TEA AND CAKE

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Today is Mum’s birthday … or, perhaps, I should say, ‘it was Mum’s birthday’. As most of you know, I lost my dear Mum a year ago. It’s been hard; very hard at times. I’ve been trying to heal from my pain, but grief is no respecter of time. Some people get over it in a couple of years, some less, but many more never.

I wasn’t sure what to do today. I wanted to do something special in honour of Mum’s birthday. I finally decided to go to a favourite café of mine to have tea and cake because that’s what she would have been doing at teatime today. It’s a quaint place with lace tablecloths under glass tops, sepia photographs on the walls, brass kettles on old-fashioned cake stands and waitress service as opposed to the usual queue up and help yourself.

I asked for a pot of tea, as opposed to a mug or cup as Mum always, always drank her favourite ‘tipple’ poured from the pot. I’m a great coffee drinker whenever I get the opportunity. It wakes me and my tastebuds up and makes me feel almost human, especially in the mornings. I never usually drink tea –  But, Mum always drank it, but never coffee. Actually, tea’s not bad – quite refreshing really. I chose a piece of carrot cake, one of my favourites, and Mum’s too, and she would have liked this one as it was homemade. She much preferred ‘the real thing’ as opposed to shop-bought ones.

I’d bought a birthday card, strange though it may seem. Perhaps, to buy a card for someone who is no longer here, in body at least, could be seen as rather odd. I feel Mum is here with me in spirit though and especially today. I sat in the café for an hour, writing my words as if I were talking to her. I can’t send it, of course, but I shall keep it with the rest of the items I have that I was able to keep after she passed away. I thought she would approve of me sitting there, having tea and cake and I told her I loved her and missed her so much. I said that I wish she were here with me. And I did.

As I write this in the evening, I am missing that phone call to say, ‘Happy Birthday, Mum’. I realise that she’s not coming back, and they’ll be no more birthdays or Christmases. In fact, they’ll be no more days at all with my Mum, at least not in this life as I know it, but maybe in the next. I hope so.

Happy Birthday, Mum x

MY FORGET-ME-NOT SHED

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I’m aware that I’ve been away since the middle of July (or thereabouts), so that’s nearly four months which must be the longest I’ve ever been away from my blog for. A lot has happened in my life during that time.

Ten-and-a-half months have passed since I lost my beautiful Mum. That time hasn’t been like I would have expected it to be. I haven’t been able to grieve. Strangely, and somewhat disconcertingly, I haven’t been able to cry either. I still cannot look at my Mum in any of the photos that I have. This isn’t how I expected grief to be. However, I am aware that everybody grieves in their own way and in their own time. Maybe, the time isn’t right for me yet.

As for other goings-on in my life, they have been more positive. Some of you may remember that my care regime was about change drastically with new carers coming into place and old ones going. I’m pleased to say that it has all worked out far better than I could have imagined.

I was also at the beginning of having a lot of work done on my house too. This has been a prolonged process, but I am getting there gradually. My bedroom is finished and is now a haven of peace and calm in which to sleep. The new shed has been built in the garden, that is, after being ripped-off by builders who I, eventually, sent packing, and consequently, employed new ones who have done a great job.)  The shed is painted a delightful shade of forget-me-not blue (at least, I think it’s delightful – I can’t speak for the neighbours).

The next and most significant project is adapting and renewing my twenty-five-year-old kitchen. This, I’m most excited about. It’s going to have lowered worktops, a new lower hob and a sink, all of which will be accessible to me in my manual wheelchair. The work is due to start in about two weeks. I’m currently at the stage where I and my carers are frantically sorting through cupboards and drawers with the intention of clearing out everything we haven’t used in the last two years, (that includes packaged food in the units that are well past their sell-by date!) I can’t wait for the new kitchen to be installed, although I’m not eager to face all the mess and disruption. However, as they say, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”)

Well, I think that’s just about a relatively accurate round-up of what’s going on in my life at the moment. I promise I’ll try to catch up on some of your blogs as soon as I can, and I really will try not to leave it another four months until I pop into WordPress again. Thanks for sticking with me through my absence.

