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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mum died

My mum died last Thursday 3rd September 2009 at ten to eleven at night. She faced cancer with real dignity and great humour. In a funny sort of way, I feel her death means we have regained her how she was before the ravages of cancer set in. Such a huge character cannot be forgotten and will live on in her children and grandchildren. I love her very much and always will.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Last Pancake - part 2

Things were so different on this visit. Mum lives for her television programmes but the television remained switched off all day. She was favouring water over her normal coffees by the dozen. She did not want to stroke the dog or play with the children. What should have been my daughter's birthday party at grandmas had turned into a lacklustre day with an oppressive atmosphere that I think all the adults felt. Fortunately, the children's Easter activities distracted them effectively I think but who knows?
But there were no balloons or party poppers and no cake.
Mum's house is called Pancake Land by my children as they say she makes the best pancakes in the world. Dad made my daughter one but it did not feel the same and the boys said no and had other things.
Mum did seem to cheer a little whilst talking to me and starting directing operations in her usual way a little bit. This led to a lovely scene where my daughter and Dad planted sweet pea seeds in the garden. "I'll be able to see those when they flower" said Mum. Gut-wrenching moment as I feel in my heart that she will not do so. She loves sweet peas and it is something we share. Or did!
Mum eventually went to lie down in her bedroom and this gave me an opportunity to talk to my brother and Dad. My brother said he was "struggling" and Dad after a leading question from me admitted that the situation is "hard". I am very much the baby of the family and it felt weird trying to offer support to these men in my life. I sent my Other Half out for a walk - not fair on him to keep going from room to room hiding from difficult and private conversations. He returned saying that town was "dead" after walking up to the house saying I must not say that word, I must not say that word. Hyper-awareness now to those terms even when the boys are playing with their toy swords and say the D word.
My other brother telephoned from France. He spoke to everyone except Mum who was sleeping. I think everyone told them in their own words that things are bad and we don't expect Mum to last long. She is covered in lumps over her body, one of which she made me feel I think to make it more real to me. She is not sleeping well but tells Dad she is - those reassuring lies that are part of every good marriage. I speak to my brother's partner too on the telephone who has gone through this journey with his parents. He catches me in the headlights, refusing to let me escape from confronting my emotion. I end the conversation and want to get away, to go home, to pretend all is well.
I see Mum on my own upstairs and find myself in one of those big life scenes. I will blog about this later, too much for me now.
As we leave the house, I put on my happy face and we all blow mad kisses and wave like we have had the best day ever.
When we arrive home, my Other Half tells me there were balloons on the side at Mum's house but without Mum, nobody thought to blow them up. But she had thought to get them despite everything. Heart-break

The Last Pancake has been served

We visited Mum and Dad at the weekend. After long traffic jams, we met Dad at the door who said "Your Mum's not too good. In fact, she hasn't been for days". I saw her in her chair in the lounge, flinching as the children and dog approached her. My brother dragged me off for a few minutes to say "We have cancelled the holiday". They were due to go to France today. Always a mad idea in my view. However, having told her on hearing her diagnosis, that she was to live her life as she saw fit I felt unable to instruct her not to go.
The visit started badly. We had clearly walked in not long after Mum had cried and said she was letting everybody down but felt unable to go on the holiday. The tension was tangible. Mum was irritable barking at the children about forgetting their pleases and thank yous. It is difficult to know that Mum is feeling vulnerable which she hates so she lashes out whilst balancing that with protecting your young children.
Lunch was served in the kitchen but Mum stayed in the lounge. To reduce the stress, I started talking about Dad's previous career to move his mind of what it must be on all the time now. It worked and a good conversation ensued whilst the children played with their Easter presents and ate their chocolate eggs.
I went into the lounge to see if Mum was OK. I must have been there at her side for about three or four hours. Clearly she wanted to talk to me. Someone brought me a bowl of crumble and custard. I tried to eat it whilst choking with emotion and also the effort of hiding that emotion to protect Mum. In the end, I put it down where it happily congealed at my side. Another symbol and even now, I know crumble will have a whole new feeling attached to it in the future.
Mum showed me her documents from her medical appointments and from the hospice. It felt surreal. What is Mum doing with hospice information. Hospices are about dying. This cannot be. She shocked me by saying she wants me to visit alone without the children and also that she does not want them at the funeral. "I want them to remember the fun times". How can I argue with that? However, I want to scream that they should pay their tribute to a brilliant grandma.
Mum talks of old memories, of her childhood, veering from one topic to the next. She says that my Other Half has proved himself a good husband and father. She asks me to understand her initial reservations about him which I did at the time anyway. Unemployed single father was not in her plans for me but then it wasn't in mine either. Yet, he is the one for me and the one I run to (and shout at) now as I face what feels like the worst thing ever.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Parenting - the joys

I often find myself challenged by the demands of parenting 3 young children. However, there are so many joys and I feel like recording them here.

