Normal

April 22, 2017

I have wanted to write more about nursing homes, end of life care, dementia. And I shall. I hope. But this is all I can write and re-write.

 

This grief is not as I expected. I have grieved before.

My loss is normal, and shared.

This grief is light but tiring. That is the surprising thing.

I feel more connected with my past, family and friends. I feel fine.

I feel selfish, and a show-off.

I miss the anchor, one of the people who knew me completely.

The relief is the greatest unselfish act I have ever performed, I think.

With that anchor gone, I can look at the horizon and prospect differently.

I’m floating.

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Whisk(e)y

April 19, 2017

So.. friends, colleagues and readers of the last post “ever the best of friends” will have read my eulogy.

I have much more I am waiting, deliberately, to write. I can’t wait. But I don’t want to write it now.

Today, though, I was reminded of a lovely and hard part of Dad’s life. Our great Dad and their wonderful Grandad was a teacher, and towards the end of his working life the new Government’s policies began to grind. Grind him, pulverise his intentions. At that point he began to celebrate his end of evening’s work – normally quite late in the evening after marking and writing references –  with literally a finger of whisky (or Irish whiskey) or brandy. A tiny tot to celebrate.

A small celebration, for such work.

My Great Aunt had a very different approach to booze, she taught me when I was 12, and taught my niece, when she was 2, how to make a Whisky Mac (more scotch than ginger wine.. more scotch than I could imagine). And what a recipe. She was right. But it wasn’t to be taken lightly or frequently.

I learnt, in my early twenties , how delicious Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey is. I learnt too, how wonderful whisk(e)y is neat, and on ice, and how wonderful the experience of drinking that with people is. I adore it. It has given me “such fun”, and such health. I respect it, as my Dad did, but drink it with less regularity, but perhaps with more abandon.

Ever the best of friends

February 1, 2017

So.. the chap made a graceful, and incredibly well timed exit. My brother and I were with him, it was the most loving moment, and painful.

I don’t want to write more at this time, though I shall, both about nursing homes and  finality.

But.. below is the eulogy.. my bits in italics, my brother’s not. We know a few people wanted to read it.

Mr Prime

Colin

Uncle Colin

Grandad Colin

Dad

And on occasion Alphonse the Fearless – He filled the stage with flags maybe a little on that later….!

The old Bastard, the scruffy caretaker in a jumper – both only ever said by himself…

 

Which ever-one of these applied to you, I’m sure you will be aware that:

He was a hugely popular and inspirational teacher.

I can’t imagine him in any other profession. He believed in people’s potential, and was impatient if they didn’t reach it or took shortcuts. He developed newly qualified teachers, as well as making sure that he taught some of the more challenging classes in Cecil Jones, Southend. Bringing 16 year old skinheads to tears as he read ‘A tale of two cities’ to them. Bringing pupils of Bush Davies also to tears as he talked to them about the Enchanted Forest. Finding time to listen and ensure that all were accepted. As long as you did something – “who is the one doing something, who is sitting there watching?”.

 

Rather like his stories – to tell you that story he had to tell you another, longer story (we were never sure if we got to the end of all of them) – he taught people to read further, if you are reading 1984, read Brave New World, if you read mayor of Casterbridge read Silas Marner. His love for English literature was engaging and inspired others. But more than that..

Dad was also an incredibly practical man, he made and flew model aeroplanes – something he had loved since his childhood. In fact he loved aviation of all types and would often return from an air show with a bright red sunburnt face from staring into the skies..!

He also had a passion for cars – old ones particularly. Restoring a series of pre-war MG’s and an Austin 7, which he christened Henry the 2nd, his very first car (also an Austin 7) was Henry.

In my youth my main task was to hold the torch while Dad was delving under the bonnet of which ever car he had that needed attention…..Now I freely admit that I was never best suited to this task, being easily distracted, the beam of light would either end up shining in his eyes, or in totality the wrong direction…this would invariably cause Dad to drop a very important part or would make him stand up and bash his head on the bonnet….cue much swearing and grumbling – again something Dad was particularly good at !