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

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What’s in a name? My own name is important to me but perhaps not in the sense that most people would feel that their name means much to them.  I have changed my name quite a few times during my life. I feel I have needed to do this precisely because I’ve never had a solid sense of identity to represent the person I show to the world and the individual that I feel I am at a given phase in my life. Sometimes, I have changed my name to metaphorically, run away from myself, usually for some emotional reason.

I don’t give my birth or last name here because I want to retain the anonymity of my blog. I don’t share my blog or my blog details with any of my family or friends – only my readers and followers.

When I was a teenager my life changed very radically in that the sexual abuse I had suffered since toddlerhood finally ended. As the months went by and after the initial sense of trepidation wore off, I began to feel safer in my own body, and I decided I didn’t want to be called by my birth name anymore (I didn’t want to connect with that abused child inside).

I then begged my parents to let me change my name and eventually, they agreed that I could use my middle name and so at the age of seventeen, I went by that name. However, I can’t say I was terribly happy with that either, but it was as far as my mother and father were prepared to go, so I settled with that, at least, for the time being.

After I had married, I was free to go by whatever name I wanted. I chose carefully, not rashly nor hurriedly. I changed to suit who I felt I was at that point in my life. It goes back to that fundamental core lack of identity. During my young adult years and in the short time before I became a mother myself, I was Rachel and Jacqueline. But, I think I was still running away from myself as I was never really 100% happy with either of them. Of course, when I had my children, I kept my name, Jacqueline (although often abbreviated and then the spelling altered from time to time), more for their benefit than for mine and did so until they grew up and were no longer living at home. My life altered again then as I got used to living alone without a partner (I wad divorced by then) and without my children with me.

And so, as the subsequent years followed, I changed as we all do throughout the different stages of our lives. Then, finally, in 2014, I began writing this blog, and through the course of writing, I’ve discovered who I am inside. I’m Ellie. I should have always been Ellie – I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin. I love my ‘WordPress blog world’. I still don’t share it with people in my outside life. This is my reality; where I can honestly express myself freely. This is where it’s safe to share my secrets. I can write about what’s in my heart and what’s in my mind, and that’s exactly what I do.

At times like this, when I feel truly free, freed up in the course of my writing – in fact, then I have wings. I have wings and can fly. Perhaps, my next name (if I were going to have one), should be Tinkerbell! x  😉

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(Photo credits – imarcade.com and cartoonbucket.com)

 

MOVING FORWARD – THE PASSAGE OF TIME AND BIRTHDAY CAKE

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Why an image of a clock to begin this post with? This is because it is actually a good depiction of my feelings and where I’ve been at for some time. Life has felt rather surreal during this last year. The clock face also shows the passage of time I have been through over the last few months.

At last, I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting back to normal after my Mum became ill, had a stroke, and I finally lost her only five months ago (almost to the day). There was the funeral to get through (and all that encompassed) and now, we are dealing with probate, Mum’s will and the sale of our family home after spending my first twenty years of life there.

However, as far as my psychiatric health in concerned, I’m feeling brighter which is good (and about time too). I am now on different and new medication which, in the last week has begun to help improve my state of mind, and I’m sleeping so much better which makes a great difference to how I feel during the day. The severe anxiety attacks have also lessened which is a huge relief.

The many cogs in this clock also represent changes in a more positive way … slowly … as time has ticked by and the wheels have been turning, my relationship with my son has improved, and we have become closer which means I have more contact with my two beautiful grandchildren, Josh and Lily who are a delight to me. I have definitely become closer to my sisters, particularly the one who lives the furthest away from me. We may be separated by many miles but are hearts are inextricably linked and always will be.

The recent passage of time, like each cog, has been whirring, clicking and ticking by slowly but steadily. A lot else has changed in that time too. My eldest granddaughter has now turned eleven and will be going up to senior school in September, and my youngest granddaughter will be starting primary school at the age of four-and-a-half (she seems too young). Where has the time gone? Am I really old enough to have a granddaughter in senior school? Goodness! I must be older than I think! I’m definitely older in years than I feel and I am fortunate enough to be told by several people that I don’t look my age. However, I am reluctantly coming up to ‘a biggy’; a big ‘0’ birthday in three month’s time (which I’m trying to ignore) … ugh! How am I going to get all my candles on one cake?!

