What went wrong?

I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.

I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.

The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.

But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.

We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.

After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.

So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.

The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.

So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.

A brief return to the darkness.

It’s one of those days when I would just love to go to sleep and wake up to find everything is back to the way it was before this virus appeared. Sad really, I have no doubt many people feel the same way but it is a feeling that must be dealt with or it will take over. The LSO is experiencing much the same emotions so we need to help each other over this feeling of depression. We have managed really well with the lockdown until now but I know exactly what triggered all this off; I rang the AP yesterday and whereas the last few calls have been relatively pleasant, if not a little bizarre, yesterday it was a return to the old unpleasant, blackmailing, demanding and controlling person who almost destroyed us.

During this lockdown I had actually managed to feel a tiny element of liking for the AP which had surprised me after the hell she put us through for over five years. But as the LSO said, never let your guard down, she will never change and he’s right because all that happens is you set yourself up for a fall. I have in previous posts explained why I began writing this blog, to somehow cope with the immense emotional stress that she inflicted on me and it did make a difference. It was a bit like counselling, but I had hoped never to feel like this again nor to need to write about the black hole it put me in. Should I be surprised by this, probably not but I guess I live in hope that things might have changed but the LSO is right in what he said, a leopard never changes its spots although this one managed to disguise hers for decades.

Looking on the bright side, at least the AP doesn’t live with us anymore and I need only to telephone, thanks to the lockdown, so there is a plus point to the whole situation!

I did question yesterday why do I bother? Well I guess, simply put, I never, never want to be like the AP.

Keep on smiling.

There is no doubt that laughter is the best medicine and some hysterically funny jokes, videos and stories have emerged from this lockdown. They certainly take the mind off the seriousness of what is happening here and around the world.

We try not to watch too much news on TV but inevitably the late afternoon briefing has become compulsive viewing which is no doubt the same for many thousands of people. The AP is tucked up safely in the Care Home and can’t seem to get a handle on this pandemic and according to her no-one is taking it seriously anyway. When I spoke to her this week she asked why had I not been to see her so I explained again that no visitors are allowed. This elicited the response that she had heard me outside in the corridor on several occasions recently and she gets quite distressed and upset when I don’t go to see her. I explained that one of the Care Assistants must have a similar voice because I haven’t been to see her for over three weeks because of the lockdown.

The whole situation left me feeling a little bemused and then of course I realised that she was just reverting to type and it was the old ‘trying to control me’ bullying technique coming into play. Had I really forgotten the dreadful years the LSO and I suffered looking after her? Her utter determination to control and manipulate us whilst telling everyone how wonderful we were. No, I guess that will take many years and it may be that I will never have fond memories of my mother but lately has been easier in that we cannot visit so that dread has gone. Mind you it isn’t something to be thankful for since it is because of the coronavirus that I feel the way I do which is ironic to say the least.

It is interesting to note that for the LSO and myself being tied to the house is not too much of a problem. We had up until last August been forced to socially distance for over five years, unable to go anywhere or do anything for most of that time. So although we had begun to really enjoy our freedom, we equally have been able to settle back into a routine that had been a habit but at least we don’t have the AP causing us grief. She really was a huge black cloud hanging over us, definitely a large bat in the attic.

I am thoroughly enjoying cooking and baking again and have managed a couple of inches of my sweater while the LSO has produced some wonderful lino prints which is good to see again. The AP slowly ground us down, knocking any sense of creativity or love of life out of both of us as we fought to survive her vindictive and malevolent nature. This was something we never saw at all until she came to live with us but bit by bit our love and appreciation of life is returning along with a sense of humour which has always been a huge part of our relationship.

Although I am not lighter I feel lighter but just have to endeavour not to end up being rolled sideways out of the house when some form of normality eventually returns.

At a standstill.

I feel at times that I am on the road to nowhere when everything seems to come to a standstill. Nonsense really as life is continually moving on even if we don’t think that’s the case.

I was feeling quite saintly about my week’s dieting but come the weigh-in and frustration took over. Not only had I not lost any weight but I’d actually put some on. How, came the strangled cry! It certainly is a mystery and a real pain in the neck because I had actually been enjoying cooking and experimenting again only to find it was not working. Do I change to a low fat diet such as Slimming World or WW? I’ve tried those in the past and indeed I have lost weight only to put it all back on again many times and just like all diets I get bored; so where do I go now? The low carbs certainly make a positive difference to blood glucose levels, that is a fact. The moderate protein and high fat are not easy to handle and I think my problem probably lies with an imbalance there. I am now going to look further into intermittent fasting because I am becoming more and more convinced that it is the best way to go.