At Christmas (almost certainly to duck the festive merriment) He would lovingly spend hours assembling toys for Amy,Laura,Olivia and William.

Which, if the truth is told, would usually be completely disassembled moments after completion!

I must at this point say how incredibly proud he was of his grandchildren, so he really wouldn’t have minded !

Returning to the cars briefly, it was fortunate that he enjoyed driving so much, as another of his remarkable attributes was that of chauffeur to Mum.

We both had many hours in the back of the car being taken to drop Mum at a parish hall somewhere to examine, and then on to whatever town, village or national trust property was closest for us to spend the time waiting for Mum to finish. The drive always had, as Mike pointed out, a soundtrack..Dad’s compilation tapes included one called “the good, the bad and the frankly appalling” as he delighted in both fantastic music as much as strange fairground organ covers of classics.. that and aircraft sounds.. we learnt to identify Hawkers, Sopwiths and Spitfires through listening to them in the car. A way to spend more time with Mum as well as ensure we saw lots of England. I never thought before now how much he must have planned those trips.

 

When Mum and Dad took over a disused Victorian School house, he could use his practical skills to best effect, to transform a nearly derelict building in to an inspiring place for Mum to shine in.. while Dad fixed the 30 toilets and fashioned something out of a Victoria Biscuit tin…eccentric and wonderful. What Larks.

 

Quietly and sometimes not so quietly theatrical Dad loved to write the programme notes for Mum’s school shows, and his own model aircraft society’s newsletter. He also made up stories to distract me when I was ill. I suspect he was not as confident of his abilities as he should have been.

 

Funny, and with great empathy. He would call ballet a bastard artform then justify it as fact not a swear word, though I think we all knew what he really thought. But he loved seeing his wife excel, and them working together was a period of extreme happiness as they supported young people to their potential.

 

One last thing about his swearing. Even in his diminished state, which I hate to talk about, but has to be acknowledged, he could still swear and make his grandchildren and children laugh, and magically also know that they were listened to, and even if the situation was complex, that he supported and loved them. Not afraid of tears, but never thinking he deserved them over his situation.

 

Unable sometimes to tell people how much he loved them, shouting at them for getting ill, it was too hard for him to admit how worried he was… calling them silly for becoming a teacher, rather than admitting he was proud but worried about the way the profession was going and the stresses.. but the literature he pointed to – including I carry you in my heart – told us of his feelings that he felt unable to express. But I know we all know how much he loves us. And I know he would be surprised at the impact he had on us and others.

 

There are so many stories that seem to focus on Dad walking into glass doors, water cascading over his head, etc. that it must almost seem that our Dad was Oliver Hardy….he wasn’t. He was our Dad, your husband, your Grandad, and a friend or colleague to you. He was truly the best at all of these roles.

He gave time when it was needed, he gave encouragement when required but most importantly a constant supply of unquestioning love and

All of our lives are now an emptier place without the Chap, we will never stop loving him, always miss him and could certainly never ever forget him.

Ever the best of friends.

 

He will be in our hearts and souls forever.

 

 

Evanescent but Persistent

July 31, 2016

As long as you know what year or month Dad is in, most things make sense. Today my nieces were under ten for him, and perhaps then, the last difficult years are not stuck in his memory any longer. The strange thing, though, is before visiting him, and after, we’d been watching old films, which were of the girls at the age Dad was thinking.

Musical Memory

July 15, 2016

I’m 50 tomorrow, another milestone of being an adult. This afternoon I’ve been listening to a lot of music that I listened to when I was 13 – I guess an early transition point. Siouxsie Soux, Debbie Harry, Joy Division, The Clash. Then on to being 16-19, The Smiths and forward through Billy Bragg, The Birthday Party, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and on.. with Bowie, of course, being throughout.. you probably know my taste in music….though I can go on and on about it.

I credit my Dad with inspiring my eclectic music taste, and while he seems to no longer gain joy from music, I really do.

