About four years ago we made a decision that was to change our lives completely. We suggested to my then 96 year old mother that she comes to live with us. There were sound reasons behind our decision as she was not looking after herself very well and was looking very weak and wobbly. We also felt that her relationship with us was good and vice versa and we would make this work. We really had no idea what we were doing; what we were taking on or how it would affect us.
…. and in more ways than one. I am actually back to swimming two to three times a week after a couple of months break, not because I wanted a break but heavy colds and Christmas just got in the way. Once behind us an element of almost normality had emerged briefly. Then our good farmer friend and neighbour went into hospital for a double bypass and thanks to Mr Cameron’s Big Society ideas we are now helping to care for him during his recovery. No NHS care package in place or District Nurse visits either. Just discharged from hospital four days after the operation with a bag of drugs and instructions to make various appointments with his GP. He is 82 years old and lives on his own and is unable to drive for at least six weeks. Fortunately we are extremely fond of him and don’t mind doing all this but it has added another layer on top of what we already have to deal with in a normal day.
The additional responsibility has certainly made following the RMR diet a lot more difficult because there is no time to spend on prepping for myself so I am just keeping carbs to the minimum, limiting protein, having bulletproof coffee for breakfast occasionally, filling in the tracker most days and trying to be sensible. I reached a plateau during Christmas and beyond that is refusing to budge at the moment and that is despite intermittent fasting but hopefully that will change after next week. I am not getting paranoid about it but I am resigned to the situation because it isn’t going to last forever and then I can have a portion of my time back to focus on what I need to do. I do wonder if after a couple of stones of weight loss my body needs time to adjust before continuing to reduce. A plus point is that despite everything that is going on my blood pressure is remaining pretty steady.
The AP has been reasonable while we have had to deal with our neighbours needs but for how much longer? We know from experience that she can’t keep up the pretence for too long but whilst he is eating with us she is having to. It will be interesting to see if there is a backlash when things return to normal.
But for the time being I am swimming physically in the pool and also swimming mentally through the days.
Well Christmas has come and gone, as have the New Year celebrations and although Christmas was a cooking marathon, it was lovely with all the family here. The New Year for us is just another day and now we are faced with the inevitable tidy up. The outside lights are down as are the cards and this afternoon it is the tree in the hall to be dismantled and all the baubles packed away until next year.
There must be millions doing the same thing and reflecting on the year ahead. What will it all hold and how do I rid myself of this feeling of discomfort and unhappiness at the thought of the continuing battles with the AP. Even with the family here and subsequent visitors she still had to try and be in control, attempting to dominate our friends by going into gush and burble mode. She now gets everything confused but I have learnt to turn off to most of the things said because at the end of the day, do they matter? I no longer rise to her littles jibes but I still wake up in the morning and wonder how much longer can the LSO and myself put up with the tyranny of having her living with us.
Whilst we had visitors she would gush about the food but the minute we were back to the three of us she reverted to being utterly thankless, eating with her fingers and putting chewed food back on her plate, a particularly unpleasant practice. We have asked her not to do this but to use her cutlery and so far of late, she has been a little better. But I have come to dread mealtimes, not only preparing them, what will she not eat today but also having to witness the whole procedure.
I’ve also found it difficult to be disciplined about the diet. I am the same weight now as I was before Christmas, which is good but my mindset is not. I am pulling things together and have started my daily tracker again but need to get out with the LSO and the dogs. I need some clean air in my lungs and a clear head to keep myself on track with everything. In fact I just need to get out. I feel as if I have been housebound for weeks and the walls are closing in on me despite my attempts to divert my thoughts with activities such as my latest knitting project.
I don’t believe in new year resolutions but if I did do one it would have to be about positivity. The AP will be heading up to Scotland for the month of April but that is three months away which in reality is not long so that’s at least a more positive thought.
I woke up this morning to another day of dealing with the AP and her unpleasant ways and found myself thinking back to better times. I guess it’s that time of the year when we all realise another year is almost over.
