I wanted to write a blog post for xmas but things have been so intense and I felt so drained, I couldn’t do it till now. Xmas day started with a call to the emergency plumbers – the loo was blocked. This does happens sometimes and it often sorts itself out – but I didn’t dare risk it this time, what with it being xmas and the family coming on 26th. Anyway a chirpy chappy turned up, got out his eel and cleared the blockage.
By then it was time to cook lunch. I don’t eat meat, but I bravely attempted to cook mum a chicken breast. I was worried the oven would blow up while I was roasting chicken, vegetables etc but all went ok, and the two of us sat there in our paper hats and enjoyed our Christmas dinner! But we were running late. After clearing up, I had precisely 25 minutes of peace until it was time to watch the Strictly Xmas special. This ushered in 6 hours of tv. Half way through, I spent 15mins in the kitchen getting tea and got repeatedly shouted at: ‘Where are you? It’s Midwives.’
Boxing day was ok. The family visit was fine, and I managed to feed 7 people with a little help from the others. But when they left, I was again required to watch hours of tv. If I left the room it was ‘Where are you? It’s Victoria Wood.’ But I did get a quiet read at bedtime.
Saturday. Oh my god. Mum has a problem with constipation. She takes medication and then, instead of waiting for it to act, she gets in a panic and takes more. She does this, even though she knows what will happen – and happen it did. The only consolation was that she had managed to get into the bathroom. Otherwise there was shit everywhere. The worst thing wasn’t the horrible revolting nature of cleaning it all up but the risk of contamination. After this unpleasant experience, I had to have a stiff drink. Lunch was a little late; afterwards I put on a load of yucky washing and watched Kungfu Panda 2. Then, just as we were going to bed, there was a major bleeding incident. By the time that was sorted out and cleaned up it was after midnight. I didn’t even try to sleep till after 1. Another stiff drink and – on Sunday – another load of yucky washing!!! But I did get an hour of peace that afternoon.
I don’t mind all the hard work, but I do need some kind of space to recover from it. It’s not just that helping mum is physically exhausting, it’s also psychologically draining. I lose my equilibrium and have to ‘reboot’ my energy (viz: Kung Fu panda 2!). And this takes up so much of the precious time I have to do things for myself.
And, by the way, as I was drafting this last night, mum had another bleed, not quite so bad, tho I still didn’t get to bed till 1am. I really hope we can get through the new year without any more incidents!!!
Sustained by a brief visit to some old friends who thought I needed a bit of TLC (they were right) I returned to deal with the Nightmare of the Xmas Cards.
I ‘m lucky, I have lots of friends all over the world and I like to send them Yule/ Xmas/New Year greetings. It’s a way to keep in touch. But it’s also quite a chore. And this year I’m having to do mum’s cards as well. It’s like wading through mud.
Imagine each of the following dialogues repeated over and over again and often against a constant background of TV noise:
Mum: I’m too tired to think about my Xmas cards.
Me: You don’t have to think about them. All you have to do is write your name inside the ones I’ve prepared.
Mum: I must do my cards to the family.
Me: I have already addressed them and sent them off.
Mum: I’ve had enough. I don’t want to send any more cards this year.
Me: If you don’t send them, people will think you are dead.
(I’ve done my best to make a list of people she needs to send cards to, although some of it is guesswork. Already two cards have arrived from people I hadn’t thought of.) Then came the Great Xmas Cheque Debate.
Mum wants to know how much she gives her grandchildren at Xmas. So I look through the stubs of her old cheque books (By the way, whoever says cheques are obsolete should come and meet my ma.)
Mum: Why are these old cheque books lying around like this?
Me: You wanted to know how much you gave your grandchildren last year.
Mum: Oh. Shall I give them the same as last year? Or more?
Me: Whatever you want. Just don’t give them less than last year.
Mum: How much shall I give your brother?
Me: Whatever you want. Just don’t give him less than last year.
And then mum says… ‘What about you? Is there anything you want?’ By now, I’m beyond caring. I give what they call a hollow laugh. ‘Can we please just get these Xmas cards in the post?’
Mum enjoyed her birthday, although she kept forgetting how old she was. She knows she was born in 1920 but she can’t remember what year we’re in now – which throws out her mental arithmetic.
Brother and grandchildren came at the weekend. We went out and had a meal, except she didn’t enjoy herself, probably because it was too noisy and she couldn’t keep up with the conversation. (I, of course, really liked going out to a restaurant and chatting to the family!) On her actual birthday, I invited the neighbours round and we had coffee and nice cakes from M&S. This was much more low key and she had a nice time.
94 is a good age, as they say. But it started me thinking about my own age. I always said I would never end up as a single daughter, caring for an aged parent but that’s exactly what has happened. I don’t regret my decision to move in with mum. The longer I stay, the clearer it is that she needs someone here.
However, I’m no spring chicken either. The number of good years I have left to travel, dance, meet men, think straight etc may not be so many. I hate the thought that my last chance to lead a full life is trickling through my fingers like sand and I’ll never be able to get that chance back.
Mum, of course, treats me like I’m about 15. She gets upset when I can’t bend down or lean forward at an angle convenient to her. If I have to kneel rather than reach over or crouch, she gets irritated. I say: I’m not a young girl, mum.
I wonder, will I get worn out by being a carer to a demanding old woman when I’m not so young myself – or will I stay “young” because I live with someone who treats me like a teenager? Time will tell.