I have ventured up to sunny Scotland (no, I am not being ironic, it really is!) with the littlest daughter to see my parents. We arrived yesterday after a long journey, where Mabel chattered away inanely for the first third of the journey, fell asleep for the second third and then moaned for the final leg.
As a treat I let her sit in the front, I also thought it would be easier to pass her raisins or her drink and therefore easier for me too. She was quite a demanding passenger, particularly on the music front: “James Bay!” she shouted, several times. “Hold Back The Wiver, Mummy! Now!” started five minutes in. After that we had a few renditions of ‘Shut Up and Dance With Me’. I actually think we could go on Britain’s Got Talent with our rendition; practiced at least a dozen times before we even got past Ripon. Mabel does the oohs and the most important line of the chorus “shut up and dance wiv me” and if we got cute matching outfits I think we’d be a hit.
She woke up as we were coming through some massive hills in southern Scotland. “Why are there all these mountains?” she wanted to know, clearly not overly impressed. I tired to explain that they were beautiful and lovely. “Well, I don’t want to see mountains,” was her response. Fair enough. We then entered an area with houses and she demanded to know why there were now all these houses everywhere.
“Well, people live in houses. We need houses, darling,” I explained. “I mean, where would we live if we didn’t live in houses?”
“Pink castles,” she replied, as if I was being stupid. Stupid me indeed. And I actually couldn’t disagree that this would actually be a much better way to live.
Mum had a flicker of recognition when we arrived and I sat in front of her, held her hands and smiled. It was nice and is as much as I can hope for now. She has enjoyed being around Mabel, though interacting with her or playing with her would also be too much to expect anymore.
The cleaner, Morag arrived this morning. We didn’t get off to a good start! I opened the door and offended her by assuming she was one of the community care workers and not letting her in (Sue, or Sally had left a few minutes earlier, I assumed they had double booked and accused Morag of being unnecessary!) and then spent the next five minutes over compensating for my error and trying too hard. I ended up being too familiar and laughing a bit too enthusiastically at the unfunny tales of her grandchildren. She came around in the end and I swallowed my shame.
Anyway, I digress….Morag mentioned to me halfway through her clean that it was nice to see Mum so animated. Now, I had not thought her animated at all this morning, not really, but Morag saw a difference in her and I can only hope it has something to do with me and Mabel being here. My visits are so emotionally draining that it feels like a small victory to think that they at least might be making a small difference.
We have had a nice day out, well a few hours anyway. We went to a nearby castle which has a great children’s play area for a bit of fresh air and a run out. Mabel refused to play on anything, and I, determined to make sure we all had a good day proceeded to go on everything instead, thinking I could convince her to change her mind. Foolish me. I reckoned that she usually has her big brother and sister with her and follows them confidently on to everything; so, I filled the void and started on the zip wire. I don’t think it was quite ready for a 58kg adult and I skimmed the floor with my ass from about half way along. I climbed to the top of a very tall slide and then chickened out and had to climb back down again and then I persuaded Miss Mabel to go into a little wooden house where we played cafes and she served me pretend coffee and cake before banging her head on an overhanging plank.
We gave up with the park and went for a walk of the gardens to see the castle. And, do you know what? It was pink!
Okay, it’s not fairy tale pink and Mabel didn’t look overly impressed, but in the sunlight, the stone definitely had a pinkish hue.
As nice as our day was, like the castle, it was no bloody fairy tale. I took my mother to the bathroom and I will not share the details as she is my darling mum and I want to try and preserve what dignity she has left. Just know I have been on a steep learning curve today and will be more prepared next time.
Mabel also shut her finger in the bathroom door as I was trying to help Mum wash her hands. The weird futuristic, trying-to-be-too clever-hand dryer went off instead of the tap and blew all the bubbles over our faces whilst Mabel screamed in agony stuck to the heavy self-closing door.
Oh what fun!
On our way back from the pink castle, Dad put some of his sixties music on in the car and I was keen to see if Mum – who by now had retreated back behind her expressionless eyes – would suddenly come alive, like that old chap who now has a record deal following his ‘Quando Quando’ rendition. She didn’t. She did start clapping a little when ‘Twist Again’ came on, but by the time the chorus came round for the second time she was sat back in her seat again, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular.
I did my best to animate her, I sang the wrong lyrics to lots of songs I don’t like and don’t know. I also realised that many of the 60’s songs are rubbish. “Bobby’s Girl” is a wail about a pathetic female whose only dream in life is to be someone’s girlfriend. If she gets her dream she promises to be a faithful and thankful girl. What? Really? Did the 60’s teenagers go for that? Then there was another song by a chap who was having an affair and was telling his lover to not acknowledge him when she walked past him, but to wait for him at the corner. Cheating nobber! I refused to listen to it all this nonsense and turned it off.
Mabel has gone to bed happy but tired, she has had a lovely but emotional day running around and refusing to have too much fun at the pink castle. In fact, this is how we all are tonight; Mum has wolfed her lasagne (lovingly made by yours truly!) and has complied willingly with the carer who has just been to help her get her PJ’s on and take her tablets. She seemed to get the giggles as the lovely lady was trying to leave, I could hear her out in the hallway, chortling away; properly laughing, like she used to do and it made me cry. For a few moments it was like Mum was just round the corner and if I got my lazy ass off the sofa she’d be there waiting to congratulate me on my lasagne. She wasn’t there though, I checked. It was just her laugh.
I am heading home tomorrow, back down the motorway with my delightful daughter to keep me company and drive me crazy all the way. As we set off on Sunday morning, she turned to me and said, “why does Granny have her bag?”
At the age of just 3, I was dubious if her question was actually as straightforward as it sounded. I mean, we all know Mum carries her handbag around the house and fills it with general stuff all the time, like keys, knickers, hairbrushes, tissues, more keys, nightdresses…..you get the picture. I clarified that my littlest daughter was referring to the fact that Granny has her handbag with her all the time. Yes, she was. I tried to explain that Granny is not well. Mabel told me that the doctor can come and make her better.
“No, darling, the doctor can’t make her better, he doesn’t know how.”
“But the doctor made Daisyboo (our cat who had diarrhea) better!” she exclaimed angrily.
“Yes, I know, but they don’t know how to mend Granny.”
“So, she loses Papa?”
“Yes, darling, she loses Papa round the house doesn’t she?”
“Yes. Daisyboo saw the doctor and now she’s better.”
And, so it went on until I agreed that we should take my mother to our vets and get her checked out there……and then eventually we talked about mountains and pink castles and…. well, you know the rest.
It is as I sit here tonight, feeling a bit sad, tired and emotional I am pleased that my daughter found her pink castle today. She may have not been in the best of moods, she may have a bruise on her trapped finger tomorrow and a small lump where she banged her head, she may chat away to me about how Granny does weird things and loses Papa around the house, but at least her pink castles exist. At least her dreams are not yet dashed and I don’t have to tell her the truth about the world; that fairy tales don’t exist and sometimes people just don’t get better, no matter how much we wish it, how many fingers we cross or how many stars we wish upon. I know. I have tried them all.