Lean in


Spending time with my elderly parents is more adrenaline pumping than a roller coaster ride.

Yesterday he was hiking and clambering up a bank, chainsaw in hand, cutting down a large tree. (I was thankful for the presence of a gardening assistant, even though Dad still refuses to allow someone else to actually do the job).

Now I’m leaning against a ladder to keep dad upright, I’m wondering what either of our cardiologists would say. This is no job for the faint hearted … but my 88 year old Dad is determined, and so I’m assisting.

We’re fixing a structure along one side of their balcony to support a climbing plant. Dad has constructed the trellis himself  – it is heavy and there is a steep drop over the side of the deck. I’ve a hammer in one hand; screwdriver in the other and a power drill at my feet. My job is to pass the correct piece of equipment when required.

“They don’t make screws like they used to”, mutters dad who is having great difficulty attaching two pieces of wood while balanced on tiptoes … atop the ladder.

Giving up the struggle he gets down from his perch and rummages through his box of fittings.

“I got these from a coffin factory”, he says, “it went out of business when the bottom fell out of a coffin”.

No wonder the Philips screw driver isn’t working – I notice there is a square fixture at the base of these screws. Dad’s eyesight must have deteriorated even more because that is a detail that in the past would never have escaped his notice. I’m relieved when the task is done and I can have a coffee to reset my heart arrhythmia!

Now my feet can be put into neutral but my brain has to go into top gear.

Rather than a rest time, this is when the newspaper appears and political discussion begins. South Africa provides much fodder, however we generally traverse the world in debate and I end up feeling somewhat sea sick. Dizzy or not, the time always comes to put the paper down and hop aboard the next active adventure.  Spending time with my elderly parents is more adrenaline pumping than a roller coaster ride.

If the wind is still, there is talk of a bonfire to clear the land of gardening debris.

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