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In addition, I would like to say thank you to my dearest friends here at WordPress who have stuck by me through thick and thin over the last year or so – it can’t have been easy at times. Their blogs have kept my head above water some of that time by distracting me with their diversity, interest, humour and compassion. So, shout out to Bun at https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/ and Mick at https://mickcanning.co/ and Carol anne of https://therapybits.com/. Also, thank you to any of you who may have called in or dropped by my blog and hung around with support and kind words too. Love to you all, Ellie xxx

MIXED EMOTIONS (AND POTTING UP GERANIUMS)

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(Photo credit: http://www.healthtap.com)

Ok – so this isn’t a picture of my Mum and those plants aren’t actually geraniums, but to all intents and purposes, both of those things could have been facts as that’s exactly what my Mum would have been doing at this time of year if she were still here. She loved geraniums of all colours and would have been repotting them all into bigger pots as they would have grown after their dormant period in the dark and damp basement of the house. They would have all been neatly arranged on the patio outside the kitchen, making a huge splash of colour in the garden.

In fact, this was actually what she was doing along with mowing the grass, cutting the hedge and tying up raspberry canes just two weeks before she had her stroke last year. She remained in hospital from then until the day she passed away just before the New Year this year.

I miss my Mum. I hurt. I’m still hurting. I don’t when or if the hurting ever stops. I have photos of her in my living room and by my bed and yet, believe it or not, I can’t look at them. I cannot look at my Mum. I just am not able to ‘make eye-contact’ with her. Perhaps, it’s too early. Perhaps it’s the pain of not having her here anymore. Maybe, it’s the shame. Perhaps, the guilt that I wrote about in a previous post is telling me that she would be ashamed of me.

I can vaguely scan past the photos. I know the one on my desk in front of me so well. It was a photo I had which was taken only weeks before Mum had her stroke. It’s a picture of her in the garden which was always a sanctuary for her, with the big honeysuckle rambling up a large trellis covering part of the brickwork of the house behind her and next to that are the peach-coloured, climbing roses clambering up the wooden fence. The patio in front of her, adorned with pots, large and small of her favourite geraniums, orange, white and red, all in full bloom.

But, every time my eyes catch the slightest glimpse of her face or her eyes or smile in the photos, my heart is wrenched from my chest, and my mind is screaming, “Noooooo ….”  I cannot cry – I really can’t. My eyes are prickling from the sheer pressure of my tears building up behind my eyelids and fighting to get out. Maybe, I can’t can’t cry because I’m afraid that if I start, I won’t ever be able to stop. I want to go and visit her grave and lay fresh flowers there, but it’s 50 miles away with no public transport with wheelchair access so impossible. Sometimes, I still feel so close to her and almost forget for a second that she has gone. At other times, she seems so very far away.

All the legalities regarding the will, probate and selling the house are continuing to go on in the background. It’s so hard to think of my childhood home being taken over by someone else. Who knows what will happen to it … maybe, it will house another family for many more years although there is also the possibility that it will be completely gutted and turned into several flats and that’s much harder to stomach. Moving on, emotionally, isn’t easy but I have to remember too, that it was only five months ago that Mum was with us and living in that house.

Mum was a great one for ‘keeping things’, usually followed by, “It’ll come in useful for something”, a trait that I’ve inherited. Amongst all the ‘useful somethings’, we’ve unearthed photo albums, not just of our childhoods but also of Mum when she was growing up and even some of my great-grandmother in the 1800’s … real treasure … a pictorial history of my family on my Mum’s side … fascinating. It’s going to take me forever to sort through all of those photos and distribute them to our remaining family. They’ll certainly provide me with lots of happy and no doubt, funny memories too which will probably eventually get passed down to my grandchildren and who knows, perhaps their grandchildren one day? Actual history in the making. Mum would be pleased.

