Author: dderbydave

Memorium Mori

The view from my car is pleasant.

With my back to the old graveyard, I have a view of the English countryside before me. My small thermos of “posh coffee” is open and steaming up the windscreen as I dunk another custard cream.

It’s deceiving really. Beyond the tree line and below the rolling hills but tucked out of view is a large piece of farmland. It’s long past its best and awful to walk through. At its centre is a small boating lake with a yacht club (single seater, not Monte Carlo).
The town hall wants to develop it but locals are in uproar. Folk who never set foot on its muddy paths and boring fields are writing angry letters to maintain the green belt.

Below the treeline and filling my view is a nicely kept memorial garden filled with plants and added plastic flowers and dotted with the occasional wooden arch. Meandering paths are empty at the moment: my only companions have, like me, retreated to their cars for warmth.

Dad passed away three years ago today. In a couple of hours in fact. Mum had taken him to the dentist who had refused to examine him as he was congested.

They’d got back and she’d made him some lunch. By this time he was frail and it was pureed and thickened to help him swallow. He’d eaten a little and she had nodded off next to him waiting for him to finish. He slept too and like this, warm fed and with The Missus, he quietly slipped away.

She woke and busied herself tidying away and getting him some pureed pudding only to find him still and quiet and cold in his chair.

His funeral and cremation were well attended with both of my brothers appearing. Her family, long since estranged, didn’t show.

Del and Ricky were an item for over fifty years and his passing has destroyed her. As his constant carer her mind has disintegrated.

I doubt she knows it’s the anniversary of his death today.

Her thoughts are tangled up with missing keys and bank cards. With deceit and treachery. With the suffering she has for so long advertised to anyone who will listen. With pushing folk away and then complaining about her loneliness.

Today these complaints have no one to hear them. So she scribbles almost illegible notes to herself about the perceived misdeeds of those around her. Her carers are in and out in 15 minutes, performing their duties with little time for her long mournful monologues.

With nothing to complain about, apart from her own self imposed isolation, she has started to create nonsense tales of misdoing about the last people in the world who actually care for her.

Such is dementia.

The coffee’s gone now and a new party of heavy coated mourners have arrived with flowers and I watch them scuttle across the cold windswept garden.

I don’t come her for solace. Dad has gone and his ashes in a nice box with a metal plate are parked beneath a rose bush nearby.

I cleaned the burial plaque which sits in front of the bush today but felt no ties to the spot.

He’d be horrified by her behaviour and would tell her to pull her socks up.

All we can do is ignore the dementia and enjoy the parts of Mum that are still with us.

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Alan

Reading has always been a big part of my life.

As a kid I’d hide in Middle Earth or Narnia, spending quality time with the folk there. It was a better place to be than the erratic ever shifting world on the other side of my book.

As an adult it gave me the company I missed living on my own. A social life is only good while its happening.

Life in the last 10-15 years has taken me away from my favourite pastime.

So I resolved to get back into it.

Alan Bennett has always amused me. His early work was superb as he teamed up with the biggest names in clever comedy. Later his Talking Heads were mesmerising in their accurate portrayal of Northern folk.

He, or rather his media portrayal, is interesting too. A sort of bitter old aunt of a man with a razor tongue and a withering stare.

Reading his reluctantly written memoir shows us how a bright kid in an intellectually impoverished family can flip from cute-smart cherub to bitterly disdainful almost hateful young man – he stayed in the car when his aunt attended her husbands funeral.

He details the main players in his life with a loving condescension that tries to justify his outlook. They seem to morph into ee-by-gum caricatures with glaring faults seemingly put there as writing fodder.

Now in his dotage, he has donated his life’s work (a large pile of hand written exercise books) to the Bodleian in Oxford who have found a bookshelf for them in a small room at the end of a long winding tunnel.

As a man, his media persona fails to impress. He entertains WI meetings with his readings and seems unchanged over the last sixty years. He strikes you as essentially lonely and bitter. He has a long term partner though and has survived a cancer scare.

It’s wrong to judge someone from what you see in the media. These days we all think we know someone because they appear on screens every day. If we are to comment it can only be on what we see, what they present to us.

This said, as I read his memoir, it’s his voice which talks to me. My guilty pleasure is that I chuckle along with him as he snips and snipes at those around him. He is a talented man.

What if…?

Here’s a game to play.

Imagine if just one of the life points you’ve richoted off didn’t happen.

In the pinball machine of life we constantly make seemingly small decisions which put us on a new track. Tiny things happen which when looked back on, steer us into new avenues of life.

I have many. 

Mum and Dad’s decision to emigrate probably saved their marriage our health but taking a Salvation Army role and attending congress meant a car crash happened that chnged all of our lives forever.

