I’ve written before about Mum, who’s 81 and lives in the UK, most recently HERE- ‘Mother and daughter out for a walk’ , and a longer one last year about the health situation HERE- ‘Down the long lane’.
This morning I opened the late-night email I’ve been half dreading for at least 18 months:
“I need to let you know that your mum is not too well… her dementia has deteriorated. She had not been eating well and not been taking her medication for the dementia and is in a very confused state…”
F*ck! There’s no other response. I feel sick. And kinda helpless. I’m in Australia, with a son who’s just started his final year of school, a home to run which includes a cat, a self-employed performing business to take care of, and Pilates clients to teach every week as well. Plus my interstate beloved ‘H’ to connect with regularly.
I look at my diary, flicking pages back and forth. Can I cancel everything to jump on a plane? Is that the best idea? For me, or for her? What about my younger brother- he’s much closer- why doesn’t he go?
The email goes on to reassure me somewhat: she’s staying with her cousin in-law, her doctor has requested an urgent ‘care needs assessment’ (I’d registered her for all that when I was just there in July), and there’s a room coming up in a residential facility…
But what about her rented garden flat? Stuffed full of memories, china ornaments, scruffy antique furniture, photos, paperwork, dusty jewellery I used to play with, the large-button phone I just bought her at the end of summer, and all the other symbols of independent living I so associate with her: the vintage French crockery from her life there in the 90s, bookcases piled with favourite reads from her career as a librarian, plus 2 creaky wardrobes hung with well-matched outfits in her preferred shades of magenta, forest green, and silver.
What happens to all that? They’re just ‘things’, I know. But they’re ‘Mum’s things’. And in a way, they’re ‘Mum’, especially as we live so far apart (& have done for over 30 years). When I call her every week, I picture her answering the new large-button phone standing by the smaller bookcase with those photos of me and my brother and our various cats and dogs on it, next to her magazine rack with the weekly Radio Times TV Guide in it, just like she always had…
That image of her is slipping; turning to smoke, and I can’t hold it. I’m crying, my hands are grasping, my stomach’s turning, and the email tells me someone else is feeding and looking after her, but permanent arrangements will need to be made.
For now, I’m writing this down to get some clarity, and making phone calls/sending emails.
But f*ck. I don’t know what to do for the best. For her, for me, or for my son. F*ck.