My firstborn son was my first blood relative so extra special to me. My OH already had 3 daughters so I was over the moon to deliver his first son. I was overwhelmed by this little person who was so much himself from the start. I had thought he would be a combination of his parents. Although he shares some our traits and looks, he is unique. When my Mum visited us in hospital, she said she had never seen a new baby look around so much obviously fascinated by the world. I admit that I did not have a clue about looking after a baby and am so grateful that Mum was there to help and to support me in those early years. I went back to work and in her seventies, Mum learned how to put a disposable nappy on and celebrated her first grandchild with a huge passion that continues to the present day. My son is sensitive and states that friendship is the most important thing in the world. I know I am biased but people are mesmerised by him - teachers, fellow pupils, everyone. He hates writing but loves reading, mathematics, science and geography. Like my OH, he adores all things ICT and has to be dragged away from his Wii games. I don't have the faintest idea what he will become in later life apart from the fact that he will love and be loved.

My daughter, currently sporting a zillon spots due to chickenpox, was born after a really difficult labour. I now knew what women complain about having sailed through my first one with pleasure. Her saving grace was that she was a girl so as soon as that was announced, all was forgiven. She had really red cheeks and liked to sleep lots in the early days. I knew her Daddy was smitten when he brought her a lovely pink outfit to take her home in. He is not usually that sort of bloke. He started a trend there as she remains obsessed with fashion and all things pink.
She is very slight in build and tall with a lovely skin and my mad hair that shoots off at all angles. She is blonde which was a surprise to me. Although I started blonde, this did not last long so I expected her to have brown curls not blonde ones. There was lovely moment when she was little when our black labrador walked past her in her little bouncing chair. Then our golden labrador walked past her in the opposite direction. It was hilarious to watch her face as it was clear in her world, the dog had just changed colour. My daughter sends much of her time on another planet in her head and has a vivid imagination. When she was tiny, we worked out that she loved making her mark with pencils and crayons. Her interest in arts and crafts is huge and she also has an eye for design. Her other great love is music and dancing. Like me, she enjoys the power or words and her teachers report that she has beautiful handwriting. She wants cuddles all the time and why not?

Son number two was a real challenge for me. Like my daughter, he was not planned and he came very quickly after her. I reckon having your second child doubles the tasks you need to do but your third quadruples them and son on. I had the strange pain-free birth this time with an emergency Caesarean in the end. Twenty minutes and a pirate-like person was rubbed against my cheek by the midwife. Apparently this was to help me bond with him but it just irritated me after a long night. I was exhausted and in and out of sleep. I heard him crying, wailing and remember thinking that there was clearly nothing wrong with his lungs. I sensed excitement as I went into a recovery ward. It turned out he was a bumper baby so everyone was scurrying around to see just how heavy he was. Suffice to say, he was twice the size of the baby in the next bed when I was moved to the Maternity Ward. I went back to work two weeks later after all the awfulness of pain and immobility that followed the Caesarean. My OH became a house husband for that period. I wish I had made a different decision. I was being bullied at work although I did not realise that at the time. I was struggling with postnatal issues and I was not bonding with my baby at all. Then on a day out, I suddenly noticed he looked deathly and we rushed him to hospital. It was only tonisilitis but I was convinced that he was dying. Something clicked and I have loved him deeply since that day. I think he knows on a level how I originally felt because he clings to me more than the others and we have a very close bond. My OH says I let him get away with more but I reckon after the false start, he deserves that from me. He remains big although not chubby. He is full on and boisterous. He seems very sure of himself for a youngest child, quite clear that he fits in totally ith our family. He has the wickedest sense of humour - very slapstick and with a great ability to pull funny faces. At nursery, he acts like a cherub and is loved for his gorgeous smile and sense of cooperation.

Aren't I the lucky one?

Which is not to say that I don't struggle with parenting ever day but know in my heart, that it is totally worth it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Twitter Lessons

I joined Twitter, the social networking site, in January 2009. Here is a list of some of the benefits to me so far
1. Reduced my feelings of isolation
2. Built my self-confidence
3. Made me even more interested in the world beyond my four walls
4. Let to leads for jobs and freelance work
5. Given an insight into the lives of celebrities and the wonderful world of the "ordinary"
6. Encouraged me to write my first book
7. Taught me how to make the most of myself style wise and to sometimes wear my knickers over my tights lol
8. Given me an outlet for sober and drunken ramblings
9. Helped me find people who are on or have experienced similar journeys - coping with cancer diagnosis, post-natal depression, adoption, step-parenting and parenting
10. Challenged my thinking

Some people try to set rules for Twitter. I have had criticisms for ..

1. Being too deep thinking
2. Asking questions

but I have also had positive comments for doing these things.

