Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I'm having a bit of a worry ...

I’m having a bit of a worry …

On 1st January 2011, I wrote my last blog post … I didn’t exactly make any New Year’s Resolutions but I did say that I was going to write 200 words each day until those words became a book. I haven’t done that. Other things took over, the 200 words each day were abandoned and instead I became involved in learning about nearly every NHS geriatric ward in the environs of North East London and Essex which now all seems pretty pointless because my 90 year old father died anyway.

That sounds very churlish but, let’s face it, 90 year old gentlemen (and he was a GENTLE man) who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and leukaemia tend not to get better and many of my daily visits were spent having one-sided conversations conducted in a jolly voice with someone who wasn’t ever going to respond. Sometimes I missed a day or two of visiting but then guilt got the better of me and once again I would sit at the bedside of a hallucinating nonagenarian and try for 30 minutes or an hour to make everything sound okay with his world. He died on 11th May and, sad as I am, it really and truly was for the best.

I should, at this point, also add … with just a tinge of spitefulness in my fingertips … that I believe if the NHS in this area had got its act together, his life may have been prolonged, with considerably more dignity than was the reality, for a while longer but, heck – what’s the point? He was shunted from pillar to post and back to pillar again. Each ward to which he was admitted had no idea of what his medications should have been, what his name was or indeed where he had come from. I made an official complaint to the NHS which was only answered after my MP prompted the Trust to respond – and I received that response a week or so after his demise. I write follow-up letters in my head night after night but none of them will get printed or sent because none of them will bring my Pa back.

In the middle of the marathon bout of hospital visiting, I had a bit more bad news … my husband has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. He’s been having “wee problems” for about 3 years but is an extremely stubborn bugger and wouldn’t go to the Doctor – so, instead of having an enlarged prostate or even Stage 1 Prostate Cancer, he now has Stage 2 Prostate Cancer and is at home preparing for 7½ weeks of radiotherapy which we hope will see the cancer on its way. The good people of Twitter know my husband as OP which stands for Old Peculiar and, to the good people of Twitter, he IS old … he’s even older than I am and I am Methuselah and he IS peculiar – but so am I, so I guess we’re quite well-matched in an odd sort of a way. But he ISN’T that old and I have had enough of illness this year and I don’t want anything awful to happen to him. I just don’t. And stamping my feet and having a tantrum doesn’t solve anything at all but that’s exactly what I feel like doing – because it’s JUST NOT FAIR. He is a mild man, often an awkward sod and not as kind as people who meet him think he is, but he is mine and I want him to be well and happy and carry on being my husband and my son’s father.

And NOW look what I’ve done … I’ve made myself cry. And I am not supposed to do that.

To top it all, I have had to grow up … in the mother stakes. Josh, about whom I tweet frequently, is now 14 years old and he is on his first extended holiday away from home ever. He has spent an odd night away here and there but now he is away for a fortnight in the Middle East.

WHAT? Do I hear people cry “THE MIDDLE EAST”? Yes, dears … that most dangerous of countries in the Middle East … you know – the one that allows women to drive, doesn't make them walk 3 paces behind their husbands covered from head to toe in black burkhas, doesn't stone them if they happen to have sex before they're married or play away from home once they are, the one that doesn’t shoot its own citizens if they have a demonstration, the one that has proper democratic elections without the need of an Arab Spring to overthrow its despotic leaders … the one that is demonised by nearly every medium possible … Israel. I WILL say that most of its citizens are desperate for peace with its neighbours but make the dreadful mistake of voting in politicians whom, because they have a good command of English (albeit "American English"), they seem to think are "statesmen" when all that they really are, are warmongers with a good command of the English language.

And that's the little country that Josh is visiting. And I am missing my kid. I behaved disgracefully yesterday after I’d waved him off at 6.30am … I went out with a friend for a very non-kosher fried breakfast, came home, took 2 Temazepam and slept for nearly 24 hours … so I wouldn’t miss him at school out time or at breakfast time this morning. It worked for those 24 hours but I’d really only deferred the utter misery of not having him around and I feel positively ghastly tonight.