THE BUSYNESS OF GRIEF

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The funeral was beautiful in as far as a funeral can be thought of as ‘beautiful’. White poppies adorned the wicker casket which was interwoven with daisies and wildflowers and not the sombre, traditional dark wooden coffin that many people have. Mum was a great lover of flowers and plants, and she tended her little patch of garden so carefully over her 86 years. It’s sad to think of it being so neglected now as is the old and empty house which was my home for many decades.

It’s been six weeks since my precious Mum passed away. The sadness and loss will never leave us all, but it’s strange how people differ so much in their ways of dealing with grief. My youngest sister is very tearful and is deeply mourning the loss of my Mum. She’s unable to concentrate on her studies, nor cope with her part-time job. My other sister has travelled home again and has thrown herself into her work. However, she is frequently prone to breaking down in racking sobs and is in need of much consolation from her colleagues.

As for me, it’s as if nothing has happened. I think, if anything, I only feel numb and apart from weeping briefly at the first news of my Mum’s death (and I haven’t cried since that day), I am carrying on with life much as usual. I’m keeping myself very occupied and haven’t really stopped since the funeral. My life is as busy as ever and with assistance, I’ve been concentrating on sorting my house out as much as I physically can.

In fact, over the last two weeks, the whole of the downstairs of my house has been decorated. The builders have only just left and there is a huge mountain of mess to clear up. The smell of paint is lingering and I haven’t quite got used the new colour scheme yet. The new curtains are being put up tomorrow along with the new ceiling lights. It’s been ‘all go’ for a few weeks now and I’ve felt quite excited by it all but somehow, also exhausted in equal measure.

I know in my heart that my frantic busyness is just a way of coping, or perhaps, rather a way of not coping or not wanting to face reality because it is all too painful. However, reality has a way of kicking us in the ribs when we try to avoid it. There are Mum’s possessions to deal with and the house to sell. There is so much of everything to be sorted into heaps of ‘deal with now’ or ‘deal with later’.

There are so many practical issues to deal with that I haven’t had time for emotions. Emotions are something of which I’ve had far too many of in my life and I’m not welcoming these new and painful feeling that are threatening to engulf me. I have been fighting them off for weeks but I know, or at least I think I know that as soon as I stop rushing around, those emotions will not only wash over me but quite possibly drown me.

Frighteningly, this seems a distinct possibility and I find myself desperately looking for the person that can ‘save’ me. But then, I realise that very person is the one no longer with me other than in spirit and spirit doesn’t seem enough now. I’m not a child anymore and yet right now, I need my Mum more than ever and she isn’t there, and I have to face the painful fact that she will never be here again. Rest in Peace, Mum. Rest in Peace.

 

 

 

DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t been able to post anything on my blog these last few weeks and probably won’t for a couple more weeks at least, as very sadly, my Mother, who was very sick, passed away last week. I am devastated as I’m sure you can imagine. I hope to be back when everything has settled down. Thank you for your understanding. Ellie x  😥

GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

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I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

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STROKE – COMPASSIONATE LEAVE

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Life has had a nasty habit of throwing us curveballs now and then. That ball has certainly knocked me down many times, but I think the important thing is that it’s not how far I fall but whether I can get up again from there. That’s true for everybody at some time, but I feel like I’ve had to do an awful lot of climbing back up over the years.

I don’t feel sorry for myself though as we all have to cope with this experience we call life. I’ve had a significant knockdown just recently which is limiting the amount of time that I have to write my blog – not that you could ever really call me a prolific writer – I’d say more a sporadic writer.

Right now, things are tough and a real challenge. My mum was sick before I wrote my last post – she was in a local hospital with pneumonia. That was bad enough. She is elderly and becoming rather frail now, and illnesses and accidents are becoming a common occurrence now, in her 87th year.

A week later while still on the ward, Mum was found collapsed in the bathroom – she’d had a stroke. The very thing she had always dreaded and said: “It’ll never happen to me”. I thought, until this event, perhaps somewhat naively she was going to be right – that she would live to an even riper old age than she was already.

