Turning the sound down.

During a video conversation with our family at the weekend we inevitably got around to how we were all coping with the current situation. For us it is an unwanted extension of the lifestyle we had to adopt looking after the AP and just as we had finally discovered some freedom. Our daughter was interesting about the effect the lockdown was having on her and the family. The grandchildren and the dog are fine, in fact Fizz has never been a more contented Jack Russell, loving having everyone there. Son-in-law would prefer to be at work and daughter says although she wants to get on with life again she is enjoying some aspects of it all, life is simpler despite having to home school the children but more importantly she says the white noise has gone.

Our son too has found much that is beneficial about working from home despite having a one year old child. He and his wife have found it extremely difficult at times but both say they would prefer to work more this way rather than return full time to the city.

Food for thought and interesting observations that I am sure will be affecting many others in this world. But she is right, the constant buzz that is the lot of a working mother is absolutely mind boggling from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to falling, exhausted into bed at the end of a long and busy day. White noise is an excellent description for it all.

When the children were younger and I too was a working mum, there was little time left to ponder and the pace was relentless. My only saving grace was being a teacher so I had the same holidays but for the LSO there was never that privilege. In fact holidays were a time when he would try to wind down during the first week then start to wind up again in the second, preparing to hurl himself back into the fray. I just felt I was constantly juggling a multitude of balls at any one time trying to catch the important ones and ignoring those that fell to the ground.

We have never had to live with anything like this before so maybe after all this is over or more settled there can be changes for the better to the way we all live our lives. It certainly would be good to have a choice.

For us, we have just got slower, in fact any slower and we would be in reverse and horizontal. It’s not unpleasant in truth but at our age we need a bit of white noise in our lives to keep us alive. I find myself definitely suffering from that good old manana syndrome, oh tomorrow will be fine, I’ll do whatever it is then!

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.

Bored already.

Today, I suddenly became overwhelmed by a sense of utter frustration as the LSO and I watched the news which as is the norm now, being dominated by the Coronavirus but not with anything particularly definite. Just a string of ‘what could happen’ without any idea of timings. The talk is that the over 70’s which inevitably includes us, will have to self isolate to avoid catching this bloody virus but when! Having been more or less in that position for over five years and having finally got over our sense of being institutionalised we are now facing crawling back into our shells for possibly up to four months.

I guess, in truth that’s a drop in the ocean for us and yes, we can do it. We have hobbies, the dogs and a lovely environment but it is just so very, very irritating and already I am bored at the prospect. Self motivation goes out of the window and that must not become a habit. We had plans to see the family over the Easter break and now that won’t be happening. We have just got back our freedom of movement and have been thoroughly enjoying exploring places again, eating out when we feel like it and doing things at a whim only to have it all curtailed again. At least with modern technology as well as FaceTime isolation isn’t total but I just hope the government are astute enough to organise things in a sensible way. Perhaps astute, sensible and politicians in one sentence are an oxymoron, time will tell. But truth be told we are not ready to depart this mortal coil as yet and we will follow sensible guidelines in order to hopefully avoid catching this virus.

It is mind boggling that there are some selfish members of our society who are stockpiling among other things, toilet rolls. Common sense should tell them that these things, if bought sensibly will continue to be available for all but no, the stupidity continues at an embarrassing rate. It’s nothing new though, we have seen all this before from petrol shortages because people were filling up cars to sit on their drives to panic buying of milk and bread. It really is all so unnecessary, people should stay calm and think more about others and less of themselves.

Well, on that note I think it’s time to get my knitting out, who knows, I may finally finish the sweater I started over a year ago.

Feeling disconcerted.

Suddenly all focus is on the latest global virus which has become an ever-expanding problem. I had not particularly worried about it at first because I guess having a mother still living at one hundred and one, soon to be one hundred and two, does give me a different perspective on the LSO and myself, certainly in terms of how old we are.

But with the general focus being on the vulnerable and the elderly I was quite shocked to find that we are in the latter group of people. Up until now I have never thought of myself as elderly and it has left be feeling somewhat disconcerted. But I suppose heading towards three quarters of a century is definitely in the zone. In fact with a history of chest problems and diabetes I am not only in the zone but actually at risk apparently. Goodness, how did that happen!

I then started taking more notice of news flashes and reading more about how to avoid infection, so we are armed with wipes and gel but not a mountain of toilet rolls! Panic buying does not come with the territory for me but being of a certain age means I do have a small stock of essentials in all the time. It’s an ingrained habit that comes from being a child in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when rationing was still around and even then I was aware of how little everyone had after WW2. Old habits just don’t go away.

