I met my husband Joe in 1958. At the age of 28 he opened electrical installations business in a house where I lived as an 18 years old Teacher’s college student. Joe employed a few electricians and apprentices to do electrical installations all over Slovenia. He asked me to do some office work for him and I was happy to earn some pocket money after school. I was an obedient child and did what he told me to do. Everybody seemed to do what Joe told them to do at the time. Joe was ambitious, he had the voice of authority; it seemed natural that people followed him. When I finished teacher’s college we married in 1960. The role of the boss and an employee remained the pattern for our relationship. Joe was the head of the family and I organised the internal affairs. The division of labour and responsibilities suited us both. He never asked me to do any heavy outside jobs and I had the full autonomy inside our home.
Our son Marko was born in 1961.
In Slovenia Joe worked from dawn till late into the night. He bought a block of land to build a home. He also bought a car for his rapidly expanding business. He didn’t realise that private sector had no business to expand or prosper in the communist society where every worker had to remain equal. It wasn’t at all smart for a private sector to drive a car when the socialist officials still rode pushbikes. The government simply had to stop him. Joe wanted to take us to America but Australia was inviting healthy qualified young migrants at the time. Joe used to say that we will build America in Australia.
We left Slovenia-the most beautiful homeland one could wish for -but Joe soon learned the Australian saying: You can’t eat your cake and have it. We came to Australia in 1963 with a big basket of hopes and dreams; Joe and I were strong, healthy, well educated, willing and ambitious.
On coming to Australia Joe heard that one could make good money sugar cane cutting. Three days after our arrival we bought a car and drove to Queensland. It has been awhile since Joe did any manual labour but he kept up with the seasoned cane cutters. His hands were bleeding when his first blisters broke. He said that it will be OK as soon as his calluses hardened. As the cane cutting season finished Joe heard that one can do well on the Snowy Mountains scheme so off we went. In North Queensland at Christmas Snowy sounded cool. Joe became a face electrician in Island Bend tunnel. He was the first to go into the tunnel after blasting to fix the lights. The work was hard and dangerous, he saw men die and lose their limbs. He often worked double shifts and sometimes three. The day our son Marjan was born on 16.3.1965 Joe worked two shifts and then was to work the third shift but he asked to go and see me and his son in hospital.
The only time Joe complained was when a foreman called him names. What names, I asked. Joe said: the foreman yelled SPARKY, SPARKY but I said: you sparky yourself and went home.
I told Joe that electricians were sometimes called sparky so he forgave his foreman and they became friends.
We lived in an old abandoned house in the old Jindabyne and saved the money to buy a block of land in Canberra.
In 1966 after three years in Australia Joe was again an electrical contractor; he also encouraged me to present my certificates to Department of Education. I passed the English tests and was again employed as a teacher. We were finally back where we wanted to be. Our education wasn’t wasted after all. Joe took our two years old son Marjan with him to work while Marko and I were at school. Life was exciting; we were climbing the mountain. We were building our Canberra home.
Let’s go to Lightning Ridge for a holiday, Joe announced out of the blue a few days before Christmas 1968. A friend told him that one can get rich overnight opal mining. You just register a claim and you are your own boss. Black opal is the most magnificent gem and it can only be found in Lightning Ridge. I did not argue; I am a born follower; I followed Joe to Australia; I followed him to Queensland sugar cane fields, to Snowy Mountains and Canberra so why not go for a short holiday in Lightning Ridge.
On Christmas day 1968 Joe went specking on Canfields and found an opal worth about one month’s wage; he also caught the opal fever that day. For this two carat gem opal Jerry gave Joe a standing offer of four hundred pounds. Joe said that he will never sell this first opal but we later needed money for the roof of the house so he did.
I’d like to stay for a couple of months, said Joe at the end of school holidays in January 1969. We went to Sydney; Department of Education gave me a job as a teacher in Lightning Ridge. I also dropped into the Lands Department and they gave us a block of land next to the school. As Joe drove back to Lightning Ridge I sketched a plan for the house; we stopped in Dubbo to order bricks. In Walgett I went to the Shire office and produced my plan for the house; the engineer said that it has to be a proper plan so I paid him twenty dollars to make it proper for the next shire meeting in a couple of days. Within a week Joe and his Finish Canberra friends bricklayers started building a house and within a month we moved in it. The bureaucracy wasn’t there yet to slow down the progress. It was a time for actions rather than paper work.
I provided bread and butter for the family while Joe searched for the fortune. Joe promised to return to Canberra for Christmas but Glengarry opal field opened and he found a few opals there so he put off returning to Canberra until next Christmas.
In 1969 the world was young; Lighting Ridge was largely undiscovered and mysterious; it invited vagabonds to come and discover its beauty. People were hungry for adventure, riches, love, excitement, change. We were so young. We came from every corner of the world bringing our stories, traditions, culture and spirituality into the barren outback.
Everybody worked hard to get closer to that trace of opal that meant the realisation of all dreams. Ridge is a place made for dreamers. Maybe everybody is a dreamer but opal miners took that extra step; they left their country, their family and their jobs to scratch in the dirt for the elusive colour; for red on black; for orange green; for harlequin pattern; for rolling pattern; for the most mysterious mixture of colours with the hint of violet under the green and blue and fiery red.
When in 1969 Joe started to mine in newly opened Glengarry opal fields we all moved there at weekends. Joe and I slept on a trailer while the boys slept in the car. Camping in the bush was a welcome adventure for our children and Joe found the company of other miners a good source of local knowledge. We gathered around the fire in the evenings to barbeque the meat, drink beer and tell yarns.
Joe dug a hole in Glengarry and bottomed on opal; he earned in one month what he made in Canberra in a year. We haven’t yet considered that the flow of opal may not be guaranteed or regular. Other miners pegged their claims around Joe. Stories spread like a wild fire about a man who has never been underground before and then after a couple of days he became a millionaire. Joe never denied being a millionaire. He actually liked that. I was totally embarrassed. Why was I still working if my husband was a millionaire? Why couldn’t I pay off our mortgage? I had two children I could spend some time with. Our boys found their own excitement riding bikes and motorbikes in the bush with their friends.
The promise to become rich overnight was shining in front of the miners during the hungry years of their search. They came from every corner of the world and spoke little English but they soon became fluent in opal mining jargon of the field: gouging, fossicking, trace, shin-cracker, pocket, patch, noddling, carats, potch, rolling pattern, harlequin pattern, dry run, wet puddling, and dry rumbling.
