A little cottage by the sea

A cottage by the sea

 

Sunday 13th July

My mum and I spent the weekend at the beach with her best friend, Rachel and Rachel’s older sister, Trish. Rachel owns a cottage on the sea-front, so we stayed there together.

I was nervous of going away, there were so many things to think about or that could go wrong, but Rachel is one of those women to whom nothing is impossible. I admire her, she always seems at ease and in control. She balances raising a family, running a multi-million pound company and caring for friends and extended family, like my mum, whilst rocking skinny jeans and heels. I felt like I could let go this weekend, I didn’t need to babysit or worry about my mum constantly, as Rachel and Trish were more than capable.

It was a very chilled holiday, we mostly walked around the town and along the promenade, browsing the shops and eating ice-cream. I bought lots of new work clothes (my work contract finishes this month but Rachel has offered to take me on as an apprentice with her company!), and my mum got some new clothes which she loves. We wanted this holiday to be special.

This afternoon, we visited Sandringham, where the Queen lives, and wandered around the house. My mum was getting pretty tired by this point, and started being rude, before falling asleep in the wheelchair. I used to feel self-conscious, and want to apologise and explain that my mum is not normally like this, the cancer and the medication has had some strange effects on her, but now I don’t worry. What they think isn’t important, my mum is.

We finished off by going to a cute little clothes shop, where Trish found a hippy skirt for me. My mum loved it instantly and told me to buy it. It was quite expensive and I was starting to wonder how much money I had left on my card, but my mum seemed to really like it. She calls me her hippy chick; my two sisters are much more in tune with fashion trends and designer gear, but I prefer to pick up clothes in charity shops, especially if there’s something different or quirky about them. I’ve been looking through my mum’s photo’s and listening to her friend’s stories and it would seem we are two of a kind.

My mum did some strange things whilst we were there. Rachel, mum and I shared a bedroom and Rachel put a commode in there so that my mum wouldn’t have to make the dangerous trip to the bathroom on her own. It seemed to work, except that my mum kept finding excuses to try and leave the room. At 6am, we found her standing at the top of the stairs waiting for someone to wake up and make her tea. Rachel did it, just so we could put her back to bed. She is very wobbly and has no hope of getting down those stairs alone. I found the nights so much easier knowing Rachel was there to help too, and when I didn’t wake to my mum’s escape attempts, Rachel did. My Mum never seemed to sleep whilst we were there; she sat in bed writing incessantly in her little notebook. I wanted to see what she was writing but I was so tired that when I woke I would open my eyes briefly to see if she was in bed, and then turn and fall back to sleep. On the last morning I looked through her little notepad to find amongst poems, a long, painful letter she had written to her long-lost sister; she had obviously forgotten that we are now in contact. I wish I’d had the energy to crawl into bed with her the night before and read what she was writing; maybe I could of comforted her.

My mum slept most of the way home, but then when she woke, she cried. She said that the holiday had been so special and she had enjoyed it so much, but she was frightened it would be her last. Rachel promised to take her to the beach again later in the Summer, and to visit London in the meantime.

She’s asleep upstairs now. I wonder if she’s dreaming of the beach.

 

 

Long-lost and long-loved

Long-lost and Long-loved

A few months ago, I was cuddled up in bed with my mum when she started crying. She told me that she had been searching for a letter but had been unable to find it. She had received the letter 20 years ago and knew she had brought it with us when we moved house but could no longer find it. It was precious to her and she was frightened she had lost it; she was even more frightened that she would never get to speak to the writer again. Curious, I asked who the writer was. Her name was Alice, and she was my mum’s half-sister. My mum hadn’t known that she had a sister until 20 years ago when Alice had written to her; she explained that my granddad had been in a relationship briefly before he had met my grandma, and had conceived a child. The woman was disappointed with my granddad, she had wanted to marry an American, so despite the child, they split up and she moved to America where she brought up Alice.

I was still dubious as to whether this sister existed; I had only heard of this sister once before and that was whilst my mum was in hospital suffering with the side-effects of steroids. I asked my Dad and as far as he was aware, there was only my mum and her brother. Still, she seemed so desperate that I searched for this letter, going through boxes and cupboards until finally we found it. We sat together and I read it aloud. It was a beautiful letter, Alice told us about her husband and children, her upbringing and then expressed how happy she was to be in contact with my mum. My mum cried at that bit. She missed her sister and wished they had kept in contact. She knew that since Alice had written the letter she had moved house and suspected she had changed her surname; she wanted so desperately to talk to her again.

