Helen Palmer (nice_cup_of_tea) wrote,
Helen Palmer

Week 48: The one with the parrot

This week’s homework is from KatColorado.
“There is this German bookring of a book of short stories. These stories were written by different know and less known writers. The shared point of all the stories is a redblue air mattress and that it is supposed to be a summer holiday story. The whole rest was left to the imagination of the authors, I think there were thrillers, fantasy stories, love stories, pretty much everything. What about doing a similar experiment, it doesn’t have to be an air mattress of course, it could be anything, but the chosen item would have to be in the story. I think it would be interesting how every journaleer could come up with a totally different story. So, taking cue from KatColorado, write a creative story or journal entry. The only requirement is that it have my beanie baby parrot in it. :-) You might try to write a week’s worth of entries, and somehow a parrot has to be incorporated into each one. Or maybe just one story. Everything is entirely up to you. Let's see how different your parrot entries can be!

The staff at Bluebell court had long known that the blue and red parrot was the best indicator of Elsie’s mood. The parrot was a barometer signalling cyclical periods of high pressure, low pressure and the squalls in between. Elsie was 87 and in her own words “as strong as an ox” or on belligerent days “there’s absolutely nothing the matter with me!” She was a fairly new resident to the home. She’d been suffering from Alzheimers for probably at least 7 years at her family’s best estimate and finally the family home wasn’t safe or secure enough for her.

Not that this was a happy move for any of the parties. Elsie (confused, scared, aggressive) versus her son and daughter-in-law (guilty, exhausted, relived) and the grandchildren (also confused, angry and exhausted). In short, not a happy family triangle on moving-in day. And yet the staff, who had seen all manners of families and their arguments, could see that this was a move that was needed and that it would work, and that there was a lot of love and emotion hiding behind all the noise and confusion of Elsie, family and grandchildren. And this is where Percy parrot came in.

One of the social workers at the home had got the story out of the youngest granchild. Both sitting on the bench in the garden having a well-earned cigarette break. Grandma had always had a ‘thing’ about parrots, although it wasn’t clear where this interest had come from. But over the years she’d been given the usual ornaments, tea-towels and other parrot trinkets and the collection had gradually taken on a life of its own. The beanie parrot had been last year’s Christmas present from the eldest granddaughter. Presents had long since ceased to have any meaning for Elsie. Her lack of memory didn’t allow her to recognise presents, or remember who had given them to her, or to understand what to do with them. But the cuddly parrot last year had been an unexpected hit. A desperate present which had somehow struck a childish chord with Elsie. And the staff used the parrot to get through to the old woman.

In her brief periods of lucidity the parrot sat on the bedside table, next to the photo of her son and family. On particularly good days, Elsie could tell the Staff all about her beloved family: the names of the grandchildren, the achievements of her son, how much her daughter-in-law had always done for her… and she’d tell you who had given her Percy. She’d indignantly say “Don’t know why she gave me this toy!” and then softening she’d add “But he’s a sweet little thing and he keeps me company” and the parrot would get an affectionate pat on the head.

On her distant days, neither the family photo or the parrot would get any attention or response from Elsie. It wasn’t that she was ignoring them, more that she just couldn’t see or recognise them. The staff would look at Elsie’s blank eyes and wonder where she’d disappeared to. Her care worker would sit on the bed next to Elsie and would cuddle the parrot whilst talking to Elsie about her family. Elsie might absentmindedly stroke the parrot, but the action was without understanding. And more often than not, the parrot would be found pushed to the back of the bedside table, or would be on the floor next to the bed. Of all Elsie’s moods, this one was the worst ‘weather’ for the staff. Because she was there just in body, and there was no sense of the woman underneath the pain and the memory loss.

But oh, the wild and windy days! The staff would roll their eyes at each other, and moan and complain, but they found Elsie’s manic moods strangely exhilarating. The pain of the Alzheimers would come roaring out, in a yell of lost identity: “Who am I?” “Who are you?” “Don’t do that!” “Leave me alone”. The staff, sometimes able to anticipate these rages, would remove the few photos and breakables in the room, but would always leave the parrot. Strangely, the sight of the parrot could infuriate Elsie further. Percy took the brunt of this force. She would pick him up and shake him, saying in a murderously calm voice “What is this” before throwing him with remarkable accuracy across the room. And he’d be found later at the top of the wardrobe or in the laundry basket in the far side of the room. She wasn’t kidding when she said she was as strong as an ox. The long decline of alzheimers had damaged her brain and character, but left her body unharmed.

But if the parrot was missing this could enrage Elsie further and she would wail incoherently “Where is it?” “I want it” “The flying thing” When her care worker retrieved the parrot from its hiding place, Elsie’s mood could go both ways. Sometimes the cycle would resume, and Elsie would snatch him, shake him and throw him away. But the return of Percy could calm her and more often that not, Elsie and the careworker could be seen sitting together, petting the toy and the storm would gradually cease.
Tags: family, journaleers, writing

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