Joe seemed invincible as he led us into all sorts of adventures. During every school holiday we went fishing, camping and hunting. Trout fishing, walking along the rivers and camping on the riverbank with our Canberra friends was a highlight of the year.
We travelled all over the world and always felt safe and protected and loved by Joe. He would not rest as long as there was something to do;-he never gave up; he fixed any obstacles on our way.
Joe wasn’t always agreeable; he had a mind of his own and he always presented an alternative view. I benefitted greatly from his ingenuity and intellect. I did not always appreciate his comments but his constructive criticism helped me become a better stronger person. Nobody ever had to wonder what Joe might be thinking because he always said what he thought. What he said was what he meant. His thoughts were sometimes annoying but he liked to say; you have to be harsh to be kind with criticism. He said it as he saw it. He liked to argue but he insisted that one only argues with people one likes.
Joe included his sons in every job he was doing so they became skilful in all kinds of home and machinery maintenance. He also has taught them values he held strongly such as honesty, fairness and to stand firm when a problem threatens them. He was a role model for the boys. They appreciate his guidance; they learned from him how to be fathers to their children. Joe was a family man; he was a good provider, guide and protector. He was a hard worker but he always found time to play games with friends and family. He liked to debate politics, philosophy, history and all social issues. There was never a dull moment in his company.
Lightning Ridge became a home for our family. Although opal became harder and harder to find the hope remained that in the next load will be the gem Joe came here for.
Joe promised right at the start that living in a place with no electricity or running water was just temporary until he built a house in town. He took it for granted that nothing and nobody would stop him. Nobody even tried to obstruct new endeavours of miners who were busy inventing housing, machinery and society.
Joe and I sometimes went to the hotel-pub after dinner. Miners met in the pub and told stories about the opal they found and about the plans they had for the future. Some dreamt of going home to bring with them the virgin girl that is waiting for them in their village. They only needed one good load, just one patch of red on black.
As a teacher at the local school I quickly became a part of the community. Locals soon introduced me to Lightning Ridge history.
Just over a hundred years ago the first white settler pastoralists arrived in these vast outback tablelands where the only high ground is a ridge a couple of hundred meters above sea level. There are no rivers or springs so no human life existed until these new settlers dug dams and made rain water tanks.
The name Lightning Ridge came long before opal played any role in the lives of Lightning Ridge people. The red iron stones on the lonely hill apparently attracted electric storms that once killed some 600 sheep and some shepherds at the turn of the twentieth century so they started calling the place Lightning Ridge. The name Lightning Ridge became officially recognised as such in 1963.
There are different stories about who first saw the rainbow in the dust of Lightning Ridge.
Aborigines always had eyes to the ground foraging for food as they were, so they surely noticed pretty stones on the surface of Lightning Ridge ground, said Roy Barker. Some opals would have surfaced after the rain eroded the ground. They must have been delighted by the beautiful colours but they never considered them as having commercial value. Opals were not food and they did not provide shelter.
Nobody is quite certain which white settler first spotted a flash of lightning in the stone. Maybe it was the first white shepherd in the middle of the nineteenth century wandering around the mound of raised dirt in the middle of the flat outback. Maybe Mrs Parker from Bangate station became intrigued by the shiny stones Aborigines brought to her; maybe it was Mrs Ryan strolling near the government tank at the beginning of the twentieth century that saw something shiny in the dirt; maybe it was Jack Murray who first took a serious notice of the sighting and began to look for opal.
The first dam was sunk in 1885. The first parcel of opal was sold by Nettleton in 1903. Aborigines first started coming to the Ridge in 1930s after white settlers drilled for artesian water and made dams to water their animals.
What a short history.
Everybody in Lightning Ridge knew everything there is to know about opal; they mined it, polished and sold it for cash. Nobody needed to know how much they found, nobody knew that they were alive. Most lived in camps without running water and electricity but the promise of instant riches kept them happy. One may be broke today but the next day everybody may talk about his wealth and success.
I suppose we all needed to be admired and respected. One can always count on respect envy brings, said Anton.
I met people of many different backgrounds who brought talents and skills to energise this outback town. I soon learned that about seventy percent of miners never become rich; they just get used to their camp dwelling and hoping and creating. Another twenty percent make a fair living and they build houses in town. About ten percent become properly rich. A fair lottery, they laugh. The only tickets you need are muscles and perseverance.
Most miners were migrants who did not manage to assimilate and integrate into the regular Australian workforce. They wanted more; faster. In the zenith of their lives they wanted to shine, to attract attention and love.
Opal buyers came to our home to see what Joe found and they would haggle, toss the coin and pull match sticks to determine the price of his opal.
Hungarian opal buyer Imre came to introduce himself to Joe.
Australia really is a melting pot of nations, said Imre. I asked him what was the hardest thing for him when he first came to Australia.
There were no girls, he said without hesitation. No girls, no dances, no singing, no romancing, no social life, no cultural activities. We lost the best years of our lives without the pleasure of female company. We lived in cultural vacuum.
I believed that it takes a real strength for a man to admit that he wasn’t worthy or able to find a partner in the first years of his manhood.
But you have a beautiful wife, I said.
I was lucky to bring Eva from home, he explained. Most non English speaking boys came alone. Some of them accepted the rejects of other nationalities and races. It was better to have anybody than to live on their own though many got used to being on their own.
Maybe a lovely wife gave Imre the confidence to admit his initial vulnerability.
It gets easier when you learn English, I conceded.
It gets easier especially for women, because there is a shortage of women, said Imre. I speak better English those most Australian yobbos here but I still have an accent and it really goes on my nerves when people ask me where do you come from and I say Sydney and they say no I mean where do you really come from. You have an accent. Let me guess, they propose and they list the names of the nations they know nothing about. Oh I once met a Hungarian fellow on the bus, nice man, yes Hungarians are nice, and they are a bit like this and that, people begin weaving a story about people like you. They keep explaining to me what Hungarians are like because they once had an acquaintance that happened to be Hungarian. I once knew a man who once met a Hungarian man; this person feels obliged to tell me all about my nationality. I felt like saying shut up, you ignorant idiot. They hang on you their whole preconceived ideas of what a person of your nationality is like. Migrants hate being asked where you really come from. I am proud of being Hungarian but when they ask me where I came from they are telling me that I don’t belong and that I am not an ordinary Australian. And never will be. People like to poke in migrants’ private selves so they can adjust their prejudices. They never ask you where you came from because they admire your mind or your face or your history; they just want to single you out to put you down so you would not pretend to be an ordinary Australian. Ordinary Australians come from England. Some boys even changed their names and became Johnsons and Smiths but as soon as they open their mouths they expose themselves as liars; they look foolish and weak camouflaged by a foreign name.