I also credit my parents with my broader politics. But today listening to music and thinking back to being (more) socially awkward and not realising I was seeking people I felt comfortable with, I realised that much of the music I listened to was associated with Rock Against Racism movements, music employed to bring people together to demonstrate against fascism, embracing LBTG communities and pushing against discrimination in all forms. A loud sound often heard as aggressive, or a sound that was heard as being focused on isolation and misery, brought me to find other fans and others who are politically active and strong members of their communities, speaking out against prejudice.

I found, through music,  a community. I love the people I met through music, and love the power that we felt we had in the 80’s. So, as I grow in to my next decade, I’m ready to wake up again now, when politically and economically and for our wider communities, we need change and strength of connection.

Trust, vulnerability and resilience.

July 16, 2015

“I’ll do it myself.” Family myth has this as the first sentence I uttered/composed/expressed.. and the first sentence that altered the way I am perceived.

I work with performers, artists, I have (do) perform myself on occasion.. I have become used to relying on others, trusting others, loving that working with others takes my work to new places, enables huge potential and change. I collaborate, work through Creative Commons approaches, and tonight I re-learnt how to trust. I am worried that I will sound trite, but I re-learnt how vulnerable we are, and how trust is essential and not doing it myself is the lesson Dad is being pushed in to learning in his care.

Relying on people for the simplest and most fundamental parts of life. Trusting that his family are around him to check and rebalance if needed. Being responsible for someone’s dignity, that’s now our responsibility, and we are fortunate in having amazing, diligent people who allow Dad and I to be vulnerable.

Some days

July 6, 2015

Some days all you can do is celebrate the Dad/husband – man – you knew, and celebrate the resilience in the man you have.

Mindfully Weird

June 13, 2015

I met up with a friend, one I hadn’t seen for ages, a colleague of his had said to him earlier in the day that “time is weird”, my friend had then discouraged him from expanding on this statement, quite rightly. It says it.

After the evening, I was aware of how heavily I been wearing time in the last 8 years. Then TFI Friday comes back for a “one off”, a kidulty programme coming back when we are now kidmid-aged; and I don’t know how old I feel any more.

Dad’s experience of time has altered, and continues to change, I’m not sure how long days feel for him, but probably just as they do for me, some are interminably long, others bewilderingly short. Markers, such as Christmas, seem to dominate his thinking, which alters all of our sense of time.

I am old enough to understand, retrospectively, why people in their 30’s through to 50’s said that they didn’t feel any different to their teens/twenties.. then I thought they were kidding themselves. Now, my friends are exactly as they were then, but more confident, more beautiful, more fascinating. I do feel different, and go between feeling better for that difference, and feeling weightier for that difference.

Maybe being mindful and living each moment fully is both wonderful, and exhausting.

For Dad, he continues to live each moment fully, whatever that means. His fully is now very different to his 50’s.

He gave me a watch 20 years too late for my graduation, most of his memories seem to discount the last 20 years or so of my life, and while he knows all of his grandchildren and knows their ages.. somehow I am still in my early twenties. Perhaps it is as simple as “taking that as a win”.

The Smell of Spring

April 29, 2015

Today I was gifted a branch of lilac blossom. Beautiful, incredible. One of my favourite blossoms, given to me purely because someone had wondered when I was last given a present/taken care of. The same, wonderful person, gave me a Gardenia plant to take to my parents, to make sure “they could smell Spring”. Someone who does not know them understood something about them I hadn’t. An act of incredible, empathetic kindness. I know my parents appreciate it for so many reasons. To be cared for by someone in that way, has replaced and replenished me.

People are incredibly kind. It will be wonderful to smell Spring with my parents.

Overtaken

March 26, 2015

I had stopped blogging, what more was there to say? I am in the fortunate position of having both parents, a full work life, I’ve learnt so much about care and nursing homes in the UK, most of it great. Become amazed at how fortunate I and my parents are. Become fascinated by how we are all aging, noticed how friends are overtaking me with their issues surrounding parental care and been amazed by how all of this works.

Different definitions of being an ordinary woman seem to be emerging.

I’m saddened by how self-absorbed the blog entries became. I had wanted this to be about sharing how dementia impacts but need not be full of fear.

Onward, with more grey hair.