An ambulance rushed her to the main City Hospital. A friend took me there later that day, and it was a real shock. There was my mum, laying almost helplessly unable to do anything. The whole of one side of her body was lifeless. She couldn’t move her arm or her leg; she couldn’t sit up – not even with support – she lurched sideways into a sad heap and had no balance. Her face had dropped so that her eyelid drooped and what was left of her smile had been taken away.

Two weeks later, she still hasn’t made much progress in her movements. Her speech is slurred, very soft and infrequent as her cognitive function has also been affected so that her brain is working much more slowly to process information. She’s unable to swallow properly so is on a diet of small portions of rather undignified, pureed food which she still manages to pull a face at in an odd way and I just know she’s thinking, “Why am I being given baby food?” I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be for her to be trapped inside her mind without being able to express herself clearly or barely communicate.

Needless to say, her appetite is almost non-existent, and I can’t say I blame her when food has to be spoonfed into her now crooked mouth. Pureed shepherd’s pie and carrots, having been liquidised within an inch of their life, wouldn’t appeal much to me either.

I am travelling up to the City Hospital every other day (a journey by train in my wheelchair, George of two-and-a-half hours each way). I spend as long as I can with my mum but then return home along with the hoards of workers turning out from their places of work to head homeward. Travelling with an electric wheelchair is not fun when all around me are rushing, pushing and shoving to get home after a long day or a long shift.

As you will have gathered, I might not be able to make an appearance very often at the moment, so please excuse me if I have been unable to read, like or comment on your blog. I have only had the time to sort through the most important emails and phone calls, and it’s likely to be that way for some time. Thank you for your understanding, my friends 😦

HAPPY DAYS

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Today was such a contrast to the days of the last two weeks … and thank goodness for that! I thought it was going to be a Tuesday just like any other Tuesday, but this week, my friend, Harri (short for Harriet), and I decided to take off to the beach or as us, British say, ‘the seaside.’ The weather was glorious and a perfect day for a drive down to the coast. We set off first thing in the morning and arrived at our destination by lunchtime.

As is the tradition amongst my family and friends, the first one to spot the water in the distance, declares excitedly, “I can see the s-e-a; I can see the s-e-a.” On this occasion, it happened to be me, and I was thrilled, you could easily have taken me for a five-year-old child!

We parked along the front, which isn’t easy during the school summer holidays but I am at an advantage in that I hold a Disabled Parking Badge. This enables Harri to get my manual wheelchair out of the boot of the car, and then me from the car into the chair which is an art in itself.

We’re not able to go down to the actual sand with my wheelchair as it clogs up the motor, so we decided to go to our favourite cafe which is positioned directly above the water when the tide is almost in. Surprisingly at that time of day, it wasn’t too crowded. So, we sat by the glass windows which were open with a warm breeze drifting in.

We ordered a coffee each, alongside scrambled eggs on delicious, doorstep toast finished off with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper. We watched a group of very absorbed photographers snapping away at a tall, slim and young male model walking along water’s edge, nonchalantly tossing pebbles into the waves.

A little more time went by and we decided to have another coffee and a small piece of cake each. I had a homemade Bakewell tart and Harri had a chocolate brownie. Delicious! We sat and chatted about this and that and life in general and at times got engrossed deeply in some quite fascinating and absorbing conversation.

Eventually, after we had almost talked ourselves out, we thought about leaving, but then at the last minute, decided it was getting late, and somehow we were peckish again (must have been the sea air). We then finished our feast off by sharing a bucket of freshly-cooked fries which were very enjoyable (and when I say bucket, I don’t mean as in the size of a child’s bucket and spade, but one of about six or seven centimetres high.)

Finally, just to finish off a lovely day, we walked along the front, which was breezy but pleasantly warm, to a small, summer hut which sold seaside rock and  cinnamon doughnuts (which we couldn’t possibly indulge in after the treats we’d had at the cafe.) However, just to remember our very much enjoyed, carefree day, we splashed out on a typical, British seaside children’s windmill each; Harri bought a classic stick of rock for her friend’s son, and I invested in summer straw hat. It had a somewhat squashed but nevertheless, beautiful peach coloured flower on the brim.

Happy days!  🙂