Just as well our children have no accent, I smiled.
People still ask them where does that name come from, where are your parents from? In some ways it is harder on our children because they never knew anything about any other country. All they are and know is Australian.
Sometimes changing a name seems sensible. Like in the case of my Polish student Peter Jedrzejczak. His father got sick of spelling his name again and again so he took the pronunciation of the last part of his surname and named himself Chuck Peters. Simple for everybody. Easier for his children. Then there is Eva Didenskov Nickiphorowitch; she is so proud of her name that she would not dream of shortening it. I remember this dignified lady who carried a piece of paper with her name to save her spelling it.
Australians consider European men domineering, I said.
Migrant men often cover up their vulnerability with aggression and arrogance, admitted Imre; they work harder because they need to build their base in Australia, they also need to establish their status. They have to keep their women under control. I often feel sorry for migrant women because their husbands feel that they have to dominate and control them. Men are simply scared to lose their women.
I never looked at it that way, I admitted. I began to understand Joe’s need for control; it would mean a failure for him to lose respect and love of his family. He simply could not deal with failure.
For us, the post war men, it was a shock to find ourselves in the situation where we could not find a suitable wife, continued Imre. We were made to feel undesirable in Australia. In Europe there was a shortage of men after the war. Millions of men were killed in the war and in communist countries more millions of men were killed after the war. Many soldiers returned from the war disabled and disillusioned. There was a great shortage of marriageable men so women felt lucky to find and marry any man; they found it hard to feed the orphaned children and old people on their own. Men were appreciated. Europe was starving after the war; actually the world was starving, said Imre.
I read that in the past Muslim men were compelled to marry two or more women because there was a shortage of men when many men were killed during the wars. The women had to be taken care of, I remembered.
We have the opposite in Australia. There are about ten non English speaking migrant men to one migrant woman. Good Australian girls would not be seen with a boy who cannot speak English unless that boy becomes rich. That gives migrants an incentive to get rich quick, said Imre. Most non English speaking migrants suffered some condescension at least at the beginning; they were ‘New Australians’; outsiders to the land, people, politics and culture. They needed to grow roots fast.
Lightning Ridge really is a men’s town, I observed.
Most women work in service industry to provide money for mining and essentials. European women were the first working women in Australia, said Imre.
A few migrant boys lived with Aboriginal girls in the camps scattered over the fields. I met the first Aboriginal couple June and Roy. June told me that both her grandfathers came from Scotland on the same boat. They were pastoralists who had children with Aboriginal women.
My Scottish ancestors were never a part of our lives, said June. They didn’t want to know about me and I don’t worry about them. They made Aboriginal girls drunk to have sex with them but they did not want to know them in the daylight. Aborigines accepted all of us half castes and they still do. Everything changed though when non English speaking Europeans came, said June. Europeans took Aboriginal women for their wives and made families with them. They improved the life for Aborigines. We like Balts, said June. I realised that for many Australians Baltic sounds the same as Balkan. European geography is as far away for them as Australian used to be for me.
On Sunday I took our boys to church. No religion can adequately explain to me the enormity of life and universe but I went to church out of loyalty to my parents and because I needed to be a good person. The silence of the church always brought me closer to the core of myself which I call my soul. Believers are lucky people because their beliefs make them feel secure and at peace. Belief opens your soul to the divine the way sex opens your body into the intimacy with the loved person. I needed to be close to somebody. Faith offers possibilities of the everlasting which all humanity craves. I really hope there is god in charge and that he will in the end make everything right.
There were about twenty farmers and shop keepers but no opal miners in a small wooden church. Cut off from their familiar grounds, miners got used to living in sin. Although they escaped from communism these same communist indoctrination made it easier for them to live outside church. Hotel was their place of worship. In the hotel one could find the bishop, the policeman, the doctor, the teacher, the drover, the artists and poets, the academics and the illiterates talking about opal and mining.
I figured that the secret of Lightning Ridge harmony lied in the fact that nobody was quite certain which nationality, race, culture or religion was dominant, or who held the majority, or power or popularity. The only colour miners were interested in was the colour of opal; the only race they are interested in is the race to find the illusive rainbow colour on black silica. Everybody had an equal chance to get rich. Everybody especially had an equal chance to become equal. Most Europeans arrived to Lightning Ridge in the sixties and seventies. They came to be free to do what they like when they like, without the boss making them feel less because their English was not good. With hard work and a bit of luck they hoped to become who they intended to be. When a new field was discovered the message spread and opal fever rose. People from any remote corner of the world may know about the new rich area before the miner’s neighbour.
Miners were ingenious inventors of machinery and dwellings and community. They were mixing bits of themselves with bits of others; they mixed bits they brought from their country with bits that were here before.
Olga, a Polish lady of Jewish descent visited her Slovenian Catholic friend Slavka; she brought a Serbian paper for Slavka to translate her horoscope into English because Olga wanted to know what her former German boyfriend was doing with his new Filipino wife. Neither Olga nor Slavka spoke much English but they found a way to share this vital information.
Greed will win hands down every time, I heard a wise old Bill explaining to new miners around the camp fire. In mining you can’t trust your friend or your brother. When two men are after the same thing both will want a bigger piece. Maybe kill for it.
Most migrants carried a hope to recreate in Australia a country much like a homeland they blossomed in.
I brought a model of a mosque with me to remind me why I am here, says Sheriff. Allah keeps me young and strong. I have never been sick. People often ask me what is the secret of my fine health and I tell them: believe, believe, and believe. Believe in justice and righteousness. Follow Allah. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if what you are doing is right. My job is to do service to Allah.
I pray to Allah regularly and ask for his help to be righteous. Being rich means having a peace of mind, health, and the belief in God. Australians don’t believe any more. In the olden days Christians closed their shops and hotels for Christmas and Easter and worshiped God in their churches. Now the trade is best on feast days and the trade became more important than worship. They spend the feast days in the clubs and hotels. I came to Lightning Ridge to bring Allah here. I have a model of a mosque on my table and I pray to the merciful Allah to change Lightning Ridge into the second Mecca. I believe that in not too distant future there will be a real mosque in Lightning Ridge. We Turks value loyalty, family, honesty, and cleverness. We prize a good sense of humour as it is often considered a sign of intelligence.
