Mum. Affectionally known as The Duchess. My Mum has cared for my Dad for over 25 years. When I say cared… that is changing socks daily, getting him dressed and then undressed, dealing with personal care and all the accidents especially after radiotherapy bowel damage, making the call whether to be blue lighted to hospital AGAIN, being the angry protector fighting his cause and often with little professional support. Intuitively judging his decline or improvements and knowing when to be nice when all she wanted to do is scream and punch something or someone.
Caring is hard and plays on the patience of the most laid back of creatures and Saints. There have been times when you think the worst thoughts. Yes, Carers do wish their cared for were dead. Then comes the shame of thinking those thoughts over and over again. Then the utter joy with small breakthroughs and happiness that Caring can bring. It is selfless and tough but incredible.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was when I facilitated my first Carers Group and heard ALL the carers say shocking things. But you know what? I understood. Walk in the shoes of a Carer before you think to judge. Pause before criticising. Be openminded. These blogs are about honesty and integrity with the view that others may connect or understand they are not alone.
So how is The Duchess doing? She is sad. Really sad. She is lonely. BUT SHE IS OURS.
But I am going to let you in on a secret. I have my Mum back. I am selfish. Me and brothers now have a Mum that we all lost 27 years ago and we are forming a new beginning. A time where we she will enjoy our children and in the future her great grand children. She was on loan to us for 27 years but was always EVERY SINGLE SECOND owned by someone else.
Life with Dad…we would see Mum relax and then suddenly she would pop up and say she’s got things to do. Fill in the blanks… She never stood still. She would always be thinking of the next round of care/support/nurse visit/ prescriptions/GP appointment/what Dad wants to … do…eat…drink…wear… meet with… talk to. She rarely appreciated being in the moment.
“Your Father wouldn’t like that would you John?”
Since Dad died Mum has found the adjustment hard. She’s been retired from her post. For the first time in 27 years, she has a home without hospital equipment in it. A car that isn’t adapted. I life of one with no commitments. She can choose her TV programmes instead of sport. She can do whatever she pleases and would probably swap it all for a moment back with him.
I am excited as The Duchess is coming to stay with me in Cornwall and I can’t wait. We usually fall out within a day, and she can’t wait to go home. So we are on a trial to see if we can adapt to the new phase together. I learnt my resilience from her. She is my hero. I want the best for her and want her to have her own time to flourish and have new sunshine in her life. So far, she appears rested and last night she randomly said “you finish up and I’ll phone your Father” She stopped in her tracks… silence… then a little chuckle of strangeness.
It sounds like I am painting a tragic image of their life together. That is absolutely not the case. Their life was filled with love.
She simply couldn’t be everything to everyone and my brothers and our families have been patient.
In the year of 2018. A magnificent 100 year anniversary for the Women’s right to vote and the cracking Oprah speech at The Golden Globes. I am speaking out as a Daughter, that we can be everything in our time and we have the opportunity to stand out and be magnificent at any stage of our lives. Our role models are all ages and from all areas. My Mum has inspired me to fight for all Carers and women who have sacrificed so much to raise their families. My Dad inspired me to make a difference for chronic health. My Mum showed me to be resilient at all costs and some will hate me for it.
Life throws the shitty stick at you and you can pick it up and throw it back.
She may not see the level of her impact yet, but she will. She will demonstrate resilience and shape her future again, knowing that we absolutely have her back and want the best for her.
Finding her footing on her new journey is scary. There is no rush to pretend she is ok. She does not ned to pretend or to apologise to me and my brothers. There is no timeline, and we are not following stages of grief (a bit old school for my liking). She is moving forward and creating her new normal. We just need to support and encourage her. Listen to her and simply be there.
People can often struggle watching someone going through grief. There is no plan to follow.
Grief lasts longer then sympathy.
Surviving is the worst kind of pain. As an onlooker we know she is not ok. But we are there. We are being sunshine when skies are grey.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” -Leo Buscaglia
Good people are like candles and burn themselves out to give others light. It is in these dark hours that we see the true light in those that care. To make it our ambition to reach out more and say we care more. You are never too important to be nice and have humility.
As for Mum. Watch this space. It is early. She is driving with her sat nav. She is going out and about. She is taking each day at a time, meeting people, being busy and giving herself some kindness.
Make this the year to make a stand. Care more. Be unstoppable and reach out.