All my life, my parents have told me that I have “broad shoulders.” (Not in the physical sense of the words). I think this expression has certainly impacted on my life. My current batten down the hatches approach is familiar. Without going into detail, I had to grow up quickly at the age of 11. It’s my sister’s story to tell, not mine. Although, at the time, I hated every minute of it. I see it now as quite a blessing, as this drive and focus is going to help me power through. My parents have provided me with great tools for life, I’m eternally grateful for the love and encouragement they’ve always provided.
I’m starting yesterday at the end of the day. It makes no chronological sense, but my Dad can no longer process chronological order, so this seems acceptable for me to do so. My Hats had been private enabling straight after work. She takes a pupil from their school out once a week with her friend. She phoned me at 8pm, and said that someone had driven into her car at work. She felt so sorry for this person. She told me how she’d reassured the woman and told her it will be fixed. My daughter’s philosophy on life is amazing. After finishing the call to Hats, I sat on the sofa, looked over to Bugsy and my Mum watching television together. Again, I can’t tell you what they were watching, I can’t seem to focus on things like that right now. I logged onto Facebook to see how the world looked…… Well the Facebook world at least! No sooner had I done so, Lou arrived home. We heard his car arrive, and then a crash, and then “Fuck it, Fuck it!!!!!!” Poor Lou, he was tired after a long day of work and commuting. He’d hit our wall by our front door. He was completely mortified. His original train had been cancelled, so his 9pm return was ridiculously late, bearing in mind he’d left home at 6.45am. He was totally exhausted. Knowing he had to be up at 5.50am the following morning, to catch the train to London, for work. This hit to his beloved car was the final straw. I hate seeing Lou’s world crash before him. He’s so driven, so determined. Last night, as he lay on his bed, everything was too much for him. Bugs and I left my Mum downstairs and leapt into our normal action in these moments; Bugsy the practical support, straight outside to review the damage. Me, the emotional support, stroking his hair and talking him through it. This team seems to always leap into this familiar action, without prompt. Both my kids had damage caused to their car on the same day, but their approach to this was so different. I know that Lou was angry with himself. The Leo in him gives him such a pride. His pride was hurt and he couldn’t cope with it. Cars can be fixed, life can not always be. Eventually, we got him to see that it was unfortunate and a real shame, but it was totally fixable. He’s on the train now, heading for London. I’m hoping he can see today as a new day.
I was just sorting some washing out yesterday lunchtime, when the phone went. It was the Residential Home. When I answered it, a familiar voice “Oh, it’s my daughter, Soph, she’s there.” It was so lovely to hear my Dad’s voice. He no longer can dial a phone, he can’t make sense of the numbers and sequencing. He’d obviously asked the home to ring me. He sounded very anxious. He said “Yesterday, you were writing a poem and I never asked you about it. I’m so sorry. I was worried you wouldn’t speak to me again.” He sounded so muddled, so vulnerable. Truth is, I would never have read him my poem anyway, because it wasn’t a happy one. I tend to write my poetry in times of difficulty. I always seem to get a creative flow when I’m being challenged by life. He then went on to say “I wanted to write Mum a letter to say goodbye, but I can no longer write, Soph.” I have to say, this one of the hardest calls I’ve ever had to take in my life. I was holding back tears, so my voice didn’t break. I reassured him that in 44 years I’ve never stopped talking to him! I told him that he didn’t need to goodbye to Mum, as he wasn’t going anywhere. I told him that Mum and I would be visiting him at 3pm. “Oh, Soph, really? That’s wonderful news.” We said goodbye. Cue the Sophster total meltdown!!
All my life, during difficult times, I’ve always phoned my parents to let off steam and cry. They provided me with a lifetime of unconditional love and support. The harsh reality that I no longer have this lifeline cuts very deep. The shift in roles has hit me like a tonne of bricks. But it’s my new life, another chapter. I need to stay focused. This double dose of brain decay in my amazing parents, has the potential to break me, but I won’t allow it to. They need my strength, not my weakness.