People brought to the Ridge national robes and grape cuttings and seeds and recipes and memories of rituals and celebrations that make life meaningful.
Home is where the heart is, said Amigo.
Time passed quickly amid the excitement of opal mining. Every day brought new adventure. Most of my friends found a hobby; an artistic expression of some kind. Some built castles in the sky as they shared their lives and the news of new opal rushes. I wrote stories of everyday people and events.
It is 2012 and my husband, Joe, does not talk much anymore. He first stopped speaking English and then he stopped speaking altogether; he actually never liked to speak English; he complained that Australians mumble their words and he cannot follow them. With his family Joe always spoke Slovenian. Sometimes we hated him for isolating us like that from the company of others but boys are happy now that he made it possible for them to learn another language. They speak Slovenian fluently and they understand much of other Slavic languages. Boys learned much from Joe and they appreciate the skills they acquired. They can build and maintain houses; they can repair cars and gadgets. No obstacle ever stopped Joe and our boys also became capable in ingenious.
We really are what we grow up to be. It is amazing how much programming is passed on from one generation to the next. Looking at our children it is easy to believe in the reincarnation.
On the outside I, myself, became a living picture of my mother. From my father I inherited the love of storytelling. Everybody in my family knew that there was a special bond between my father and me because we both read and wondered about life. His storytelling sustained us during the wartime. In Australia I wrote down people’s stories; it was easier to like strangers from around the world after I listened to their experiences; I came to understand their pain and joy. Through stories we found places in ourselves where we are same. Stories are my father’s legacy to me. I still find comfort and harmony in words.
I can see that my granddaughter Nasha inherited my looks, my mother’s looks really, but she is careful and introspective like her mother. Eliza looks like her mother but she is a spark of her father Marjan who keeps us laughing all the time. It is great when one inherits the best of two parents. In Janez I also see a mixture of both parents.
Marko’s children Michele and Daniel are not as close to me as I would like them to be. Divorce does so much damage. I have seen many children broken through their parent’s divorce. Daniel is handsome and overly generous; he is lovable but I am not sure if he loves himself. Divorce traumatised his gentle personality. Marko is an academic with great understanding of the universe; he is an interesting debater about any topic but he does not talk about the life choices he made or the women he chose.
OUR JOURNEY WITH DEMENTIA
Life changed for my husband Joe and me over the last 8 years. In 2004 Joe was a gregarious, healthy capable, strong 75 years old man. We were driving to Gold Coast for annual holidays. In Moore Joe stepped from the pavement onto the road and he doubled in pain. He stayed in bed most of the time with sciatica-back pain for the next eight months. He read and watched TV. I often joined him for a nap after lunch. I did not mind him having a rest. He worked hard all his life. I tried to get him to walk a little for exercise but he said that his back hurts too much. He gradually lost most of his social contacts. His doctor recommended glucosamine and fish oil while we waited for laminectomy- a back surgery in the lumbar spine region which helps relieve spinal stenosis related pain.
Joe’s health improved after the surgery but his behaviour gradually changed; he became increasingly frustrated. He found it difficult to do his usual maintenance jobs. He would take machines apart but was unable to put them together again; that made him angry. He often blamed me; he accused me of not doing enough to help; of trying to make him look stupid; of hiding things; of not telling him things. He became a nasty old man telling people that I lose and forget things. He kept asking the same questions incessantly. I assumed that diminished physical and mental ability is normal during aging. Neither he nor I understood what was happening but we were falling apart. Joe became afraid of thieves so he packed things away. He packed his tools, locked the shed, hid the key and forgot where. When he couldn’t find it he blamed me for taking, losing or misplacing it. We argued every day. I used to call him whenever there was a problem but gradually I tried to find solutions to avoid arguments. Joe was always argumentative and liked to compete in discussions with his friends. He used to present valid alternative views but now his arguing gradually became just arguing. Often he would become quiet and unresponsive; he sometimes made irrelevant comments and became lost in his thoughts. Men started mocking him and some even laughed at him when in the midsentence he forgot what he was about to say. He often belittled those same men before, but now they sensed his weakness. Some watched Joe’s deterioration with glee; they won the final argument. Gradually some stopped talking to Joe altogether; they began to consider him either nasty or stupid or plain mad. Most of their visits stopped. Most of our peers became absorbed with their own aging and health issues; maybe they became afraid of catching Joe’s sickness and losing their own brain connections.
Joe’s friend Florjan had a mother who died from dementia; he considered her mad so he placed her in a nursing home; he was ashamed of madness in his family; now he became particularly denigrating towards Joe. Was he afraid of losing his own failing memory? We all became aware of our diminishing brain power.
It was interesting that while men denigrated and ridiculed Joe, women crooned over him like they would over an injured bird.
Admittedly there were friends who must have had some understanding of and tolerance for old age and dementia because they became patronisingly nice to Joe. He lapped their patting and smiling; he had no idea that they patronised him. The old pretentious hero was dead; the invincible became weak and vulnerable.
As Joe’s brain cells failed to make proper connections his behaviour was changing from one extreme to the other. One moment he scolded me: Why don’t you do something; do I have to do everything myself; you are wasting your time; a moment later the pleading frightened child returned. You are my angel, I love you, he declared. Joe’s veneer became fragile.
I stopped arguing; it was easier to just get along. We gradually grew closer; eventually Joe became loving, positive, non judgemental and playful. He became the opposite of what he was; he played with children and welcomed stray cats and dogs. He wanted me close all the time and I did not mind. I was able to realise my nurturing nature while I was also in a position to grow strong and independent. I liked my new role; I had a new purpose in life. For the first time I felt really important to Joe.
Joe offended some people by accusing them of stealing.
I know you are only looking at my tools now but later at night you will come and steal them, said Joe to Jeff. I was embarrassed. Jeff doesn’t understand the sickness and was seriously offended.
I believe that Joe’s yearlong isolation and inactivity contributed to his condition but I cannot say exactly why and when first signs of dementia appeared. How does one know when dementia begins? Is there one clear sure sign? Joe made all the important decisions; he found solutions for any problems and could repair anything from a house to a car to a computer. He was the rock for our family and friends.
