Thursday, January 6, 2011

80. Recovery and more about Elaine

The recovery period was long and slow, and I was now very aware of my mortality. Maureen came over from the U.K. to look after me for a few weeks and then Jeni arrived and we enjoyed some very relaxed time together.

Each day I walked a little further and, on my post-op six week check up I was declared fit, having made “a remarkable recovery”. For the time being, the amount of attention I could give Elaine had to be reduced drastically, although I still attended to her accounts, nurses' wages and so on.  Assuming that Elaine would outlive me (there was nothing much wrong with her physically) there would be nobody to take over her affairs when I “snuffed it”, as Tom used to say. I was also very concerned about Elaine's mind, which seemed to be deteriorating. She needed full time care and I could not provide it. Going into “frail care” is literally the last but one move off the planet, to be avoided at all costs, and persuading Elaine to move, away from all her books, would be difficult. But a long term plan had to be made.

Two years later she did move into Robari, supposedly for a trial run, while I was away somewhere. It was a terrible period of adjustment, and when I returned she was in a very distressed state and had forgotten all about her flat and Somerset Oaks.

I visited her daily, reading her episodes from the journal she had kept during one of her trips overseas and even, at one time, read stories from “Winnie the Poo” one of her favourite books. I wheeled her over to the coffee shop for “naughty cakes” and to my house for lunch, but she no longer recognised Somerset Oaks as the place where she had once lived and where she still owned a flat. And so I decided that, while I still had POA, I would sell the flat so that she would have enough money to pay the charges of the home and also to hire additional private nursing.

Clearing out Elaine’s flat, was a monumental task. Her valuable books on ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, which took two hours to pack and load, filled a Combie van and were taken by the University of Cape Town. Scrap paper and stationery went to schools, car loads of clothes were given to Hospice, workmen in the complex took anything left outside the front door and somehow everything was given away. Disposing of some items was very hard, for instance, her school reports since the age of six, her mother’s Black Magic chocolate/sewing box and an ancient chocolate Easter rabbit given to her unknown years ago, and kept in the refrigerator. Once cleaned and repainted, and with the agreement of her lawyer, who carried out the transaction, the flat was sold.

The next step was to advise the lawyer that, because of my age and state of health, and Elaine’s state of mind, it was no longer practical, or even safe, for me to continue holding the Power of Attorney. How could I go about relinquishing it? This was when I wished I had never accepted the responsibility in the first place. What a performance! I was told that it was my responsibility to apply to the High Court for a curator to be appointed, by a judge, who would act on her behalf. The cost of the application was about R72 000.00 which, fortunately, Elaine was able to pay. I had to make a four page sworn affidavit, we had psychiatric reports, medical reports and goodness knows how many other reports. I wonder now what would have happened to her if there had been no Power of Attorney. Someone would have had to appoint someone, and I could not do it because I was not her next of kin! The application was eventually approved by the Judge and Elaine’s lawyer was appointed Curator. The use of the Power of Attorney and curator is so open to abuse that it is frightening, but I had chosen the most reputable legal practice in the town and that was all I could do.

Shortly afterwards Elaine failed to recognise me. She had frequently told people that I was “The love of her life” and I believe that to be true but, after six exhausting years, it was time to let go.

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