My First Week with Russ
The title of this post will hopefully be something of a tell to those of you who follow my erstwhile boss. NB not : “My First and Last Week” , “The Long Walk (back) to Freedom”(my Nelson Mandela roots) or even “It was Nice while it Lasted…” . I have survived my first week with Russ but find it salient to mention that he has survived his first week with me also – not something to be taken for granted as this blog can attest to!
I arrived from sunny South Africa exactly one week ago unsure what to expect which as it turns out was perfect because nothing could have prepared me for the world I was about land in and any expectations would merely have been illusions (or disillusions) in the face of the reality I have found here…..
Russ’s first day with me was difficult for us both. How many times, I wondered, has he had to hand over his care to a complete stranger, this time a particularly unqualified one. My fears were not rational. Any normal person might have been afraid of the array of wheelchairs and their chargers, spanners and equipment that awaited me or of riding a rigid front fork 20 year old mountain bike at 20mph through the London rush hour traffic chasing a madman in a wheelchair (and completely failing to keep up) but those things didn’t worry me. My concerns were more practical – or so I thought. How would I get the inaccessible bits of him clean, how do I remove a stoma bag from a hairy chested man and please God can I not drop him on his head when I’m moving him from wheelchair to bed or vice versa. Yet in those first few hours my worst fears arrived as my new employer declared that his belly button was no longer aligned with his Willy (his word not mine) and could I please check that for him as he ripped down his underpants so that I could have an unobstructed view of said misalignment ……As I said, the rush hour traffic was easy …
My week has been a kaleidoscope of new experiences, a sensory overload of interactive moments flinging themselves randomly across lovely London’s yet arriving in apparent order anyway and the complete privilege of looking at life with a brand new set of eyes. Who gets to do that?
I have found in Russell less of a disabled or handicapped, weakened or wounded invalid and more of a fiercely independent and completely capable individual, brimming over with energy and enthusiasm for life in its every possible incarnation and some that shouldn’t be possible at all. We have chased moments of magic from Chiswick to London Bridge, seen spectacular views at the new Battersea Power Station Development and visited the heights of Tower Bridge and the depths of Churchill’s War Rooms. This enigmatic man glows with a bright intelligence, longing to learn new and unexplored ideas and has a refreshingly innate ability to laugh at himself and the world. I learn something every day, even if it’s only that the wheelchair section of the movie theatre is a raised secluded private box or that the network of Russ’s dearest friends are a gossamer thread of the strongest kinship, real people who truly care about their crazy friend and will travel miles to visit for tea, repair a broken wheel or simply share the experience of a lecture at the RGS.
These are my first impressions. I know he is on his best behavior but hey after all so am I. Somewhere in this first week we have found an easy alliance. We are both fiercely self sufficient in the ways that really matter and yet somehow find it easy to lean on each other for the things we can each provide, unthreateningly, in an almost symbiotic manner as we navigate the early stages of what is, quite simply, life together.
We still haven’t worked out who exactly is the real boss in this relationship but I will be sticking around for a while longer and no doubt we will thrash that one back and forth verbally as well as physically ( while I try not to drop him on his head)
Tomorrow Russ has his long awaited MRI scan. As you know X ray’s last week (to diagnose the non-aligned Willy) revealed part of his spinal steel structure has come slightly adrift and further investigation is required. I think I will slip the nurse a fiver and ask her to check the loose screws in his head as well as in his back while she’s at it…..