Joe is an electrician but he did the plumbing, cementing, bricklaying, carpentry, and gardening as well. He built our beautiful new home. When I couldn’t figure out something on the computer he would have a go and it always worked. He fixed faults with my printer and my kitchen gadgets. When something did not work I simply called Joe. How dare he suddenly fail? I never knew how much Joe meant to me. He was my anchor, protector, guide; he was truly the wind beneath my wings. He was always by my side; he was firmly on my side; I could always count on him.
What happened to me? Why can’t I, Joe began to mutter when he failed to do what he wanted to.
When I could not reason with Joe anymore I began to jot down some of Joe’s new behaviours.
My notes from 2005 until 2010.
Joe began to leave the lights and appliances on most of the time; water was left running in different places.
One night in 2005 the fire alarm woke me and I went into the garage to find it covered in water to my ankles. It was hot water and the steam activated the alarm.
Joe became obsessed with washing hands. After going to the toilet in the garage; he soaped his hands and kept on washing them. He forgot to turn the water off. I got annoyed; he got angry.
In the past Joe sulked for days when angry but I noticed that his sulking no longer lasted. If I left him for a few minutes he was smiling sweetly on my return like nothing happened. I welcomed that change because I always found it difficult to cope with his silent treatments.
Joe can no longer follow the instructions; he cannot program DVD or TV or make any gadget work. I have never been any good at these things but now I have to learn.
Joe cannot follow the story on TV or recognise familiar people like our prime minister.
Joe wanted to do gardening but he pulled out plants instead of weeds. He took secateurs and started pruning. You better go to bed; I will join you in a minute, I say; I feel guilty but I can’t let him prune the blooms of my favourite flowers.
Joe wants to serve me. I am not used to being served. He keeps on asking: Are you all right; do you want beer, no, maybe wine, no, what about soft drink, nothing thank you, do you want coffee, no, I am fine, what about tea, are you all right? I am flattered by his offers but I wish he would stop bothering me. He keeps covering me up in bed so I won’t be cold.
Joe said that he was late coming home because he got lost. Of course he couldn’t get lost in a little town where we lived for 37 years.
Joe asked who lives in this house as we were entering our yard. Was he joking?
When I told Joe that we saw a certain film the day before he would say: you may have but I did not.
Joe was cooking his famous goulash. It was always perfect but this time it was inedible and we could not figure why.
I invited a few people for a BBQ; Joe wanted to do it because he said I know nothing about BBQ. He burned the meat and blamed it on wet wood and unhelpful me. I was annoyed. He sulked visibly upset. Nobody understood why his BBQ wasn’t perfect as usual.
Joe picked his clothes off the floor. Let me put them in the washing machine, I try to help. Do you think that I can’t put them in the wash; he says pulling the clothes away. OK, you put them in the washing machine. Where is the washing machine, he asks. In the laundry. Where is the laundry?
The antenna knob of a TV broke off. Joe set himself to repair it. He took the whole TV apart and stayed with the job for a couple of weeks. In the end I took the TV to be repaired. The repair man said: It would be a ten minutes job if you brought it to me in the first place but now it took me three hours to put it together again.
Joe always repaired our car. Today he tried to repair the mechanism on the car door that would allow the closing of the electric window. He has done that before but now he disabled all the windows and then let the brake go and crashed the car into a tree.
Joe’s garage and shed are overflowing with staff but when he needs something he sends me to the shop for it because we cannot find it. He has millions of screws and bolts and tools and machines of all sorts. To help him find things I sort the screwdrivers on a pile and pliers on the other pile, drills together and so on. I show him what I have done for him but he cries. The loss of territory and authority makes him sad. I will never find my tools again, he says with tears running into his porridge. Why can’t I...he never finished that sentence.
Did Joe’s dementia start when he began collecting things? Did he start collecting things because of his dementia? We would go to revolve and garage sales and he would buy and buy. In the attic above the ceiling he sticks everything that he will need one day. Nothing is allowed to go in the bin; not an old oily rag, not a scrap of metal. He will repair everything when he finds the time, he says.
While shopping Joe would chat up strangers and buy unusual silly items he does not need. He likes to carry a small furry toy rabbit and asks the sales people to tickle its tummy. With his fingers he makes the rabbit jump and startle people.
Joe was installing the kitchen of our house next door. I asked a carpenter to help him. The carpenter gave up and then our son Marko went to help. And gave up. And Marjan tried until he too gave up. Joe did it himself. He did it wrong but what do I know so I let it go.
Joe is very concerned with not having money in his pocket. Money was always in my bag; he never owned a wallet. I give him money and he hides it. The next day he wants more money because he forgets where he hid it yesterday. This became an ongoing theme. I suppose money is on everybody’s mind. Money is safety and security. Especially when you feel vulnerable.
I had Joe write a diary after breakfast so that he would have some evidence of events and of what was said. He dated every day’s writing. I noticed that today he wrote the date: 32.7.05
Joe was still driving when we went to Canberra. The walnut tree in the backyard of our Canberra home was a catalyst in some way. Joe wanted to throw a net over it to stop cockatoos eating the walnuts. Marjan helped, Marko helped, Shane helped. They all declared that it was not possible because the tree was too high, so Joe engaged me. I said: don’t worry about a few walnuts; let the birds have them. You have been at it the whole day so have a rest.
Joe said that we are all against him. We are going back home to Lightning Ridge, he declared. Let’s wait for the morning, I tried to stall. We are going now, he said. I am not going, I said. For the first time I defied him and he left just before dark on an 800km journey to Lightning Ridge. When Marjan came home he became worried and decided to follow his father and talk him out of going back. I remembered that the mobile phone was on the car’s dashboard so I rang Joe. Where are you? I don’t know, Joe said sheepishly. I remembered that GPS was still directed towards Canberra. I told him to press OK three times and it will direct him back to Canberra. It did. Joe was very quiet on his return. Unusually quiet. When frustrated he would usually rant and accuse those around him of sabotaging his efforts in some way but now he just went to sleep.
Joe had a knee replacement surgery. During recovery he saw non existing strangers walking past his hospital room window and he heard voices. I attributed his behaviour to anaesthetic. He made the staff ring me at midnight to tell me to go home and look after the children. I was home asleep in my bed. And so were our grandchildren. Hospital staff had a noisy party in the room next to Joe and he thought that Marjan, his wife and I were drinking there and that we forgot about Marjan’s children.
