Now that the hospital had finished its work and a new parish priest had taken over at Stratford I had to find a new place to continue my checkered journey.
The brothers had been really good to me but I couldn’t stay there (at Francis Douglas College De La Salle Brothers’ house) forever. There were a couple of places in New Plymouth where I could have stayed but they were not practical. New Plymouth presbytery had stairs right in the middle of the house. It was also very busy so my mind turned towards Taradale.
As in New Plymouth there were many parishioners but they were more removed. My friends took me over for a visit and it seemed just right. The parish priest was welcoming and so were the parishioners. Five years earlier I had been the parish priest at Hastings East so it was not a huge shock.
It was hard saying ‘goodbye’ to the people of Stratford who had seen me through some difficult times, but I knew I had to move on.
When I arrived in Taradale I still couldn’t say Mass on my own though I could drive my own car.
The staff from Bay Home Support interviewed me and made some suggestions.
They couldn’t offer money as it wasn’t, strictly speaking, an injury. If I had injured myself at work I would have been covered by ACC and receive 80 per cent of my pay. Because it was a stroke I was paid a sickness benefit of $220 per week which is pathetic. However, I shouldn’t complain as others get even less because they have partners who work. I get pretty steamed up over things like that!
The main provider of assistance is the Stewart Centre which is based at the Eastern Institute of Technology just a few kilometres up the road. They help people whose brains have been injured through accidents or strokes.
They pay for me to attend the Pettigrew–Green gym twice a week and a men’s group at the centre. Both bring me into contact with all sorts of men and women with brain injuries. Often they are the forgotten corner of God’s earth. They are more numerous than people realise.
Now I say Mass on Sunday evenings and on weekdays I celebrate three a week, maximum, if the parish priest is away.
I try to keep my end up around the house though with only one hand functioning there are limits. I get very tired if I try to do too much. It doesn’t take much to reach this point.
I have done some travelling. Twice I have gone to Dunedin, flying once but driving the second time so that I could call on my brother and sisters on the way. It was very wearying but I made it.
There are two more trips south planned this year. Three of us flew to Australia and stayed with Anne-Marie and John who were the cathedral staff in the mid-1990s. We wanted to get together again. It was pretty hard work but it proved I could do it.
Now my days are like this: twice a week I have the gym at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, one morning a week I have men’s group, and one afternoon a swimming group at Hastings hospital.
I have Mass most days as a participant unless the parish priest needs a hand. I celebrate the evening Mass on Sundays. On the days when I don’t have a planned exercise session I walk, though most would consider the small distance not much of a challenge. For me it is.
I still have problems with my speech both in what I say—what is planned and what comes out can be very different—and the idea of talking which is an effort a lot of the time. Very slowly these things are improving.
I go out at least twice a week and watch videos at friends’ places. They have grown used to my varied attempts at communication.
As a normal person I’m probably still a bit on the sick side. As a stroke victim I’m a walking miracle.