HOLIDAYS – HOME AND AWAY

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At the risk of sounding crazy, I’m going on vacation for a couple of days to my hometown. I don’t mean the town where I was born; I mean the city where I now live! I know it sounds like an odd thing to do, but there is a somewhat obscure reason for this.

A friend who I made at my college asked me if I’d like to go down to the coast for a few days. His parents live very near a lovely seaside town which has a beautiful beach, and the local Pavillion Theatre isn’t far away either. I enjoy watching a good play or a show and don’t get the chance very often. I’d have to travel by train, a two-and-a-half hour journey. I’ll be staying in a lovely hotel with disabled facilities, breakfast included (plus the all-essential wi-fi) and a sea view. I’d see my friend for some of the time, and I also want to have a mooch around by myself too. Wonderful!

So, what’s the first trip got to do with the second?

Well … I’m so looking forward to going away to the coast. I’ve not been there for a very long time. In fact, I’ve not been anywhere much (other than back and forth to London when my Mum was sick), and I haven’t had a holiday away from home since, believe it or not, 1985! I’m nervous though because I’m, understandably, entirely unused to sleeping away from the safety and security of my house. I’m worried in case I forget something important. I haven’t packed a suitcase in decades! However, I do want to go.

The fact that I am nervous and relatively scared is the reason for my first trip. I thought, rather than jump in at the deep end and travel away from home, I’d dip my toe in my water and have a weekend in a local hotel in the city I’m already in and am used to. That way, if I forget anything, or don’t like it, I’m only thirty minutes from home. I’m more confident about that and am really quite looking forward to it.

I can’t help wondering what my dear Mum would have said if she were still here … I think she’d say, “you go girl!!” ūüôā

 

(Image courtesy of trip.101.com)

 

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¬†caf√© 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¬†caf√© 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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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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LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

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This evening is possibly the last time my Mum will see my sister and it’s also¬†the last time I will see her for some years too. Jo has been over from Australia for seven weeks now, initially flying here when Mum was so unwell after her recent accident. We thought then that she might not make it. She is recovering but is far from well. I said my¬†farewell earlier and know that it’s going to be much, much harder for my Mum to say goodbye. ¬†I had Jo here to stay with me a couple of times this trip, but mostly, she has been spending valuable and quality time, staying with my elderly Mum. They have been almost constant companions during that seven weeks.

I’m very concerned about Mum as she has rather got used to my sister being around and is going to miss her terribly. I don’t know how my Mum is going to adjust to the change. She has become used to being with someone as opposed to being on her own. I know she is scared at the prospect of living alone again, and I can’t say I blame her, living in that big, old, rundown house as she does with not even a friend or neighbour nearby who could pop in from time to time. She is two hours away from me, by train so I’m not able to do that either, as much as I would love to. However, I’m in the process of looking at finding some care and companionship for her although I know she will be reluctant to accept help, having always been such an independent¬†lady.

Jo has a very long journey ahead of her, 27 hours including a brief stopover in Dubai for the plane to refuel. Her family, back in Australia have missed her. She has her husband and two grown children waiting for her to return. She is leaving our rather mild but wet summer and heading back to an icy winter. Once she gets back, we will have to get used to the time difference again – Australia being ahead of us by quite a considerable number of hours. She always has worse jetlag flying back home than she does coming here.

The flight leaves tonight, and I wish I were able to travel to the airport with Jo to see her off. I’m so pleased my youngest sister can go instead as Mum isn’t well enough to go to the airport either. ¬†Families can be living miles or kilometres apart and yet remain so emotionally close. We all talk on the phone frequently, and I’m going to encourage our family to start using Skype. I already have it downloaded on my laptop, and I am hoping that both Mum and Jo will acquaint themselves with it too as they are both fairly staunch technophobes.

It’s 9 pm here, and as I look up into the sky and see the golden sun just going down over the rooftops, I am aware that very soon, my sister will be flying into that orange sky and will be on her journey to her home on the other side of the globe. I’m going to miss her.

Farewell and Bon Voyage, my precious sister. You will be in my thoughts and my prayers tonight as you travel the 10,000 miles between our respective parts of the world. I love you so very much.

SHATTERED

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They say it never rains but it pours! The last few months has been one long succession of dramatic events, unfortunate happenings, life problems, family dramas and … need I go on?