In September 2005 we went to Europe. Joe had been an excellent driver of unblemished record. It seemed natural to expect him to drive. I was afraid to drive on busy European roads but Joe always did it without effort perfectly. In Munich he had to merge into the highway traffic and this time it was a horror drive. The cars around us were beeping, I was screaming, our grandson, Daniel, was at the back hunched over and covering his face with his hands. Eventually we arrived to Ljubljana and Joe went to bed. He was tired and wanted to stay in bed most of our holidays. I remember Daniel telling me all the time to walk slowly because poppy can’t walk fast. Poppy was always fast walker.
On our return Joe wanted to wash the driveway but every time he turned the pressure pump on, it shorted. He is an electrician but couldn’t figure out why. He tried to put air into the weed sprayer and worked on it for days unsuccessfully. He gets angry when I try to help; he insists that he knows and I don’t. I fixed everything for years, he accuses. When did you fix anything? Joe was always a reliable fixer and a capable hard worker. There was no stopping him. Fixing things was his mission. What is happening...he often wonders.
Joe keeps asking every few minutes when we are going to Canberra and he begins to pack his bags. On 2.07.07 he drove towards Canberra; suddenly he crossed the road; he fell asleep while driving. I took over driving.
Joe was still driving while in Canberra; in Plaza he slightly scraped a car parked next to him and just drove home. Police came because someone took his car number.
Going out of the driveway Joe hit Daniel’s car and blamed Daniel for leaving it there. In a shopping centre he scraped the wall of the parking place.
I managed to convince Joe to let me drive home from Canberra but during the trip he kept asking why they aren’t coming with us. I asked who THEY were and he said: All of them.
On the way home the car suddenly jumped and stopped. I was driving at 110km an hour. It scared me until I realised that Joe pushed the lever into reverse. Later he opened the door while I was driving at high speed. Just as well he was strapped in.
We stopped at the service station to refill and have lunch. It took Joe over half an hour to eat his hamburger. I noticed that his walk changed into a slow shuffle.
I gradually got used to cope with Joe’s changing behaviours; I attributed them to old age and the surgeries he had.
I don’t trust him to drive anymore but he is offended if I don’t let him drive. I am also scared to drive with him next to me. I insist that it is cheaper to travel by bus.
Joe is sleeping a lot.
As we went shopping I observed Joe talking to himself in a big shop mirror. When we had a swim at the bore bath he came home in a pair of women’s sandals and brought home some clothing that did not belong to us.
I found him talking to a picture of our grandson.
Joe had to fill in the form but he could no longer sign his name.
The last two years were the worst and most confusing and frustrating years of our 50 years old relationship.
On 1.9.07 Joe and I went to test our memory with the local GP who directed us to a specialist in Orange where Prof. Hawke diagnosed Joe with dementia. Final diagnosis is beyond doubt now, admitted and acknowledged.
I am totally unprepared for dementia. The symptoms came gradually so I gradually got used to cope with them.
Since Joe was diagnosed I stopped being annoyed with him and had started to treat him with patience and understanding. I became a sympathetic carer rather than an angry partner. Neither of us knew what the next chapter of our lives will be like. I was remorseful about blaming Joe for forgetting and for not being his old capable self.
How could I blame Joe for being sick? After the diagnosis Joe gradually changed into a playful child that just wants to watch the flowers and feed the birds while holding my hand. The man who wanted to kill any cat or dog that strayed into our garden is now on his knees patting a homeless cat he fed. In his pocket I found a steak he saved for the stray dog. Joe became an animal loving child.
The following two years were gentle and peaceful for Joe and me. The man who criticised me does not live here anymore; he is replaced by the man who just wants to hold my hand. At 79 he deserves a little playfulness; he is more relaxed and happier than he has ever been. He tells me that I am his angel; that I am the best; the most intelligent; the most beautiful. He is no longer afraid to tell me how he feels; he does not mind being vulnerable. He is grateful for having a lovely family. Our time together became enjoyable. Joe accepted life and people without judgement or criticism. He keeps telling me how happy he is; how fortunate he is to have a lovely family. He is grateful for every day he spends with his children, grandchildren and me.
I miss Joe’s leadership and his ideas but I love this new Joe.
I read about dementia. I attended all available seminars and conferences on dementia. I have to prepare for the next chapter of our lives. I tell my doctor that I am scared of losing my own memory but he said that while I am worried about forgetting I do not have dementia. People with dementia blame others for forgetting they do not know that they themselves are forgetful.
Prof. Hawke said that there are many kinds of dementia but most common is Alzheimer’s disease. Definite diagnosis can only be made by the post mortem so he wrote down Joe’s dementia as Alzheimer’s’ which is a disorder that impairs mental functioning. At the moment, Alzheimer’s is progressive and irreversible. Abnormal changes in the brain worsen over time, eventually interfering with many aspects of brain function. Memory loss is one of the earliest symptoms, along with a gradual decline of other cognitive functions, and changes in personality and behaviour. Alzheimer’s advances in stages, progressing from mild forgetfulness and cognitive impairment to widespread loss of mental and physical abilities. In advanced Alzheimer’s people become dependent on others for every aspect of their care. Dementia could last from 5to 20 years.
Last in first out, said Helene, a psychiatric nurse. Recent events, activities, or names are first forgotten. As the disease progresses, symptoms are more easily noticed and may become serious enough to cause persons with the disease or their family members to seek medical help. People in the middle stages of the disease may forget how to perform simple tasks, such as brushing their teeth or making a cup of tea. Their thinking may become muddled and problems arise with speaking, understanding, reading or writing. Later they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Approximately 25 per cent of Alzheimer’s patients experience hallucinations or delusions during the course of their illness but usually only for a short period. Currently there is no cure for dementia and nothing can reverse the damage that has already occurred in the brain. Treatment for dementia generally focuses on controlling current symptoms and slowing down the deterioration.
Dementia is an umbrella term covering a large number of disorders that can affect thinking and memory. Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by changes to some of the nerve cells within the brain. Over time these changes result in cell death. Some proteins can deposit on the nerve cells in the brain, forming what is called ‘neuritic plaques’. These interfere with the normal transmission of information between brain cells. Tangles can form from broken down portions of nerve cells.
