All posts filed under: personal

The 2 most amazing things my 82-yr old Mum said, despite her dementia

I recently heard this analogy about memory: imagine your brain is a bookcase, filled with books of wisdom and learning from the lowest shelves upwards… but as you age- or get dementia- the topmost books fall off, one by one, or sometimes two by two, until the shelves slowly empty down to the ground… Yet Mum still said great things during our three weeks together, and I’m grateful I wrote them down; there will be more to come. Scenario 1: We’re in her living room, surrounded by plump bookcases- she used to be the Head Librarian of our town. Suddenly she picks up a hardcover book, opens it to a few pages from the front and reads aloud this Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as I remembered one of my recent posts- “Nostalgia looks like a hedge, sounds like a seagull, & tastes like crumpets” -about the release of painful memories actually being a blessing for us both. …

I’ve become a waddling Mama duck

I’m at the start of my 3rd week visiting Mum in England, and realized today what’s happening: she’s imprinting on me like ducklings or cygnets do. When I ask her if she’s ready for breakfast, she looks at me to ask if I’m having some? Same with a cuppa, having a shower, or going for a walk. It wasn’t like that for the first week. Or perhaps I was too jetlagged/overwhelmed/finding my way to notice? Now we’ve settled into a routine though, as I’ve learnt the rhythm of her days and nights, including the multiple daily carer visits. So it suddenly stood out to me this afternoon, as I left for a walk on my own, that she really was becoming my shadow. This isn’t good. I return home to Australia in 10 days, and yes, I’m definitely counting down. What’s going to happen once I’ve gone? Who will repeat for the fifth time what we’re having to eat? Who will cook her such fine, healthy lunches, and supply long-favoured treats like crumpets or Crunchie …

When telling a lie is the best option, to clamber ancient rocks in Wales

“Come and stay in the holiday cottage with us; take a break from your Mum,” says my Aunty over the phone. I don’t need to be invited twice. Any excuse to hop on a train cross country- my favourite way to travel. My Aunt and her partner live in North Wales, but a family gathering is happening in South Wales, and it’s the perfect time to catch up with my cousin, her husband, and their 3 kids, as they celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They’re staying near where Mum and her 3 siblings grew up, around Gowerton. I’ve never been there before: I’ll get to see the house they grew up in, the school they went to, and most importantly, the bays and beaches over which they gazed as they matured, following their dreams. But I’ll have to ignore the stab of guilt at not taking Mum with me. I know full well that she actually needs the stability of her routines in a familiar place, rather than the stress of travel and an unknown …

Nostalgia looks like a hedge, sounds like a seagull, & tastes like crumpets

Mum and our cousin met me unexpectedly at the train station, so there were hugs all round, then straight home for a cuppa. I can tell she’s very happy to see me of course, but Mum also asks several times where we’re going, as though she hasn’t just heard the answer a minute ago. Which is the world she lives in now. Dementia often takes away short-term memory first, and that was one of the initial symptoms we began to notice a few years ago. ‘Shall we have a treat with our tea? How about a crumpet?’ Nostalgia coats my taste buds like raspberry jam and warm runny butter. I’m drawn backwards through the years, remembering blustery walks on the beach with various dogs, coming home to food treats like hot crumpets. Crackers with sharp vintage cheddar. Fruit & nut chocolate. Crispy fish and chips every Friday. Rhubarb and apple crumble with clotted cream… these are a few of my favourite things. But if I want them, I’ll have to buy them and/or make them. …

Musings on Mum

I’m on the train down to the quaint English seaside town where I grew up, watching the countryside flash by. Neatly hedged fields, thick-walled farmhouses, and glimpses of bigger human settlements marked by the identical carparks and superstores. I’m trying to work out how I feel. It’s a mixture of jetlagged tiredness, slight anxiety, a little excitement, and my hopeful practice of being an open, blank slate. It suddenly occurred to me that Mum hasn’t seen me with blonde hair. Well, not since the ill-fated ‘Highlights Experiment of 1985’ anyway; maybe I should pop my blue cap on? This is a new experience: wondering how Mum is going to greet me. For as long as I can remember of course, she has hugged me hello with a squeal of excitement, and teary eyes, especially once I moved to Australia in 1987, and there were long gaps between my flights home. At my financially poorest, and most rebellious, I admit I didn’t see her for 8 years; I would HATE it if ‘18’ did that to …

