In my youth it was Blue Nun that was considered the height of sophistication and if feeling really extravagant it was a bottle of Vinho Verdi or Chianti in a straw casing that people loved making into table lamps all bought from an Off Licence. Thankfully things have changed in more ways than one and in most cases for the better.
After the LSO has given the dogs their afternoon walk when, weather permitting, I occasionally walk as well, it becomes gin o’clock with the LSO as the ‘Gin Jockey’. I have only recently discovered the huge variety of gins available for the discerning and that was thanks to a cousin who lives on Vancouver Island B.C. On a visit over a year ago she brought me a present of a bottle of Rhubarb and Ginger Gin and it was a revelation. I have not looked back since and look forward to the evening when I will enjoy a delicious Bramley Apple and Rhubarb Gin, with ice and just a hint of tonic.
A slippery slope you may say! Most likely but a much needed anaesthetic to cope with the incessant burbling of the AP whilst we have a visitor staying. In fact I am writing this listening to a constant stream of rubbish, mixed up, made up and generally wrong with a smattering of truth. She’s just announced that she could go back to live in Newcastle if her tenant wasn’t there. At 101 years old, blind, doddery and unable to do anything for herself, she can’t even lift a kettle now and needs help showering and she still thinks she is capable of looking after herself. I find her attitude so utterly insulting, the LSO and I have just given up nearly six years of our lives looking after her and she is so utterly ungrateful and graceless. Will the AP ever accept her limitations, no I guess not but we are going to have to limit the amount of people staying otherwise I will become an alcoholic. It’s not even midday and my mind is thinking gin.
But in the meanwhile I am endeavouring to turn my mind off and keep calm in order to contain my frustration and irritation. We made the choice to have the AP live with us and we must survive the consequences. It is just such a pity that she has never appreciated what we had to offer. I heard her make a comment to our visitor about walking on eggshells but as I hadn’t heard the rest of the conversation I couldn’t be sure of what was meant. If she meant with the LSO and myself she should have thought twice about pushing us around because we stupidly put up with her behaviour for several years unable to comprehend her attitude but not anymore. This has resulted in a very unnatural state of affairs because we have come to dislike her and she feels we don’t want her here, but had she been the person we thought she was, enjoyed life with us, hadn’t tried to dominate and control us, it would have been a very different situation.
Oh dear, my ability to stick to a dieting regime is severely compromised at the moment. I must stop wavering and prevaricating and get on with it. I am sure this must sound familiar to many people who like me, struggle with their weight.
Our trip to Essex was a delight and so was the meal at the restaurant but I am sure it broke all the rules of my diet. Also and much to my surprise the AP was on her best behaviour which was a surprise after the week before but then she has always managed to con this particular grandson and would not want to spoil his belief in his dear, sweet grandmother. Is he conned by her? I really don’t know but my daughter-in-law has few illusions but maybe that is because she is female and more astute. It’s a curious set-up really but one I find myself watching with interest.
Our next onslaught of visitors is this coming week and it is only one ex-colleague of the AP’s coming from Australia who actually married the AP’s boss. She is a particularly pleasant person but those high up in the world of academe have always brought the true snobbery out in the AP and this particular visitor is a Professor Emeritus.
Fortunately the LSO and I really like her and find her pleasant company so we don’t find the ‘below stairs’ activity too onerous but we will only have one lunch out to break up a day of burbling from the AP. I am still feeling a bit bruised and battered from her behaviour during our last set of visitors so have decided to cook. At least it gives me an excuse to be in the kitchen and I would like to think I will have more control over the food I consume. Did I say that? I spend most of my waking day in there, that is, when I’m not writing another blog!
Anyway I shall endeavour to stick to a low carb regime and try to resist the new potatoes grown and harvested daily by a neighbouring farmer although I feel my resolve will waver when I see them coated in a dollop of fresh butter, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Am I managing to harness those emotions as mentioned in the previous blog? Well maybe not as well as I had hoped but I’m certainly trying hard. The AP was particularly argumentative this morning which stretched my good resolve somewhat. Later when I was about to ferry her to a hair appointment I said I would bring the car up to the door to which she sharply replied that it was already there. No, that was the postman in his little red van I replied. But equally why would I say I would get the car if it was already there? It is a continual battering of stupid little things as if she just wants to prove us wrong all the time. She just doesn’t seem to be able to stop sniping at us. I think truthfully that this is her real personality and that she has always been like that and we had never realised the true situation.
I guess many people are in the same boat as far as knowing their parents. Once we leave home, get married, have children, live our lives independently, our parents become just family we see occasionally. It certainly was in our case because we moved away from our birthplaces, nearly four hundred miles away in fact.
But I am not giving up my resolve. We have an afternoon of freedom from the AP today which, come to think of it is probably why she is being so unpleasant. She does seem to deeply resent the LSO and myself having any time to ourselves which I find very odd and it is apparently irrelevant to her that she enjoys going out with Sarah. It is just another part of the strangeness that is the AP.