So it’s back to further research, planning and recording.

I am also aware that the AP is still hovering in the background which dampens the spirits and in turn lowers the will power. Will I ever actually think fondly of her? But I cannot blame her for my difficulties in losing weight although the AP was part of the reason for the gain in the first place. No, I must clear my mind and focus on what needs to be done although part of me is silently screaming for all the foods I like eating which are not the most sensible for weight loss. It would be wonderful if there really was a magic pill that caused all the unwanted fat to just melt away. I guess everyone with a weight problem feels like that and it’s that very feeling that promotes these rubbishy pills being produced that supposedly aid weight loss. They promise everything, cost a fortune and just don’t work: it’s just people on a get rich quick scheme using the despair of those who are overweight, to encourage them to try these things. I hate to think what’s in some of these products. Actually I feel much the same about these official organisations that take money and also encourage people to buy their slimming products instead of eating proper food.

Oh well, I need to come down from the soap box, I guess its back to reality and determination.

The aftermath.

I haven’t written a blog for about seven weeks which can only be a good sign as far as my emotional and mental health is concerned. For almost four years this blog has stood firmly between me and insanity of that I have no doubt; I have been able to keep things in perspective by writing down my feelings and my responses to intolerable situations. The inevitable run up to the Christmas festivities is partly responsible for the radio silence and now that the AP is in a care home the stress factors have vanished almost completely. I say almost because we still have to visit her once a week. This does nothing for our peace of mind because her behaviour with us is often aggressive, demanding and thoroughly unpleasant. We go out of a sense of duty but often come away feeling very down having listened to a string of moans about nothing in particular. We try to steer the conversation to lighthearted things but the AP can and does think only of herself. She is rude about the other residents, calling them thick and is convinced someone has stolen a pink bag she had in there. She probably took it to the dining room with her and forgot about it. The staff party all night too, shades of the hospital! I bet they wish they could.

None of this is new as she was horrid to us when she was living here but now we are seeing much, much less of her we have a much clearer picture of the AP and it isn’t flattering. She still tries to play her controlling games with us but now we can walk away from it all and we do, thank goodness. It is a completely different story when others go to visit her in the home and just like before she makes a huge effort and plays the sweet, slightly dotty old woman.

Christmas will be an interesting experience because the AP will be spending hers in the care home. She will not be coming back here not only because we don’t actually want her malign presence casting it’s long shadow over us but we cannot get her back in the same day. She cannot sleep here as the AP is unable to get up and down the stairs and her room is not habitable now, we are slowly regaining our space back. But, in truth she could no longer cope with the general noise and hubbub of the day. She is in a care home for a reason, we can no longer look after her and nor do we wish too. The five and a half miserable years of looking after her have taken their toll on both the LSO and myself at a time in our lives when we should have been free. I am now seventy four and cannot have that time back but what is so very frustrating and what makes me still very angry is the fact that all the AP had to do was be pleasant, accept and enjoy what we had to offer with some grace and we could have rubbed along well. What we endured was the polar opposite. My anger lessens as time goes by but I have no liking for the AP who tried to drive a wedge between the LSO and myself whilst being controlling, conniving, devious and thoroughly unpleasant.

In the meanwhile I have been dealing with the aches and pains that have woken me continually during the nights. I put aside the need to lose weight in order to concentrate on the niggling but nevertheless debilitating minor problems which taken as a whole were becoming a much bigger issue. There has been some success in that area thanks to CBD oil and a ten milligram dose of Amyltriptiline a day which apparently can help nerve pain in some people. It would appear to be the case for me and the pain in my lower back has all but gone which is a massive relief. The CBD oil took a while to have an effect but I generally am improving which is great because I can now look to losing some weight. At the moment I am eating smaller portions, keeping carbs low and endeavouring to not drink alcohol from Monday to Thursday. Is it working? Well not as much as I had hoped but the direction is downwards, just slowly.

Hopefully Christmas won’t cause too much damage but we have our family descending on us and for the first time in some years I am looking forward to it all.

The wind of change.

It’s been a while since I last wrote a post and that is partly because of the number of visitors we have had but mostly because of a really nasty chest virus that flattened me completely. It just came out of the blue and four weeks on I am still coughing like a seal but much less than before.

In fact apart from my weight everything is improving and the cloud has lifted from the LSO and myself with us both beginning to enjoy our new found freedom. Our home is returning to us bit by bit and has become a pleasure to live in again and although we still have a great deal of sorting out to do, there is no rush.

