Slowly, I am learning, on this journey with my parents, that you really do know when you’ve been given the best advice. People will offer their opinion, or life experiences, but it might not always resonate with you. Everybody’s view is different and that’s okay. I’m learning to listen when I feel my heart kick in, as I know this is the advice that is teaching me coping mechanisms.
Last week, my Aunty Livvy told my parents that she and Uncle Brian were travelling down from Surrey to visit them. Although not family, I’ve always called them Aunty and Uncle. Aunty Livvy had met my Dad at Teacher Training College, many moons ago. They’ve been friends ever since. It suddenly occurred to me that Aunty Livvy did not know the real picture, regarding my parents. She was relying on false information, fed to her from my Mum. I thought it best to ring her to explain the situation. She didn’t seem at all surprised. She had guessed something was amiss when my Mum had phoned her, last July, to tell her Dad had fallen down the stairs. (Yes, he did fall down the stairs, but only as a result of a major stroke on the landing). Aunty Livvy said that she’d guessed Mum was being over positive and playing down a serious situation. I will never forget her words to me last week, “Sophie, we are all in our late seventies and have lived good lives. You must not put your life on hold for this. You, Clive and your children matter too.” My close friends will tell you that guilt is an emotion I feel most intensely. Guilt is an ugly and destructive emotion. I never want to feel guilty for thinking I could have done more for my parents. They’ve had to live through the sadness of losing my brother, Sacha, to cancer. But they’d be the first to say they’ve had a good life. I’m a firm believer that when people are dealt cruel cards in life, they make the most positive and generous people, as they know to appreciate the good times. This is so true of my Mum and Dad.
At risk of repeating myself from earlier blogs, I cannot shake the sadness I feel with my Dad’s situation. I’m trying, but I’m struggling with it. My Dad was always life and soul of the party. Constantly making sure people were smiling. My frail Dad, today, makes me feel sad. I really have accepted Mum’s deterioration, as I’ve had a few years to deal with it.
During these last 11 months, I really have had to grow up. My Dad was Mum’s unofficial Carer until that day, last July, when life took a new turn. Dementia has the potential to cause so much devastation to families. But I’m slowly beginning to realise that my Dad, my hero, would only ever want his daughter to be the mad March hare she has always been. I’m desperately trying to hold on to this. My hubby has put up with me for 33 years, and has always referred to me as his “third, and problem child.” I need to get back to being this stupid person. She’s my familiar. I know that my Dad would be the first person to say that his situation should not change me. When he lived through his Mum having Dementia, I never lost my Dad, his humour, his effervescence.
I know I did the right thing returning to work in January. It has given me back my identity. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed the job, until I was back in my role. Work offers me distraction, and I make sure I keep my day as busy and focussed as possible. However, this week of school holiday has allowed me to see just how much my Dad has deteriorated since January. Having spent so much time with him last year, I was able to see changes. Now I’m back at work, I don’t always see the changes, due to busy life and distractions. It’s fair to say, that this week has really opened my eyes to the extent of his deterioration.
On Thursday, my Mum had a hair appointment for a cut and colour. I knew I had at least two and a half hours with my Dad, on my own. These times are so precious to me. I’ve learnt to love cutting his hair. It’s the one moment that nobody can steal from us. Through the Alzheimer’s society, I’d arranged for the fire service to come and do a safety check on their house. When the man arrived, I was still cutting Dad’s hair. I asked him if he minded if I carry on whilst he checked the house. He asked me if I could cut his hair afterwards. No chance!! Haha! The visit just offered me a little more peace of mind, in terms of their surroundings. (Although, I’ll still worry).
Lynsey is my parents’ new cleaner and she has quickly become a treasured visitor to my parents’ house. I’m so grateful for all she does. She was also there that morning. My Dad is so relaxed in her company, it’s lovely to see. Recently, my Dad really wasn’t himself whilst she was there. He’d been crying to her and saying he didn’t feel well. Without Lynsey being there, my Mum would not have contacted me, as she would have been unconcerned. Dad is very vulnerable under Mum’s fragile watch. Dad had asked Lynsey to ring the surgery and “ring Soph, as she’d know what to do.” Lynsey phoned my school, and my lovely boss sent me home. She was right, Dad was really not good. I suspected a TIA. After a visit to the Doctor, they said it could have been a TIA or just complete exhaustion. I’m so grateful for people in my parents’ lives. Lynsey is most definitely one of these people xxx
After the man from the fire service and Lynsey had gone, my Dad began to fret about Mum. He was so anxious. He was putting on his coat and trying to leave the house. Eventually, I had to drive him down to the salon, so he could see where Mum was. On the way down, he opened the car door and tried to get out. These moments are scary, as he cannot see danger. I quickly found a car space, and walked him to the salon. Once he saw Mum, his whole persona changed. He slumped in the chair and just watched, silently, as she had her hair dried. It was this moment that I realised that although it’s so important for Dad to have space from Mum to rest, it’s also important to accept that, after 55 years of marriage, they need to be together. (Regardless of Mum’s energy being detrimental to Dad’s health). My daughter’s words that night… “I think this shows us how important it is that we keep them together, despite it being bad for Dandan’s wellbeing” really did ring true to me. Hopes of day care for Dad may be too optimistic, when they’re bound together so tightly.
A good friend, Grace, sent me a quote saying “If you stress too much about something before it happens, you basically put yourself through it twice.” I’m sure others will identify with this. Why put ourselves through it? Why stress over the future, when the present is here to be appreciated?
Again, as always, I make sure I find humour where I can. Now my Mum is 78, she has decided to become a ‘silver surfer!’ … “Soph, can you order me an iPad?!” … Oh dear! Bugs, Hats, Lou, Al and I are all dreading being asked to teach my Mum how to use the Internet! With all the verbal abuse she gives me, it certainly won’t be yours truly!! If I ever receive a friend request from my Mum, I vow to a life of Faceache abstinence!!
My firstborn suggested I upcycle a mirror in my living room. Within half an hour of her suggestion, I’d dragged my hubby to a shop to choose chalk paint. This mirror has become a running joke Chez Madhouse. I’ve painted it, stripped it, painted it another colour, stripped it. Painted it another colour … From this, it is clear that I’m unable to make life changing decisions! I have, however, developed a close relationship with my electric sander! Rosie, my son’s girlfriend, said I’ve got to pay homage to my mirror in this ramble. Haha!… Mirror, mirror, on the wall, oh how perfect you were before. Bugger off Hats! 😉 xxx
One of my parents’ Carers left yesterday. She happened to be their favourite. Such a lovely person. She’s going to be a psychiatric nurse. As she took Mum on their last shopping trip together yesterday, I was hoping my Mum would buy her a leaving gift. When they both arrived home to Dad and I, I spotted the red gerberas that Mum had bought. I’d hoped they were for the Carer. As she left, Mum handed her a bag of tangerines! Oh dear! Pour me that gin!