It is probably why I find dieting so difficult. I resent giving up the things I really enjoy and for many years now we have had a pretty comfortable existence for which I am hugely grateful. The coming months will be a strange ride for everyone until this virus burns itself out. But I shall still continue dieting because more than ever I need to become non-diabetic again.

In search of willpower.

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.

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.

An unexpected reaction.

Well, the AP is now officially a resident in the care home. The LSO and myself are hugely relieved for a variety of reasons, not least that we have our freedom back but what I now feel has come as a real surprise. She is well looked after there and seems to be quite settled which is all good.

I thought I might feel an element of guilt because I was so pleased not to have her presence in our home and also to have our space back but instead I realised that the main emotion I was experiencing was anger at having lost more than five years of our lives in such a miserable way. I actively did not want to see the AP and found this a most disturbing feeling. We are still discovering that we can do just about what we want and it struck both the LSO and myself that because we have been so trapped for so long we had actually become institutionalised. But yesterday having discussed how I was feeling with a friend who understood our situation I woke up this morning feeling much more at peace and far less antagonistic towards the AP. That has to be a positive and I am determined that the LSO and myself will make the best of the time we now have.

I have set a deadline for a new eating regime to begin on Monday; we have a friend staying until Sunday and after that I will start to attempt to lose weight in earnest. I have come to the conclusion that because no diet is really sustainable in the long run I will mix and match, starting with the 16:8. I will still do low carb but include on non fast days, a little potato or rice, potatoes because I really miss them and rice only occasionally because it definitely improves the gut function. Not a strict Keto because I will become bored with that and give up. I need to have space to enjoy meals out and to discover my love of cooking again which after the pickiness of the AP took a real battering. A return to swimming is a must as well as walking the dogs now that the stifling temperatures have reduced.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be looking forward to the future and to finally realise that we have reached the light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t the train hurtling towards us.

A watershed.

There are few words that can describe the last six weeks. We have somehow weathered the AP’s childish attitude and tantrum that put her in hospital for sixteen days. After numerous blood tests, chest and stomach X-rays and finally a CT scan of her head there was found to be nothing wrong with her other than the fact she is a hundred and one years old and suffers from arthritis. Inevitably there has to be some degradation at her great age.

The vomiting, the inability to eat and finally the ‘EXCRUCIATING’ pain in her leg have all vanished. So what was it all about? Incredibly it would appear to be a perceived lack of attention from us and all in general that created this unstoppable hysteria. Needless to say she has done herself damage both mentally and physically but she seems to be happy enough after her first week in the home, getting lots of attention and with people around her. There have also been friends and family visiting most days which has eased the pressure on the LSO and myself. These are all plus points because the AP will be staying there, she is just too frail for us to care for her now and we need our time and space back.

We are now just starting to come down from what has been five and a half years of misery, of being utterly trapped with no personal space and no privacy. But the most interesting outcome of this whole sad business has been the knee jerk reaction from various ‘friends’. The minute the email went out saying that the AP is now in a care home having spent a couple of weeks in hospital, we had several responses from people wanting to rush over and inevitably expecting us to entertain them in our Irish B&B, they stay, we pay. Where were they all when we really needed help? When the LSO was seriously ill two years ago, did anyone offer to come and get the AP, take her with them for a short holiday to give us a rest and the LSO an opportunity to recuperate? No, of course not. They were all happy to use us as a staging post, an overnighter with full board included and apart from my cousin and his wife in Scotland there were no offers of any real help from anyone else. Now she is in a home and we don’t need help they are wanting to rush here having made little effort for years and all because she might be about to depart this mortal coil. What a sad state of affairs, at her age it could happen at any time.

Fortunately those who have made an effort over the years have given a more measured and thoughtful response. Some have commented on the need for us to find tranquility and others have emphasised the importance of making the most of our freedom and enjoying life together. There has also been the understanding that we have done so much above and beyond what was required and they are thankful we were prepared to do it. Actually sacrifice is more a word I would use since the LSO and myself have lost a large slab of years at a time when we couldn’t afford to lose them.

I probably sound to anyone reading this to be bitter and twisted but at the moment I am tired and emotional, still experiencing anxiety attacks and in need of a real rest and a break. Fortunately time is a great healer.

Hanging in there.

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.

The number four.

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.