Going for a bike ride just before my A Levels (18) and crashing caused a painkiller stupour that ruined my grades (the forecast was great btw) which ended a Maths degree and higher career and led me into teaching for 7 years.

A random ad in a newspaper I picked up led to a job where I met Gill and here we are 20 years and four kids later.

So with just these three I’ll play “What If …?”

It was no secret to us kids that Mum and Dad were hitting a rough patch around the time of the first moon landing.

Huge arguments around money mostly. I’m not sure they would have split. Both were old world where you stuck to things. However, home life may have been miserable. As background Dad had been married previously to a Greek woman who disappeared soon after the ceremony and it took years to get the divorce. This came through at the end of ’69 and they married soon after. The opportunity to be “£10 poms” and emigrate followed in ’71. Dad took the Salvation Army role within a few months and two years later he was permanently disabled.

Staying in England was bad for our health, We kids all had chest and breathing problems. The estate we lived on was very rough and the school was poor so academically we may not have thrived. Dad always did low end jobs – milkman, factory hand etc. Our opportunities would have been limited, paling when compared to life in Oz.

Life would have been quite dismal.

My bike crash changed my grades which were forecast to be very high. I loved Maths and would have thrived at university. My career could have gone in many directions and started in a number of big university towns (I had offers from Birmingham and Durham). 

A different career which could have involved research and teaching at Grad level is something that really could have happened – I minored in Maths and my personal tutor did look into a transfer to the Math Department but it wasn’t to be. 

Without this degree I came back to my home town to teach in a primary (elementary) school. When I left, I drifted for a while living off my savings and doing voluntary work for a local charity.

When these dwindled I looked for part time work and while in a cafe saw an ad in a local paper for a new Lost Dog Register at a dogs home. I applied and was offered full time work and soon after started dating Gill.

Anything could have stopped me sitting in that cafe and reading that paper.

Mum and Dad’s arguments could have led them to split before they emigrated.

Rain would have stopped me cycling on the day before my exams.

What if…? Is fun to play but not to dwell on. 

Life is about making decisions and not regreting them. When they’re wrong we should learn from them, true enough. Quite often though they’re actually right at the time and we have no way of knowing which one’s will ricohet us into life changing paths.

Do you play what if…? 

Still Here

I’m aware that I’m neglecting this blog but a guy has to prioritise.

Life updates are coming thick and fast.

Heather is dating but I’ve yet to meet the lucky fella. She has late shifts at a bar in town and her steady day job on a toffee stall in town. Her degree starts in October so “something’s gotta give”.

Jo has started at a local college (16-18) and is settling. She has a bunch of new friends and a part time waitressing job at a golf club.

Gill and I are refurbishing the house while the sun is shining financially. It needed it. It’s surprising how things you use every day get tatty.

Ashley’s psoriasis is flaring again but he’s not fussed. His second year of High School (11-15) is going really well as he joins lunchtime clubs, sings in a choir and continues to charm.

Cerys is doing well at Primary School and has a teacher who uses twitter to send pics of the kids working. They have a link to Tim Peake too. The.school finally feels like they’re turning a corner (now the governors, principal and most of the teachers have been cleared out)

Work is harder as the firm, like all others, trims hours, positions and asks for more from all colleagues. Looking forward (a long way forward btw) to retirement. The world is changing, as it always does, and most of my life has been in a more understanding, simpler place.

Folk seem brash and self absorbed and (damn them) ever younger. Conversation which isn’t disturbed by a smart phone is becoming rarer now.

Our wifi router is a bit dodgy and the furore in the house is unbelievable. Thank goodness for mobile data. I just read a book.

 alan

I love the way he talks and hear him as I read. I watched The Lady in the Van and several of his Talking Heads and got hooked.

Reading is therapy for me. Unfortunately, the house is noisy, especially with Ashley’s bluetooth speaker disco habits.

He’s 12 now, by the way and huge. Scary to think I’ve blogged longer than he’s been around.

Over 13 years of this witter.

Must be more diligent though.

Trust you’re well. All comments welcome.

Long day

Lordy, today was hard.

It was never going to be easy but …

I phoned the hospital and they said she’d normalised.

Which is good.

However, a visit to her house made us realise that diet is a real problem with this lady.

A receipt showed that on the night she was hospitalised she had been to the supermarket and bought a feast.

She had then gone home and consumed it.

Type 2 diabetes is not something you mess with.

No wonder her pulse was sky high.

I did delicately address this only to get the normal apologies and shame face.

It means nothing as she forgets such conversation quickly.

For a short while she was actually lucid enough to feel sad about her demise.

Usually it’s just denial. She wants to go back to who she really is.

She looked me in the eye and asked “David what can I do?”

It’ s hard.

She lapsed quickly, denying she’d been in for two nights, asking repeatedly for her purse which we have at home as it has £500 in it and looking, looking, looking for her keys.