I miss him coming downstairs at 9.00pm to assure me that he’s going to have a shower “any minute”. I feel bereft at not having to remind him at 10.30pm that “any minute” does not, in fact, comprise 90 minutes and would he PERLEEEZ go and have a shower NOW.

I miss him interrupting my ‘phone calls. I could be on the ‘phone to the Queen herself but if Josh wants to talk to me … it would matter not. He talks. I scream at him and still he talks. I don’t listen to him and STILL HE TALKS. I miss him at 7.30am when he wakes up and demands “Mum, BE SARCASTIC … teach ME how to be sarcastic”. He doesn’t understand that I can’t help being sarcastic and I can’t switch it on or off like an electric light. And he doesn’t understand something much more important than that … sarcasm doesn’t win anyone any friends. I guess it takes an excess of 50 years on this planet to learn that for oneself.

I miss his jokes … even the ones that aren’t funny. I miss him changing his clothes 11 times after he comes home from school or 14 times on Saturdays and Sundays. I miss him saying “Yuch” to whatever I cook and then eating 2 helpings of everything. I miss him thinking he’s conning me when, in fact, I know EXACTLY how much chocolate he eats and how many cans of diet Coke he drinks. I miss him rapping tunelessly. I miss him following me around with his video camera. I miss him most dreadfully.

And I am very proud of myself because I now know what MY Ma went through when I went anywhere. I was an only child too and she was an uber-protective mother but she bit her tongue, gritted her teeth and didn’t wrap me in cotton wool and that is exactly how I try to be with Josh. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. But sure as hell – in these two weeks, he will be having the time of his life and it actually doesn’t matter how much I miss him because HIS independence matters so much more than my misery.

My Ma used to say to me about kids … “When they’re babies they make your arms ache and when they grow up they make your heart ache”.

She was very wise, was my Ma … and while I’m at it – I miss her too.

So … I’m having a bit of a worry. Usually, I stay in my shell when I’m miserable. I don’t tweet much because I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, I can do it all by myself. But tonight? Well, tonight, I just have to tell you how utterly and completely wretched I feel.

I bloody hope my next blog post is happier!

Thank you for reading. Please pass the Kleenex.


  1. What is it with stubborn, doctor-avoiding chaps and wee-problems?? My father suffered for 5 years that way (but is all clear now), and meanwhile, I, an only child, am expecting a child (at an age that means it will probably also be an only), and how you bring these things up without putting both parties in therapy is currently a mystery to me...

    See - your miserable posts attract people who relate to your world. Very good thoughts to you & your chaps.

  2. You are the jam in the carer sandwich. Carer as in, one who cares, worries and loves.
    Being squeezed by parents, husband and notquitechild is not much fun, but talking about it and seeking virtual support which is just as important as 3D support, ensures that you don't get squeezed so hard you squish out and land in a sticky mess on the floor.

  3. Thank you. Death of parent's and children growing into independence -for me markers of the school of 'advanced living'-and enduring uncertainty for a spouse's health, that too. So thank you, your twitter presence has become full-colour and 3D!

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  5. Knowing how close you and Josh are, I can imagine how bereft you must be feeling as he goes on his voyage of discovery in Israel. I also know that you are making Herculean efforts to accept that he is growing up and that you have to loosen and lengthen the invisible umbilical chord that will always connect you.

    And as for letting it out via Twitter, don't be embarrassed. I'm betting most folk will sympathise and empathise, which is very different to pitying you.

  6. Really glad you wrote this. Because - truly - as miserable as you think it might be to read, it's actually really lovely to have a moment to read an extended description of what it is you're experiencing at the moment. There is value in that not least because of the therapeutic element for you. So make it daily. It doesn't even have to be 200 words. Just make it daily.

  7. There is so much I would like to say but I can't do it as well as you do so I will just say: thank you for sharing and know that you are loved. xxx