Wednesday, 24 December 2008

a confession

I visited Mum yesterday and shopped en-route for some new clothes for her, as a Christmas present. It was pretty exhausting trailing around the various stores looking for her taste in light summery clothing in creams or beige when everywhere is stocking heavy winter party clothes in black and purple.

This leads me to confess something that I've held back on writing about all year. I've considered myself pretty honest and open about everything on this journey, good or bad, but there's one thing that I haven't recorded out of shame and that is what has happened to Mum's clothes.

When I moved Mum into the Home this time last year, she had a very fine wardrobe of clothes - in fact she had so many that her wardrobe doors could not quite be shut. Within about 6 weeks I was noticing that individual items were missing: I'd come to take Mum out for a meal and think "I'll just get Mum's favourite warm top" and it wouldn't be there. The lead Care Worker on Mum's household would say "Oh, it's probably in the Laundry", but these things never turned up again. By Autumn this year there seemed never to be anything in Mum's wardrobe at all, and I noticed that Mum's jewelry box had been forced open by someone who couldn't work out the hidden catch. Mum was invariably wearing something that I didn't recognise when I visited, and I felt dreadful about it. However, since Mum was content and oblivious to all of this, I didn't mention it to her.

But, you see, it's all my fault: I should have labelled all Mum's clothing before she arrived. I had, in fact, bought sew-in labels over the internet and had them ready. But in the days before she went into the Home, when she was living with me, I was run so ragged in dealing with Mum minute-by-minute that this was the one last job for which I never found time, and I handed Mum and her clothes over to the staff in a state of exhaustion. 

I've since felt so guilty about all Mum's lovely clothes going missing. I know they weren't lost in the laundry - someone took them and I think I know who. I arrived unannounced once and walked into Mum's room to find the lead Care Worker coming out of Mum's en-suite bathroom with the jewel box in her hands. I can't prove anything and I don't want to cause any problems because this is someone who is very attentive to Mum and is the only person Mum knows by name. I know that Care Staff aren't highly paid, and I'm sure it's tempting to relieve someone like Mum of her nice things since she is unlikely to notice.

So, along with the hundreds of pounds of clothing I bought yesterday, 
I bought a laundry pen and sat in a car park writing 
Mum's room number and name on the washing tags of each and every top, cardigan, slip and panty. I have no illusions that this will prevent the cashmere cardigan from disappearing, for example, but at least this time I've done what I can.


LSL said...

Oh, gosh. This is so difficult to hear, and yet I can relate. My grandmother was found to be writing lots of miscellaneous checks to one of her caregivers. She loved this person and I'm sure the caregiver was good to her, but there was clearly something inappropriate going on. It's difficult, Greg. You've done what you can.

Y | O | Y said...

I'm sure you're doing the best you can. I remember all the work you had on your hands when you moved everything out of your mum's home. I'll bet the last thing you felt like doing was sewing labels in all the clothes.

This is a good lesson for me. My mom has closets full of nice clothes she used to wear when she worked. When the time comes, I'll keep those here or donate them to a women's shelter so I know they are going where intended.

-- a bit off topic --

Back in the 1940's, my grandfather was institutionalized. The family brought him a beautiful red sweater. Next time they went down to visit, one of the attendants was wearing it.

Sad is that the attendant was black and that caused generations of my family to be prejudice against black people. Sometimes those feelings get handed down through the family even when the reason isn't. I catch myself with negative thoughts but at least I am self-aware enough to know what I'm doing, why, and to correct it.

I think about how the civil right movement works so hard, and how for my family in particular, they are trying to change the feelings that come from the actions of a single man decades ago which really had nothing to do with his race. The world is just so complex.

-- back on topic --

I hope you and your mum have a lovely holiday!

Greg said...

Thank you, both, for your reassurances that I'm doing the best I can. It feels good to finally get that one off my chest. Those people I've told about this have been outraged to hear of the loss of Mum's clothing, but I've internalised their anger, feeling responsible when I suppose even laundry tags wouldn't have prevented theft.

