Bed-hopping Challenges

Nowadays, it isn’t the alarm clock but my bladder that rouses me from my dreams. Sometimes in the early hours, my brain still asleep, my body knows I need to get out of bed and autopilot myself to the bathroom. Normally these moments of somnambulism pose no problem, but in the last week I have slept in four different beds in various houses, most confusing for my inner sat-nav.

At my mother’s house and at my daughter’s, I need to get out of bed on the right-hand side (though depending on which room my daughter has put me in, there may be stairs to negotiate), in my own place and at my friend’s it’s the left-hand side. To complicate matters further, I arrived back from my mother’s (right), stayed one night at my daughter’s (right), spent one night in my own bed (left) followed by a night at my friend’s (left), back to my own home (left), two nights at my daughter’s (right) and back home again (left).

In the pitch-blackness of 3 am this morning, it took me a good five minutes to figure out where I was, which side of the bed to climb out of, and which direction to go in. As I attempted to walk through the wall where the doorway wasn’t, orientation returned and I was able to accomplish my mission with no further mishap.

There’s something to be said for the old custom of a chamber-pot under the bed!

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas …

I’m getting accustomed to strange Christmases. This year is no exception. With my mother now in a nursing home, where they will be fed a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, given crackers and paper hats, presents from Santa’s own hand followed by the Queen’s speech on TV and a snooze, I am leaving her to it and sneaking off for celebrations with my Swiss family. This will be the first Christmas I have spent with my own children/grandchildren in Switzerland for about 10 years, and it’s sweetened this year by the fact that we have a new baby to cuddle, my fourth great-grandchild. How could I miss that opportunity? Christmas is so much more fun when there are children around, and on Christmas Day they will be aged eight, five, twenty-one months, and three weeks.

christmas-cat

Of course I’m feeling selfish and guilty about abandoning my mother. It is probably her last Christmas, as she is now aged a hundred and a half. But I know she’s in good hands, and I have been here in England for two weeks beforehand, visiting her frequently, and that has cheered her up. We’ve had some chuckles and reminisced, I’ve passed on all the news and have been pleasantly surprised to find that she has taken it all in and remembered what I’ve told her. We have even been able to FaceTime my daughter and granddaughter, so that Great-Granny could see and speak to her great-great-grandchildren and admire the newest little girl.

My mother is a shadow of the person she was, but sadly that was to be expected. She is in no pain, is lucid and alert much of the time, and frustrated at the loss of her independence though she has resigned herself to the situation, and appreciates the patience and kindness of the staff who look after her. They will do their best to give their residents a merry Christmas, and I know my mother will be happy to join in any carol singing. She still knows all the 12 Days of Christmas, much to everyone’s amazement.

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“Five go-old rings …”

See how I’m justifying my decision? I really and truly hope and trust that she will spend a happy Christmas in the beautifully decorated Home among a cheerful bunch of her contemporaries and their dedicated carers.

And I shall swallow my pangs of conscience with my turkey and Christmas pudding (home-made and kindly donated by a good friend here).

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

She knows how to make a dramatic entrance. Exactly a week after the stork was due, my newest little great-granddaughter finally decided the time was ripe. She didn’t want to be a Saturday’s child (“works hard for its living”) but instead, aware that “the child that is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe, and good and gay” she delayed until four minutes after midnight before slipping into the world on the second Sunday in Advent, the day we light the candle for Peace.

Joline is here. My granddaughter’s children all have unusual names, but my instant reaction was, “What, Dolly Parton?” No, I am assured that the initial ‘J’ is pronounced as in French, like ‘jolie’ which is some relief. Because she is, of course, très jolie, beautiful. Like all my children (grandchildren, great-grandchildren).

I had just stepped out of a nice warm bath, all relaxed and ready to slide under my cosy duvet, when I received the message that my granddaughter had left for the hospital. It was just after ten pm. Knowing that my granddaughter is one of those truly fortunate women who give birth relatively easily, I decided to wait a couple of hours for further news. And yes, she didn’t disappoint: just as I was giving up and finally going to bed, a text message popped up announcing that Joline had arrived, weighing in at 3840 g, which is something over 8 lbs.

