Wavering resolve.

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.

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.

That sinking feeling.

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.

An unreasonable sense of anger.

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?’

The old age rip-off.

The LSO and I finally have made a much needed visit to a Care Home near us. It has a five star rating and is spotlessly clean. Rooms are bright and clean, all with an en-suite and the meals do look pretty good and the menu is varied. Staff are thoroughly pleasant and the atmosphere is upbeat and all kinds of activities are arranged from light gardening, musical evenings and more as well as weekend outings for the most mobile of the residents. There is also a hairdresser who visits once a week and all situations are catered for but the cost for the AP would be £1050.00 per week. There are no grants available and she will have to fund this herself. It really is an eye opener as we, if we live long enough, will be entering the same rip off zone. Thank you Margaret Thatcher who introduced the whole idea of the ordinary man in the street buying his home to fund old age care. Indeed I have no doubt there are cheaper homes but I am also equally certain that the less you pay the less you get in every way. This particular home did not smell of mince and urine and indeed, there was no mince on the menu for that day.

It saddens me when I hear people complaining that the elderly are taking too much out of the NHS, that they are bed blockers in the hospital. Maybe in some instances this is true but it certainly isn’t true of the AP who has taken little out of the system and nor have we and all of us have worked throughout our lives up until retirement.

After our little excursion I felt a real sense of despondency because at the end of the day our visit was not successful. Yes, lovely Care Home in many ways but it was the sitting room that made us realise that we actually couldn’t put the AP there, not unless we were genuinely unable to cope with her living with us and not just fed up with her continual shadow hanging over our lives. Out of about thirty residents three maybe, exhibited a spark of life, it truly was God’s waiting room and I have no doubt they are all the same because the situation is just what it is.

The AP is now back from Scotland and my sense of gloom has not lifted, in fact if anything it is probably worse because I just feel there is nothing to look forward to, no light on the horizon and just a deteriorating situation that can only get worse. The fact that the LSO and myself have been fighting a strange virus hasn’t helped either. We have both had aches and pains that have moved around our bodies causing stress and discomfort and the AP, well she just continues to sail on like a galleon totally self orientated and unaware of anything but herself, making up stories and inventing situations that never happened. Visitors come and go and everyone remarks about how wonderful she is as she busks her way to glory until of course the visitors have left and we are left feeling empty and drained of emotion. She is a remarkably fit, very old woman due to the excellent and continual care she receives from us, and that is despite the moments of spleen and stupidity that we witness at intervals. The AP has made it abundantly clear that she does not want to go into a home and has agreed to accept help with her shower and personal care. So we are looking and hopefully will find some help out there that might just take some pressure off us too.

Few ever witness the true situation and no-one really has a clue how we have truly lost five years of our lives. They think she must be such a joy to look after but nothing could be further from the truth.

Feeling shellshocked.

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.