The lack of loss of weight is a bit of a pain but I have enjoyed the family and friends we have had staying as well as beginning to get back my love of cooking. We have enjoyed meals and days out and I really haven’t given too much thought to the diet. Well that will have to stop because this morning I jumped on the scales and the scream could be heard echoing in the fields around us, flocks of birds were rising from the trees and all the dogs in the area started barking. I really must recalibrate and get back a positive mindset in order to lose weight again. All easier said than done but I have cut the anaesthetic alcohol intake down and feel better for it.

Also in between everything that has been occurring I have not been lying down being dramatic but have been putting the LSO’s effort in the greenhouses to good use. Gherkins have been pickled, cucumbers turned into a tasty relish and there are enough boxes of homemade tomato passata in the freezer to get us through winter. Then of course, there are also the two varieties of plum jam in the cupboard using fruit from our farmer friend’s orchard and lurking in the background are the chillies which will be made into sweet chilli jam some time next week. Stored in the fridge are jars of pickled garlic, home grown of course as well as a luscious paste of roasted garlic in the freezer. I have just made a Baba Ganoush dip for this evening from our own aubergines and do feel a sense of real pleasure in doing all this. That feeling had been driven from our lives by the malign attitude of the AP.

Do I feel any guilt about the AP being in a Care Home? Not one bit, in fact I struggle with the fact that I am just so happy to have our freedom back and delighted that the old me is returning. We do visit her each week but quite honestly I find it an enormous effort. When we are there the AP makes up stories, moans about everything although in between wingeing has lately been telling us how good it is to see us, that’s a first! She told my cousin that she hadn’t realised she would miss us so much which stopped me in my tracks. Really? Talk about rubbing salt in the wound, it just reinforced what we had always known, that she had just used us for her own selfish ends, constantly being manipulative and divisive as well as treating us as her personal servants but not any more. She is definitely in the best place for her, as well as us and although we still have her in the background she is not casting a cloud over our lives anymore.

A creeping suspicion.

Well, it is just as I suspected, the AP has been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes and she is being discharged next week from the hospital and will be returning to us. I had my suspicions when we visited a couple of days ago when I realised she was loving all the attention. She kept saying what a dreadful night she had had and how excruciating the pain was but looking at her belied the true situation and a creeping doubt entered my mind that the whole situation had been manufactured by her. Maybe not completely contrived but I think once she realised she had everyone’s undivided attention she began to milk it for all it was worth. We spoke to the consultant yesterday to learn that even at one hundred and one years old there is not much wrong with her apart from arthritis that was now in her knees and some mental degradation. He also said that she was being very economical with the truth and although he understood our situation she did not come under any umbrella that would remove her from our care.

To give the hospital their due they are having her assessed and looking at the possibility of some kind of care package but I don’t think she will be eligible for one which will mean us going down the private care route.

The consultant told us he had suggested to her that a spell in respite care would be good for her as well as give the LSO and myself a break and she refused to even consider the matter saying that she had had extensive discussions with us on the matter. Really! Obviously the LSO and myself weren’t present at these ‘discussions’. So the hysteria, histrionics and dramatic expressions such as ‘this really is the end’ and ‘I know what is coming and I’m ready’ are all just part of the drama queen that is my mother and everything was manufactured just to be the centre of attention. It is devastating to think that my own mother would be so devious, so inconsiderate and so selfish but it has backfired on her. When we visited yesterday I told her the consultant had rung me and then I asked her why she had refused to consider respite care. She completely denied that it was ever even mentioned but her response was too quick and I knew she was lying.

So we had a frank and open chat with her about the fact that the LSO and myself need to have some life before it is too late and after much prevarication, more lies and more excuses with a bit of blackmail and smoke screens thrown in she has reluctantly agreed to let us sort out something that will give us some space and ensure she is looked after. It may not be spontaneous but it will at least allow us to escape occasionally.

Roll on!

Welcome to the machine.

A favourite expression from the LSO regarding hospital stays and he’s had a few of those. Now he’s experiencing the entry to this alternative world as a visitor. Our day pivots around the inevitable hospital visits, the parking problems and the sixty mile round trip.

The AP has been admitted to hospital finally after a series of Doctor callouts, daily visits from Community Nurses as well as the inevitable emergency appointments at our local hospital.

Difficult to know which is worse, the old situation or the present one but I guess the former because we have realised we just cannot deal with the AP’s care any longer especially if it involves twenty four hour care. We are not experienced enough and too old to continue and she may need considered and proper palliative care now.

Having given up five and a half years caring for the AP we are finally reaching the end of the road and need to look after our own welfare if we are to enjoy the time we have left. Does that sound selfish? To some maybe but they have not walked in our shoes. It isn’t an easy decision to make and possibly impossible, the machine doesn’t help carers like us but somehow, for our own sakes, we must stick to our guns and not be pushed around by a system which so far has not helped us at all and in fact has failed us.

