On this chilly Autumn evening, the fire in our sitting room offered the comforting glow of the deepest orange. The warm blanket of heat, in our sitting room, hugged my Partner and I as we watched some of our favourite tv shows. All the while, our dogs; Oscar and Digby, lay on their beds in front of the fire. Digby; on his back, with his paws in the air and Oscar; neatly curled and nestled into the fluffy edge of his bed. Aside from the tv, the only light being that of a tall Church candle atop a tall iron candlestick, flickering occasionally and providing a subtle shadow-show as the flame sought our attention.
We took some time out, at various points in the day, to reflect on our week and to agree a few plans for forthcoming events and activities. I slept in late and found half of my day had already gone, by the time I awoke. This is one of the hazards of my chronic illness; staying awake late, getting little sleep and then struggling in the mornings.
That was my norm, as a teenager, but nowadays it is more of a nuisance. Here I sit, somewhat bleary eyed, at 4am writing this Blog post! Anyway, we also managed to fit some time in to visit our parents and pick up a little shopping. My Mum’s hand, which she had rather deeply cut several days ago, is now healing well. I am relieved. This is my Mum, taken thirteen years ago, in 2003:
My Mum has a condition called Frontal Lobe Neuropathy. She developed it at around age sixty; minimally at first, but gradually increasing. This affects her mobility and coordination, above all. She is housebound but can come out, if we push her in her wheelchair. At home, she can get around with the support of a walking frame (Zimmer) and she manages a little housework each day. My Mum’s personality has been affected by her condition, but only subtly. She is much the same character, but her ability to make decisions, to opt for a preference, to do things spontaneously, to communicate as eloquently as she used to and her self-confidence in social situations have all been affected. She can often create either laughter or varying degrees of astonishment in the company of others, for things she would previously have not said, due to being aware of social boundaries, can instead come flying our of her mouth! It makes me chuckle just thinking of that. My mum in 2016:
In spite of these difficulties, I have huge respect for my Mum. To this day, at age seventy-one, she can still find the perfect words of support, guidance and wisdom whenever I need them. She has always been so good at that. Here’s a recent photo, taken earlier this year, 2016, of her with me, my Cousin Debbie (daughter of my Mum’s late eldest brother, Brian) and Debbie’s son, Alex, at my Mum’s bungalow:
I am a Carer for my Mum; as is my Partner. We visit her together no less than once per fortnight, but I visit her two or three times per week and I do what I can, with my own disabilities putting limits on that at times. Most importantly, the social contact she gets is the most significant aspect of our time together. Not being able to get out on her own means that she now has only minimal interaction with other people, these days. I take time to have a lunch with her, a cup of tea and a chat and if we go to see her later in the day, she’ll sometimes enjoy a glass of wine or three. My Mum will sit at her round, pine dining table and will hold court for a couple of hours; peering over her spectacles at me when offering me serious thoughts and feedback and we reminisce and also talk about politics, current affairs, family updates and I bring news of the latest goings on in my life. My Mum in 2010, peering over her specs.:
For a woman who was a Hotel Manager and Inn Keeper, which was a life of constant interaction with people, she is now in the bizarre position of potential social isolation; made all the harder when my Mum’s best friend passed away a few years ago.
My Mum in 2015:
My Mum’s friend was a constant voice on the end of the phone and the two would chat and chuckle for hours. Another close contact was my Mum’s eldest brother, who passed away in 2015. So, for my Mum, her later years have been a challenge, due to illness, and increasingly lonely, due to her peers dying. This is an issue affecting thousands upon thousands of older people, these days. Social isolation is a massive trigger for depression for so many people and I am just lucky that my Mum has always been content in her own company; though happiest when in the company of others.
I am at a point in my life when I know that my Mum’s time on plant Earth is gradually closing in. I hope she goes on for decades but, these days, her bad or challenging days are sometimes increasing and other times they are just increasingly bad. It is both sad and challenging to see your parent become older and face struggles. My Dad passed away when I was thirty years of age, back in 2002. He had Pancreatic Cancer and within six weeks of being diagnosed, he was gone. That’s another story, but my main point here is just how different that was; due to the incredible speed of his decline. My Mum’s deterioration is a slower decline and so I just hope for more days where she feels stronger, more able and that she gets to do nice things and enjoy life. She comes to stay with us, in our centuries old little cottage, several times per year. We are only a fifteen minute drive away from her own home and so distance is not a barrier, as it can be in some families.