It’s almost five years since my mother came to live with us and I can quite honestly say it has been five years of misery. When I think back to pre-AP days I realise how happy and free we were but I had just taken it all for granted. The LSO and myself are not unhappy with each other and have learnt to accept that we have no personal space and no privacy but it would be so much better if the AP had turned out to be the sweet old lady we naively thought she was before she arrived.
I had never seen my mother as a control freak, always needing to be in charge. I knew she was bigoted, vain and snobbish but the rest, the need for control, the attempts to divide and rule, the nastiness when she doesn’t have her own way and the childishness, her silly little girly voices and the baby words were all kept hidden from view until she walked through our door.
Was there anything we could have changed about our situation? Probably not, for several years we fought to survive in our own home simply because we didn’t understand or see clearly what she was doing. We now have strategies in place to protect our physical and mental health which suffered as a result of all this. They work to a point but we are always on our guard, waiting for the next nasty dig which is always followed by a short lived period of almost niceness.
At least we are no longer alone in seeing her for what she really is or should I say, become. My cousin and his wife who have her to stay with them two months of the year have seen the veil slip more often in the last couple of visits and they have a better understanding of what we live with twenty-four seven. A couple of close friends have also witnessed her nasty side and are definitely not impressed but they have remained our friends, thank goodness. Also this blog and the support received as a result of it have helped me to keep things in perspective. Thank you all family, friends and strangers for being there, it does make a difference.
Its no good regretting having made this life changing decision, we just have to continue getting on with it; as the LSO says ‘it’s what it is” and when it is finally all over we can live our lives to the full again.
I struggle at times to cope with the AP and her stupidity. Actually that is an understatement because, in truth I am constantly amazed at her hare-brained and idiotic ideas based on no knowledge whatsoever. Old age has robbed her of the common sense she once possessed as well as her manners and when there is any kind of confrontation she resorts to being nasty.
I also struggle with how I now feel about my mother who is nothing like the person I thought I knew. I am beginning to really dislike this stranger in our midst. Some how I need to turn my mind off and find inner peace to cope with all this and it isn’t as if I have nothing to do, so it must be possible. Our days are busy and at times relentless especially at the moment with Christmas looming.
I was accused today of always looking for trouble because I don’t agree with someone who is one hundred years old fasting. The comment is interesting in itself because the only person in this household who looks for trouble is the AP. She couldn’t be further from the truth about me though. I definitely don’t look for trouble and have no time to even consider it, preferring a quiet and stress free life, but I felt sick inside after this comment because this is just another fine example of how used and unconsidered the LSO and myself are by this incredibly selfish and self centred old lady. There is no comeback to it and this evening she will be sweetness and light as if nothing has been said.
It is definitely true that familiarity breeds contempt and there is no doubt that the empathy I had for the AP in the early years has been completely eroded away by five years of dealing with her controlling and manipulative ways and her unpleasantness when she can’t get her own way.
I also find I have nothing to say to her and I know this is not helping the situation. I am aware that growing old isn’t easy, the LSO and myself are not young and have our own problems to handle. I did think that we could really make a difference for my mother when she first came to live with us but we had no idea at that time what we were going to have to deal with. Indeed we have helped her to live longer which is ironic given the situation now. She is remarkably fit for someone her age, her meals are small but regular and always made to ensure she has a good nutritional balance. But there is little thanks or consideration and the LSO and myself often feel we are the below stairs staff in our own home.
For ten days I have suffered from being a mucus making machine with a hacking cough courtesy of a cold virus. It was a great source of concern to me as the day of our son’s wedding was approaching at speed. I really didn’t want to be the one leaving the ceremony sounding like a seal under water or causing the guests to back off in horror at the awful sound. Fortunately I did manage to suppress the cough with the help of a variety of lozenges and a certain amount of alcohol. It turned out to be a really special day, a gloriously fun time with both our son and the bride looking stunning, they make a gorgeous couple and their obvious happiness throughout the day was a glow that affected us all. We all thoroughly enjoyed the event even having the AP with us wasn’t too bad with both families helping to guide her through the day which was a relief for the LSO and myself. Our lovely daughter and son-in-law spent time chatting to the AP who did find the noise difficult to cope with. It was the first time we had met our new daughter-in-law’s family but the small numbers and the windmill venue all helped in making us comfortable together and there was much laughter and talk both there and during the rest of the day.
