Week Thirty-Two

Mammy loves the outdoors

On Monday I found the route to Mammy’s new sojourn much easier. She seems more settled, but was wearing hospital clothes as they still need to tag her clothes with ‘Gold Acre’ labels, as well as with name tags. She was in her room listening to Buddy Holly, as apparently she had been disturbed by some noise earlier. Her flesh was pale and peaky, but we spent a pleasant hour together before she began looking restless and lurched forward several times, looking fretful, so I asked if she was wanting to get up. She was, but I was unable to coax or lift her out of the chair, partly because I was afraid to further strain my back. I asked for assistance and two nurses came and hoisted her out of the chair. I realised that it was the chair that was to blame for the struggle, as it was designed for the sitter to be wedged in the valley of a deep triangle. Once out and standing she seemed very disoriented and unstable. She was ‘f…ing and blinding’, which is so out of character, and kept banging into everything despite her cautious footing.

We went for a brief walk around, but she was pulling against me and chose to go back to her room. I tried sitting her on a normal chair from which she pulled herself back up and indicated that she ‘should’ be back in the wedge chair. I helped her back into that and she calmed again. The doctor came to introduce himself and a senior nurse came to give me the paperwork and more forms to fill in. The doctor asked me why Mum was still on a ‘section’. I couldn’t fully answer that and felt that such information should surely have come with Mum in the transfer – certainly the assessment that his own staff had done should have been available to him. He seemed very amiable though and had a slightly playful demeanor. The nurse asked me to supply Mum’s toiletries and things and I promised to bring a better selection of Mum’s music. I was concerned about Mum’s general health and let the nurses know that as I left. They assured me that they would look after her. I believe they will.


Our house is still very cold and full of brick dust and mess. The new stove is still in the process of being piped in and we have suffered leaks and floods this week. Josh is taking over the task of digging my vegetable patch over and enjoyed the pleasure of having a robin sit beside him to sing for his supper as he worked at picking out the weeds. It was a beautiful moment for him and it gave me joy to see them both.

I took in the CDs and toiletries, but it was a quick visit as Isabelle’s second dose of Chemotherapy went much quicker than anticipated and I was to taxi them home again. However, Mum was in her own clothes and seemed much more content. She was sunk into the chair in her room again and we played one of the CDs. My new routine is to cream her face with ‘Oil of Olay’, which for me is Mum’s special scent. She enjoys the sensation and the contact. I noticed that her face seems very flaccid and dopey – her mouth seems to hang half open in a ‘gormless’ expression as her eyes flicker and stare at nothing in particular. But she didn’t look as pale and a nurse commented on how well she had settled in. As I left she smiled and admonished me to ‘be good’.


On Mothering Sunday she was in her room again, Buddy Holly still playing. I seemed to make her jump as I came into the room. She appeared very jittery and agitated. She was unwashed and greasy too, so I feared she might be experiencing problems again. I switched the music off, which she seemed to appreciate. She kept saying that she wants to go home and wants to go to bed. She was crying and moaning, then apologising for ‘being silly’. She did seem to be tired, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to indulge her in sleep at three in the afternoon. I fed her a ‘Fry’s Turkish Delight’, which relaxed her enough to talk and laugh again. The nurse had only praise for her progress and anticipates that they will take her off the ‘section’ at the next review. That will mean she’s able to go out again. I really enjoyed my time with Mum today.


On Thursday she was still in her room, but was looking much better. Another dose of ‘Turkish Delight’, Oil of Olay and gabble about something and nothing. I dropped in on Monica again on my way back home to take her a 70th birthday card and some chocolates. She wants me to take her to Mum’s next time.

It’s great not having to do Mum’s washing – it actually frees me to go more often, as I don’t have to wait till all the laundry is dry.

Meanwhile I’ve been chopping up lots of wood – the boiler stove is finally in place and, after a few leaks, is now burning as much rubbish and wood as we can feed it and is working well. It keeps the dining room particularly cosy, but also heats all the radiators and the hot water tank.


Sunday was a beautiful clear blue sky, warm and still. The nurses had brought Mum out of her room to meet me, so I took the opportunity to take her outside into the sheltered ‘garden area’. Mum was very shivery and unsteady on her feet as I almost dragged her out. We sat in the sunshine, Mum wrapped in scarves as we began to sing, laugh and make jokes. She seemed to get ‘You are my sunshine’ into her brain and couldn’t get it out again. It made us both laugh and we tried to find alternative songs to dislodge that one. We had a fantastic time for about an hour, until Mum began to feel the cold again. She looked so pretty out in the fresh air and I took a few photos. It felt like a real milestone had been reached and I’m now looking forward to more trips out with her. Again I left her happy and went out with a joyful spring in my step.


I’ve been thinking for a while that Mum’s face is looking different. It is difficult to discern as she is losing weight and has developed some peculiar mannerisms and twitches and will sometimes hold her head in a tilted position for no apparent reason. Anyway, she is beginning to look as if she has a wedge of chewing gum under her top lip. Debbie also noticed that she had a ‘monkey-mouth and nose’. Finally on Easter Sunday, when I took Monica, I lifted Mum’s lip to find a large white, bulbous swelling and filthy brown teeth. I was shocked. Surely if her teeth had been cleaned, anyone would have seen the swelling, which I presumed was an abscess. I called the nurse and asked her to make sure that Mum is seen by a doctor or dentist as soon as possible. She wrote it all down in the book reassuringly.

Mum enjoyed a feast of Belgian chocolates and we both had a lot of laughter with Monica. I prodded Mum’s lip, but there was no sign of any flinching or pain.


Debbie took Olivia and James to see their Nana on this visit for her birthday and Olivia made several short videos of them all dancing. It was a much more positive experience for them than the last time. Mum had six birthday cards altogether, from Monica, Julia, Debbie, me, Wendy and Tony. Tony’s card included another one of his poems. It is a touching poem, which he wrote 2 years ago…

SOLILOQUY January 2007 – on hearing that Avril will not be returning to Graemsay.

When I think of you I see flowers

pushing through the ragged grass

and you in your garden.

I keep the picture in my head.

In the tall grass of a garden

where wall meets wall at an angle

and little trees thrive, spore of silver lichen sweat

for times gone by.

I hear the roaring shingle at the shore

and see the moonlight

on the ocean’s rim.

The stars in the sky are singing tonight;

a myriad stars are singing and dancing.

One star alone is silent, drifts

down the night, silent.

I rage but she does not hear me.”

Copyright AR 2007.

“The roaring shingle…!