Why I didn’t blog this summer

There are several reasons and there is just one.

I just couldn’t find the time. Working and juggling family time during the school holidays seemed to absorb every spare moment….They weather may not have been great but the succession of cheery visitors made up for the lack of natural sunshine.

I’d planned we’d stay at home and  that we’d have lots of long coastal walks in bits of Cornwall I don’t know so well. If the weather isn’t so hot, dog walking is pleasant and with a pair of bathers in a rucksack we’d still be able to take a dip in the sea if it got  a bit sunnier. I promised myself they’d be picnics or impromptu fish and chips suppers in beach cafes. We’d just go with the flow and plan nothing that’d could adapt to the changing weather…

The other reason for the limbo state was my bedridden mother. We’ve been expecting, since April, almost on a daily basis, that she will die. From late July through August it seemed particularly likely. Each time I visit it is with a lingering last look that this might be the last time.

And I hope that I’m not staring at my own end of life scenario.

In every human sense she is no longer with us. The only sound she makes is a weak cry. Her only movements are in her face; her mouth, her eyes, her neck a little, but her expression never changes. She doesn’t know who we are or comprehend anything around her. Her arthritic hands are locked tight, her body is now so thin she barely makes a ripple in the bed. We have been watching her over the last few years disappearing from us in every sense. Physically she is less than half the woman she was…. My wonderful fat, cuddly mummy. That super-practical woman who’d lay her hands on just the right thing just when you had need. Who grew such vast quantities of fruit and vegetables that she’d have us shucking buckets of fresh peas and beans in front of the telly in preparation for the freezer. She could make me cringe with embarrassment in front of  friends but whip up great welcoming home dinners. It’s around a decade since that was she.

And now, I don’t know how she does it, this skin covered skeleton, this tiny, frail, helpless human body, but she does. She goes on every day defying nature. She lives.

I’ve stopped thinking she will die any day now. I just imagine her still lying there, in her half-life between sleeping and waking, routinely fed, washed, her soiled ‘nappies’ changed, and turned to prevent her bed sores. It’ll be just be like this still, I keep thinking, come Christmas time.

One day, I’ll get a call. The news will be sad, but it won’t be devastating. After the long time waiting for it, it’ll possibly come as an anti-climax. It’ll feel like relief and a blessed release to the indignity and slow death that dementia has wrought on her.

Mummy

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The saddest birthday of all

My mother turned 80 yesterday and in terms of ‘worst birthdays’ this was definitely one that’s best forgotten.

My dad’s 80th was a large family gathering of three generations and old friends. We took him out for lunch at a lovely hotel, spent  the whole afternoon together, walked down to a beach near Porthscatho (some of us even swam), chatted, laughed and came back to have tea in the hotel’s garden with birthday cake we’d made him. It was a lovely day of cementing family ties and idyllic in every sense.  A sunny Saturday in late September 2009 is a day we’ll all remember with lasting nostalgia and affection.

In painful contrast, I was my mum’s only visitor on a day which should have been a celebration of her long life.

There were no gifts, no flowers, no chocolates and she had only 6 birthday cards in total: from her two sisters, her three daughters, and one from my dad. Nothing else. For in all intents and purposes my mum has vanished from the rest of the world. Continue reading