Make of Twitter what you will would be my guideline

What do you think, dear readers

40 Life Lessons

On turning 40, I reflected on my life and came up with the following key lessons and realisations.

1. That my adoptive parents are human, did a great job and I love them lots
2. That my brothers love me in their unique ways
3. That my key childhood memories are about experiences and not things
4. That my shyness often stopped people reaching out to me as friends
5. That I was far more attractive and slim than I thought I was
6. That feelings are usually mutual - whatever they are
7. That I sometimes did the impossible and maybe I still can
8. That my birth mother rejecting me was to do with her and her limitations and not me (have only just worked this one out)
9. That first impressions are rarely 100% right
10. That there is a Jack for every Jill just like Mum said there would be

There are 30 more which I will post over the next week or maybe even today depending on how things go

Would love to hear your life lessons

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Reflections on post-natal depression

This post is inspired by a Twitter contributor who commented on my previous blogging. She was generous enough to say I give life and meaning to words. As other Twitter friends will know, I am always keen to hear positives about my writing with that huge ego of mine. However, this Twitter lady also said she was emerging from the fog of post-natal depression. As I am out the other side of PND, I feel comfortable talking of my experiences.
When my first child was born, I sailed through the whole process. The birth was enjoyable and he just slotted in making our contented two into a happy three. As I am very much the baby of the family, caring for a child was totally new to me. Mum and Dad relocated to help me with childcare so I could combine parenting with a new job.
Three years later, I had my little girl. It was a difficult labour but resulted in my adorable and angelic daughter. She was and remains an easy child smiling, sleeping and eating lots. My boss at the time suggested I should take 4 months off work. I did so reluctantly as work is my passion. Having moved to a country idyll, I felt totally cut off and isolated. My partner had a long commute and I knew nobody.
I am not clear when the black clouds descended but I can share how I felt for months and possibly years.
I would wake up and not feel any motivation to get out of bed. Logically, I could see that things were going well for us but I was unable to engage with any of it. As soon as my partner left for work, I would pull the curtains to live in a state of semi-darkness to match my mood. If somebody knocked on the door, I would hide in a special spot where I had worked out nobody would be able to see me even if unusually the curtains were open. Personal hygiene took a nosedive. My thinking was that as I did not have a life, why bother to take a bath or put on nice clothes. I feel embarrassed admitting this but if someone else is going through it and reads this, maybe they can sense that there is hope and PND does pass.
I had heard of post-natal depression but was loathe to admit that such a thing could have taken control of me. To be honest and I don't think this reflects badly on him, I think my partner was so busy that he was fooled that I was just tired or being difficult for much of the time.
One day having had another baby and on the school run, the sun was shining. I looked up and felt joy of the pure, unadulterated variety. I realised I had not had the feeling for such a long time. I think in all I was in severe depression for two years.
I wrote to Fern Britton from ITV's This Morning programme and she replied the same day! Clearly, she knows what I had gone through. I am now reading her autobiography and realise that she had some very similar experiences of the condition.
So, what mistakes did I make?
1. Believing that I would walk into parenthood with no troubles or need for support
2. Not seeking the help of my health visitor or GP
3. Not disclosing my feelings to my partner or other family members
On the other hand, I do feel that my partner and family members might have asked questions when there must have been signs of me totally letting myself go and a change of personality. Particularly in the case of one of my brothers who has had depression, I think he could have been there more for me. However, perhaps it was all too close to his own experiences and he wanted to turn away.
The key message is that PND or any form of depression can and does pass. I am more than happy to hear from, listen to or support anyone as they make their journey out of this debilitating condition. Talk about it, seek help - escape it.

Friday, 3 April 2009

A pox on both our houses

I always help my little girl get ready for school in the mornings. Pulling off her Dora the Explorer pyjama top, naturally pink, I spy with my little eye several reddish spots. Tis the chickenpox methinks. My immediate thought is how this might impact on our planned visit to my mum at the weekend. A telephone call later confirms that we cannot go as this is one of the rules of the steroids prescribed by Macmillan.
Speaking to Mum, she sounded like she was back to her old self and some! Strongly suspect she is overdosing on steroids and apparently is working through mountains of ironing and feeling very chirpy indeed.
Reality check when she says "I will still be here when you do manage to get her".
There is, I assume, no actual guarantee of that.
I have a red heart-shaped helium balloon that my daughter bought for her Daddy for Valentines Day. It has been sitting on my television set for days and it makes me think of Mum. Slowly going down but for now, still full of love. The children start playing with it whilst I am on the telephone punching it. Am ridiculously upset at this but manage to focus on loving them. After all, it is just a silly balloon. I have just thought that when Mum had being nasty to me in some way she always used to come in to my bedroom and say, "You'll have to forgive your Mummy. She is just a silly sausage"