Few children get such a hearty welcome as this little mite. As is usual in Switzerland, her Daddy was present at the birth. Since it was the weekend, not only my daughter (Joline’s Nana) had gone to babysit the other children, but my son-in-law (their grandfather) was also there. So that was the reception committee when she arrived home from the hospital. And then such delight when her siblings woke up and rushed to cuddle their new little sister, not to mention that both her aunts and her paternal grandparents then turned up. I’d be there, too, if it wasn’t quite so far – my home is 140 km away, so I shall have to wait a while before I can visit – but hallelujah! We have the ability to share photos instantly nowadays, so here she is, just a few hours old:joline-04-12-2016

What a wonderful gift for Advent!

Until Death Us Do Part

A small group of old pals have been trying to arrange a little get-together including an old friend of mine, now in his mid-eighties. We knew that his wife was suffering from dementia and that he is her sole carer, but have been sorry to discover that although he has several grown-up children and grandchildren, nobody is available to spend an evening looking after this poor lady in order to allow him to have a couple of carefree hours. He defended his family, saying:

The problem is leaving her with anybody, even X (her daughter), as she doesn’t know who they are!  She asks me several times a day who I am and will I take her home to her Mom and Dad … Unless you have personally experienced the incredible effects of dementia it all sounds ‘made up’.  I assure you, it’s even worse than that!  They do hope to have a cure in 10 years’ time. Ha, bloody Ha.

I suggested she might be able to spend a day or two in a care home for respite now and then, to give him a rest. Or perhaps, since she was so disoriented and unable to recognise even her closest family members that she wouldn’t realise where she was, to place her in a home permanently, and I recommended the nursing home where my mother is.

This was the heart-rending reply.

Cat, I’m not sure I could afford it on my smallish pension. And I’d feel like a total traitor. We started courting nearly 69 years ago, have been married over 64 years and it did say, ‘for better or worse’. I’m not sure it could get any worse and I’m somehow surviving so I shall let it ride for now to see what fate has in store.

She clings to me so desperately it’s touching to watch.

I could do with getting out I’ll admit, just to chat etc.  But I can’t create the opportunity without enormous upset.  Let’s see what happens and if X can help. She has been tremendous. 

What makes this particularly moving is that I know they didn’t really have a good marriage and had considered divorce more than once. As the years advanced, they agreed to make the best of the situation for the sake of their family, and stayed together. They lived together but independently, each pursuing their own interests, and were able to remain friends, even occasionally going out together to concerts or the the theatre, interests they still shared. So this isn’t a case of a devoted, loving couple, but of an honorable man who made a promise he is determined to keep whatever the circumstances.

I think of so many couples in love who make their marriage vows easily and carelessly, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health*”, without any thought of what that might entail, and who give up and separate when the pendulum swings to the poorer, worse, and sick side. For our friend, who feels that he somehow failed to “love and to cherish” his bride quite as well as he might, this ordeal is his chance to make amends over and above any duty that could be expected of him. I pray it will not kill him.

 

*Wedding vows of the Church of England:

Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

 

They got Not-Hillary; We got a hairball; It’s time to move on.

Rangewriter

Like half of my country, I’m still reeling from the outcome of Election 2016. My worst fears have come true and I’m eating my proclamation from many months back that Trump was the Democrats’ wet dream. Turns out he managed to fuck the entire Democratic party and half of the voting public.

But, the other half of the voting public got their wish. They bought the bravado, the piss-on-you attitude, the unbelievable ignorance about issues and diplomacy, the errant-emails-are-worse-than-my-bankruptcies assumption, the protectionism, and the pry-my-AR15-out-of-my-dead-fingers promise, the lower-my-taxes AND Make-America-Great-Again nonsense, and they are as happy about this result as the rest of us were happy eight years ago, and again four years ago when we got our most beloved president.

Well what to do now? I spent November 9th moping around, sucker-punched, and on the verge of tears. I’ve divorced myself from the news with its proliferation of idiot pundits trying…

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An Excuse For A Celebration

It’s that time of year again, though this time the little ghoulies and ghosties will be knocking in vain at my mother’s door in the fearful hope of me pouncing on them (see my posts from previous years). In a way, I’m quite glad to be missing it. Hallowe’en has got out of hand. It’s an oxymoron to wish people “Happy Hallowe’en”: what could possibly be happy about it?

