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.
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.
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?’
Maybe I feel like this more than I realise these days. We are almost a week into our twenty-eight day break from the AP and it has been a glorious relief to be free from the tensions and the manipulation.
Then just as we are truly beginning to relax and enjoy our space and our time together we get a call from my cousin to say the AP has had to visit the hospital because her leg has swollen up. An ultrasound has revealed a clot in her groin and that her kidneys aren’t too good but at almost one hundred and one years old its to be expected. But she isn’t so ill that they needed to keep her in overnight and she returns for further tests on Wednesday.
But none of this is what has left me feeling the way I do. No, it was the conversation I had with my cousin that left me reeling a little. Apparently the AP who has resisted all attempts to even look at a care home just for emergency purposes down with us has been hinting that she could go into one in Scotland near them. I also heard from a friend down here that she had told them that her nephew wanted her to live with them but I didn’t want that. News to me!
So how has this left me feeling? Hurt that we have lost five years coping with this difficult and selfish old woman, who at a manipulative whim thinks she can just up sticks and depart? Sad that she obviously feels that all our efforts have been a total waste of time and have been utterly unappreciated? Angry that she is so devious and controlling? Well, I guess all of these things.
But at the end of the day anything can be arranged. I can handle all of her affairs from here and my cousin and his wife can visit her in a home up there. If it all comes to pass it will probably be the last I will see of her. The drive up there is only something to be done once or twice a year. Would I be happy with that? If it’s what the AP wants I have to be, sad, but at the end of the day what does any of it matter. I don’t really know what I feel about any of this and cannot understand why she feels the need to play these games with everyone’s emotions. Maybe it is all just part of being so old, so out of control of your own life and in need of finding a way to simply feel wanted. But in truth if that is the case all she had to do when she came to live with us five years ago was accept what we had to offer and to relax and enjoy life.
In the meanwhile we are visiting a Care Home near us later next week.
Its strange how things happen in life and although I would like to think there is a purpose to everything I realise as I get older that often most happenings are random events. It is best not to read too much into any occurrence or from what people say or what they do.
Many, many times over the last four and a half years I have woken in the night and wondered why we made the decision to have the AP to live with us. What possessed us to take someone who is so domineering, who can be so utterly unpleasant and who has become a stranger to us, into our home and our lives?
The more I dwell on it the less I know so after a great deal of thought I have made the momentous decision not to question our act of sheer stupidity anymore. I am going to look at each day that comes as a step forward and I am not going to look back. As it is, I have now developed strategies to prevent the AP controlling, bully or irritating me which has made a huge difference to my health and well being. Although in the midst of saying all this, part of me will never come to terms that my own mother would try to subjugate me and destroy my marriage. Why would you want to do that to your daughter? It’s unbelievable that every now and then she still tries to gain some control over both of us and in particular, me. In one respect because we are stuck here having to be her carers, she actually does have the ultimate control. We have no freedom, no personal space and no privacy. You would have thought all that would be enough!
Indeed on that rather sad note I realise that the LSO and I need to get some pleasure out of the life we have together, to experience joy in living however small, even given the restrictions of having to look after the AP. We are both remarkably fit for our age and need to give thanks for that because compared to many we are lucky. It’s just finding ways to do it.
I also really do need to find some space to do the right things to move my diet forward too. At the moment I am still on a plateau moving neither up nor down which in itself is a reflection of our lives. I know that things can’t go on forever, that situations are always changing even if sometimes only slightly. We have visitors coming to stay at the weekend which will bring on a load of gushing and pretence from the AP but after that I must do some serious planning.
This part of the year can be a bit depressing being generally cold and often grey and gloomy so it is even more important to be strong, go with the flow and keep moving in the right direction in every aspect of our lives.
Seven 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.