I suppose with any dreaming story you can start anywhere. This one starts with me following a tangi procession from Rotorua to Rotoiti before I can accelerate around the lakes and over the Rotomas where there was a slip (as usual) and workers stabilising new roadworks.
I arrive at Mountain View rest home around 10.30am. This is the place I was born when it was a maternity hospital. Time stands still for no-one.
There is a relief worker on reception who doesn’t know where the Armstrong Wing is and therefore Grandma. Another lady leads the way toward her room until we find her sitting with others outside a lounge. She recognises me immediately. She’s clearly been waiting for my arrival. She gives me a big hug, raising her arms. Great. I can’t believe you’re here, she repeats over and over.
All I can do is let the warm tears roll down my cheeks.
I push Grandma through to the Awhina Wing lounge and we chat away from the others. She is very lucid and clear of hearing – seems to be a voice pitch and direction that troubles her most – though at times she zones out. But she seemed pretty much on the ball, and the more we talked the more alert she becomes.
Grandma laughs at my beard, and I tell her Mum doesn’t like it. Grandma just wanted to know if it itched.
While we chatted Grandpa in his white-eye bird form visits and tries to get in the window. He sits and stares for a while and then has to make do with eating spiders from round the window frames before leaving.
Grandma is certainly into a routine and prompts me to wheel her back for lunch. ‘Walter’ is away so I take his seat next to Grandma at a table in the lunch room. Top feed of lamb curry, cauliflower and cheese and ginger silverbeet. Clean plates from both of us. Ambrosia for desert (sweet yoghurt), yum. Cup of tea to finish which was a bit hot for Grandma til it cooled.
After a lunch I take Grandma for a spin outside and we do a bit of a loop of the complex. The sun is warm and a tui calls from a nearby tree. We were near Mrs Davies flat (old neighbour from Robinson Ave and River Road) and she came outside and was chuffed to see Grandma. A 40 year+ plus friendship, she regularly visits though she mentioned Grandma had been asleep on recent visits.
The wind was picking up and the stench of the Mill was now coming in our direction. All the while the Mountain loomed large over us all.
Back inside Grandma showed me her room and we went through the photos. I had a read of the paper and we chatted some more. More large photos for the wall needed. Grandma could name everyone. She remembered Sharna Lisa (old home help) and that she was pregnant when I asked her who it was in a photo. Earlier I had asked her about Sharna Lisa and she didn’t know who I was talking about.
Grandma was starting to tire so I told Janessa (nurse) I’d be saying goodbye soon and she said she’d check up Gladys shortly. All the staff are so attentive and caring and respectful which is comforting.
I say my goodbyes. Grandma holds my hand tight, as she always has, and we have a big hug and kiss.I don’t want to let go. I’m not sure she understands I’m not returning on this visit. It’s 1.45pm.
And down my cheeks the tears roll again.
I follow my songline back past 250 River Road, over the Rotomas and around the lakes past Aunty Lorna’s place.