Week Thirty-One

My Nana with Avril and Julia as youngsters on holiday.

This week has been busy and different – fun even. As a school Governor, I have been eagerly involved in the exciting and a daunting responsibility of headship interviews.


Yesterday I enjoyed Mum’s company too. In herself she seemed content and playful. She was all clean, sitting alone in the silent music room when I found her.
“So, what have you got to tell me?” I chirped, holding her hands.
“Dabberdaberdada, batterbatter…Cacker a mama… and some food!”
“Right! That’s me told!” I laughed.
Mum was smiling, eyes closed.
“The babbers?..they OK?” she asked me. I said they were.
“Not much clucks, no!.. I just make ’em up as I do it.” She began to giggle. “The babbers are going off and badadaba…daft things!” Mum hooted with laughter and began to giggle hysterically.
“What is it, Mum? Come on, share the joke!” I pleaded.
“It wasn’t me; it’s Callus…I can’t remember now.” She flung her head back and pretended to snore, a wide grin across her cheeky face.
“Somebody else a popper da babasee plos…Yes!” she said, gesticulating knowingly.


I asked her whether what comes out of her mouth is what she had expected.
“No!” she admitted, but didn’t seem too concerned. Then she took a big breath and began an operatic piece, “Day, day, wee, lie twee lie tay lie… Bubbles!” She laughed…”Plopalopa tapatapa weeleelee…” And then to the tune of ‘Jingle bells’, “Da da da, da da da, an da way la day…”
“Mama, Mama” she suddenly whimpered in a sweet baby voice. And she answered herself, “I thought you were carrying on?…OK!…Wye ly wye ly and I lay day lay way and go go go to bed. Plop!” She made as if to snore again. “And they say – ‘Goodnight’.”


I began to laugh at Mum’s entertainment and make some equally meaningless, but encouraging comments myself. She was clearly having fun.
“Why, is it a man?…Because I like babbies!… That’s all right then…I want to go to bed and I want to stay on. Well you have to ‘Eeny meeny, tatty tatty, catter catter…Then you say, ‘How are you today!” She giggled again for some time…”Eh? Mister Matter Mat? Are they fighting?..Little bits, yeah.”
“You are playing, aren’t you?” I laughed.
“Yes, we are!”
I put a CD on – The Everly Brothers – and immediately Mum began to ‘da, da’ the tune, but used no words and all wrong phonemes. She was enjoying the music and after collecting her very smelly washing, I took my leave, smiling too.


It is a year ago since Mum left my home to live at Broad Glade. I feel sad remembering her having to go, still doubting whether I did the best thing for her.


I have just dropped Isabelle and Brian off at the hospital for Isabelle’s first Chemotherapy dose. I am looking forward to taking them home again later and knowing that she is fine. I want to see Mum as well, but Isabelle comes first today.


On Tuesday Mum seemed content and lucid – hardly babbling at all. I took her into the music room and we sang, danced and had a laugh. Her nails were ripped and jagged, so I pampered her nails. Then she showed signs of discomfort and agreed to let me take her to the toilet, change her pad and wash her hands and face.


I had been told that there were some student nurses doing studies on the ward and that one student had chosen my mum. I took my leave of Mammy and went to speak to the student, who was a fourth year medical student with many questions. He had already spoken to Mum and was wondering who “Cacker” was, but I have no idea.


Mum was wandering when I came out, but she was angry and distressed again. I tried to calm her, but she shouted, “Just GO, if you’re going then!”
So I stole a hug and left.


On Saturday she was clean and smiley and trying to converse in her light-hearted babbling. I helped with her tea and biscuits as she no longer uses her hands or eyes very effectively. I can put a biscuit to her mouth and she won’t think to tell her hands to hold or catch the biscuit once she has bitten into it. I asked her what she could see. She didn’t know. I asked if she could see her hands, so she held them up and looked at them. Can you see your wedding ring? She couldn’t, so I swiveled it around her finger, marveling on how it has been there for forty-five years. I asked if she could see me – she looked and smiled, “You look lovely”.


I got a call from St Peter’s Unit to say that I should not visit at the weekend as they are decorating the corridors, so I went to see Mum on Friday night instead. I haven’t done an evening visit for some time. Mum was in a gentle mood, clearly tired and wanting to go to bed. Her body seemed to be twitching in spasms, but not bothering her at all. She was hallucinating and talking to the babies; ‘Cacker’ was there it seems, but ‘Cacker’ is apparently not one of the babies. She seemed to enjoy my company and the back rub as always.


Yesterday I got another call from St Peter’s Unit, to say that a place has now come up at Gold Acre. Gold Acre is spacious, pretty, peaceful and strangely unpopulated. A nurse showed me around and I am very impressed. I think Mum will be very comfortable there. There is another unit for severely challenging behaviour that is separate from the rest. Opening hours for visitors is much more flexible (simply avoid arriving at meal times) so I hope Mum might get more visitors there. She will be taken there on Wednesday morning in a black cab. I think it will be better if I go up to see her when she’s arrived and settled a little, because too much fuss stresses her out. I wonder how she is going to experience the move, having not even been outside of the ward since last August? I’m sure the nurses are experienced in handling these situations and they will ease her transition gently. It is all moving once again into the unknown and a new era is beginning again for my mum and for me.


Chapter 18

Today I saw Mum in her new ‘home’. The staff at St Peter’s Unit had escorted her with her belongings to ‘Gold Acre’. I found her in the large dining room dozing on a two-seater settee. Nearby was a familiar face from St Peter’s Unit, strapped into a comfy chair and demanding a lot of attention. I engaged with the other lady a little, finding she had a mischievous but agreeable nature. There were three members of staff sitting drinking tea, probably having a breather after lunch; they said that Mum had ‘settled well and eaten her lunch’. I sat next to Mum and gently woke her, but it was a cross face that looked back at me.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
She seemed irritated and unsettled by the unusual morning and journey. She looked all clean and fresh and had had her beard shaved off for the occasion. I gave her some tea then suggested that we have a walk around as the loud lady was annoying Mum considerably. I could see a door to a pretty garden, but Mum said she couldn’t ‘be bothered’ to go outside today. All the names of Cacker, Caller and Avril came up with the ‘babbies’ again as she spoke to them, but she soon began to cheer up.


I looked at her room, which was not yet ready – there was a blow up mattress and sets of tools and cleaning equipment in the en suite bathroom. The wardrobe was still empty. Mum kept walking towards the window and bumping into the radiator. Then she would turn, walk and bump into the bed, turn, walk and bump into the door. She didn’t seem to be ‘seeing’ anything at all and was walking with a strangely tilted gait. I managed to steal a few hugs, but she just leaned against me, quite still and resigned. Still, she seemed to understand when I explained that I would need to go to fetch my babies and she let me kiss her goodbye. The nurses assured me that Mum would be well looked after.


On my way home I went to see Monica, to explain where Mum now resides and to update her generally. I find it hard to believe that Monica will be 70 this month.
It just remains to phone Mum’s sister Julia and her friend Wendy, who both expressed a wish to see Mum when she was no longer in St Peter’s Unit. I wonder whether they will visit her now?


Today Isabelle phoned to say that her hair is malting so much from the ‘Chemo’, that her husband has given her a close ‘number 1’ crew cut.

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