While there are many theories about why these changes in brain cells occur in some individuals, no one explanation has yet been accepted. In fact, there probably is not one single cause of the disease, but several factors that affect each individual differently. The condition is slightly more common in women than men. Risk factors are increasing age, family history of the disorder, having a history of head injuries or strokes, and having a history of depression, particularly if the first episode of the depression occurred later in life.
I began to worry about Joe’s depression medication Zoloft. I don’t think that Joe really was ever depressed; he was agitated and anxious; he was restless and frustrated by his inability to complete the tasks he knew he could do in the past. Antidepressant Zoloft only calmed him down. Codeine in Penadine forte painkillers before and after operations also depressed his pain sensations, Normison made him sleep. Doctor prescribed Lipitor statins against cholesterol years ago and only lately research showed that they could be harmful. One doctor explained that doctors are pressured from Pharmaceutical companies to prescribe medication. Joe’s cholesterol was never really high but his doctor wrote script for protection just in case. As a diabetic Joe had to use artificial sweeteners that contain aspartame which has lately been showed to change the brain functioning.
Nobody could say if these medications altered or slowed Joe’s brain function. Since 2004 Joe was no longer physically active because his sciatica caused him pain. He also isolated himself from his social contacts. I suspect that these factors contributed to his dementia but even the doctor could not say for sure.
During the five years from 2004 until 2009 Joe had hernia operation, spinal operation, shoulder replacement and knee replacement. I wonder if frequent anaesthetics, painkillers, antibiotics and other medications contributed to or caused his dementia. All types of dementia follow similar path of irreversible deterioration of physical and mental ability.
Prof Hawke tested Joe for Vascular dementia but the results were inconclusive.
I read that symptoms of Vascular Dementia include confusion, problems with recent memory, wandering or getting lost in familiar places, loss of bladder or bowel control, emotional problems such as laughing or crying inappropriately, difficulty following instructions, and problems handling money. Usually the damage is so slight that the change is noticeable only as a series of small steps. However, over time, as more small vessels are blocked, there is a gradual mental decline.
The symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia can often have a psychiatric quality –increased anxiety, some visual hallucinations and a general problem with concentration and persistence. The cognitive problems and speed of deterioration can sometimes be more rapid than Alzheimer’s disease but this can vary significantly. Fronto-temporal Dementia often shows itself first as changes in behaviour, mood or normal personality features but then will also include changes in cognitive skills, particularly attention, problem-solving, judgement and organising skills. As a result this disease can be quite distressing for family members and carers.
Learning how to cope with dementia helped me assist Joe and maintain my own health and well-being. Dementia support groups helped me to develop useful, supportive networks.
I engaged Joe in enjoyable activities and generally played along with him. I avoided stressful situation and maintained constant and familiar routines; I minimised confusion by reducing choices, clutter, noise and glare in the environment; I provided meaningful activities that Joe is comfortable with and this reduces boredom and agitation. I became careful not to introduce any new subjects into our conversation to avoid endless questions to which the answers are forgotten immediately. I hope to stay as we are because I cope but I know that every day I will be less able to.
Conversations became irrelevant but light-hearted and our chatter is pleasant for both.
We both became aware of the end time approaching so we want to make the most of it. We remember the exciting times, our many travels, our children and grandchildren.
There are regrets; we should have been better parents, better partners, and better friends. We regret petty jealousies, arguments, and selfishness. We wish we did not greedily work for the possessions but spent time with our children. We want to make up for all that now. No more demands, pressures, duties; we only want to make our family happy. We began distributing possessions gathered during the last 50 years of fury and work; possessions became meaningless. The only souvenirs we treasure are the ones still stored in both our memories.
Joe liked quality shoes and clothes for going out but for work he would only wear old rags. I try to make Joe wear his best clothes now but he refused; he has to save them for when going out or away to Canberra or Gold Coast.
The faraway places we used to travel are gradually forgotten as we discover the life in our garden. We spend many hours every day on the veranda watching birds and flowers and generally letting the world go by. The rush is over; the urgency and ambitions gave way to appreciation and gratefulness. Joe is becoming ever more contented, lovable, compliant, affectionate, loving and submissive. He always enjoyed nature and had a great love for nature documentaries. He became fascinated with lizards in our garden. He spends hours watching their every movement; he caught grasshoppers and laid on the grass waiting for the lizards to take them. Gradually the lizards came closer and closer until they started taking grasshoppers from Joe’s hand.
We look at delicate structures of grasshopper’s head and legs. We watch the bees buzzing from flower to flower. We follow the processions of ants at their labour. We are in awe; every creature knows what they need to know; they are no less and no more than we are. Bees help to fertilise plants which in turn produce honey for their sustenance. It is wonderful to see how everything in the nature is connected. Joe and I feel a part of our environment; our labour provides safety and nourishment for so many other species.
Our friends are coping with their own aging. Most of them embraced religion; they found peace and hope in God. They all promise prayers for Joe’s health.
Joe and I are Catholics; I am fairly regular traditional church goer but Joe came to church only on special feast days. I don’t like leaving him home now so I take him with me and he does not mind.
Toncka and Stane, our oldest friends, were baptised as Born Again Christians and became pastors in a Pentecostal movement. They tried very hard to convince us to become members of their congregation. They placed hands on Joe and prayed for his health and conversion. When they returned to Slovenia to bring the Good News to people there, they sent hankies soaked in the waters they blessed to place on Joe and make him better. Toncka told me on the phone that dementia would never happen to Joe if he was baptised by her as a Born Again Christian. Only the faith in Jesus can save him, she said. Joe never allowed them before to pray over him; he wanted to remain in the faith of his parents.
Rudi came to visit and he too promised prayers. He is a Seven days Adventist and they rely on dietary and behaviour rules for their physical and spiritual health.
My friends Marie and Lucy promised salvation and health through Jehovah’s beliefs.
Max is an independent Gospel preacher bringing Good News wherever he goes. Trust in God. In the end that’s all anyone can really do. We will all be old one day if we live that long, Max jokes. He is 85 and riding his bike every day visiting the aged and the sick. He is at most funerals. Max confessed recently that he learned some bad habits in the orphanage where he grew up. Older boys did some sinful things to him and he learned to do these same abominable acts to younger boys. When he saw the light, he gave his life to Jesus, confessed, repented and made amends. I have known Max for 43 years. We talked about history, politics, philosophy and religion; when you talk to someone for almost half a century you begin to think of them as friends. We all carried our little sinful secrets as a burden through life until nobody is interested in our confessions anymore. We are yesterday’s news. People these days know sins that we could not even imagine.