Y|O|Y, that red sweater story reminds me of what one of the shop assistants said on Tuesday - that she'd bought a fine cardigan for her own Mother only to spot it on another (male) resident the next time she visited her Care Home. I think I'd be grateful to see some sign that Mum's clothes were even in circulation.

Mum is cheerful and oblivious, however, and doesn't seem to notice what she's wearing these days. That's some comfort to me.

Merry Christmas, to you both.

G x

ChickPea said...

This is a very very difficult time, Greg, and you are doing a fine job coping with it all - as you have done all along - even when it hasn't felt like that to you. Sadly I have to agree - name tags do not stop things 'getting lost in the laundry' - nor stop hearing aids being put through the washing machine because pockets weren't checked(and it takes weeks and weeks to get a replacement and insurance claim sorted out). If good clothes don't disappear they shrink/fade/otherwise deteriorate. Be kind to yourself. Your Mum - and your love - are both so much more than the clothes she is wearing. Be gentle with yourself. I so hope you can find some good things to savour and delight in, and dare to let yourself enjoy this time so that you can later look back kindly on yourself.
All very best wishes to you all Greg, both now and for 2009. x

Greg said...

Thank you, ChickPea. That comment that it's about more than clothes is very helpful. I hope I don't come across as negative all the time - I do post some funny (peculiar) stories from time to time, as they occur.

Believe me, I know Mum is in the best place I've seen despite this niggle over the clothes. She is blissfully oblivious and it's only me who breaking my heart comparing what once was with what is left today. All of the kind comments I've had over the past year have helped me so much to forgive and reassure myself.

All the best for 2009 to you, too. Gx

p.s. anyone who's heard the answer message on my phone will tell you that this blog is pretty positive for Greg... ha ha

citygirl said...

Hey Greg :) Do you feel better now that you've "confessed"? :)

We went through a similar situation with my mom. I know by the time you're moving your mom into care, you are so utterly tired, depressed and overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is sew labels in clothing. We were a bit late on doing this for my mom too and we lost a few things over the years including one house slipper (yes, ONE house slipper!). I'd be pretty ticked about the careworker and the jewellery box though. We didn't bring any jewellery to mom's home fearing that it would go missing.

Mom was sometimes wearing clothes we didn't recognize but she didn't seem to notice. Sad but true.

I focussed on the quality of the care that mom was receiving and mom's overall well-being...which sounds like what you are doing. That's the most important part!

Greg said...

Yes it does always feel good to confess, both to get it out of my head and then to read these comments telling me that the same has happened elsewhere. I probably held onto this one too long.

It's invariably the posts that I'm most nervous about that prove to be the most rewarding in retrospect.

Hey, off-topic here but in response to one of your own recent posts, I made a REALLY nice home-made lasagna today.

citygirl said...

Mmmmm REAL home-made lasagna. No frozen cardboard?! Yum!! I should do that this weekend.

elanor said...

hi Greg,
I put iron on labels on mums clothes but have found the laundry marker works better and lasts longer, so I just use it now.

it's upsetting to have stuff pinched or see clothes on the wrong resident. many years ago when I worked a home there was even a 'community clothing' cupboard! thank goodness that is now not allowed.

I have a confession too about clothes. my mum is really short so all her pants (she only wears pants) have to be hemmed. she is incontinent so she has a lot of pairs! I was just too exhauseted to hem them when she moved in, so I just put double sided industrial masking tape from hubbys workshop. so far they are all still OK! :)

Greg said...

Hi Elanor

Well it's good to know that the laundry marker I've defaulted to is your choice too.

And it's comforting to read that you were also just too exhausted to complete every task in an ideal fashion when it came time for your Mum to move to the Home. I had a good giggle reading your confession about your improvised solution for hemming pants. Way to go!

I've just read about your Christmas vacation with your Mum - what a lovely thing to have made that effort for her. I'm sure your own memory of your Mum's enjoyment will linger and give you comfort in years to come.

Best wishes and I look forward to reading your blog in 2009

Greg :)