

We had been fooling ourselves. With the grief came the knowledge we were all close to joining Pete. Mortality loomed and is still sitting there smiling back.  It hid behind the grief and people didn’t want to give it life by mentioning it.

Greg is another tenant here. I asked about him and was told he was getting more of his foot (or his whole foot) amputated. Some people don’t think he will be back. He is too ill to look after himself and he has diabetes. I think he will make it

Greg and his little mate on the earlier freedom machine

Friday night there were a number of loud bangs at midnight. I couldn’t see anything when I went out. At 4am a woman started shrieking and there were more loud bangs. There was a tiny, round woman wielding a fluorescent pink broom striking at a man who was behind the security screen on his apartment. She attacked his garden, attacked his windows and then tried to lever the door off to get at him. She started to come towards me but realized I am not someone on her hit list so stopped. I called the police because I was worried about her and the possibility she would do something to herself. Most of us have seen some awful things so we know not to take it personally when someone has a meltdown.

She is on medication but it fails at times. Apparently it happens every four weeks or so. I know why. It really hurts her being forced to live in these tiny squalid apartments. One moment she was with a loved partner in a roomy residence. She is a well-known crafter and goes to all the craft shows and markets. Then she loses him. She loses her home. She loses her access to transport to markets and fairs. She cannot drive. After a life time of collecting her tools and craft works most of them cannot be fitted into the only apartment they will give a single woman. Her social status plummets. All gone! She is alone in social housing and filled with the fear generated by the rumors about people who live here. I understand. I wonder if being next door to a dying Peter affected her. A lot of crafters and artists are empaths. It is the flow of motion and life we feel that inspires the things we make. I realize I have written her story before but cannot remember where or when.

She thinks he is planning to kill her or harm her in some way. She thought one guy was climbing on the roof to steal her antenna. She thought a local woman was hacking her emails. A woman who does not even have internet. I have been this bad myself. There is not an answer.

The community support worker took me out on Wednesday. We went down to The Entrance. I had planned to have lunch at my favorite family-style restaurant and then grab a few photographs of winter flowers from the reserves along the peninsula to see if it is still practical. The old NGO who used to look after me took me to the lake where I would photograph flannel flowers and things for calendars. This time it rained and the restaurant was being demolished!

I like The Entrance a whole lot. It has some great little shops and markets and op-shops. For me it is a delight in the winter when it belongs to the locals and it is easy to get a morning spot along the path with a great view of the ocean. We went to Big Tuna and I had fish and chips (flathead). It was good and I enjoyed that a lot. I Might try and do it again next week. The photography thing is important and I need to get it right or drop it if it has become impracticable.

It looks grim but under cover at The Entrance is a pleasant place to while away some time when rain ruins other plans. Looking down the street from Big Tuna. Image by the unknown community support worker

The actual walking was a nightmare. It is so painful and it wears my ability to make decisions very quickly. I keep thinking I have overcome some part of the cycle but inevitably there is a sort of chronic fatigue thing where the real payment for all that pain is paid the next day and the days beyond. I am still exhausted but Thursday I spent looking at the kitchen with my mouth open struggling to find the energy to get to my feet and do some simple thing like get out of my pajamas for an hour at a time. Friday was almost as bad. Saturday I went shopping and my feet are bruised and I feel like I am weight-lifting instead of typing. At least I got through this. It often hurts me when so much time is spent recovering. I lose contact with images or stories I am working on. My life runs down to zero.

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