Tuesday 28 April 2009

spare me your charity

A couple of weeks back, our relative D rang. She and her Husband are briefly back in the country from one of their long trips (I think this one was South Africa again). Anyway, they'd been over to see Mum and D had noticed that Mum's wardrobe was pretty depleted. I told her that I was well aware of the situation and that I'd bought clothes for Mum at Christmas which had also quickly wandered.

"Well that's not good enough, Greg! Just not good enough!" she said.

I told her that I knew the Home would always dress Mum and that, at the moment, it didn't seem a good idea for me to go and spend any more money on clothes when I was really struggling to make Mum's monthly payments just to keep her there. Mum's pension income falls short of her Care payment by about £600 per month. I've successfully applied for a Government allowance that covers a little more of the ground but there's still a shortfall and, until I've sold Mum's old apartment we're down to our last couple of thousand pounds.

D absorbed this and said, "Well, what if I were to buy your Mum some clothes?"

I told her that I'd be very grateful because we could use the help and, particularly since she would have a better idea of what to look for in skirts etc. I thanked her over and over for her generosity.

D rang me today to say that she was heading back to see Mum on Sunday and that she'd been shopping. She listed a few items that all sounded good. She kept mentioning how much she'd spent (£107) and how well she'd done to get this or that discount. It's no coincidence, I thought to myself, that the wealthy have a zest for a bargain. Finally, she told me that she'd bought some perfume for Mum, too, and said "I mean I bought it - that's from me."

I got a sinking feeling.

She asked me how I planned to "settle up" with her for the clothes.

[pause for breath]

I'm lucky it was a relatively small amount, I suppose. I counted to 5 in my head and told her that I'd send her a cheque right away and I asked her please NOT to buy any more stuff for Mum as neither Mum nor I can really afford it.

I'm thinking of writing a parable where someone's "help" ends up putting the benefactee out onto the street.

Friday 17 April 2009

woman's hour

Back in December 2007, when I was settling Mum into the Care Home, I read that the place would be officially opened in mid-January by Jenni Murray, a well-known presenter of BBC Radio 4's "Woman's Hour". Mum used to listen to this show every day during my adolescence, and I thought it would be a treat for her to meet this star - and it might bolster her appreciation of just how special this new place was.

The day came and I remember ringing Mum in the evening and asking what had happened that day.

"Oh, nothing much. No, I can't think of anything we did."

I felt sad that Mum had missed out on the big event.

So imagine my surprise a week or two ago when I was signing out at Reception and I happened to look up at the TV screen they have there showcasing the place. I saw that Mum featured in picture after picture. And there, indeed, was Mum with Jenni Murray, sitting at the dining table, standing in the doorway to her bathroom. It seems that Mum was pretty central to their promotional activities.

Anyway, I asked them to forward me some shots and here are a couple. Bear in mind that Mum looks a lot better these days, now that she's eating better and has access to a hair-dresser (the in-house salon had no staff at this point).

Sunday 12 April 2009

closing the closet door again

"Oh, don't you look handsome with a beard!" says Mum, as I enter her room.

I've been bearded for 2 and a half years now, and Mum wasn't so complimentary back in 2006. This is just one of those plausible comments that Mum makes which disguise her lack of any true memory.

I hand her a large Easter Egg and notice fresh flowers in the room. She tells me that she has no idea where they came from. After a few exchanges, we fall into a conversation about the telephone and how she's just not using it (I haven't seen any billed calls for a good 10 months now). I ask her if there's anyone she'd like me to ring and I'm unsurprised to hear her nominate her Cousin. I dial the number and get through and am astonished to hear that the Cousin visited Mum only last week (so that's where the flowers came from). It's really great to hear that another family member has visited Mum. Before I hand over the phone I get to hear all about how well Mum looked and how lovely the building and facilities are.

After the call, Mum announces that she'd really like a boyfriend, though she's unsure that a suitable candidate is going to turn up any time soon. I tell her that I feel exactly the same way, and she stuns me by asking me 4 times in the next 10 minutes if I've met a nice girl recently. I'm trying not to correct her these days but just work with her reality, so I find myself making the sort of throw-away excuses I had to make to relatives all through my teens and twenties.