I make my traditional Norwegian Buns. They are oozing with melted butter and cinnamon sugar. They are Nigella’s – queen of sweets. It is a two-hour job, begun before the house is fully awake. There is the kneading, the rising, the rolling, the rising again and finally the baking. The rings on my fingers are glued to my skin with sticky dough. The stainless steel taps get coated with the stuff. Unctuous. The dishcloth becomes unusable. It is usually a messy affair with lots of flour across the floor but this year it has been better. Uncle Dave comments, Not So Messy, ah. The dog is doing an excellent job, tongue to the floor.
Easter is not a church-thing in our house. Graham barely knows Good Friday is the day of the crucifixion and Easter Sunday is when He rose again. Dead three days, Not bad, says Jasper. How is it that Graham can get the days confused? He is poorly educated in religion. And so too is our son. Neither do we do Eggs or Bunnys. What we do is watch the seasons change. Normally Easter signals the start of cooler nights. There might even be rain. Dew in the morning. A cardigan is retrieved from deep in the drawer. The leaves on the Robinia are dropping. The Western Corellas head North. The dog can wear his “doggy jammies” when he is put out at night. The fan goes into the attic, and down comes the gas heater and the donnas. The sun is still shining, but its heat is toned down. The roses will need pruning soon. The dome of blue is at its most brilliant. Best of all the wind has gone. Still, crisp air. A leaf let loose from its twig, free-falls straight down.
This year the boy is injured. A buckle fracture of the distal radius means he has a blue half-cast on his arm. It is cleverly made by Amanda the OT out in the burbs, with an electric frying-pan full of hot water and a hot air-blower. It has been three days since he tripped in the playground on a ball and came down on his hand. Three days since the phone call from the school where the assistant teacher told me, “he has washed his face and has ice on the injury, but still he would like his mother to come pick him up.” The green stick fracture is barely visible on X-ray. A mere blip on the periosteum. On the third day; the throbbing has gone away and now it is just inconvenient. Or else part of his make-believe armour in a game of Iron Man vs Batman. Reborn as Superhero. Alas; no skateboarding, no Footy, no tennis.
The neighbours have gone South. The houses around us are empty and quiet. Hollow of people. The clothes lines are nude. The bins are already out on the street, waiting. The mini has its car cover on.
My mother telephones in the evening; I’m in Agony. Agony. You must do something.
Her indwelling urinary catheter has blocked. Again. Unexpected. It is something that is happening to her more frequently these days. It is supposed to only need changing every six weeks, but lately it decides it will stop working somewhere around the four-week mark. When it blocks acutely it means her shrivelled bladder, the size of a walnut-shell, is asked to stretch. It doesn’t like it, so unused to being a container. The small muscular organ is not accustomed to filling. Its nerve endings fire off, indignant. It gives her great pain, as her ungenerous bladder expands, and yet the staff at the nursing home are slow to swing into action and get the thing changed. So she rings me. This can’t happen again, she says.
I ring the nursing home but no one is answering the nursing station phone. Perhaps they are eating Easter Eggs. Sucking the chocolate between their teeth.
She rings back. It’s sorted. The catheter has been changed. What a relief. I can hear the return of perkiness. A nurse appeared with a trolley. Hands washed; sterile gloves snapped on. Once the task has been started it is over in three minutes; a nurse has whipped out the old one and threaded up the new. The bag has filled. The bladder has wilted and wizened, back to its peach-stone pip-size. Huddled down into its pelvic bed. Back to slumber.
But it will block again. It is the nature of the thing. The bladder is irritated by the catheter sitting in its lumen and a biofilm (a nice word for gunk) forms around the eyelet of the catheter. Then the drainage gets poor and eventually it blocks, and no urine can drain away into the bag. The catheter needs to be changed for a new one. But it is only a matter of time before that too is coated with the cellular and inflammatory crud that plugs the catheter opening. Bladder failure is what she has. And there is nothing medicine can do to replicate the ingenious functioning of a normal, healthy bladder.
But nurses changing it quickly, when an old woman cries out, I’m in agony, might be a good place to start.