As I was driving Mum and I to the home, Mum seemed to be remembering events from her driving assessment. We were on the very same road and it seemed to be jogging her tired memory. “This was where I met a row of cars on my test. I was patiently following them. Cars were overtaking me and the row in front.” I swear this driving assessment will never leave me! She then went on to say how angry she was that “the dreadful man” took away her right to drive. He’s not a dreadful man, he’s a very funny man, who is very good at his job! I was firm, once again, and told her to lay it to rest. Fuel to the fire. She was shouting at me, telling me she should never have had the test in the first place. I was tired, I was tested, I fought back. I told her that her driving had been dangerous for two years, or more. I find the repetitive conversations with my Mum exhausting. She then said that Dad will hopefully be able to drive again one day. So here I am driving, and having to explain, yet again, the devastation of the stroke to my poor Dad’s brain. This conversation is repeated almost daily, but she just can’t hold it. I now say it in autopilot “Dad’s brain was starved of food and nutrients during his stroke. In this time, the fire in his brain caused extensive damage to important parts. Cells were destroyed. They’re unable to regenerate. As sad as it is, this is Dad’s reality now.” I’m tired of repeating myself to a woman who believes she is well, but her brain is playing horrible tricks on her. Every time I repeat this rhetoric, it serves to only consolidate my sadness.
When we got to the home, Dad was sat in the lounge with other residents. He looked relaxed. He was so pleased to see us. He took us up to his room and I showed Mum the photos I’d put around the place. His Occupational Therapist had suggested to the Manager, that they could put a board up for Dad with days of the week etc. Today, the board was up. It must have been very hard for Mum to see his belongings in this unfamiliar room. I suggested a walk to show Mum the beautiful surroundings, they both agreed. As we walked up the lane, their arms were entwined, once again. The sun was out and I was looking at all the pretty colours in my Mum’s hair. She has lovely hair for her age. I’m always telling her that.
Dad said, “I’m so glad you’re here, Mary, I wanted to write you a letter, but I couldn’t.” Heartbreaking to hear this again. Mum told him he didn’t need to write her a letter. He then said “Will you visit me often then?”… Mum was hard and abrupt in her reply, “You’re not staying here, Derek, this is NOT your home.” I couldn’t speak, I just walked behind, broken.
Dad and I always have the ability to find a cat somewhere. Suddenly this gorgeous little cat jumped into our path. Cats are my therapy and right now this cat was a perfect distraction. She was weaving in and out of Dad’s legs. She was heavenly. Dad said he’d met her earlier that day, when out for a walk with one of the Carers. I thought as much, I could see that Dad had already met this beautiful cat goddess. A lady appeared and introduced herself as the Manager’s wife. She was so lovely. They live on site in a beautiful barn conversion, whilst her In-laws live in the main Residential Home. The family own it. Everyday I visit this home, I’m amazed by the magic of the place. She introduced the cat goddess as ‘Lily’, the 13 year old. Her Mum lives there too, and is 15 years old. Mum and daughter cat goddesses living in these beautiful surroundings… My mind was blown. So lovely. I was so happy to know that Dad had cats around him.
We went back into the home and sat in the lounge. A Staff member offered Mum and I drinks, Mum asked for a tea. It was such a lovely atmosphere. I’ve met a few of the staff now and they’re all so friendly and chirpy. I don’t doubt they have difficult days, but this home has such an incredible vibe about it. When I was searching for homes, my Key Worker threw names at me, but isn’t allowed to give an opinion of them. Reenie, a friend, had given me names too, but she’d not heard of this one. It was literally a case of me looking at the pictures and the reviews online, then making our visit there, that decided Dad would stay there. I literally cannot speak highly enough of this home. If anyone is in need of respite for a family member, please contact me so I can give you details of this place. It’s not a Nursing home, but a Retirement home. Dad’s week there is costing my parents £675, and it’s absolutely, money well spent.
The previous night, I’d phoned the home to see how Dad was. The lovely staff member told me that Dad had been telling them how his Mum used to sing. She said that Dad had said “I shall sing tomorrow evening to you all.” She asked me if Dad is used to singing to others. I told her absolutely not! This made me laugh. I can only remember my Grandma R singing by the piano, badly! I remember my Dad looking at me as if to say ‘She’s off again, Soph!’ But then, she may have been a good singer in her better days. Who knows? I certainly was not privy to any her dulcet tones! So, yesterday I asked my Dad if he was planning on entertaining the other residents with a song… “Absolutely not, Soph!”, came his reply. Thank goodness for that, I don’t think the Grade ll listed building could cope!