If we really want to celebrate a pagan festival at this time of year, then I suggest we adopt Diwali, which is already a fixture in many parts of the UK. I was rather startled a few years ago in the English Midlands by the fireworks that accompany this festival, thinking someone was going overboard over Guy Fawkes. Then it was explained to me that it was Diwali, and so – naturally -I googled it and discovered from Wikipedia that:

Diwali , Tihar or Deepawali is the Hindu festival of lights native to Nepal and India celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere). It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. One of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices.[ On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated

The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras (in Northern and Western part of India), followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Deepavali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife–husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhai Dooj dedicated to sister–brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.”

There’s a lot more to it, and you can read all about it on Wikipedia. Some of my Christian friends will object to me advocating a Hindu custom, but hey, come on! The early Christian church incorporated an awful lot of pagan feasts into their calendar, including Christmas and Hallowe’en itself. Why not replace these, which have both reverted to their pagan roots, by a festival that “spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair”? 

There’s a lot of positive stuff here, including giving your home and workplace a good clean and making a real effort to love your family. Not to mention endorsing shopping – that should be good for the economy, too. And, not least, dressing up to look good, not scary.

I daresay we could bring in a pumpkin or two and bobbing for apples, as a westernising contribution, and maybe tie it all up with Guy Fawkes in the UK. What a great way to integrate communities, all joining in one big happy party with only positive vibes and associations of light, love and hope. What can Christians object to in that?

This year, Diwali started yesterday on 30 October, and so this is the week of festivities and celebrations if you happen to be in an area populated by Hindus, Sikhs or Jains. Happy Diwali!

(Just don’t send off paper lanterns with candles in them
– they can cause untold damage.)

Home …

My mother didn’t want to go into an old folks’ home. I didn’t want to have to put her into one, either. But the decision was taken out of our hands by events, and she has now been in a nursing home for almost five months whilst I have had to return to Switzerland. Yes, I can pop back to England now and then for a week or so to check up on her, but those visits result mostly in frustration and a sense of impotence, because even the best “Home” isn’t capable of providing the individual personal care and attention she was receiving in her own home. But she needs nursing and I am no longer able to continue looking after her.

img_0320The staff are caring and kind, but my mother is dwindling. A tiny, frail little figure, no longer the matriarch she was even on her hundredth birthday. And yet, she is still here, still battling on, despite her loss of independence and sense of purpose, despite the fact that she now gets confused and muddled; unable to see properly because of her macular degeneration and frequently unable to hear what is being said because either her hearing aids have been mislaid or there is simply too much background noise; and unable even to stand on her own two feet any more. She hates the hoist that has become necessary whenever she needs to be moved, she hates having to ask for assistance for even the simplest task. Yet she is still here.

The wise, wonderful, witty, kind, considerate and lovable person she was is now a treasured memory in the minds of her family and friends. Her own memories, the source of many a merry tale, are as muddled as a mixed salad. She is no trouble and doesn’t complain, so the staff are quite fond of her. But they have little idea of the person she was for a hundred years, until her little accident in May and the traumatic events that landed her here, and have wrought such change in her. Her birthday party was the last occasion where she seemed really happy and still herself.
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I tried to give her news of the family, the recent successes of her great-grandchildren and the amusing doings of her young great-great-grandchildren. Photos were of little help, as they appear blurred: is that little brown-haired girl really her great-great-granddaughter? Or maybe her great-granddaughter, her granddaughter or even her daughter? Maybe even herself? As five.year-olds we all looked very much like this, so that kind of confusion is understandable: the experiences of a century blend together into a timeless mass.

She is not in any physical pain, thank God, but mental and emotional suffering are taking their toll. Does she feel abandoned? She hasn’t said so, but she would so like to go home and that is just not possible.

Am I selfish to pray that this situation will not have to last much longer, and that she can, finally, really go home?