Dad’s trade requires heavy equipment
to be lugged around, pushed around
on the job. His services are booked
up to a week ahead, or on the spot
for an emergency so his work hours
are erratic. Sometimes he needs
an assistant but can not predict
how often or how far ahead.
Sometimes he has to fill in their hours
to pay them, keep them available.
They do painting or other handyman
jobs as discussed at prior interviews.
Recently I wondered did he also
explain that a very talkative three
year old might slip out of the house to
engage the assistant in a rambling
conversation out of curiosity.
And id Dad explain that the black
and white cat likes to be close to
his humans, will sit watching as
she paints, then rub along the
newly painted decking rail ?
The present sociable friendly
assistant enjoys long chats, talks
to the cat, but will move off for
her army intake in a few months time.
Little brother sat with the eight year
old side by side on the back steps
eating mint leaves and chives freshly
picked from Mum’s little garden.
H had sat quietly reading in his
bedroom during the eight year old’s
maths lesson with Auntie Jo.
His sister rewarded him with the fresh
green leaves which he loves. They sat
chatting companionably eating their treats.
At meal times little brother is most
unco-operative about eating vegetables
especially greens but this is different.
Mum is most impressed.
She will plant more greens for them
to eat, freshly picked from the garden.
Near the end of the dining table
one dining chair has an excellent
view through the kitchen into the
laundry, an excellent position for
the cat to monitor his food bowl.
Some days he starts at afternoon
tea time though he is not fed
until family dinner time, a practice
begun back when two lively kittens
would leap on to small girls’ laps
demanding food with menaces.
The tabby hunter walked down the
drive one Sunday morning, never
returned. Still the black ad white
cat continues their old routines.
One afternoon a week Auntie Jo
does maths with the eight year old
at the dining table, sitting on his
chair. On a drizzly afternoon he
wants that chair, leaps on to the
seat, crams himself in behind her.
She feels him pushing, reaches
behind her to feel soft silky fur
very damp soft silky fur !
Urk !! He has his revenge !
In traditional sibling fashion the
ten year old and eight year old
share a bedroom, both as great
mates and loudly sworn enemies.
Usually the eight year old is dead to
world as the light goes out, while the
ten year old’s night owl metabolism
lies awake awhile. But when both
are awake on holiday nights they
talk deeply at great length.
At other times quarrels erupt, one
looks sideways at the other who
bursts into tears. Judgement is
demanded from baffled parents.
The very tidy ten year old folds
clothes neatly, putting them away
carefully in their correct drawers.
The eight year old with poor reflexes,
unco-ordinations, limited peripheral
vision creates mayhem, scattering
many clothes, hairbrushes, ribbons,
combs, toys all over the room
except on the ten year old’s bed.
Both collect soft toys on their beds
until Dad stands over them insisting
on only five toys per bed, the
rest must go to the playroom.
The bedroom : a microcosm of
After lunch his older sister was
coming to read “Young McDonald”
to him so little brother bounced
excitedly round his bedroom.
The ten year old ran into the room
he rushed to her – collision !!
He landed on her foot, lost his
balance, twisted his foot on hers.
“Aaagh !! My toe is broken !”
she screamed. How would a child
know it was broken ? Mum, a
trained nurse, rushed to see, agreed.
On the injured foot the second
toe was almost at right angles
to its big toe. …… Aaaagh !!
Plans made over lunch were ignored
as Mum and the ten year old spent
four hours at the emergency centre.
Auntie Jo spent the afternoon with
the eight year old and little brother.
Now an anxious week hoping the
swollen strapped toe would shrink
enough to fit into its riding boot.
Relief ! A week later she could put
her riding boots on, go to her riding
lesson. Little brother was forgiven.
“He’ only three,” she said. “He
didn’t know what he was doing.
Nineteen percent of jobs in our
country could be done without
reading or writing we were told
in 1981 at a teachers’ gathering.
Thirty four percent of jobs could
be done without reading or writing
at the outbreak of World War II
forty years earlier.
Few jobs are left that do not need
reading or writing now nearly forty
years after our teacher gathering.
So many jobs require training
with reading or writing work.
Challenges increase constantly
building up high stress levels
for the dyslexic born with poor
reflexes, unco-ordinations in the
brain, poor balance, with difficulties
in reading and writing.
The great surge of electronic devices
with screens multiplies them many
times, many times over.
The eight year old’s grandmother’s
watch her school progress with
great happiness and interest.
The school put her in a group for
extra reading support, her teacher was
impressed with her oral participation.
But Auntie Jo gives her support tuition
in maths after school each week.
After her sight test the optician
recommended a specialist who tested
her reflexes, muscle co-ordinations
eye brain co-ordinations, balance.
She recommends exercises to improve
these when she checks the eight year
old every half term. We see wonderful
improvements in this child with so
many difficulties in so many ways.
We continue to work on maths.
Though happy for the eight year old
the grandmothers grieve for their sons,
brothers of her mother and father.
They are middle aged now, have only
ventured on a narrow range of life options,
too unconfident to branch out further.
The eight year old has asked me
to continue her weekly maths
tutorials during the school holidays.
She says she needs an expert.
Life is so unfair.
Eight is too young for this.
Fifteen months ago at her school’s
open maths morning what she said
and did puzzled me.
I tested her at home. Her stressed
reactions stunned me.
In the kitchen her mother was sombre.
“My brother was like that,” she said.
There is no dyslexia in my family
but we have married into two
dyslexic families. We are learning.
The eight year old’s mother knew what
was ahead. I will be learning for a while.
The eight year old works so hard
to get good results at school
then works with me again after
school on Monday afternoons.
Sometimes after her lengthy
energy sapping efforts she explodes
into spectacular meltdowns.
Life is so unfair.
Long ago we became friends
through our family connections.
She held strongly to her areas of
interest, of expertise in her job
yet accepted my differences
from my points of view.
A few years ago her heart
increasingly failed her. Medication
helped little, even did harm.
After enjoying a long active life
she is increasingly frustrated
when she has to rest so much.
Now she wants us all to do things
her way. Yet her knowledge gained
over many years no longer overlaps
similar areas of today’s knowledge.
With low energy impeding her
learning she is losing grip of her
recent knowledge as it evolves past
her, past what she once retained.
Middle aged family members stopped
telling her what they do for their
children’s health, exercise, learning,
to avoid her distress at their choices.
She know this, is still distressed.
now I am doing the same, withholding
areas of discussion, to avoid distress.
I used to enjoy our discussions.
I miss them greatly.
Our independence in friendship
worked well for us for years.
Once as an older employed person
in between jobs and homes I stayed
with her for a few months while
scrambling back to the top of the cliff.
It was hard for her after living
alone for quite a while, still she was
too generous to tell me to move on.
After time overseas I returned to
set up my own home. Our friendship
righted itself as we saw each other
occasionally, talked at length.
Now in poor health she lives in a
smaller home near mine. I can
quickly walk there for a cup of tea
as she asks, but want my life to
continue as it is, see her sometimes.
Our situations are now reversed.
Once I crowded he in her own
home. Now I need space in my life.
How do we resolve the challenges
of her lessening independence ?