Thursday 25 December 2008


I'm not spending Christmas Day with Mum this year. Bringing her to my home isn't possible any more: she wouldn't be able to manage the stairs to get to the bathroom. Besides, over the past year she has increasingly looked lost or unhappy when out of her new home and has visibly perked up when returned to its familiarity. The alternative is for me to spend the day at the Home with Mum and the rest of the residents (yes, they're all celebrating Christmas there rather than going to their relatives). I must admit that I'm choosing me this year and spending the day cooking a big meal with friends.

Merry Christmas All

[photo is the doorway into Mum's room, with cards]

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.

Friday 5 December 2008

sticking to the story

My relatives, D&G visited Mum today. 

D rang, as usual, to give me a report. It seems that the cortisone injections to Mum's knees might be doing some good, because Mum was no longer confined to a wheelchair and was getting about with the use of her stick again. Apparently Mum was very bright and cheerful and seemed better than at the big party a few weeks back. They shared a nice meal in the Bistro downstairs where Mum apparently ordered Cumberland Sausage only to say "I don't like sausage" when it was served. [Mum is quickly becoming the Child I will never have]

D said, "I hope I didn't put my foot in it, but I mentioned about you leaving your job and she didn't know anything about it."

I told her that I'd planned to keep the news from Mum until I had confirmed my arrangements. There's no sense in confusing Mum with plans about travel when I might be held up for a few months selling her apartment and getting my own affairs in order. D reassured me that Mum had very quickly said, "Oh, well he was never happy in that job anyway and I've told him for years that he should go overseas."

Whilst that isn't quite true, I was glad to hear that Mum was tacitly supporting my decision.

When I rang the Home, however, I heard a different story. 

Apparently, Mum was in tears and very distressed after D&G left, worrying that I had been "sacked" and would never get a job again. I spoke to Mum and told her that I hadn't been sacked, that the company had offered us all a package and that I had decided to go for it so that I could do some travelling. By the time I mentioned travelling, Mum had already forgotten the package and was saying "but you'll need some money for that". I think there's going to be some turbulence ahead for Mum as she remembers fragments of this conversation. I've explained the situation to her Care Worker so that she can correct Mum when she distresses herself.

As soon as I've worked out what I'm going to do I'll have to start telling Mum a stripped-down version that I can repeat and repeat like a bedtime story until she knows it by heart and owns it.