Every year, on my brother’s birthday, I take flowers for my parents. This year was an exception. I seem to find myself buying flowers for my Mum quite regularly these days. Yesterday, buying flowers seem to have less impact, so I refrained from doing so. The energy in my parents’ house is such a different one to the one I’m familiar with. I’m aware I use the word ‘familiar’ very often, but I know this is because I absolutely miss and crave my familiar. The flowers I buy my Mum allow me to create a sunny aspect to an otherwise heaviness.

With the sunshine filtering through the windows yesterday, I decided the best way to mark Sacha’s birthday was to take my parents to their beloved coast. Prior to Dad’s stroke, my parents would drive to the coast most afternoons, for a stroll and a coffee. Mum used to keep a running log of how many Westies they’d see. When I was working, they’d often take Evie along. I know that my dog has probably been in most coffee shops in East Devon during this time!

I took them to Seaton and the sea was extra calm. I couldn’t stop staring at it. Seaton is a special place to me. When my children were little, we’d fill the car with inflatables and head to the beach. Most people go to Sidmouth, I don’t like that place. Seaton has my heart. Normally, on a walk with my parents, my Dad would be chatting to everyone he saw. Yesterday, he was so quiet and pensive. I can only imagine his brain was a hive of activity and anxiety. Mum was chatting as usual. My Dad just seemed so totally lost and sad.

I have noticed that as my Dad is no longer the person to chat to everyone, I seem the need to take over his spot. I met this lovely old chap with two beautiful dogs. I spoke to him for ages about the discrimination towards dogs on the esplanade. Irresponsible dog owners causing responsible owners to be penalised for their carelessness. (It’s so frustrating that people who refuse to pick up their dog’s poo, create “dog ban” areas). After putting the world to rights with this lovely, old man, I realised how different life now is. I miss my Dad’s larger than life personality so much. He has always been so interested in other people. He’d talk to anyone. Now, he’s locked in this heavy world of anxiety and confusion.

We went to one of their usual haunts and sat outside for lunch. Sacha had not been spoken about so far that day. I commented what a sunny, September day it was for my brother’s birthday. Realisation of the day seem to hit my Mum…. “Oh dear little Sacha.” I think I needed to hear this, as I’d certainly elicited her response. It comforted me to feel some sort of ‘normal.’ She then talked about him for a while. My Dad just sat there, dazed.

Dad’s sight is such a concern for him. Nobody can understand the damage to his vision. How can we? Only Dad can know exactly how it feels. He asked me if a cataract operation would benefit him. His question highlighted just how desperate he is for a solution. Again, this goes back to the devastation a stroke can cause. I wish his problems could be solved by a cataract operation. Mum then took this up, “Derek,  it would be lovely to get your eyes sorted. It may allow you to drive by December.” I could see my Dad’s heart sink. He has no desires to drive again, he just wants a better quality of life to the one he’s experiencing right now. Our trip to the beach only served to show Mum what she is missing.

When we got home, Mum showed me a letter from the same friend who had suggested, during a phone call, that Mum has driving lessons. Again, this friend shall remain nameless. As I read the letter, my Mum had underlined the opening second paragraph… “I’m sure you could have some lessons, Mary, and take another driving test.” I really do not need a fan base for Mum’s desire to get on the road again!!!! Yes, I feel guilty for prompting the assessment, but I know it was, and is the right decision. I’ve not seen this particular friend of Mum’s for years, but I do wonder how her driving is?!!!!

When I got back to my house, I felt really washed out by everything, so I took my frustrations out on the hoover and cleaned the house. Lainie arrived at the door. I love how this woman completely understands me. She stood on the doorstep and said she wasn’t coming in, as she had frozen food in the car. She knows how much I hate tea and sympathy, and she gets really cross when she feels that other people fail to recognise this in me. Love her xxx We found each other when we were both having a difficult time in life. My children have never had a relationship with my sister, their Aunty. However, they consider Lainie and my faithful friend, me Julie, to be family. Ju is “Aunty Julie” and Lainie is their “Mummy Lainie.” Whilst Lainie had done everything to avoid putting me on the spot (“frozen food in the car”), her presence was really appreciated. It’s as if she knew I needed that hug. I was discussing with her a comment that another lovely friend, Gini, had said about how we change as we lose our parents. Lainie agreed with this, and said she’s not the same person she was before she lost her lovely Mum last year. I’m glad she has changed, because this new Lainie prioritises better these days, she’s not people pleasing so much. The new Lainie is stronger and will be making her Mum proud everyday xxxx

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