I have a lovely friend called Biddy. She is a very beautiful and warm and very giving octogenarian, who was a client first and then she became a much beloved friend.
It is no secret that when I was pregnant with our third child – the utterly challenging and wilfully stubborn, Mabel – my Hubby sulked for, oh…..about 9 months. He never wanted a third child and would happily admit that to anybody, which was awkward for them to be honest as I stood next to him, massive tummy on show, looking to whatever audience he had commandeered that I had “tricked” him into it, like some strange psycho-nutter!
Anyway, I could go on, but I won’t, other than to state, he loves Mabel now. He did within moments of her birth (after getting over the shock that third births are not easier than the ones that have gone before – he wasn’t the only one in shock! Who knew!!?!?!?) and even thanked me for her at one point. “You’re welcome, Grumpy-Nuts!”
Throughout that time, my friend Biddy would come into work and spend an hour with me, chatting about the baby, playing the name game (saying baby names out loud to test out which ones I liked – Hubby would NOT play it and I LOVE the name game. I loved it again recently when we were picking a name for the dog. I think it’s a woman thing), and generally being a wonderfully warm and encouraging lady. I truly believe I am incredibly lucky to call her my friend and think that everyone should have a Biddy. She is amazing.
Anyway, back in the day, her lovely husband would come with her. She mentioned early on in our friendship that he was very forgetful and this then progressed to him having Alzheimer’s and me and my colleagues struggled to see it; to us he always seemed so ‘together’ and lucid. Throughout though, she seemed to be coping with him and was able to laugh about the silly things she would witness him doing.
Fast forward four years and Biddy and I are still great friends, The sad thing is that we now have more in common than we did four years ago when we were enjoying each other’s company with baby names and winding-my-hubby-up-games. Now, we share an unforgiving journey; her as a wife and me as a daughter. She is constantly concerned for my dad and always asks about him; aware of how tired he must be all the time; aware of how lonely he must be feeling all the time; aware of how sad he must be all the time; aware of what it is like to live with someone you love and watch them turn into someone else. She is keen for him to move to Yorkshire so that she can invite him round to her house and help him. That is how bloody lovely this woman is!
I saw Biddy today, she popped into see me at work for a very quick cuddle. It was so lovely to see her, even if only for a brief moment, but it almost broke my heart when she began to cry. This strong, independent, clever and competent woman who always has a good word and a smile for everyone else, was struggling and for a tiny moment she let me see how things really are for her. She let the emotions flood her and she was unable to hold back the tears.
“I’m just so tired,” she said through the tears. “I’m…..just…..so…..tired.”
Then, I saw something switch behind her eyes and she straightened up, took my hand and asked me how my dad was and whether he was coping and how my mum is doing this week and I could have cried there and then. Cried for Biddy; cried for her husband and her family; cried for my dad; cried for my mum; cried for my kids who have missed so much and cried for my brother and my sister, who I know are in as much pain as I am.
But, Biddy is one of the lucky ones – as am I, as is my dad – and Biddy and I have discussed this many times…what about the people who have no one? What about the people who are struggling with this disease without a loving family to support them? What about the people who are facing this alone? The people who have had a diagnosis and yet have no one to talk to about their fears and symptoms? The people who have no one to help them try and make sense of the world.
As sad and as difficult as it is for Biddy and for my dad, there are many out there who have no one. It is good to remember that when we are feeling sad. That, and the fact that no matter how shit life gets, it is important to remember that people are good.
Biddy told me this morning about a plumber who lives in her village and he has told her not to worry, that he will come whenever she needs him (her husband keeps turning things off on the boiler and the shower and messing up the settings) even if that means a 10pm visit to re-set her shower and boiler; he is just happy to help.
She told me about the postman who chats to her husband about his different holidays and holiday destinations each and every morning without fail, as Biddy’s hubby believes -very wrongly – that the postman has constantly just returned from a trip to <insert country here>. He plays along with Biddy’s husband’s reality and confirms where he’s been and always elaborates on what he has seen and how his flights were; what he saw; what he ate; what the weather was like….the man sounds amazing!
She has a young lady who comes and helps her around the house a few days a week, cleaning and tidying, cooking and some laundry and she is a complete saint. This girl (I say girl, because she is younger than me and I still feel like I’m dressed in my mother’s clothes when someone calls me a lady or a woman) will spend time with Biddy’s husband, chatting to him about whatever he wants to talk about, agreeing with him, supervising him in the kitchen and the garden and generally being a fabulous help. “She should be training to work with people with dementia,” Biddy told me. That is how wonderful she is.
So, this post was a bit of a tribute to my wonderful friend, Biddy. Who at this stage of her life should be enjoying holidays, her family and putting her feet up. Instead she is full of worry and stress and I can do nothing but be a listening ear and try to make her laugh with my kids’ antics.
But, Biddy has taught me so much too. She has taught me that age is really just a number and that friends come in all ages, from all backgrounds and usually they arrive in your life for a reason. I think Biddy needs me and I need her and on my toughest days I know I can call her and she will listen and offer a sympathetic ear, just like she knew she could call in to see me today and have a cry. Oh, and she will also swear and it is very refreshing to hear a very well-spoken octogenarian with a posh potty mouth. I held her hand today and said, “Oh, Biddy, it is just…..well, it’s shit!”
“That’s exactly what it is,” she replied. “It is…SHIT!”
I love that woman!
Miss you, mum.