Week Nineteen

Harvesting vegetables with Nana in her garden

It is now two months later. There has been so much happening, but life is very different without Pat to visit and Mum to care for at home daily. I see Mum roughly twice a week at the moment and we either go out or come to the house and enjoy the garden. Conor enjoys Nana’s visits and is always reluctant to let her go home again at the end of the day. She is equally reluctant to go.

I had a party for Mum’s birthday, whilst Debbie was here, so that family and friends could see them both at the same time. Mum’s sister and one of her daughters came, as did Mum’s faithful friends from school days. It was hard to know whether Mum recognised Debbie or not. Mum is still very good at pretending that she knows what is going on. Debbie last saw her in November, when Mum was still with me, but Mum has deteriorated quite a lot since then.

Last week Mum’s cough was bad again. When I got to Broad Glade, she looked so happy to see me. We hugged, prayed and wept together. Broad Glade had phoned the doctors and they had refused to come out apparently.

She was in much distress, crying and shouting at her cough, “Stop it! Please, stop it!” and after an hour at my house I had two wet chairs.

I took her to the GP myself and was surprised that they have resolved to stop looking for the cause of the chronic cough. I think Mum aggravates it by not actually coughing anything up – because it disgusts her. They have referred her for some physiotherapy, which I will go along to, and which will hopefully release the phlegm and get it out. I expect it will be similar massage as I used to do for a boy at school with cystic fibrosis.

I gave Mum a shower, washed and blow-dried her hair and plucked her beard. She was enjoying the pampering and seemed to need it. Fortunately I had some clean clothes for her here still and I will keep the ones I changed for next time.

It was noticeably much more difficult for Mum to climb the stairs. Her co-ordination was as wobbly as her confidence. Half way up the stairs, I had one of those “Why?” moments, with a “Never again” trailing closely behind. We did get upstairs, with great rejoicing. Coming down again was even scarier. I was out of my depth and trusting in God alone to accomplish this.

I have to feed her all of her drinks and food now. She can hold the cup, when you have balanced it properly in her hands and if she has drunk half of it already. If I give her a sandwich or cake, she cannot eat it without constant prompts and still has difficulty getting it to her mouth. If I feed her, I am like a mother with a baby again, coaxing with my mouth open and saying “Aaahh…” Mammy giggles, opens and eats, looking surprised at the food. She is not losing any weight though.

I am going to fetch her again now and go for a good walk.

***

Well, her cough is a little better, but the staff at Broad Glade are still very disturbed by it and reckon that ‘more residents than ever’ are suffering from chest infections. They clearly think it’s Mum’s fault. They don’t hold out much hope for the physiotherapy either. They think she just won’t be able to respond. I continue to hope.

She started to cry again when she saw me (can’t blame her there) and hugged me very tight. As we reversed into my drive, she said, “Home again. At last!” and I feel so guilty. We walked down to the new local café for a coffee and muffin. I don’t know how many times she said, “Oh, this is lovely!” in response to the fresh breeze. She also kept smiling at my face and said how lovely I am. Of course, I replied, I am your daughter. In the café she initiated a conversation by asking me if I get bored. I never do, but she does.

We then took Conor to a large local park area, which Mum seemed to be enjoying so much, that I decided to leave Conor to play with his friends, whilst Mum and I went exploring. It was another bad idea. I was not familiar with the route and, at one point, the path was very narrow and steep and Mum couldn’t stay on the path. I decided that we should carry on, rather than go back, but the way became even trickier. We crossed a disused railway and after walking what seemed like a full circle, Mum started to get distracted and confused. She was looking at the wild flowers on the path, saying that they were all hers and that someone had stolen them from her…She was becoming cross and stubborn and we had come to what looked like a dead end. I all but dragged her through the overgrown hedgerows back into the field and she was in a really bad mood by then. I tried to explain that the wild flowers belonged to the countryside and that nobody had stolen her flowers, but she didn’t believe me.

I was relieved to see the car park again and Mum seemed glad to be back in the car. I left Conor to play some more and I took Mum straight back to Broad Glade. She was very red-cheeked and sullen, but gave me a big hug and told me to be good.

Life is about to change again for me. I have been offered a job-share in a Year One class in a school. I know it is the right job, but am a bit nervous about all the work involved again. The staff seem great though and I’m glad I’ve got time to do plans, meet the children and get to know the ropes in relative ease before the summer holidays.

***

Today I went to meet the manager at Broad Glade, mainly to discuss finance. She made a suggestion:- that I change Mum’s doctor to a city council GP and then she can have access to some new dementia support, which looks rather good. I’m sure the county council will catch on to it in time, but, as she said, much of the provision can depend on a post-code lottery. I’ll definitely look into it, because my doctors here are great for us, but they don’t like doing visits to Mum.

I went in to see Mum too. I took the lid off her beaker and let her enjoy her coffee properly (she still hates the toddler-beaker) and then we put on raincoats and went walking. She was so happy to be out and was squeezing my hand to say thank you. She walked well today, with power and good balance and pace. Her face registers immense pleasure as the wind blows over her and wipes the cobwebs and cares away. She repeatedly asked after the boys and we were able to converse. I hadn’t learned my lesson from Tuesday though and took Mum down two unfamiliar alleyways, simply out of curiosity. I thought Mum was going to get into a strop again, but she was happy to touch the plants, say that she knew them and that this is the way that she usually comes.

I am thankful that she was more lucid and aware today. She didn’t like me leaving. I know she loves the visits, but I still don’t know whether it makes her worse when I go away again.

The garden is looking fantastic. The climbing angel-rose is so full and heavy and the two cuttings I took of it have flowered beautifully. My grapes, blueberry and blackcurrant are in place to start their ‘year three’ fruiting next year, but they are looking good. The raspberry is ahead of itself and has four raspberries coming already. Keep off birds, there’s one for each of us – Yummy! Strawberries and rhubarb are making progress finally, and the tree is full of tiny apples. My ‘Turkish delight’ scented roses are out in full splendour and the ornamental poppies’ short and delicate lives are being enjoyed daily. Even the ‘Agapanthus’ that I brought back from Jersey is getting ready to flower. I’m very excited about the Physalis too, as I’d only seen it in its autumn glory as ‘Chinese lanterns’, but it now has gorgeous white fairy dress flowers and the foliage is exquisite. And I have a new lot of veggies too. Onions, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, sugar-snap peas and spuds.

***

I did phone the proposed new surgery, but they were all a step ahead of me. They had already received an application form and I was not needed, so I bowed out gratefully and went to get Mum. I found her in her room today, which is unusual. Her music was on and she was sitting in the chair sobbing. I watched her for a moment and then said, “I thought the music made you happy?”

“NO!” she grunted, “Not now!” She grumbled some words about, ‘nasty… no nice people any more… always following…’

I went over to her and squat down smiling, but she didn’t recognise me.

“Go away and just leave me alone.” she snapped.

I looked for the staff, to see if anything had happened. The member of staff was clearly baffled and a bit irritated by Mum’s behaviour. Apparently Mum had woken up crying and had been telling everyone to leave her alone all morning. Then a male care-worker came on duty and he had Mum out of her room and smiling. He told her that I was there, so then I got the big squeeze hugs and the tearful ‘where have you been?’

She admitted that she had ‘just been mardy’, and she laughed, amused and scandalised, when I told her how she had behaved.

We had a lovely, event free afternoon and Conor helped me escort her home again at 7 O’clock.

But something is happening.

our garden and a place of sanity

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