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.

Welcome to the machine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking on the bright side.

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

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

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

The importance of gin.

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.

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.