I haven’t written a blog post for a while. I don’t really know why. I haven’t done much writing of any kind for a few weeks and have been telling myself I’ve been far too busy to fit it in, but I’m not sure if that’s the truth or not. I have been busy, but no busier than normal. If I’m honest with myself I’d have fitted in some writing if I’d really wanted to. Which has made me wonder why I’ve not wanted to.
Nothing much has changed. There is no terrible news to report, just the same steady, yet unrelenting decline in my mum’s condition. She is currently in a care home getting well looked after while my dad takes a break – his first week’s rest from his role as carer since this whole nightmare began about 20 months ago. I am relieved and feel more relaxed knowing he is being well fed by my sister and enjoying a bit of time for himself. I have the telephone number for the home so I can call and check up on Mum, but I haven’t done it. I can’t bring myself to. If I hear a faceless voice on the phone telling me how my mum is doing, sitting there surrounded by strangers it might all become a bit too real. So instead, I check in with Dad, who tells me the reports from the home are good and Mum is settled and eating.
That is good.
That is all we can hope for.
No, that’s not true. I can hope that she’s having a bloody whale of a time, dancing around the room and teaching the other old dears how to Foxtrot. I can hope that she has found a new cognitive strength from somewhere and is enjoying doing her Sudoku again, challenging the nursing staff over the quality of the food, or teaching them how to prepare it better. I can hope that somehow the safety of a care home has calmed her so much that a little of the old mum returns to us and I can have a conversation about the little things again….like how it was Archie’s birthday yesterday and how excited he was in the days leading up to it; about how we are looking forward to Christmas but how I’m dreading another Christmas without “her”…….
….I can hope, though I know it is fruitless.
We talk about my mum a lot. I made a roast dinner on Sunday for my gorgeous bunch and though I am confident at roasting ham and turkey, I am not so sure of myself when it comes to a lovely topside of beef. I literally spent all afternoon in the kitchen, prepping the veg, roasting and frequently basting the meat, perfecting my Yorkshire Pudding batter and making home made cheese sauce for the cauliflower. I sat down with a large glass of red and watched my brood hungrily tuck into their dinner as I mentally patted myself on the back for a job well done.
“It’s nice, Mummy,” said my eldest. “But, the beef is a bit chewy.”
“Yes,” agreed my middlest. “It is a bit chewy.” Then she saw my face: “But, it’s still really nice!”
Too late, daughter.
You have to laugh, don’t you?
We then got to talking about my home made lasagne (which is a blooming masterpiece, by the way) and Archie asked if Granny’s lasagne was as good. I told him it was, and that in fact it was always his daddy’s favourite meal at our house when we were teenagers. Hubby then elaborated, (which for him is an effort, as he’s not that into sharing memories and rolls his eyes every time I hear a song and turn to him with misty eyes, saying, ” This song makes me remember that time when…..”) and explained that Granny would always parcel up some lasagne for him to take back to University with him. The kids loved that idea. “Why doesn’t Granny make it anymore?” Martha asked without thinking. She then saw my face and quickly answered herself. “She can’t, can she?”
No. My daughter laughed at her own silliness.
I have spoken to my sister this morning as she was on her way back from taking Dad to the airport. She told me they’d had a lovely week and it was nice to see him. We both realised at about the same time though that it was a new first too. The first time he had visited her on his own.
We laughed as we remembered the last time both parents went down to London about 18 months ago and helped Emma and her family move house. Mum wouldn’t let Emma open the tin of paint as it was “for my daughter, not you!”. Emma tried to explain that she was one and the same person, but nothing that day would change Mum’s mind.
Later Mum tried to appease my sister by saying, “You know, I’ve always loved you like a daughter.”
We laughed this morning over the telephone, remembering the crazy things that went on last year and then my sister’s giggles turned to sobs.
And that is how it is. We laugh one minute at the ridiculousness of it all and cry the next over the tragedy of our loss. For it is tragic. Maybe not on a worldwide scale; maybe not in comparison to what other families are going through, but for us, it is tragic.
It is our tragic.
I am reading a book right now by Sarah Winman called “A Year of Marvellous Ways” and in it last night I read a sentence. Then I re-read it. Then I read it again because it cut to the core of me and I understood exactly how the character felt.
“She was suddenly consumed by a dark absence that sat in her guts and placed fear at the very core of life to come.”
But, the poor woman in my book doesn’t have a sister to giggle with over the mad, craziness of it all. She doesn’t have three children to distract her from her pain and loss with their honest and unedited view of life and roast beef. She doesn’t have a million memories to annoy her husband with and a tiny person to dance around the kitchen with to absolutely any song that comes on the radio.
As I scanned through some pictures to see which ones I could put on this blog post I noticed that most of my pictures show my family laughing: My children, my sister, my friends, my mum, my aunt. So many of the pics I have found are of us laughing – proper face-aching, belly-splitting laughter that when you see the picture you are immediately transported back to that moment and you cannot help but smile. There’s one in particular showing me and Emma with our mum and her sister Lily the night before my sister’s wedding. We had such a lovely evening just spending time together and laughing.
That is one of my mum’s legacies – her laughter. She had a good one.
So, yes it what we are going through is tragic and at times there are tears – lots of them. But there is also fun and hope (however fruitless), love and laughter.
Hi Sarah, while my mother is not so far into her dementia journey as yours – and is considerably older (so it is more ‘expected’) – I can relate to so much of what you write about (and now, I fear, my father is going the same way). Do please keep blogging if you can. I have resolved, myself, to take time out tomorrow from parent related worries and activities and to draft a post for my own mental health blog. We all need to make time to do the things we enjoy and I find writing therapeutic – even when (or, perhaps, especially when) I am writing about difficult subjects and emotions. I expect it is the same for you? And everything you write is helping others in their journey – I hope you can take pride – and consolation – in that. All the best. Helen
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Oh Helen, thank you for your message and I am sorry to hear about your mother and father. Thank you also for your support and your “keep blogging” nudge, sometimes it’s nice to hear and you are so right, it does help and is therapeutic.
Keep strong and keep in touch.
All the best
The word tragic comes up a lot in our family as we watch more of my father disappear. Then there are the times we laugh and continue to make memories with my darling dad. If there is a positive my brother and I have grown so much closer through this roller coaster ride, we get our strength to carry on from each other, our wonderful understanding partners and fantastic children.
I know exactly what you mean, Nicola. My sister, brother and I are much closer than we have ever been. In fact, I tell my big brother I love him regularly now whereas before this all started I don’t think I ever told him how much he meant to me. I am also more emotionally connected to my dad, so if there is a positive to come out of this it is that.
Keep strong and all the best
There’s a woman in my dad’s nursing home named Tillie, she’s always so bright and pleasant when I see her, hugging people, telling them they look lovely, etc. I’ve been told that when she went home for a recent holiday, it was difficult, she argued, didn’t recognize anyone and didn’t want to be there. So sad. I’m hoping your mom might be the ‘Tillie’ where she is (or where she was, if she’s no longer there). Best xx
Hi Melissa. We brought my from Care Home on Christmas Day and she was so out of her comfort zone. Whilst she did recognise us, she kept asking when could she go home. Looking back I think we were more doing it for us than for her as we couldn’t bear the thought of her being in Care Home on Christmas Day. Dementia is such a sad disease as we mourn for the people that they were and can’t understand the people they have become.
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I totally agree, and I’ve been wondering myself what to do for Christmas. It doesn’t feel right just to ignore it, but nor does it feel right to make my dad uncomfortable with a bunch of festivity he doesn’t understand.