Then tomorrow we are taking a trip to Essex to have a lunch out with our son, his wife and their delightful baby son. The AP will be coming with us so it will be interesting to see what happens later after an afternoon of gushing and pretence. Anyway I shall keep hanging in there, breathing deeply whilst following a low carb diet with intermittent fasting.
I am also refusing to be drawn into any kind of confrontation with the AP but I am just hoping the smile doesn’t look like a rictus.
Today is our daughter’s forty-fourth birthday. It is a stark reminder that time is slipping rapidly by and where have those years gone? We both remember the great joy we felt when she arrived and that feeling has remained constant to this very day.
Four is the number of stability and it just happens to be my life number. Pythagoras called the number four the Tetrad and believed it created perfect harmony so our lovely daughter has a double dose of stability and harmony this year.
It set me thinking about what we have to be grateful for in our lives and I would say our two children, their partners and our three grandchildren are pretty well top of the list but there are also other things that have made our lives good together. The LSO and I are lucky to be in this lovely home, we have good friends and although life has not always been a bed of roses we have survived almost fifty years of marriage and fifty-five years of friendship, in fact it will be our Golden Wedding next year.
I found myself breathing in slowly and deeply whilst contemplating all this, letting go of the stress and finding that we have much to be positive about and somehow, instead of moaning about how stressful everything is I need to find a way to harness these current emotions and to stop being a reflection of the depression that can sweep over us both. It would be going too far to suddenly become hugely compassionate because the five years of criticism and manipulation have left an indelible mark but I do not want our situation with the AP to define who I am or in fact who we are. Life is just too short for that.
Now back to the diet and hopefully my determination to succeed will not be ambushed the minute the sun sets over the yard arm.
This last astonishing session with the AP has taken an emotional toll both on the LSO and myself. I have just spent a day with my own thoughts because the LSO has had a rare few hours away fishing with a friend, something he doesn’t do enough of these days.
There was a time pre AP time when we were both hugely busy and happily doing things and it isn’t important what these ‘things’ were, it was just the sheer pleasure of being retired and finally after a lifetime of working being able to use the time available to do what we wanted. In reality we still have that time but the constant battling with the selfishness, changeability and malevolence of the AP has taken away the joy we both had in life itself.
We feel trapped in our lovely home and have to battle with ourselves to do anything at all. I found myself today struggling to just prepare lunch. I used to love cooking and experimenting with lots of flavours, baking and bread making, pickling and jam making were a regular occurrence but now the will is vanishing and instead is being replaced with a sense of futility and frustration. The AP’s constant wittering has ground us down both physically and emotionally. I teeter on the edge of reason most days.
This whole situation is having a devastating effect on my need to lose weight and in fact I have put some pounds back on and am trying desperately to find a way back to my former determination. I cannot afford to go back to being diabetic but that will happen if I cannot reverse this situation. Another rather frightening aspect of this stress, because it certainly is very stressful looking after the AP, is that the LSO and myself use alcohol as an anaesthetic. We don’t drink to excess but do tend to drink each evening to soften the feeling of emotional distress we are permanently in and of course, that is another reason for the steady weight gain.
It is a fact that when you lose the will to live and you merely exist, you lose the will to overcome obstacles. It is simpler to have another glass of wine and relax; simpler but extremely dangerous and we need to pull back from this particular precipice sooner rather than later.
On than very serious note I will take another sip of my rhubarb and apple gin and contemplate starting a new regime tomorrow. It’s bit like giving up any addiction, you just have to keep on giving up not giving in.
Well, just as we think our situation can’t get much worse or depressing, it does.
My lovely cousins from Scotland have just departed after a four day stay with us and the AP. It should have been a great visit but the weather was awful, wet and chilly but that shouldn’t have made much difference, what did was the complete dominance of the AP. She was determined to be sitting in the living room, receiving as if she was the Queen, her acolytes circling around her whilst she burbled non-stop for three days; most of it was made up, mixed up or just completely incorrect. It was impossible to enjoy anything or even sit for long in the room because she just talked over everything. The LSO and I began to lose the will to live. Fortunately my cousin is a natural comedian and in between these times we did manage to have a good and much needed laugh.
In itself, the AP’s attempted dominance although irritating, shouldn’t have been a problem but when I overheard her saying that I was a bully it hurt. I am not a bully and never have been, the bully is the AP. Yes, I am firm about some things but they are for her benefit not mine and I also cannot allow her to completely wreck our lives although, in truth, she is doing a fine job of it at the moment.
When we went out for dinner last evening the AP called the LSO and I ‘pains’ and proceeded to lie about what she had said but it was in front of my cousin and his wife. Liz has no illusions about how unpleasant the AP can be and has been on the receiving end of it in the past when she has stayed with them but my cousin is never present when those moments have occurred so last night came as a bit of a shock. But enough is enough and I firmly told her what I thought of her comment which was absolutely uncalled for and just typical when she feels she is not getting her own way.