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Having a go

I do believe I may be getting my motivation back to the way it used to be many moons ago. I want to write. I cannot remember a time when I didn't. I love playing with words and the power that they have to inform, to inspire, to amuse and to move. At Christmas, I had a lovely conversation with Mum and Dad about my ambitions regarding writing. Mum said, "Well you always said you would. Get on with it, even if you just start keeping a diary". Dad commented that the title for his unwritten book was always "My Father Wears Clogs". Then whilst watching This Morning on the telly, I became aware of the world of Twitter. One of my new followers contacted me saying I had real talent. Now, after bullying in the workplace and post-natal depression and just not being the most natural stay at home mother, this was news to me. Ignore her - she is a mad woman. She would not leave me alone, encouraging me to blog and this blog happened absolutely because of this angel masquerading as a Tweeter.
This blog was not intended to make people cry. I wanted to make readers laugh at my chaos and my musings on the insanity of the world today. Life took over and a phone call from my Mum changed the blog along with many other things.
However, it also acted as a catalyst for my writing. If I don't do it now, when? However long Mum's final journey is, my writing will be my tribute to her. Dad will never write his book but I can.
Yesterday, I received positive comments from the well-known and fabulous novelist Katie Fforde. She is encouraging me to join a writers' association and why not? I think the sensible thing to do is to say I am a writer and let life catch up with that. I look at my bio on Twitter where not knowing what would happen, I call myself a writer. I will see it when I believe it. I am starting to have faith.
So, dear reader, please go for your dreams too. It is a cliche but life really is too short not to go for gold

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


Mum telephoned me last night to update me on her situation. The Macmillan nurse had seen her for the first time and this seemed to have made Mum feel much better. Inner rage - why do we have to rely on charities to give the necessary support to vulnerable people instead of the statutory sector? In a truly vocational way, the nurse had talked to Mum for hours. Mum admitted for the first time that she was in pain and the nurse ensured painkillers were with her immediately. The nurse was also of the view that Mum should live as she wants to in the time she has left. So it appears an Easter holiday to France along with suitcases filled with super-strength painkillers will now take place. I am not sure this is the wisest choice but I think Mum should set the compass for this particular journey so will not interfere. Mum said they had talked of many things - of Mum's deep Catholic faith, of Mum's ability to face death but fear of what lies between today and that unknown date. An unknown date that will become etched on my mind in due course. Mum also said one of the worst bits about terminal illness is knowing the ripple effect it is having on your family. I admitted that sleepless nights are now a big feature of my life, according to the MacMillan website a totally normal response. I told Mum I knew I was not losing her as like Freddie Mercury, she will live on for ever. I think she enjoyed the comparison - Mum has always stayed very into popular music and loved Freddie as she loves all great showmen. We spoke for a long time and the suddenly, the shutters came down as she moved on to practical arrangements for my visit to her at the weekend. I am now mature enough to know that she could take no more of the emotional stuff so found it helpful to focus on times of arrivals and meal plans. I ended the conversation by telling her that my eldest son is going for his first belt in martial arts at the weekend. "I knew he would do well at it" she said with absolute conviction.
I had a brief chat with Dad who wanted to know chapter and verse about my job offer. Very business-like my Dad still but I could hear his pride and loved him for it. My youngest son kept grabbing the telephone - he and Dad are best buddies.
Mum told me last night that she is heartily sick of being prodded and poked. Pitifully, she told me about her ultrasound and being covered in sticky jelly and hating it. She also is distressed at the fear in other patients' eyes as she knows she cannot help them. Mum is the eternal helper so this is one of the worst factors for her - becoming the helped instead of the helper.
I have been listening to Bette Midler's "Wind beneath my wings" - that is what Mum is to me and she will be ALWAYS

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

An offer and an entry to Limboland

I am sitting at my voluntary placement with a mouthful of chicken sandwich when someone hands me my mobile and says that the person who interviewed me for a job wishes to speak to me right now. "How are you?" says Louise, the potential line manager. "Eating!" I say in a totally unprofessional manner. And then loyal readers, she says they want to offer me the job! Got into shaky excitement mode and give more inane babblings but they got me a job offer so hey, maybe I should give in to them more often. After the call, I do a sort of tango like dance up and down the corridor leading people to wonder what I am on.
The good news is tempered by the fact that the last time I had such an offer, my former boss gave a bland reference and the offer was withdrawn. So I am in Limboland not knowing what the next few weeks holds. Will he be decent this time? To put things into context, I returned to my role with him two weeks after having a Caesarean birth! Apparently, that and my successful project leadership was not good enough to merit a good reference!
My voluntary placement provider is promising to "wax lyrical" about me so I am hoping that will help but I remain nervous of what the former boss will do.
Then I am reminded of the difficulty of balancing parenting and anything else as I rediscover the costs and inflexibility of childcare providers.
For now, break open the champagne and hope for the best

Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Return of the Woman

Once upon a time, I used to think that it was unfair that there were special schemes for women returners. As a single woman without children, it seemed to me that if a woman wanted to return to the workforce, all she had to do was apply for and get a job. Simple! One husband and three children and bullying experience at work later, I find myself as a terrified woman returner. I feel I can only confidently talk about Bob the Builder and that my previous (fairly impressive) career is another country and besides the wench is dead.
Yesterday, I had a job interview at 1pm. My other half took the children to school so I was only parenting my boisterious three year old son. So the tasks ahead were two baths and two clean and tidy outfits, one for nursery and one for my launch into the free world.
As a project leader, I made clear and confident decisions. Now I struggle what time to bathe, what time to get dressed and what to wear Worried about being late, I start the getting ready process at 9am.
I will confess now that despite the best efforts of my very stylish mother, I am very much a slummy mummy. When I gave up work, the skirts, bras and tights followed me onto the scrapheap.
After the bath and locating an outfit that my Mum had given me, I tried to give myself a nice sleek line with underwear You do remember that I have three children so my line is usually more curvaceous (branding it very positively) than sleek. Knickers are the first choice - lacy, granny or support. Vote for light support so I can speak during the interview as well as hide the tummy from hell. I put on the "large" tights which appear to have being designed for a very small person. I could use other terms but after years in the third sector, I am more pc than your computer. This will not do and I don't fancy trailing round the shops with a three year old in tow looking for replacements. Twitter comes to my rescue when someone advises me to wear pants over the tights. I reflect that the fact that I could not remember this old trick probably means I will not be able to function properly in the interview later either.
Next the bra challenge. The bra that I bought after my washing attempts is now "pink not quite" like the paints they used to advertise. I hate bras with a passion. I have never understood quite why we have to wear them or how to get them on. Most bras fasten right in the centre of your back which is about the worst place for them to be if you are dressing alone. Once on, with my sloping shoulders, the straps will practise a merry jig un and down throughout the day in a most annoying fashion.
Underwear on followed by brown suit which despite myself looks fine.
Collect loads of messages of support from my Twitter friends and hop into the car with son also changed and ready to go.
Just listening to "It's really, really good" Lorraine Kelly talking about the vagina monologues. Think I have done the underwear one here, maybe the vagina next time lol
Tune is soon for reflections on my interview and why my 82 year old mother may well be pregnant

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Hard to be serious all the time

An email from my brother tells me Mum sees a breast cancer expert today and an oncologist later in the week. More prodding and poking and for what? She is dying - we know that, she knows it. Why should her final journey be one of invasions on her dignity and a taking away of her control?
All this hassle for her and they still have no clear information on where the cancer started. So what is really being achieved?
As for me, I find it hard to be appropriate all the time. Sometimes I am drinking too much, getting silly, taking risks just to change the focus of my thoughts. I want to blog about things that make me laugh or make me passionate. Our lives, not just Mum's, are being taken over by the curse of cancer. This is not what she wants.
My birth half-sister sends a sympathetic email
Comfort is taken in little things like my daughter getting her words ever so slightly wrong so "mayonnaise" becomes "maynonnaise". She also has an imaginary horse called Beauty who apparently has wonderful keyboarding skills. The stableyard has grown with the addition of Thunder and Lightning. I used to have imaginary sisters, about 7 of them as I recall.
Parenting is required so blogging must wait

Monday, 23 March 2009

A very special Mother's Day

Visited my mum yesterday for Mother's Day. My three children trooped in with their pots of primulas - red, purple and yellow. Magical moments. I had got up early and baked her a cake. She has lost much of her appetite so wanted to tempt her. The cake has raspberries and almonds it in it, two of her favourites. Could see that she knew how much love had gone into the baking of the cake.
She was on top form mentally as for the first time in decades, she had cards from all three of her children plus flowers from the black sheep of the family. The black sheep is the one she loves with a deep passion, her first born son.
She marched me into the lounge whilst my brother entertained the children. She has been offered chemotherapy. She talked and I realised she was asking my permission to say no. She declared herself bored with cancer talk and wanting to just live what she has left. She had the same talk with my oldest brother on the telephone later. Maybe she is just ready for a rest.
It amazes me how easy it is when I am with her. We laugh, we tease, we live. Conversations about the persecution of the Jews throughout the ages, neighbourliness and all manner of things.
She remains concerned for a sick 3 year old in her town. She does not know him but wants to help. Triggers a thought that the whole family should get as involved as we can in raising funds for this little boy.
She gives my children a recorder each, a pinky/purpley one for my little girl. She found them "just waiting for me as if it were meant to be". Makes me laugh. This is the same philosophy that led to her adopting me. Husband rolls his eyes - she has always loved winding him up with the noisiest of toys.
I leave it as late as I realistically can before leaving. Stopping for petrol on the way home, the tears start up again. Why is she so hard to leave? I want the party to go on for ever.
Just before I left, she told me the roses I got her for Valentine's Day "lasted for ages". It was a whim at the time to give her them but how glad I am that I followed it. Probably her last Valentine's and Mother's Day. What will I write about her this time next year?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Tears in the face of it all