I admire my friends’ beliefs, dedication and sacrifices. I actually admire all these believers equally since their role model is the same Jesus.
I try to pray but I lack direction. I cannot say that I firmly believe in anything except in my smallness and ignorance in face of the eternity and universe. I feel like a leaf falling off the tree in the autumn; I will land where the wind will blow me and I will fertilise and feed whatever will want to suck the minerals of my body. As for my soul, my spirit? I never knew where I came from, who I am or where my soul originated so the path into the unknown will not be anything new.
Joe spent a couple of days negotiating with a man who wanted to buy our car. I left him in the man’s company because it is good for him to talk to someone. I sold the car, he said. Where is the money, I asked. His daughter will bring it, he said. What is his name? No idea. Where does he live? No idea. Which car did I sell, he asks me. None, I tell. But he drove it away. No, he didn’t. I gave him the key. No, here is the key.
We have to pack, take the pictures off the wall we are going home, Joe declared. Home where? Lightning Ridge; we are home. But when the others come they might want our pictures, what others, you know the rest of them, who, all of them, the ones living here; we live here, nobody else lives here; but they are coming; when; I don’t know.
It is scary having these meaningless conversations but I try to keep them light and reassuring.
You are the best; nice legs, beautiful dress, cute cat, lovely food. I am simply not used to Joe’s positive comments. All inhibitions have disappeared. Joe is who he truly is; there is no more cover up and pretence and propriety. He is neither afraid nor ashamed. I never knew this person who was with me for 52 years and I never saw him the way he is until he lost control over his pretence. I always knew that he loved me but he rarely said it.
Are you all right? Do you want a drink? Can I make a cup of coffee for you, he keeps asking.
I am trying to be kind and patient most of the time.
I have answered your question nineteen times during the last two hours; my voice betrayed me once; I did not mean to sound nasty; I know you only offer me drink because you love me; I am so sorry but I just don’t feel like having that glass of wine; no I am not thirsty; I don’t need a soft drink either. I just want to watch this film; no the film isn’t more important than you; no film is more important than our family.
From midnight until three in the morning is always critical. He goes to wee and then starts rearranging the house. He sleeps in his new shoes so nobody can steal them.
We were going to Canberra but in the morning I find that the contents of my bag, money and documents, disappeared during the night and could not be found. We found them packed under the cushion days later.
Are we going now? Where? Oh, you know. Are they coming with us? Who? They, pointing at people on TV.
I have to find the birds. They just hatched, he said as he pressed the buttons of remote control after he watched the bird documentary. He tried to disconnect computer because the birds might be hiding inside.
It is twelve thirty at night and he is tidying the house. What is happening? He says suddenly. Why don’t I know anything? Why can’t I dress myself? Where are we? Where are we going? Why don’t you tell me?
I have tears in my eyes. If I could only help him.
Joe went out and started pruning passionfruit at 2am.
Joe called me Marjan and he asked me to tell Cilka to get ready. My son is Marjan and I am Cilka. Joe is packing because he is worried that someone will steal his shoes and toiletries.
I used to work here when we were making the airport, he said on the way to Dubbo as the bus stopped because of road works. He remembered his first job in Australia building Canberra airport almost fifty years ago. The scenery was similar.
Why are they here, he asked about TV people. Will you give them something to drink?
Joe dressed in my swimmers again and put socks over shoes. He is constantly packing to go but has no idea where. We don’t want to be too late, he says.
Where is Marjan? Where are the others? Aren’t they coming with us?
Ask mum, she will give it to you, he said to me. I am mum.
We were in Dubbo hospital waiting room. Why do we have to wait? We can ring Marjan to pick the children. What children? Aren’t we waiting for them? Who? Them. Can’t they look after them?
On the way from Dubbo: Is mum driving? She is a good driver. I am mum, I snap. Sorry. I will have to get up early to go. Where? I don’t know; aren’t we going somewhere. Are we going to sleep there? Where? There. Is mum staying at home? Aren’t you coming with us? With whom? Cilka and me. I am Cilka.
On our way out from the bus Joe took over the bus steering wheel and they had to force him out.
Joe is unwilling and unable to dress and undress. He puts both legs into the same hole of the trousers over wet swimmers. At the pool he tries to take everybody’s clothing and shoes. Two socks on one and none on the other foot.
I found his medications sometimes in the bin or melted in coffee.
Cannot count backwards from 20. Does not know the places in town.
I saw a mouse running over the bench. Funny no droppings; I’ll look for it. Same the next morning. Look in the drawers in the bedroom, maybe the mouse is hiding.
Are we going home tomorrow? Where to? Home? We are home.
I keep on communicating with Joe on his terms, responding to his train of thoughts. We sat on the veranda watching the birds. Why can’t I... Why don’t I..He never finished the sentence. Did you get the bird seeds, he changed the subject.
This coffee is too hot and bitter. It is my coffee and yours is in front of you on the table. Repeat 3 times. Your coffee is in front of you and it is just the way you like it. I don’t want it the way I like it; I want you to have it the way I like it, he argued.
Is Marjan married? Who did he marry? Have they got any children? Call them for dinner.
Joe is constantly worried about me; would I like to drink or eat or be dressed better. What do I need? On 4.12.09 we were in Canberra and he said: I will buy you the best shoes, two pairs of shoes, one for the winter one for the summer so that you will be comfortable. We went from shop to shop until we found the most comfortable shoes for me.
Did he perhaps remember his barefooted childhood? Shoes, were a big problem after the war; especially warm shoes for freezing winters.
Joe follows me around. Are you all right? He keeps asking. Yes. Are you sure? Yes. Do you want me to cover you up? No. Are you all right? Do you need a drink? Have something to eat?
Save some lunch for the children. What children? You know Janez and the girls. They are not here. But they might come. They are 800 km away.
Joe is talking about the people on television. They pretend to drink coffee but they really have wine and then they’ll get drunk and will blame the drink and leave their children at home alone. Joe is constantly worried about people drinking alcohol and not taking care of their children. Since we never had issues with alcoholism in our family Joe might be remembering his father who became an alcoholic. Joe was always disciplined; he might have been slightly under the influence of alcohol half a dozen times in his life but normally he would only have a couple of drinks when out with friends. He also never smoked; his father’s smoking and drinking caused sadness and poverty in his family.