On the diet front I was delighted to find on the morning of the wedding that I had finally cleared the first two stone marker but as the candid wedding photographs show, I am only half way through the total weight loss, so a while to go yet. But it didn’t spoil my day as mostly I felt slimmer and I was thrilled to actually fit into my favourite velvet trousers for the occasion with the Jaeger jacket actually fastening! Roll on May when I should be facing a summer of being a lot lighter and therefore a great deal more comfortable in my skin in every sense of the word.
We had hired a chauffeured car for the day which took all the pressure from the LSO who could enjoy a drink without worrying. The alternative would have been hotel bookings, taxis and kennelling for the two terriers all making the day a very costly one. It did mean we perhaps left a little earlier to head home because the AP kept nodding off but in truth I would only have had too much to drink if we had stayed longer! The drive back was uneventful and extremely pleasant thanks to Pedro the driver whose friendly and amiable personality all helped add to the pleasure of the day.
Well, the LSO and myself managed a whole three hours out with friends last Friday evening as a start to our new regime. It was such a pleasure to just be doing something we wanted to do and the AP said she was happy to stay and look after the dogs. That’s a laugh too because it really is the other way round and as it turned out she wasn’t at all happy to let us have a bit of freedom.
We weren’t back late, about 8.30pm and all seemed ok. The AP toddled off to her room and seemed in reasonable spirits or so we thought. This image was quickly nipped in the bud when she announced to the LSO when he took her morning tea in that she felt a bit ‘tickly’ around her throat.This led to her telling us later that she had sickness and diarrhoea and had been up in the night, not that we heard anything which is strange as she wakes us up every other night. She then refused her breakfast and spent the day in her room with lots of fluids and a few dry crackers. A bug you might say or maybe a virus? Well, perhaps, but we have had this scenario a couple of times when we have had the gall to do something on our own. The LSO did say before we went out on Friday that there would be a payback and lo and behold there has been.
It was interesting that when we came to sterilise the bathroom there was not a single sign of any kind of upset. The LSO had cleaned it thoroughly on Thursday and it was pretty spotless so we are pretty sure, since the AP cannot see to clean up and furthermore we keep cleaning products out of her reach, that it was a prefabrication to elicit some attention and make a point. Childish I know but we are getting more and more of this sort of behaviour. Did it have the desired effect? No, the AP made a miraculous recovery when she realised we were pretty unmoved by the charade and even announced she was less wobbly having had nothing to eat for twenty four hours. Amazing!
Will it stop us going out, no, if anything it has made us more determined than ever that we will make a little space and timeout for us.
A Bhuddist prayer that is just so right but how do we find inner peace? It is something I keep asking myself and as yet have found no answer. Looking after the AP is a thankless and soul destroying task which leaves both the LSO and myself living on an emotional treadmill. It is one that we just want to get off but there is no easy solution to help us do this.
The AP thinks she is being really clever but sadly we now see her for what she truly is, a devious and manipulative old woman who thinks she can do and say what she likes no matter how hurtful her words may be. She doesn’t like it when we retaliate but just thinks that it is all forgotten in a few days. After nearly five years of her selfish and self centred attitudes we tend to be permanently on our guard against the next stretch of nastiness. What a way to live our lives. It is so true that words have the power to both destroy and heal but in this household it is only the LSO and myself who employ the latter. Some would see that as a weakness on our part but I believe it is our strength. I refuse to play her at her own game, the AP wants me to be a mirror image of herself but we are poles apart in every respect and thank goodness for that, I am not like her and never will be. It is a true irony that she lives with us. It was something I never wanted but I allowed common sense to rule my heart. That’s a paradox in itself but in this case has been proved to be true.
Meanwhile the AP just sails onwards, playing her silly little games and choosing to remember only what she wants to remember.