Unsurprisingly there was no remorse but she is cunning and when she came down this morning she was clingy and holding his hand like a child, trying to make a point no doubt but for me it was a case of ‘get me a bucket’. We have a carer coming soon to take her out until 6pm, but sadly it will continue to emphasise the problems for us as she will be fawned over and unnecessarily cosseted. She will play the sweet little old lady which she can manage for that length of time, then return to us and revert to the unpleasant and selfish person she really is.
My cousin has said she needs to go into a home and he is right but I did say we would get through the summer and reassess the situation and I will keep my word. He even suggested to the LSO, a care home in Scotland but I don’t think that he understands the full ramifications of that situation, or maybe he was just being kind. Fortunately his wife does understand and the LSO says there was a firm veto issued. No, if it’s a home it will be here but we will see what the future brings, the AP still has to have the basal cell carcinoma on her nose removed and we are just waiting for the appointment.
You really would think that things should get better as time goes by. I even tell people when they ask how things are that they are all good, hoping I guess that they will improve, that life in our ‘care home’ is rolling along nicely but the truth is just the opposite. It’s rolling along but not necessarily nicely.
I wake up in the mornings with a sinking feeling that we have another day with the claustrophobic presence of the AP living with us. I take her breakfast up to her room and always have to take a deep breath before producing a cheery ‘Good Morning’ in a rather desperate attempt to start the day off in the right direction. Most times it works but not this damp and rather dreary Monday morning. I find the AP slumped in her chair staring at the ‘no satellite’ image on the TV, and when I make a comment she says she has just put it on and is waiting for the programmes to come up. I explain she needs to press the Sky control and this prompts a nasty and unpleasant response that she was just going to do that, that she always does that. All lies of course, she had forgotten that part of the process and just hates being caught out so her immediate reaction is one of attack. Unfortunately my response is extremely terse as I leave her room feeling a sense of utter despair sweep over me.
This is no way to start the day or even the week and just to add to everything we have my cousin from Scotland and his wife coming to stay until Friday. We will have to witness the AP alternating between being gushingly sweet to moaning about her health which in truth, for her age is extremely good. Fortunately they do know what she can be like and are both good company so we will just sit back and enjoy the charade that is, of course, in between our ‘below stairs’ activities. There will be a sudden attack of good manners, seldom apparent when it is just the LSO and myself here, the comments will abound about how wonderful we are and how well she is looked after. OK, the last comment is actually correct but we know she doesn’t really feel that way herself because she still makes vain attempts to dominate us and is completely delusional about how much she is capable of doing.
As I have said before, looking after this ungrateful, self opinionated and vain old woman is a thoroughly thankless task.
When I first began this blog is was to help dispel the terrible angst that had built up over the first years of looking after the AP. The shock that this person was a stranger to me has been with me since the day she moved in with us, up until then she was my mother. Writing the blog certainly helped and somehow I found a kind of limbo that helped me get through the days, the weeks and the months. We are now in the sixth year of being carers and it doesn’t get any easier and although we have recognised that this would be the case, nothing prepared us for the reality.
I wake up every morning now realising that the years are slipping by and we are not getting any younger, both of us are in our early seventies. The AP, who lives in a bubble is apparently unaware of any of this, thinking only of herself and continuing to sail onwards unscathed and uncaring. We had wanted to spend the latter years of our retirement touring this lovely island of ours, never dreaming that we would end up shackled to a one hundred and one year old woman. In our naivety we thought she would be open to allowing us space and time together, dear God, how wrong could we have been.
There is a small light on the horizon. We finally have found someone who will help her shower once a week, take her out for lunch and spend some quality time in the afternoon basically entertaining her, this is also giving us a short break. It was thought of as an alternative to a care home and at first seemed the ideal answer but like everything to do with dealing with the AP there is a downside. The lady carer and her husband are lovely and genuinely like the AP who for the time she is with them is capable of playing the sweet little old lady. We have said nothing about the five years of misery looking after her and in the short term they may never know. The contrast with our business-like approach to everything to do with caring for her and the short day with someone else who makes a huge fuss of her couldn’t be more different. Unfortunately this has meant that the AP has slipped back into making demands, trying once again to manipulate and control us which is not leading to a relationship made in heaven. She seems to resent bitterly the fact that we have some time alone but she is also jealous that we also get on well with this new couple.
In the meantime the AP continues to make up stories. I heard her on the telephone telling someone that she fell and banged her head which has left her feeling fuzzy. This is not true but what’s the point in saying anything. The whole situation leaves me swinging from an unreasonable sense of anger to utter despair with a short respite in the middle where I try to find some peace but sadly in the back of my mind I hear a small voice saying ‘how much longer can this go on?’