The AP was admitted on Friday and has spent the weekend being observed. Hopefully today we will finally find out what, if anything the doctors will do to ascertain what the problems are. There are no obvious pointers but clearly something is going very wrong and it could be that she is simply very old and parts of her body are shutting down.

It is unlikely that much can be done because of the AP’s great age but equally there is no-one out there to help us. We could still end up with the AP back here but if that is the case we will be arranging for care so we can go out and escape this imposed exile.

Who will she be today?

I wake up most mornings now and wonder just who the AP will be today. Will she be a waspish old harridan, will she be feeling off colour, will she be complaining about the cold, the heat, the damp, the greyness or will she be a little ray of sunshine and full of bonhomie. Don’t be silly that behaviour is saved for others, certainly not the LSO and myself; we are the servants, the below stairs staff, the chief cooks and bottle washers, the bed changers and cleaners. We are frequently referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’ rather than by name. One example of this was when I had washed a very expensive shirt that the AP had managed to drop tartar sauce on during a lunch out with us. The shirt had been a present to her from the LSO and myself and I didn’t want it to be wrecked. When the LSO returned it to her all he got was ‘oh good, SHE has washed it’ no name and no thank you.

Yesterday the AP was taken out for a few hours by a carer we have employed, who will also be helping her with the weekly shower as from next week. Her first words to her on arrival were that she has had a couple of bad days. My first reaction was one of surprise and I explained to our visitor what the problem has been. Lately the AP has complained that her left leg feels cold with sometimes a pain in the calf which appears to possibly be a pulled muscle but is most likely, simply the result of lack of activity and a slowing circulation. Inevitable at one hundred and one years old. Sadly we do make a meal of the least little thing trying to be the centre of attention and apparently wanting to be ill. The AP has no idea what a bad day really is, in health terms she has led a charmed life with very few illnesses and nothing hugely serious.

These small irritations do build up especially when the carer brings the AP back and we are told how marvellous and gracious she is and what a conversationalist. Really! Yes, I know it is to be expected, how could they possibly know the true situation but sometimes I just wish I could put these people in our shoes for a month or two for them to discover just how two-faced and hypocritical she can be. They see her for a few hours, we have her the rest of the time and she makes little effort with us. We are relieved when there is snooker or tennis on as she can only see the television screen in her room and we don’t have her sitting downstairs staring into space. We have heard the same stories over and over again which I suppose to anyone not seeing much of her must sound convincing. But the truth is most are now elaborated on or mixed up and often untrue, just made up to fill a gap in the memory.

During her time out she pretends to be in control and even eats things that she would never touch with us. Yesterday it was a brie and cranberry panini with salad, a panini, a crust with a little bread! Salad is usually looked at with horror and pushed around the plate. She won’t eat anything with us that she considers too chewy, crusts have to be cut off bread, vegetables mashed, she often won’t use her cutlery, picking her food up with her fingers and holds her head in one hand as if it is all too difficult to cope with especially if she has to chew a little. She also hides food in her napkin and rushes to the bin with it after the meal. I am sure she doesn’t do any of this when out with the carer and her husband and thus they have a completely false image of who the AP really is and although they will never know what she is really like it is very galling for us. We just get the rubbish.

Looking on the bright side.

Things are certainly changing for all of us. The AP is becoming dottier by the day and seems to be retreating into her own little world. We have had her getting ready to go to appointments on days when there are none, mixing up times and places and then making up stories to fill the gaps in her memory. Lately she has started to eat her food with her fingers and holds her head in one hand as if it is too much effort to lift it up all of which infuriates the LSO but she only does it with us. If we have visitors or are out for a meal she uses her knife and fork.

Yesterday she announced that Serena Williams was Venus Williams mother and further more it must be true because they showed pictures on the TV to prove it. We explained they were sisters and far too young to have grown up children but what do we know! I guess all of this is normal in someone of such a great age in fact we are lucky it isn’t worse. Although it is quite difficult to be wholly positive when trapped in this alternative reality both the LSO and myself fight not to become too down or despondent as time slides by at a snail’s pace.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, the plants in the greenhouses are flourishing and I am making cucumber relish for the first time. Years ago we used to buy a Dutch version of this relish then it just vanished never to be found again so I am hoping that this homemade version will be a good replacement. The warm and sunny weather has encouraged good growth and this year our fig tree is bearing many fruits and those will be a joy to eat. At this point the LSO points out that the lawns and hedges are also growing at speed, but I guess, looking on the bright side, we do have some good things to look forward to.