Monthly Archives: December 2006

Happy New Year

It’s been a good one. All things considered, it’s been a good one.
I have grown closer to all of my family, especially Dad, and been able to see his life to its conclusion without a single regret. I have been able to spend time with people I care about and to focus on the important things in life. I have faced challenges and grown in wisdom and knowledge, in understanding and hopefully in my ability to care… though I know more challenges still lie ahead. I have got into more regular contact with some people who are special friends and made many new ones – though losing some to the natural wastage of marriage, a real sadness to me – and have been incredibly blessed by the Christian love I have experienced. And God hasn’t let go of me for one minute, even in my darkest hour.
The year ahead beckons, full of unknowns. The days following the funeral, when everyone goes home and I am left alone with my boys and an empty bungalow (and two extra mouths to feed in the form of two gerbils), lurk rather forebodingly ahead of me and I am daunted too by the enormity of caring for my sons alone. But I’m not alone. And there will be so many opportunities to develop my life in all sorts of new ways. I can develop into new avenues for earning my keep as I intend still only to teach mornings and maybe to give piano lessons or private tuition or even find something completely different for a few afternoons a week, leaving the remainder for doing good things like getting housework out of the way, doing my studying for local preaching, reading, writing letters, just walking quietly on the Downs. I have found a singing club I really fancy joining, and am seriously tempted to sign up for the dance class that’s starting on Wednesday.
And travel… that’s on the agenda too. Visits to my siblings – haven’t been there for ages! To my childhood friend in the Midlands. To shipmeets. To France. Anywhere I want to go, planned or on a whim. (OK, so it’s finances permitting, but a woman can dream!) And to do it without guilt or regret… thanks for that gift, Dad!

To all my wiblogging friends: Thank you for your prayers, love, support and chocolate over the difficult times this year, and for your fun and friendship too. I wish you a peaceful, happy and fulfilling New Year… and to that I raise my mug of hot chocolate 🙂

Well done Santa

It was a bit of an oversight on Smudgelet’s part, not to ask for the present he most wanted when he wrote to Santa. I mean, the elves were busy making him a hot wheels turbotube track when I sent them a hurried email to say he’d slipped up and forgotten to mention the model railway.

We have a new railway buff in the family. SO much for my plans for extra storage space in the loft… the male members of my family seem to have other ideas for that space. It was perfect for Smudgelet and Uncle Scrooge to spend time together over the last few days – they have never really bonded that well, the two of them, and finally they have found something they have in common. The table was taken over by the Smudgeville Express – and Uncle Scrooge was so impressed that he even inaugurated a special carriage and had a station named after him.

I’m happy as larry, whoever he is. That’s birthday and Christmas presents sorted for many years to come.

Retail therapy

Now I have to bite the bullet here and own up to something rather shameful. Over the last couple of years while I’ve been looking after Dad, I’ve sort of.. er… expanded. In particular in the,… umm… balcony area! With the result that none of my nice clothes actually fit me properly any more and I look decidedly dumpy and round and dishevelled whatever I wear – think Daisy off “Keeping Up Appearances”! And while Dad loved me whatever I wore, I think he would have something to say if I turned up to his funeral in my jeans or, the other comfortable option, my pyjamas! So a bit of retail therapy became more than slightly essential.

You’d have thought it a simple matter, looking for a suit that was comfortable, not too unflattering, and not too funereal but suitable to wear for preaching or other smart occasions. Was it? It was not. We looked everywhere. I was somewhat mortified to discover that not only was I no longer a size 16, but actually needed something that was a generous 20 on top, though still managing 16s and 18s round the waist. A challenge indeed. There was little that appealed at all, except just plain black which I didn’t want, and those that did catch my eye didn’t have my size at all. I was, by the afternoon, well and truly depressed.