Things are particularly bad right now which may explain the absence of posts again on my part and the same goes for reading all of your blogs. What can I do but apologize once more?

Right now, my Mum is in the main City Hospital, Trauma Unit after an accident. She has fractured her spine in two places and fractured her skull along with her nose. She also has kidney damage. Basically, she is truly shattered. She is on oxygen to help her breathe and is fairly out of it most of the time because of the powerful painkilling medicines she is receiving. She is in a neck brace because she has fractured a bone at the base of her skull too.

I am obviously extremely worried and upset, as you can imagine. I’m fifty miles away from Mum with no car to get there. I managed to get down there on Thursday with George (my new wheelchair) but it was a very difficult journey – three trains and two buses each way for me to get to the hospital on my own.

I found her fast asleep when I went in, partly because of the strong painkillers and partly exhaustion. After an hour, I woke her very gently and told I was there She couldn’t speak much but I know she knew that I was there.

She’s hardly able to eat and is not drinking much either. Fortunately, she is on a drip and is lying flat on her back with nothing to look at but a blank ceiling most of the time. That’s make her feel quite depressed (hardly surprising ¬†under the circumstances).

Basically, my Mum is shattered! And as you can imagine, I am shattered, emotionally too. It’s awful to see my Mum in so much pain and with such severe injuries. I am thinking about her day and night and only wish that I could take her place so she didn’t have to suffer so much. I would in an instant. Mum is eighty-six and is physically, mentally and emotionally, a broken woman. My heart is breaking knowing that she is going through so much.

168 HOURS AND A FRAIL OLD LADY

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“168 hours”, she said. “There are 168 hours in a week, and I’m alone for 167 of them … every week”, she sobbed (and with just cause). It was her birthday yesterday. She was 85. She didn’t want her birthday – yet another birthday¬†spent alone – “Yet another birthday, galloping faster and faster towards death”, quoted somewhat morbidly by my mother.

Nobody visited her that day, as any other day, as all of our family are spread over the globe and are unable to be there. I am the one who lives the nearest and I’m over 90 km away. I would more than willingly tackle the train and bus journey to see her but I cannot access her house in my wheelchair and she cannot leave it because she has agoraphobia. She has done for more years than I care to remember. It creates a very obvious physical barrier between us and means I can’t even give her a hug which constantly breaks my heart, and hers too.

She received a few well-meaning cards exclaiming, ‘happy birthday’, ‘have a wonderful day’- and it wasn’t – a wonderful day, that is, nor a happy birthday, for that matter. I’d sent a card but chosen it carefully not to have the joyous exclamations on it but simply ‘Mum – I want to tell you how much you’re loved’. It was a simple card with two silver butterflies which stood up when she opened the card. She liked that, she said.

Her health isn’t good although perhaps better than some 85-year-olds I know. But, psychologically¬†she is not good at all. The Social Services will offer her nothing and a local senior’s charity have offered her one hour of companionship a week. Fine … except they didn’t show up when they promised. One hour – out of 168 but her hopes were dashed and any confidence she had left was crushed out of her as if a builder had trodden on her skull with a size twelve boot.

Each blow takes away another chunk of her will to live and she is slowly emotionally slipping away from me. She is so isolated and has no friends or visitors that even call to see how she is (or even whether she ‘is‘ at all). It is all so painfully frustrating and heartbreaking.

She shouldn’t be living alone but we cannot see any way out as she won’t and shouldn’t have to contemplate the thought of moving into a nursing home or the like with her mind as sharp as a new hat pin. “Nursing homes”, she said, “are awful places where men and women are seated around a room staring at a TV screen which is blaring out rubbish at top volume!” “I ought to know”, she says – she used to inspect them as part of her voluntary work in her early retirement days. “Some are better than others, of course”, I add.

I won’t go into the other, alternative options (including living with me, which we would both like, but I only have one small box room to offer her which wouldn’t even accommodate her necessities). ¬†None of these are either possible or feasible. I phone her at least twice a day to see how she is and for a chat, sometimes for over an hour which is the very least I can do.

All she wants; all she needs (for crying out loud!), is companionship (and a hug), and believe it or not, in the whole of a large, bustling city, no-one is willing to offer that! Our senior citizens are emotionally cared for far better in the undeveloped, third-world countries than they are here in our so-called civilized, Western world! Emigrating is not a possibility!