So, I have just returned from my trip up to see The Crazy and my world-weary father. It was lovely to see them both and to spend some time together. Hubby didn’t come, he stayed and worked hard whilst I had a wee holiday.
I say ‘holiday’ because I wasn’t at home. That is where the resemblance to anything like a holiday ends. There was no rest. No relaxation. No kicking back and slowing down for a few moments. There was no pampering. No excitement. Nothing to make my trip resemble a “break”, aka a “holiday”, at all.
It was fun though at times, if that is possible with 3 relentlessly noisy and boisterous children, a 12 week old puppy who is still toilet-training, my dad’s one year old dog (Maggie) who has delusions of royalty, my dad (who I think found much of my few days up there quite stressful) and of course, my beloved yet incredibly poorly mum.
Woody, the puppy has been learning to sit and to come when he is called and up until the past few days was doing brilliantly. However, the distraction of Princess Maggie meant that all he has learned so incredibly well over the past four weeks was instantly forgotten (or possibly just ignored) and I ended up screaming at the very top of my lungs “WOODY! SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” and “WOODY! COME!” at stupidly regular intervals. He has already got the ignoring of my shout down to a bloody T. Definitely learned behaviour from the three kids topped off with the nonchalant attitude of Princess Maggie.
Other than my manic puppy training and the constant chaos of the three kids the few days were a success. Mum was much brighter than the last time I saw her thanks to a few tweaks in her medication. Her confusion is still very apparent, but she is basically awake all day now as opposed to sleeping most of the day and it being almost impossible to wake her.
“How long is your drive?” she asked me on day two.
“Oh, I’m not going yet, Mother. I’m staying a few more days. Lucky you!” I smiled at her.
“Oh God!” she looked genuinely alarmed and upset at this news and then turned and walked away.
My favourite moment was coming into the kitchen to find Martha walking my mum around the room, hand in hand. My middle child was showing her round the house and took a lot of time and care in leading her into each room whilst pointing out interesting things in each. Mum smiled the whole way round, clearly oblivious to where she was or the significance of any of her belongings, but enjoying the company of a seven year old girl enormously nonetheless.
I think back to my daughter doing that, completely unselfishly and spontaneously and I feel guilt. I seem to have done nothing but snap at my children all week and have told them that they are driving me literally insane. I even emphasized the point by tapping the front of my forehead manically with the tips of my fingers as I said it, to make sure they understood exactly how close to the edge I was. They didn’t. They just carried on arguing / dropping their clothes wherever they wanted / screaming / fighting / moaning / treading mud into the carpet / spilling water / making dens out of the newly-made-beds. I mean…. COME ON YOU LOT! STOP BEHAVING LIKE BLOODY CHILDREN FOR GOD’S SAKE!
I also feel guilty because Martha, who is nearly 8 (she’d want me to say that and not just declare her as a mere 7 year old) chose to spend time with Granny and chose to share a nice half an hour with her. She chose to give my mum some of her time – real, quality, taking the time sort of time. It made me realise that even though I treat Mum with kindness and with care, even though I cook for her and clean the house, I don’t really treat her like she is my mum.How can I? She isn’t my mum anymore. Though there are glimpses of her…..
I wished her goodnight as she was about to go up to bed one night. My mother looked at me and told me that she’d had a really lovely day. I smiled. I smiled because I was delighted she’d decided to interact with me and I was also pleasantly surprised she’d said these words as she’d seemed more than a bit put out that I was even there earlier on that afternoon.
“Oh you have a lovely smile,” she then said.
“Thank you,” I said. “What a lovely thing to hear.”
“It is a lovely smile,” she repeated. “I wish I had one like that.”
Dad and I both laughed and told her she did indeed have a lovely smile. Then off she went up to bed and I told her I loved her, but she had already turned and was walking out the room.
By the time morning came, she was looking at me like a stranger again.
It was only as the kids were in the car (and I had threatened to leave them all with Papa as I took myself away for a few days to escape them all) that I saw my real Mum again. She had taken herself upstairs, clearly upset or unsettled by the hive of activity that is trying to coordinate three children and a puppy into the car with all their belongings (just know that there was a lot of swearing under my breath and violent tapping of my forehead with my fingertips). Dad looked despairingly at me. “She’s gone upstairs,” he told me.
I ran up and found her just at the top, hovering around the corner. She had tears in her eyes.
“I’m going now, Mum. It’s okay,” I told her. “You’ll have peace and quiet back again.” She said nothing but just carried on crying quietly.
“Why are you crying?” I asked her gently.
“I don’t know,” she whispered.
And I looked at my mum. Really looked at her. Her face slightly bloated with medication, her body frail and skinny under her baggy clothes. Her big beautiful brown eyes sad and un-seeing and I realised that the worst thing would be if she did know. If she was crying because she knew what was going on, then that would be too sad to bear.
I hope the reality of the whole situation never ever dawns on her.
I hope those tears were just borne out of confusion and perhaps a little stress.
I hope my mother never has to know how changed she is.
I hope that whichever world or reality she is in, she now stays there permanently so that she never has to know.
I hope on some level she knows we love her.
Miss you, Mum.