The afternoon’s mission was to get the flowers for Friday. We had decided to go to the little florists in Cowes as that is where the funeral director is located. We parked up at the end of town and decided to walk through. You can imagine our distress when we finally got there and discovered it wasn’t. Wasn’t a florist. Not there, anyway. No florist anywhere to be found, apart from a “flowers and novelties” shop that was closed anyway. Typical.

but

what there was

was

Artigiano! Now, I had absolutely no hope of finding anything within my price range there – not a chance. Designer stuff from Italy, starting at £200 for a handkerchief. (Ok, slight exaggeration, but you get my drift). But we’re so fed up about the flowers that we go in and look at their samples rack. There are no sizes on the jackets, the assistant suggests we try them on and hands me an unimpressive looking black jacket. I don’t want black! But I try it on anyway, and look in the mirror. Honestly – it took my breath away. It was absolutely gorgeous. I could hardly bear to take it off – I was transformed. The price tag took my breath away too, I hasten to add, but it was the most remarkable bargain even at £60 as the general sale price was about three times as much, and I know I shall definitely get £60-worth of wear out of it.

From Cowes we returned to Newport, Artigiano carrier bag in hand. The little florist in the town centre would be another good place to try to order the flowers. We park at the end of town and walk through. En route we pass Edinburgh Woollen Mill. And what do you know? Half an hour later we emerge with a gorgeous pair of grey trousers for a tenner and a beautiful white blouse with tiny dark purple flowers half price in the sale. An outfit that makes me feel so good, more than anything I’ve worn in ages. With a trip to the hairdressers (first in a year!) to polish the top layer, I should look fairly presentable on Friday… and Smudgelet was overwhelmed when he saw me and just kept saying “You look so so beautiful, Mummy”. (I like that boy!)

Needless to say, the florist in Newport town centre isn’t. It’s closed down. It’s a pie shop.

The homecoming

My eldest came home yesterday, courtesy of the wonderful friends who took care of him over Christmas and drove him all the way home, staying with me while I got over the initial impact of having him in the house again. It is going to be hard. At the moment he’s trying fairly hard to stick within the new, more stringent house rules that I have imposed – although to be honest I’m finding them fairly trying too as I can no longer ask him to nip to the shop to get me something I’ve run out of, he’s not allowed in either my home or Dad’s unaccompanied which means I have to go with him if I’ve left something in the other house, and I have to remember to lock my bedroom door and not lose the key… and then to unlock it instead of dislocating my shoulder trying to walk through as I press the handle!

A godsend in helping our relationship and, more particularly, his relationship within the rest of the family has been the discovery of another website telling more about Attachment Disorder which helps make his current behaviour less personal and enables us to know more of what we’re up against and the sort of help he .. and we… will need. I will put it in my links so that people like Jennyanydots can have a good read as it’s useful information.

For me at the moment the hard part is coming to terms with how the past few months have made me feel as it’s a feeling quite alien to me at present. He is my son and I love him. But I really don’t want him around me, I don’t want to hug him or cuddle him, I don’t trust him with my emotions… and what I really hate is that this is alienating me from people who see my charming, endearing, lovely boy and cannot understand why I am struggling. But we will get through this, sooner or later we will get through this. And when life becomes more normal here it will be easier to see the way forward. In the meantime I entrust us both to God’s keeping and praise Him for the amazing strength and supportiveness and understanding of those who love and care for us.

Procrastination

Well, some things never change, and here I am blogging when I am actually supposed to be typing up the order of service for Friday. I will do it next, promise! 😉 It’s not even that I am putting off doing the order of service, just that it seems a lifetime since last I blogged and I want to be up to date before the New Year sets in. I don’t think I’ll be seeing the new year in, but I guess it’ll come anyway… but when someone said about the exhaustion of bereavement they weren’t kidding – I could sleep for England!