Slept well last night for the first time in ages. Cure for insomnia - Mum tells you she is dying and they will not offer treatment. Who would have thought it?
Lurching between tears and strength today. Email from my brother tells me I am positive, constructive but possibly the most vulnerable in the family.
My sadness differs from my brothers', complicated by being adopted and by having children that will also be bereaved.
Mum says the worst thing was telling us. I guess you are a Mum for ever and that it is never easy, just a different set of challenges over time.
Need to let relevant people know so they can offer support to Mum.
Hate the idea of a disease being in control of such a feisty woman.
Am I over-playing everything? Shouldn't I find something funny to blog about? Will return with laughter I hope.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


Mum has phoned. First thought from her was whether my husband was home which sort of signalled that the news was bad. Cancer has spread although they still can't find where is started. Nothing they can do for her. She says we can have a nice day on Sunday. No nice days left methinks

Results Day

I am in the strangest mood. Mum is going for her MRI scan results today so finally we will have some proper information. This feels good but then again I also in the same moment want to run away and pretend all this is not happening. As daft as it sounds, St Patrick's Day acts as a useful focal point that life is continuing despite our own family crisis.
Offered for my other half to drive Mum for the results but with that feisty, independent spirit, this was an offer refused. I knew it would be. How can we help when she is like that with us? I know she has always being the helper, the organiser and so on. She clings on to this till the end. She was telling me the other day how she is looking for things to sell to raise money for a 3 year old child who needs medical equipment for a life-threatening condition. She was also running round after my brother because he has flu. All of this when she is tired and in pain.
My constant bouts of crying have waned over the last couple of weeks. I now am having real trouble in sleeping waking up almost every hour during the night. Is this connected to the mum situation or something else?
Last night my four year old daugther asked me why I was not happy and said she would sit with me until I was happy again. Mothers and daugthers - the most wonderful and complex relationship in the world.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Stage Management and More

A couple of days ago, I emailed my brother telling him it would be good if he could phone our parents. Mum had sworn me to secrecy about her diagnosis but I felt he had a right to know.
They have shared a long history of passionate love for each other often expressed destructively in arguments and long silences. I have long thought that when Mum died Michael would suffer more than any of us for a host of lost opportunities for magical memories.
I feel strongly that he had a right to know about Mum in the same way as my other brother and myself. I do not think it was fair to treat him differently. I was in a real dilemma to go against my mum's wishes or to do what I felt was the right thing. In the end, I stage managed a phone call so that he would find out the awful truth.
So now he knows and we spoke yesterday. He describes himself as "devestated" and in his case this is not a word used at all lightly. He has had cancer himself and has persuaded his oncologist to look at Mum's records. However, Mum and Dad appear to not be going with this generous offer. Pride it seems will last a lifetime. Meanwhile there is no clear information coming from their current medics which is frustrating for us all. Sometimes, I find myself feeling quite hard. If the cancer is incurable, why is Mum subjected to all these tests and invasions? Yes, we can all want her to stay with us for ever but wouldn't it be better for her to go peacefully and soon without all the loss of dignity.
I know she has some views about how her funeral should go. She always used to say she wanted a jazz band there. Today, I looked at some funeral readings to see if any reflected how I feel and what I would want to share about her. It helped in a funny sort of way.
I find myself as the "baby" of the family being the lynchpin for communications between family members. It is a heavy burden but also complimentary in that they must think I am the strong one. Or maybe these things always fall on the woman!
I kept a mental note today of all the things I was asked to remember and do that were actually other people's jobs. It was my job apparently to remind my children to remind their Dad to give them their Comic Relief money. It was my job to persuade Mum to take up my brother's offer of medical support. It was my job to reply to an email from my husband's colleague informing him of the colleague's wife's death from breast cancer. It was my job to send family news to my stepdaughters. And so the list goes on.
There were some lovely moments today. My youngest son came out of nursery with his face painted in red spots, big splodges of Comic Relief madness. My daughter gained a superstar award for her reading. My son was proud to go into his Dad's work "like a grown-up". Life goes on and is definitely for the living!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Knickers with holes in the back