‘I’ve got to get this done’: dealing with a parent’s dementia from afar

By the time this publishes, I will be en route to the UK. For 3 weeks, I am going to stay with my 82-yr old Mum, who is now suffering quite badly from her dementia. I’ve written about her before in ‘Two rocks lie heavy in my heart; the first is Mum’ . She was having two visits a day from social service carers; it went up to 3 or 4, and now it’s at the maximum of 5 visits. What an incredible gift is a welfare system hey? Some hard decisions need to be made, by family members who see her way more often than I, but it’s me who has the Power of Attorney over her financial affairs and wellbeing. Mum knows I’m coming; she just can’t remember when. Usually I pop in for a few days, then head to France (Australia is a bloody long way from Europe after all), but this time I’m focusing solely on her. Having said that, I’m going to walk every day along the beach, join the gym …

‘Where have you been G?’: stilts, bands, and birthdays basically

Hi! It’s been ages 10 days since I last wrote a post, I’m sorry. Life just got busy, y’know. What with ’18’s big birthday, and 3 gigs on 3 weekends with my fabulous boss/dearest friend, I’ve just not had time to be near my computer. Which is actually very nice, to be honest. Except I miss y’all! But I had to pack my stilts for 2 different festivals on 2 consecutive weekends, including my favourite music festival of the year, at which I saw no less than 15 bands. We then flew to Adelaide for a Winter Festival down by the river, at which I drifted silently like a Cloud, AND met up with fellow WordPress blogger Eve over at Unleashing the Couger – photo credit & fancy filter to Eve. To top off the distractions, yesterday was MY birthday- a proud and delightful 52. FIFTY TWO. HOW THA HELL did that happen? I can’t believe it; when my Mum was this age, I emigrated to Australia by myself, as a feisty, stubborn, yet-also-anxious 20-yr old, …

Damn you, solo beach walker

I’m pretty lucky here in Australia: I live less than 10 minutes from a beautiful long beach, and walk and/or jog down it at least twice a week. This morning was no different, although the stormy sky was threatening rain, so there were a lot less people than usual. I power walked along– away from the break wall with its dots of fishing folk and pram pushers avoiding the sand- watching for the spouting of migrating whales, listening to great music, and enjoying feeling stronger and energetic again after surviving my week on refugee rations. I passed a few dog walkers, who have to turn back after 500 metres, to protect nesting birds.; I challenged myself to run as fast as I could for 30 seconds, and felt the push and stretch of my muscles. I smiled at the rolling waves, the odd seagull, the wind whipping my hair under my woollen hat and hoodie. It felt good to be alive, and I didn’t want to stop walking. Then I saw a lone figure further …

Without doubt, the most beautiful road sign I’ve ever seen in Australia

I get teary every time I drive past it. Which is quite often, as it’s near the end of my street on the way out of town towards the highway. That stretch of road becomes long and narrow, without pavements or overhead lights, and cars can drive at 80kms (or faster) after leaving the slow limits of suburbia. It’s officially Winter now, so despite my tropical address, it’s dark by 5.30pm, as everyone hurries home to their families and snug houses. Except Alfred. I can’t remember exactly how long he’s been around, but it’s years. Years and years of just walking in sandals on the road’s edge, leaning more and more to one side in his spine as time passes. Who is he, my son and I used to wonder? And why is he always walking, sometimes wearing a garbage bag as a jacket, whatever the weather. Nut brown legs, stained clothes, occasionally carrying a stick with litter impaled on the end of it; always walking, no matter the weather. A couple of years ago, …