We seem to have the funeral all planned, apart from printing these sheets and ordering the flowers. I feel quite content with what we’ve chosen. Much of it has been down to me, being the only practising Christian in the family now that Dad has gone… but in some ways that’s been good as it’s been a pleasure to do it for Dad and we’re going to have some stonking good hymns. Today my sister and I sat going through his CDs trying to choose music for the crematorium. We think we’ve found the right ones, but so much of my love of Classical music is tied up with Dad that the whole experience was quite a moving one for both of us. We were overtaken with grief and delight when Holy City came on one of the CDs – one of Dad’s utter favourites and so so beautiful, even though it will not be one we use on Friday. Although time was getting on, we decided we’d better listen to one more piece to help clear the tears, and found ourselves giggling tremendously at the vision of the undertaker waltzing down the aisle to the sound of the Blue Danube! Black humour maybe, but a joke Dad would have loved. And Dad will be touched to know that many people from the Hospice will be there at the funeral, as well as members of our family and friends from overseas (England!) and friends here to raise the roof.

The week has been a busy one, making phone calls, writing letters, organising things, chasing up mysteries like the life assurance Dad took out through his work that nobody seems to have ever heard of, talking with long lost cousins and trying to decide what I wish to keep from Dad’s home. My own home needs a thorough clean and tidy, being in a state of utter chaos and totally embarrassing to entertain the visitors who will arrive on Thursday. That’s why I wouldn’t dream of procrastinating here when there’s so much to do.

Now, what else can I blog?

What better end to the day…

than watching the Vicar of Dibley? Now that was funny! 😀

It’s been a lovely Christmas Day. It was hard to wake early and I was worried that I wouldn’t have the energy (or get rid of the headache) to make it a good day, but I forced myself out of bed to play with my little one who I guessed would be missing his brother as well as his grandad. It was lovely to snuggle in bed with him and see his presents, though he was a little put out at the single walkie-talkie in his stocking – not much use without its partner.

Presents were squeezed in before and after church, the before ones being a necessity as the instructions were to take something with us to show. Church had been a dilemma – more than anything I just had to go. I arranged with my minister that we’d arrive late and leave early… the first part of the plan worked to perfection and the service was the celebration I’d hoped for – chance to thank God for my blessings and to sing with all my heart the amazing truth held in the carols: “born that man no more may die”. Chance to laugh and praise with my church family. I felt warm and loved, and was lulled into moving out too slowly – oooh, bad move. Not because I’m afraid to cry in front of these people who love me, and loved Dad, so much but because I didn’t want the service to be overwhelmed for them or for me or for Smudgelet by opening the floodgate of tears and indeed driving home was rather dangerous as I am sure my vision was slightly impaired. But mainly throughout the day I was aware of Dad’s freedom – I could feel his strength instead of being aware of his weakness – and we could celebrate fully in that knowledge. I was concerned only in that I found I did not miss the presence of my eldest – it was nice to focus on my little one without the extra tension which I realised had become a constant companion in my eldest son’s company – I thought of him constantly through the day, but with a sense of relief and secure in the knowledge he’s in a good place rather than longing that he was home. I pray God will help me through this part of things.

Presents there were many, and wonderful ones at that. Lots of surprises… including three penguins, a fun game called HummBug, and the most amazing coil pot made by Smudgelet in his pottery class. Oooooooh, and some hand-made chocolates. Thanks Big Sister! 😀 We talked with my brother (out walking at the tip-top of Scotland) and my other sister (she and the family are all laid low with sickness and diarrhoea); we played games; we ate and drank and laughed together and watched TV and videos and had just the most amazing day. On the agenda for tomorrow – testing out my Strictly Come Dancing instruction DVD and setting up Smudgelet’s new “grown up” train set. Woohoo!

As the day draws to an end, I wish you all the remains of a happy Christmas, the message of which lasts all year and fills your lives with Peace, Love, and Good will to all…. but with only a limited number of mince pies.

Santa

I sit here waiting to hear Santa tiptoe into Smudgelet’s room. It was like a gift from Grandad to give us Christmas together when we had been so sure it would be a disrupted day. But energy levels are low, of course, and the house is far from Christmassy…. apart from the wonderful Christmas tree next door which Smudgelet and Uncle (scrooge) D put up and decorated yesterday.

