Spontaneity and freedom are not the only things we have lost during this pandemic. I was just sitting and thinking about the situation in general when I remembered a conversation with a friend and neighbour some weeks ago. It was about the importance of a hug. Hugging comes naturally to me, being a gesture of true liking, a silent communication which signifies warmth, affection, comfort, friendship and love.
This all started another train of thought. Where did this come from for me? My father always hugged me, my brother did too, as did numerous aunts, uncles and cousins but I have no memory of my mother hugging me but I was hugged by my maternal grandparents. I did spend a great deal of time with them during my young formative years and until she died when I was fifteen, my grandmother lived opposite us. Because the AP worked and my father worked shifts, I usually went to my grandparents after school and during the holidays.
I do remember hugging the AP when I was younger and definitely in later life but I suddenly realised that she never instigated a hug for just the sake of it. She was the receiver of hugs but never a giver of hugs. Except, of course, when she had been particularly nasty she would play ‘the give me a hug’ card which in the end was studiously ignored. That is not what a hug is about .
Is it significant? It certainly explains a great deal about the AP’s character and attitude; she has always expected people to come to her. Her desire to be the centre of attention still continues even in the care home where the AP still tries to play her silly little games.
Fortunately it no longer affects the LSO and myself; we are too removed from the situation now and because of the coronavirus cannot even visit her. A weekly phone call is endured by me rather than enjoyed but whatever the situation it has never affected the way I feel about hugging; there is no doubt the world is a better place after one.
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.
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.
This title sounds like a story from Sherlock Holmes but sadly the problem will not be solved as easily. My body is not responding to the low carb diet, I am not gaining weight but neither am I losing any. My glucose levels aren’t brilliant either so maybe the new drug isn’t working as well as it should or maybe it just needs to be a higher dosage.. it’s early days and my next set of tests are two months away. The LSO sent me the picture above which he called “Skinny Pole’ which is definitely not me. Funny B…. but you have to laugh.
Maybe I need to look at portion control and use a smaller plate for my meals, it’s certainly worth a try. I also am aware that this long, cold and wet winter is not helping. I hate mud so I am not walking the dogs with the LSO which is something I need to address but this little voice in my head says ‘when the weather improves’ but I have been listening to that voice for several months now.
The imposed institutionalisation as a result of being the AP’s carers is difficult to shake off and I am aware that I have become disinterested in a great deal that made my life tick before she came to live with us. Five and a half years of being trapped have taken a heavy toll. Her nastiness, vindictiveness and her cunning controlling ways have left a permanent scar that isn’t going away easily. The fact that we have to visit the AP in the care home has become a necessary chore and something the LSO and myself both dread. We never quite know what we will find when we get there, today she was in bed, in a deep sleep so we left her requested boxes of tissues and came home. There is no point in waking her as we have found to our cost in the past because all we are met with is confusion.
She will be one hundred and two years old on April 30th. Will she make it, who knows? She is just a bag of skin and bone, drifting in and out of a kind of dream world. It’s sad really because although she is well looked after she is just existing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Being cynical, I guess it’s in the care home’s interest to look after her well as it guarantees another week of fees which are going up in April a mighty 5.9% from £1070 to £1133 a week.
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.
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.
Certainly something is needed, a new body would help but unfortunately I know it is in fact just willpower I am lacking and at the moment I am having trouble finding any.
I am loving having our lives back and although I also know it is impossible to have back the past five and a half years I keep wanting to do all the things we couldn’t do then, immediately, especially enjoying meals out. This is definitely not conducive to weight loss and at the moment I haven’t gained any extra pounds but neither have I lost any and I am far too heavy.
This last week we have both been recovering from further bouts of illness with the LSO catching a really nasty and lingering cold. I cannot remember the last time he had one but it seems as if we have both relaxed and perhaps we have allowed ourselves the luxury of being unwell. We decided to have a few days away in the Lincolnshire Wolds, taking the dogs with us, partly because we needed a change of scenery but mostly because we could and it was an extremely pleasant experience. We both relaxed and enjoyed the peace and lack of pressure and have returned home in a much more positive frame of mind.
Unfortunately we did have to visit the AP which is always an effort. We sit there listening to her continual stories and moans trying to make some kind of conversation but it truly is a lost cause. She is utterly wrapped up in herself and has become extremely rude and condescending about the other residents. Even in the home she tries to control us demanding that we get things for her when all she has to do is ask a care assistant. Frustrated that she is now out of the loop she makes ridiculous statements but we just nod sagely and head for the door and freedom.
A friend of mine told me that her cousin, who had been in a similar situation to the LSO and myself, struggled with feelings of guilt when her mother died, but only because she didn’t feel guilty about the loss, just relief. I can relate to that completely and do not want to even visit the AP in the Care Home, I actually feel resentful that this manipulative and divisive woman is still able to steal some more of our time. But those are fruitless thoughts and need to be extinguished, I am not like my mother and do not wish to become anything like her; in fact I can think of nothing worse.
But I do need to be more disciplined with eating and drinking in order to lose weight so its back to the daily tracker for starters.
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.
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.
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.