I got onto facebook and looked through my mum’s cousins facebook accounts, searching their friends lists for Alice. I found her! We looked through her pictures and began to imagine what kind of woman she was: “What cute grandchildren! And so many pictures! She must be a very involved grandmother!” “Dressed up, out for a meal… maybe she used to be a business woman?” My mum was so excited as I sent our first message to Alice. The message was desperate, more pushy than what I would normally have written, but my mum wanted so much to speak to her sister and I knew time was not on her side. Every few hours my mum asked whether Alice had replied. This went on for several days, when eventually I received a response asking whether we’d like to Skype. My mum was ecstatic! We worked out the time zones, and set a date. It was on!

But then the Skype date came, and Alice was busy so we postponed until the next day. My mum was heart-broken. She was worried that this would be one of those things that ‘weren’t meant to be,’ or that this was some divine punishment exacted upon her for ignoring her sister for so many years and that she would never get to speak to her.

When the next day came, my mum and I huddled together on the sofa and I met my aunt for the first time. It was so incredibly weird. Here was a total stranger, who because of the shortness of time, we were now trying to adopt an intimate relationship with at an unnatural pace. She was a lovely woman though and after an hour of chatting we agreed to make this a regular thing. My mum always looks forward to our Skype dates; she counts down.

She says that family is family, and that no matter what they do or how far apart you might drift, as long as the same blood flows through your veins, you’re family. She told me that you should never be afraid to get back in touch with a family member or an old friend, if they love you then they’ll always be glad to speak to you, no matter how much time has passed.

So a challenge: if you’re reading this and there’s someone you miss talking to or spending time with, give them a ring, send them a text or write them a letter. Don’t let the embarrassment or the guilt of time passed stop you from creating new memories. When you seek after a long-lost relationship, you never know what you’ll find.

photo credit: eflon via photopin cc edited

What are you talking about?

What are you talking about

Last year, during my mum’s first diagnosis of lung cancer she was prescribed steroids, on which, taking the prescribed amount, she overdosed. The effects were terrifying.

I was living away from home, a 3 hour train journey. On Thursday evening, we chatted on the phone; I was at a work event and was surprised that she had called so late, but I thought little of it and turned my phone onto silent when I got home and snuggled into bed.

I was woken the next morning by a lady who I lived with; my Dad was on the phone and he was hysterical. My mum had been up all night, shouting and exercising and trying to convince my little sister that she needed me to come home and turn the gas on. I checked my phone to find 46 missed calls from my mum. My Dad cried, as he told me that my mum was being admitted hospital and that he needed me to come home. I rang my line manager, Kim, and tried to leave a message but I was crying so hard, I could barely breathe. Something was wrong with my mum and I was so far away; I felt powerless. I knelt down on the beautiful, purple shag rug, that I had cried on so many times since my grandma had passed away 5 months before, and prayed that God would be with my family and the doctors. That he would give them peace and wisdom. That my mum would be well.

I started to pack but my head was a mess. Why hadn’t I planned this before? I knew I could be called home for an emergency but never once had I thought of packing an emergency bag or even writing an emergency packing list. Now, frightened for my mum, I couldn’t think. Kim called me back and within 30 minutes she was outside my door, loading my bags into her boot. I was so thankful; I could have gotten a train or a bus into the city but being able to talk to Kim on the way to the station was such a comfort.

I had done the train ride so many times before, I usually enjoyed the time and space to myself but now it seemed to stretch on. When I arrived at the hospital, my mum was blabbering random words and my family we’re conversing with her as if she was speaking normally. I was taken aback by this and wondered if this was even real. After a while, my younger sister told me that she had been speaking like that since the early morning and that they had decided to pretend she was having a conversation with them as it made the whole thing easier. I struggled with this so kept quiet; but after a while, I began to make sense of her ramblings. Her random words we’re not random words!

They were memories. I would say something like, “I’m hungry,” to which she replied, “Dutch apple, train, toilet, sandwich.” My mum was referring to the cafe nearby which she had brought me to several months before after picking me up from the train station because I was desperate for the toilet, I was excited that I’d found a dutch apple cake there. She could understand us, and what’s more she could commuicate back. Excitedly, I began talking with my mum and we had a wonderful conversation, as the afternoon wore on she began to get her senses back and the conversations became fuller and clearer.

Later in the day, she pulled out “50 Shades of Grey” and began to read aloud. My sister and I sat quietly, listening to words and sentences that we’d never thought we’d hear. A male nurse entered the room to collect her food tray and my mum smiled at him as she continued to read a pretty graphic scene. My sister and I could no longer stay quiet and burst into fits of giggles. My mum had no idea she’d been reading aloud!

During this strange episode my mum had tried to tell us about a sister she believed she had. We told her that it wasn’t true, reminded her that her mother had only 2 children and that she was the youngest. There was so much that were yet to find out…

photo credit: M J M via photopin cc