The well-travelled Christmas gifts had been sent ahead of us to my sister’s as we knew that that was where Santa was planning to call for the boys. Wrapped in a rush, the presents were organised in a box so that I would remember which was which and could label them later. Good plan. Shame I didn’t tell my sister! When they brought the box back on Tuesday ready for a Christmas at home, she had reorganised the presents so as to fit more into the box. So tonight we were faced with a jumble of gifts, totally unrecognisable. At 11.30 this evening we were busy unwrapping and re-wrapping .. and I was battling tears of exhaustion and grief as I found myself writing labels for gifts from Grandad. And then what happens? Smudgelet wakes and needs the toilet at midnight, so here I am waiting for Santa to have chance to deliver his stocking.

Hope the man in red doesn’t mind that I nicked his sherry.

Goodnight

So, since Tuesday we have been living at the hospice, making sure that Dad had someone with him at all times. Sometimes tense, sometimes soothing… when his breathing settled it was the most reassuring sound to sleep to, rather like a gentle cat’s purr. Sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. Sometimes alone, sometimes together. I read so many books (discovered I really don’t like Catherine Cookson anywhere near as much as I thought I did), completed crosswords (hard that, without Dad to ask for help), ate copious quantities of comfort food and was well cared for by the staff.

Last night became surreal as the almost silent hospice – only a couple of people in – was visited by a choir singing the most beautiful Christmas carols. It was lovely, yet painful somehow, and something strange was in the air. I’ll swear Dad was able to hear them, and almost indecipherably his breathing began to change. This was the beginning of his gentle end. As I settled to sleep alongside him, listening to the rapid yet rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, I was aware of a strange feeling that made me reluctant to leave the door closed or even to close my eyes and I promptly readjusted the chair and sat up to read my book. It meant that I was able to call a nurse as I became more aware of the sudden irregularity of his breathing and, as she went to fetch my sister and the two of them returned together, he took one last breath and was finally at peace.

Goodnight and God speed, Dad.

Battles with the furniture

The Hospice were wonderful. We were shown a bedroom with en-suite which we could call our own if things continued beyond the hour, two reclining chairs were put by his bedside, and the wait began. It was a long night. Each few minutes punctuated by the alternating snores and silence. I’m used to being kept awake by snoring, but through that night the snores lulled us towards sleep and the silences woke us. But morning came and he was still with us, far calmer and more comfortable as light filled the room.

We, meanwhile, were the talk of the hospice at hand-over time. Not for the vigil we had kept, but for a far different reason. A nurse found me in the corridor at 2am, hands over my face, shoulders shaking, fighting for control. She was wonderful, raced up and put her arms round me and comforted me… but was rather surprised by my reaction. For I was not in tears at all, but battling to control a fit of the giggles. I get these rarely but when they begin there’s simply no stopping them.

I had been sitting in the electric recliner alongside Dad’s bed, while my sister had been in the one which is operated by lever. Her chair was put between the bed and the wardrobe, pushed up towards the wall and bedside cabinet so that she was completely enclosed by the chair back as she lay there reclined, tucked up in a blanket. Suddenly she’d realised she needed the toilet.. and rather urgently at that, so she tried to press with her legs to lower the footrest, while fishing alongside the chair for the lever… all in vain. Every time she got it partially under control, the footrest would forcably spring up again, and with the chair on castors on a shiny floor she couldn’t get a purchase with her foot to move it clear of the obstructions. Her face was contorted as she battled and her arms and legs waved valiently but in vain as she struggled to free herself from the furniture… but without disturbing Dad! Could I help? Could I ‘eck… I was far too busy trying to prevent myself from bursting into loud giggles or… even worse… letting go of my meagre control of my own bladder under the circumstances!!!!

Much to the amusement of the nursing staff!

You’ll be pleased to know, we both made it through the night without needing to call for incontinence wear!