Pat Scriven lives in Auckland. When Pat was a child her mother described her as having been ‘inoculated with a gramophone needle’. Even so, at seventeen, Pat decided that she had nothing worthwhile to say − the beginning of chronic writer’s block. Deborah’s Art and Craft of Memoir at the Creative Hub has helped to shift this and get the literary juices flowing.
I watch them surreptitiously from the mineral pool. A petite woman dressed in pink is seated at a white plastic table with a young man in a wheelchair with a head rest. He looks about seventeen. He writhes restlessly. Cerebral palsy.
She unpacks a plastic container from a black nylon tote bag, removes the lid and attempts to feed him something on a spoon. After a few misses she puts the spoon down. Dipping her fingers into the white bowl she shapes a ball of food and pops it between his lips. This time it stays put and does not fall onto the table. His whole body is involved in chewing and swallowing. He roars after each mouthful. She gives him another ball. When he finally spits an offering, she packs the spoon inside the plastic container and returns it to the bag. She unfolds a pink flannel and wipes his face.
“Would you like a swim now?” she asks. He responds with a groan. His hands twitch.
“There are your togs then,” she says, placing a rolled towel in his lap. She grasps the handles of the wheelchair, swings it round with practised vigour and heads purposefully toward the ladies’ changing room.
They are in there for a very long time. I ponder the physical stamina and patient perseverance required to help him into his swimming gear.
When they emerge she waves to a bear like man who climbs out of the far end of the pool and strides toward them dripping water. He gathers up the slender, tortured, white body of his son, carries him down the steps and floats him gently in the welcoming warm water. I hear gurgles of pleasure.
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