The question of housing is upon us now. For the moment she is fairly safe where she is.

Strangely, for us things will get better as the dementia gets worse. All of this trying stuff will fade as she dwindles into herself forgetting Dad, forgetting me, forgetting.

============

Today was also Jo(16)’s registration day at college. She was a little short of the grades she needed but the college were great at easing her into alternatives.

I have an app for booking taxis and this afternoon, as we left college, it failed as my bank decided to run security checks on my recent transactions. This involved a call by me and a tense few moments remembering what certain items were from their dodgy abbreviated statement descriptions.

Picking Mum up was delayed as the consultant was busy, the pharmacy was busy, the nurses were faffing around and not booking Mum out in any great hurry.

Getting home to potato ash was a blessed relief.

Oh, yeah, I’m reading again. Biographies, auto and otherwise. I’m reading Prince Philip, the early years and Rob Brydon, funny fella from Wales and will be starting Alan Bennett soon. Any recommendations?

Hoping for a lull in activity tomorrow.

No doubt life will go on.

Ah sweet misery

So, we’ve made some progress on the family front: Mainly the dementia my Mum is suffering unfortunately.

Being taken off the drug that limits its progress wasn’t such a bright idea.

Her memory is getting worse and the repeated calls asking for her purse/bank card/address book are coming thick and fast.

Last night I apparently missed two calls from a local number which turned out to be a cardiac ward in our local hospital.

Mum had booked herself in with chest pains (she said she’d phoned me but modern phones log that sort of thing don’t they?).

After a battery of tests they found that she has arythmia – fast and not as it should be.

They’ve doubled the dose of her meds and hopefully by tomorrow things will have calmed down a bit.

While I was with her today she kept accidently pulling out the cords and making up stories about what the ambulance men said last night.

She pinned a nurse for ages with a monologue explaining to me later that she was a Sister because she wore white. Truth be told sisters wear a dark blue or purple scrub (matrons are black and staff nurses, the foot soldiers of the nursing profession, wear an attractive less dark blue). 

I didn’t have the heart to argue.

One thing we’ve learned is that debate is pointless as with such a tiny memory span, argument is forgotten shortly after and even during the conversation.

I feel the time for sheltered housing is getting closer and am wearing the guilt like a heavy and pungent overcoat.

On other fronts Ashley has been awarded a new car. Smaller model this time as we rarely travel as a family now.

Jo has received her GCS results (16yo) and seems happy with them. Tomorrow is a visit to her prospective college to see how they hold up. Her summer of NCS Challenge seems to have been enjoyable and has her doing some work experience with an interview at the end of it.

Hev (18) is starting to party hard has a (sort of early stages please don’t use the word) boyfriend. She’s starting bar work soon to go alongside her college work and market stall job.

Wish I could tell you more but there are no marvellous holidays, fab days out or life turning revelations that make me strut and spin with the joy of it all.

Truth be told, work have recommended I push my family doctor for treatment for anxiety and stress. 

Being the manly man that I am this of course feels like abject failure and resignation so I’ve successfully put it off so far.

Kids start school in a week without a holiday or a day out and I’m back at work on Wednesday without so much as a pub lunch this week. Miserable ain’t it.

 Wish I had a vice.

Entitled youth

It bothers me a little that many people seem to be developing a sense of entitlement.

Let me tell you why.

I donate blood and have done for decades.

In the UK this is done through the National Health Service Blood Transfusion Service. I’ve given for 30 years and just do it as part of my routine.

I can now book online and give every 12 weeks, health permitting and have given 68 times. I’m optimistic about getting to 100 when I’m 61.

In four weeks I’ll give for the 69th time. Yay me.

We are told that we may have to wait up to an hour after our booking time depending on footfall I suppose.

This doesn’t bother me. I take books or play with my phone or, Heaven forfend, talk to people.

However, today on blood.co.uk’s twitter feed, folk were whining about having to wait or not being able to donate because the place was crowded.

This strikes me as an unnecessary feeling of entitlement.

The sacrifice we make is small. When I first joined we rarely told anyone that we donated blood. Social media is pushing us forward more which I suppose is good because it raises awareness of the need and also of the tiny proportion of people who can donate and actually do.

I’ve receive various gewgaws over the years including coffee mats and badges, certificates and such. They don’t really matter. They’re nice but it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t get them.

I don’t expect applause as I enter the building or hearty cheers as my machine beeps to say I’m done.

I do expect, and always get, thank you’s from the staff (and tea and biscuits too)

I leave feeling good because I’ve helped someone, somewhere.

A few days after I donate I get a text to tell me where my donations are used.

The blood service will react to greater numbers by expanding the service but for the moment we should all show a little humility and common sense: book ahead and be prepared for a wait

And stop feeling so entitled.

If you wish to donate blood in the UK start by visiting https://www.blood.co.uk/