Abbie was there when I got to my parents’ yesterday. I love the energy of the house when she’s around. She makes the house look so fresh and clean too. I spoke to her for a while, then we left her to it and I drove my parents to town.
I was really sceptical as to whether or not I should take Dad shopping. I had asked him and he’d agreed. I am very aware of the fact that my Dad does not enjoy seeing familiar faces. Gone is the bravado and the sharp wit. I know he struggles to let people see him broken. I struggle to see him broken. In fact, seeing him broken is bringing me many tears.
Mum is 78 tomorrow. My Dad has always made her feel special on her birthday. I told Mum that Dad and I would meet her at a coffee shop in half an hour. I know she loves dashing about the shops. I was determined to get a present for her, from my Dad. I took him into the local jewellers. Their friend works in there, but it was her day off. I was quite relieved she wasn’t there, as I was finding it hard yesterday to keep a lid on my emotions. I asked to look at some silver earrings I’d seen in the window. They were really pretty, with a purple drop. Mum’s all about the purples and mauves. These earrings were perfect. The lady said that my parents’ friend would be in on Wednesday and that she’d be sorry she missed Dad. I had a lump in my throat. I left the earrings behind, as the lady kindly said she’d wrap them up. Dad hadn’t really paid much attention to the earrings. Normally, my Dad would be in the thick of choosing just the right thing for Mum.
I find being in town really tricky. I’m wary of whom I might see. If I see anyone who knows me well, they’ll see straight through my invisible body armour. As we came out of the jewellers, a really close friend of Bugsy and mine was in our path. He immediately hugged me and said “Soph, you know where I am.” I kept my tears from coming. He then spoke to Dad. Dad had given his daughter private tutoring a few years ago. My Dad did recognise him, this made my heart happy.
I then suggested to Dad that we buy a card for him to give to Mum. As we walked into the card shop, I knew Dad did not have any idea of what card he would be looking for. This shopping trip was destroying me. I ushered him over to the female area of the rows of cards. Pointing at the wife section, I was doing all I could do encourage his brain to work. It wasn’t complying. Like me, cards mean everything to my parents. I’d rather receive a card, than any present. I keep every single card my kids and Clive have ever written me. My Dad has always loved writing cards and he’s famous for writing quotes from famous people inside. His favourite quotes being the words of Spike Milligan and Victor Borge. Hats’ partner, Alex, really enjoys these quotes. Al now makes it his right to do the same on Dad’s cards, I love him for this. Eventually, during our card search, I had to pick a card for Mum, as I was aware of Dad feeling overwhelmed by all the choices lining up before him.
We met Mum outside the coffee shop, entered, and took Dad right down to the back, on the comfortable chairs. Mum and I went to order cake and coffee. The whole time, I was apprehensive. My parents are known by many people in Honiton. Mainly due to the shop they owned after Dad retired from teaching. During those 8 years of owning the shop, my Dad’s hilarious billboards had made him quite well known around the town. Ordering the coffee, I was anxious that someone might approach Dad, expecting the usual Derek comedy repertoire. Luckily, my Dad wasn’t approached by anyone.
As we sat there looking out the window at life, I felt so sad. I couldn’t help it. These moments would normally be filled with chatter and laughs. My Dad was quiet and my Mum was calculating her monthly newspaper bill. My Mum had ordered Dad a latte. As he sat there, he said “I can’t cope with coffee these days, would you mind if I don’t drink this?.” Dad and I are so similar with caffeine. I had already contemplated if my choice of pumpkin spiced latte was the right decision. Dad and I have always been affected by caffeine and we both tend to avoid it. If I’m tired, coffee makes me feel ill, as the adrenaline kicks in and the body doesn’t want it to. I know this is how my Dad feels too.
I’ll never forget going to my friend, Jacqui’s house. She’d made a couple of cups of this coffee which was lovely, but very strong! She’s a coffee connoisseur, her coffee is certainly not Nescafé! As I arrived at King’s school to pick Lou up, I had Tinie Tempah blaring. Poor Lou. As he and his friend got in the car, his mate asked Lou if I’d been drinking!…. Only Jacqui’s coffee! Think Lou must have regretted inviting his mate home for dinner that evening. His Mum was having a private party! It took me ages to come down. I spent a couple of hours dancing to loud music, in the dining room of our old house, until the effects wore off! I remember Bugsy coming home from work, thinking ‘Oh shit! Look at the state of it!.’… Note to self, politely decline Jacosta’s coffee in future! 😉 xxx
After we’d eaten our cake. Mum wanted to go to the Cancer Research shop to see her Manager. (Mum’s worked there, as a volunteer, for years). She’s always worked one day per week. She hasn’t worked since Dad’s stroke, 10 weeks ago. As she was chatting to her Manager, the lady behind the till was talking to Dad. We’ve known her for years. She said “Come on, Derek, give me some stick please!.” Dad just couldn’t reply, so I told her she was saved from getting any stick for the day. This was so emotionally challenging. Dad’s always been about the banter, now his banter is very much history. Another familiar face said hello to Dad and I. He’s a lovely chap and was the local Mayor, years ago. He asked Dad if he was looking for an “Everton shirt.” Dad just smiled. Then the man said “No, it would be either Portsmouth or Southampton for you, wouldn’t it Derek?!.” I was stood beside my Dad, breaking. He’d obviously not heard about Dad’s stroke. The poor chap looked at me with my eyes full of tears, and gave me a look that he understood the sadness. This shopping trip had just about finished me.
Last night, it was just Bugsy and I sat at the table. He was talking and I was holding onto his every word. He said that although I am speaking to the relevant people about Dad’s mental health, I’m very much in denial. I am. Whilst I’m talking about it to the professional services, I cannot seem to accept that my Dad is mentally broken. I know I’m a strong person, who needs the big picture for clarity and vision. However, I’m having a real problem dealing with the fact that the stroke 10 weeks ago, has robbed my Dad of his charm, humour, knowledge and wisdom. I’m grateful his big heart remains intact. So grateful.
Last night, as I threw an empty tuna can in the recycling outside, my head collided with the brick wall. I cried and cried. Although my head did hurt, I have a high pain threshold. Bugsy knew he wasn’t cuddling me over a bumped head.