We visited my parents this weekend. I was very worried that I would break down as this would be my first meeting with my mum since her diagnosis. However, they were so full of fun and plans that I found myself just enjoying being envelopped in that warm family environment. They had created lots of little jobs for the grandchildren to do like feeding the birds. It was lovely to watch my dad pottering around with my three children chattering away. I hope it gave him a break from what seems a constant round of medical appointments with mum.
Mum looked so well that it was almost hard to take her diagnosis seriously. She made a huge meat and potato pie for us followed by her Christmas cake. As everyone shared news, I reflected that it would soon be time to get hold of these family recipes. I have every intention of taking over mum's matriarch reins when the time comes, certainly where cooking is concerned.
As the children played with their toys in a room they have for the purpose at grandma's house, Mum opened up. However, this was not to be a revelation of her fears and worries. Instead, she regaled us with stories of having to dress in a gown without a strap and knickers with a hole in the back at hospital. She has had this procedure before and had said to staff "Oh, I see you are bringing on the designer outfit again". When the procedure was being carried out, she was in a torment of pain and moaned out. The male nurse said, "Irene, hold my hand". As she did so, she spotted his tattoo. "And I thought", she said "Look at what I have come to. I would never have looked at a fella with a tattoo before".
So if we cried this weekend, we did it with laughter. She is the greatest comedienne complete with a great sense of timing and utter wickedness. She kept saying to my husband "You do know what knickers are, don't you? I imagine you will have seen a fair few!"
Many people who read my blog ask for updates on her condition. The procedure referred to above failed to locate the source of the primary cancer so she is off for a full MRI scan today.
I hate the thought of her being poked and prodded and hope she makes her own choices in this final journey.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Parents' Evening

Last night was all a bit of a rush. Had to survive the teeny weeny chairs in two parent evening sessions. One cheek on either side of chair lol. Most undignified. I think they do it to make you feel suitably inferior in comparison with the teaching community. Laughed to myself at the parents who were hanging around reading "little Freddie's" work after their appointments and glancing at each other to see when they could morally make an exit.
Good results for both my children. Particularly thrilled that my eldest son has finally managed to reach the target for handwriting. He has a statement of special needs as although very bright, he has always struggled with writing. Various tests have suggested mild dyslexia possibilities but no clear diagnosis months later. Daughter's only weakness is not liking role play which is not a major worry to me. Her particular strength is handwriting which shows how individual children are in their skills.
Phoned my parents to share the news. My dad was quite distracted as mum's needs are obviously pressing and he is her main carer. Mum not well enough to come to the phone. Despite understanding, felt a bit let down that they did not appear as over the moon as I am.
In the last week or so, I have realised that mum's diagnosis transforms her into neither a sinner nor a saint. I have found myself irritated and annoyed at her. Perfectly normal I suppose but in the first days after the news, I was so focussed on her best points.
Leapt back into the Landrover and off to the shops under pressure to find costumes to celebrate World Book Day. More on today's events later.
How are your parents' evenings going?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Volunteering and a return to sanity

Today, I actually entered a real working environment for the first time in over two years. I think I had got myself into a mindset that I would never do this again so today is a huge cause for celebration.
My volunteering currently involves looking into the needs of ex-service personnnel and their families who find themselves homeless. I find myself researching, networking and promoting - all things I love to do.
My boss seems to think I am worth listening to which is a huge shock as I have three children who never want to listen to me!
My colleagues are pleasant with me and make me coffees!
It is so energising to set targets and then to reach or exceed them. No bigger thrill in my particular world.
I have now returned to the school run, the toast-making, the refereeing that makes up modern day motherhood. Ah, but now I know there is another life and I will be back living it tomorrow.
I am a volunteer. I exist. I am contributing. I am worthwhile.
Do you volunteer? What do you do and what do you get out of it?

Monday, 2 March 2009

Angels masquerading as human beings

Support in difficult times comes from unexpected sources. With my mother's illness, I feel like my whole world is caving in. It is a physical and emotional pain that hovers waiting to catch me unawares.
Total strangers via Twitter and my blog are offering help and sharing their own stories of loss. Having felt very alone, I now realise that I have entered a huge community of people who are affected by cancer. People are willing to talk and to listen, to question and to challenge. In this apparently hard and money focused world, human beings still have an instinct to reach out to others in need.
As I have explained, mum is a strong and amazing woman. Today, I want to play tribute to my three adult step-daughters. Even giving them that label is strange as relationships have not always being good. I emailed them with the news of mum and they pitched in with compliments about her, sorrow for us and offers of practical help. All three have different life issues to deal with from parenting, step-parenting, mental health battles and a whole lot more that they probably would never share with their wicked stepmother. Over the years I have expected little of them. That is to my shame and how they prove me wrong! They are strong women too - the legacy continues

