Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Longest Day

What a very long day this has been and, because sleep is completely eluding me tonight, light has rolled into darkness and is almost about to become light again, it seems that 21st June truly IS the longest day & it appears to have some sort of grudge against me!

Followers on Twitter will have seen me refer to “Fanny in the Corner” ... Fanny (clearly not her real name) is the spinster daughter of my favourite, now long dead, great aunt – she is 80 years old and, when we used to live in Catatonia by the Sea, she used to visit us about three or four times a year. The visits were meant to last about a week but one week usually became two and two often became four. She’s a sweet old dear and was really no trouble at all. She lives in London and, since moving here, I’m ashamed to say that we actually see considerably less of her now that we live in London too than ever we did when we were on the South coast. Just after we moved to London, Fanny had a fall and had a stroke. She’s been in and out of hospital ever since. Her patch is North West London and we now live in Essex. Getting to North West London on a frequent basis is something that just doesn’t happen. I heard yesterday that despite living in a really excellent care home she’s had yet another fall and is, once again, back in hospital.

Twitter friends will also have seen me refer to “Doddery Dave” who is my 89 year old father and whom, rather guiltily, I left in Catatonia when we moved to London. He knew the circumstances of our move ... and, being a very good Grandpa, fully understood and approved of a change of school for his grandson. Since we moved he, too, has been in and out of hospital. He suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and leukaemia and is a very, very frail old gentleman. Getting to see him is even more problematic than traversing London to get to see Fanny.

Doddery Dave actually spent all last week with us – I’ve managed to arrange that he will move into a super sheltered flat very nearby at the end of next month and he had to come to London to sign papers and set up the date of his move. He will be sad to leave Catatonia but is happy at the prospect of once again being closer to his family. I am an only child and son is his only grandchild. He misses my son a great deal.

I took him back to Catatonia on Saturday and called him on Sunday to check that he was okay. He wasn’t at home but, as he has a “lady friend” (who would see him more frequently than he prefers if she could) and usually goes out for Sunday lunch with her, I wasn’t unduly concerned. I should have been. He hadn’t been out to lunch, he’d fallen over and had been admitted to hospital. The hospital didn’t contact me and nor did his lady friend – until today. A good part of the day has been spent in receiving calls from aforementioned lady friend who has been intent on telling me what a bad daughter I am. I needed that ... like a hole in the head!

When not receiving accusatory calls, I've spent the day on the ‘phone to two different hospitals, trying to find out how my aged relatives are. It would be a very welcome simplicity to just hop in the car & go and see them but I have a son who attends school and a husband who flits off to Europe every three minutes. Getting to see aged relatives isn’t simple at all.

I feel absolutely miserable and I truly don’t know what to do – so, instead of sleeping, I thought I’d tell you about it all.

I will aim to write about something more cheerful in my next blog.


  1. Hi Karen - first off let me say how sorry I am to hear how difficult things are for you and your family at the moment, I can appreciate how much pressure you must be under.

    That said, my advice first off would be to clarify with yourself exactly how much responsibility you can genuinely take in this situation. You have a 13 year old son and two elderly adults you are trying to provide care for, it just cannot all be left to you.

    Has 'Fanny' complained about not seeing you, or do you just worry that you ought to be getting to the hospital more often? If she hasn't complained, then you can strike that worry off your list straight away. Why not try and write her a little note on a nice card every day or so, with your son contributing as well? That way she has something to look forward to each day and she'll probably love the idea of old fashioned correspondence like that! (I'm assuming now that the hospital receives mail on behalf of patients; even if they don't regularly it would be worth explaining your situation and asking for assistance with this)She then feels included with the family and knows that you are thinking of her. You can explain that your father is also in hospital and that you look forward to being able to see each of them once suitable visit times can be planned (allowing YOU more flexibility and preparation).

    As for your Dad, unbelievable that the hospital didn't contact you. Shake off any criticisms you receive from his 'friends', they could well be projecting their own fears and worries about age and wellbeing on to you, not to mention knowing that you should have been made aware of his fall straight away. As you mention in your post, your father understands your situation with a new hometown, son's schooling etc, so he will also understand the demands on your time that mean you can't just drop everything to be by his side. Arrange to be able to speak with him on the phone on the ward (if you haven't already), asking for the portable unit to be with him at a set time so you can make direct contact. If he's still going to be in over the weekend and beyond, is it possible to get to see him then without disrupting your son's schedule?

    Ask about volunteer services in both areas, as they may have someone who can go and visit the hospitals and offer company and care to your family. If this looks like a long term situation, speak to your son's school and discuss possible options with them should he need to miss any time there, or whether there are after school activities to occupy him while you return from visits etc.

    Hope all this makes some sense and offers you some ideas - I've not had my cup of tea yet so forgive me if I'm rambling! But don't take on everything when you can get help with some of it, and don't allow anyone else to make it a bigger issue than it really is.

  2. Karen, You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can please all of the people all of the time.

    You also have your own health, life & son to take care of, you can only take responsiblity for yourself, you are not responsible for others.

    It's always easy for people to be critical of how we are with our families, but they dont really know the details, maybe Doddery Dave's lady friend feels guilty that she cant do more, but it's not your fault.

    Those of us that "know" you on Twitter, know you as a caring & loving person, you pick us up & dust us off when we're down - & for that we are truly appreciative, so please, remember that.

  3. Right darling! Guilt abounds but it's a useless emotion actually unless it prompts you into action. Decimoo has given you some good advice, I think.
    We all hit places in our lives where we feel we are lacking. Your Dad's lady friend may well be harbouring feelings about his proposed move which she is projecting on to you. This gave her a good chance to vent her anger.
    Change produces all sorts of emotions and anger is one of them. Sometimes people turn the anger the wrong way, or don't recognise what they are doing.
    So you must take care of yourself; not easy with all the demands being placed on you but vital to the well being of all you care about and for. It's not selfish to pay attention to your own needs now and again, it's a duty! You know what they say on the plane, put on your own mask before helping others!
    Much love

  4. Sounds like wine and a nice meal needed :)