NERVOUS MOTHER, BROTHER CHOMPING at the bit. Relax, people, he’s coming to do a benefits check. He’s on our side. He arrives, the nice man from the Elderly Association and goes through what he needs to with charm and more than just politeness. Despite the genteel and comfortable surroundings, he can tell we’ve been through the wringer recently.
It’s concluded, and as it happens, we ‘piggy-back’ other questions and issues throughout – and he’s genuinely helpful. Then the social worker phones to maintain contact with mother directly, and things get a bit confusing but she asks to speak to me and we finish all the details we need to.
With our new contact gone, we sort of bimble. I can tell that they’re new to such intrusions, no matter how well such things go. Forms filled in and everyone kind of happy, mother declares to the two of us that she’s grateful for the support that we gave her today. Not quite a group hug situation, but close enough.
I leave and contemplate how far she’s come.
From a steadfastly stubborn wanting her husband to come home – backed up by my brother – she’s gone through empathetic pitying of my father to realising that his needs are too great for the home environment, that he needs more. Through this, she also has moments where she simply is in the moment and understands that her needs are also growing… that the time will come when she, too, will be…
And this is one of the things I have been trying to achieve throughout my increasing involvement. While she’s still as able as she is, I have wanted her to feel safe and to see that when the time comes – not if – then she will be worked for and cared for (in the practical sense, not the sentimental) as I have been demonstrating for my father. Somehow, I feel that at some point in the future, she will look at me and say simply,
“It’s time,” and then she will surrender the last of her slipping grasp on reality and float into whatever floaty world those with decreasing faculties float to; and all I will be able to do at that point will be to hope that her floaty world will be kind to her in the way this one hasn’t. It will be her penultimate refuge before the big sleep, and it will be up to me – in conjunction with others – to place her in her own sanctuary in this world.
Will my father be alive still? I have no idea. All I know is that because this is happening when it is, and due to my parents’ similar ages, it’s not going to be so much of a… so…
It’s not going to be so messed up, frankly. It’s my fault, the way this has all gone. If I hadn’t been so wrapped up in my own stuff, I would have seen their descent into hellishness and acted sooner. Maybe, though, it had to happen this way. Perhaps it had to be as it has so that we would all learn from it… so that we would go through all the emotions and internal tribulations we have, and learn not to blame anyone, but simply to roll up our sleeves, look at the shattered mess around us and declare, ‘right, we need a plan to clear this up.’
There’s been no strife, mercifully.
I nearly shouted a few times, but realised that it was my own guilt talking. So I swallowed it. Yes, brother told me I could have been better at phoning but when I told him why I’d rather leave it to him, he saw I meant it and it was genuine. It’s been the near constant nudging that I’ve done. A nudge in private to the social worker here, a tap to the CPN there… suggesting this to mother in long conversations on the buses home (though forgotten, I knew they went in and were paid attention to), gently stating that to my brother when we got home. Four weeks and I had effectively taken over the situation. A week and a couple of contacts for every worker to get used to me, then… push ahead. Push ahead, even with the full blessing and confidence of my sisters living elsewhere. None of this will happen to my mother. Not in this way. Not with so much trauma.
How I’ve managed to get this all done without alienating anyone and causing strife, I’m not sure… I was furious at the start that I did not know how bad things were. Things had been going on for ages that no one had told me about – they were keeping it between themselves at the house, and my sisters did bugger all to alert me to any of it. When I finally got myself involved, I realised that I was surrounded by people who were behaving as if they had never been in a crisis before… a crisis which meant that they needed to get support and help; and to scream until it arrived.
I didn’t chide or lecture: I just rolled up my sleeves and got on with it – with the nudging and whatnot. The funny thing is that I don’t feel like I’ve taken on anything in particular. Overall, the effort was in getting everyone to agree that the situation was heading for catastrophe and letting agencies take over. Give them their feedback and instructions and let them get on with things.
The emotions, though. Even if I’d had a step-by-step diary or blog or manual, the emotions… talking with a friend going through the same, he admitted that nothing does prepare one for it all. If someone had sat on my chest and looked me in the eye, said, ‘you will feel THIS at THAT point: it is how it happens,’ I would not have believed it… despite knowing now that it is true.
The truest thing is that it simply does not end, once it has started. Okay, once we get father into nursing care, there’s the paying for it…
That’s a whole other story.