Friday, 27 February 2009

The end is nigh

Mum saw the medics yesterday and her cancer is incurable. So I am entering the surreal zone where you confront the fact that your parents are not going to last forever, that words need to be said and plans made.
Mum's mantra remains that I should not get upset and I cannot do that for her. How can I not cry for a woman who has given me so much? I have decided to stop drinking in the coming weeks and months as I need to be strong for her and other family members.
Did I tell you that my mum is amazing? She remains so in her ultimate crisis. She feels she has had a good life particularly since marrying my dad in 1950. She mentioned her grandchildren and her many good memories and stated "how lucky am I!". That on the day she is told she is dying!
There is some sort of subtle irony in her hearing this news on the day Wendy Richard died from the same disease. Like Pauline Fowler, Mum has that mix of passionate defence of her family with care for others in the community. She also has a cracking pair of legs just like Miss Brahms!
The title of this blog now will seem odd to those who do not know my mum. However, she will party through her remaining days looking after us all, making it easier for us all and packing in lots of fun along the way.
I hope in time I am even half the woman that she is.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

How I feel - mum and cancer

The phone call from Mum came on Monday afternoon. "How are you doing?" I asked as usual. "Not too good" she replied. Now with Mum, such a response can be anything from feeling tired to having flu. This time it is more serious - she has been diagnosed with cancer. The whole telephone conversation felt very surreal with me trying to remember what one is supposed to say and do in such situations. Trying desperately to think of a book or a film where a character finds the right thing to do when told their mum has cancer. Found myself saying inane things about it hardly being a surprise as she has lost several siblings to the disease. Mum kept repeating the mantra of "I don't want you getting upset". So I didn't and after talking on the phone, informed my husband of the news and then did the school run with total equilibrium.
Later that evening once the children were in bed, any level of self-control disappeared. I found myself sobbing uncontollably and treating my husband to a huge emotional outpouring of how much I loved my Mum. "Why can't you tell her that?" he asked. "Because I am my mother's daughter!".
So I am going to write here about the wonderful character that became my mum when I was eleven months old. She always wanted to have a daughter to treat well. She said she wanted that girl to have the things she went without during her childhood in the Thirties. Two sons came along shortly after her marriage but no daughter. One day in church, we says she felt called and felt there was a little girl waiting for her. She went and banged on the adoption agency's door even though they were closed till they let her in. She was right of course and that's how she became my mum.
To describe Mum is challenging. Firstly she loves to get her teeth into a project of some sort and is, therefore, very good in a crisis. Over the years I have delivered lots of projects for her from school misdemanours to being the first child in the family to go to university to relationship breakdown. She has organisational talents and due to her age and circumstances has never quite reached the huge potential she had for some brilliant career. However, she has channelled her energies into working for the church on a voluntary basis raising money, running dances, doing funeral teas and committee work. She is an inspiration and I think I get my sense of taking on the apparently impossible from her along with a keen sense of social justice.
Mum did factory work but found her passion as a cook in hospitals and schools. Food is a huge part of our lives and a focus for family gatherings. Mum never did things by halves when we had visitors. Table settings and everything was just perfect. Nobody does it better.
Mum can be very feisty and like all mums and daughters, we have clashed on occasion. This has sometimes led to long silences with us both being too proud to back down. Over the years, I have come to realise that she lacks self-belief and the mixture of that with never really doing all that she could has led to a deep sense of frustration. Sometimes, as her children have pursued careers, I think she has found it hard to relate to what we are talking about. Too often, I have perceived that as a lack of interest on her part. She is also great at telling me how wonderful my brothers are but saying little of what she thinks of me. My brothers report she does the same to them so they get fed up of hearing how superb I am. I know there is nobody I would like to impress more than my Mum.
I scored huge points when I delivered her 3 grandchildren. She was well into her seventies when my first son was born. Being the amazing woman that she is, she moved into a totally new area so that she could provide childcare whilst I went back to work. So my first-born had the magical, caring and fun presence that she brings - a great start in life. She remains a lovely grandma to him and my other son and daughter. When she walks in the room, balloons and party-poppers follow. She stayed with us at Christmas and my husband dined out on stories of staying up late with her playing charades and other party games whilst the drink flowed.
She is just brilliant and a larger than life character. I love her totally. I do not know what lies ahead but maybe she will read this one day or I will put it in a letter and she will realise just how vital she is.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Not the last post but the very first!

Welcome to my first blog post.
Will aim to amuse and bemuse in equal measure and to find my muse too!
Who am I?
Unwanted baby - not the best of starts!
Adopted baby - converted to princess by parents
Swot at school - in other words, I actually liked reading
Shy student - but went from disapproving to trying to advocating debauchery during 3 years
Charity worker - changing the world and being underpaid and redundant far too often
Mum - stepmum first so know all about, erm, challenging behaviour. Then along came my three angels or that's my story and I am sticking to it
Career Woman followed by stay at home mum/boredom
Twitterer and ready to step back into the world. Watch out!