Sunday, April 26, 2009

Diary: This is a hard one

Thursday night Dad rang me: "Are you ready for your mother tomorrow?" We had been over the logistics of the knee operation several times - who was being picked up by whom at what time and where, etc. Dad was due at the hospital in the morning and Mum was staying with me for a week which I was quite excited about and a bit apprehensive of. "Look after her" he said. Make sure she eats" he said, "she's too thin. Give her some meat."

This made me laugh as he knew I was a vegetarian and I didn't cook meat any more. "Don't worry Dad" I said, "I cook very nutritious meals and Mum will be well looked after." I thought that was the end of it. Dad had suggested a trip to the park with the dogs and the kids the week before the operation but we hadn't got to go as Charlotte was sick and I was busy in a cleaning frenzy trying to get the house in order for Mum staying, so in the end we'd had to have these discussions about the operation and Mum staying over the phone. Its a shame we didn't get to go and have a nice picnic together, enjoy some greenery and Autumn sunshine.

Friday morning I cleaned the bathroom then cleaned the guest room top to bottom, even the windows, then put fresh sheets on the bed. Tom made an effort to clean up his room and put away his toys. About ten o'clock Colin arrived with Mum. She had a little suitcase and a number of other bags along with her handbag. I put on a pot of coffee for Colie while Tom enthusiastically took Ninny's hand and led her upstairs. I laughed as I shared with Colie what Dad had said about making sure Mum ate properly. "Yes" he said, "Barry said cook her some meat" he said half jokingly. So he'd said it to Colie too! Now I was really laughing as Mum came back down and started depositing the meagre contents of her refrigerator on the counter: an impossibly small and wilted bunch of asparagus, a collection of small soft lemons, two thin plastic wrapped bunches of herbs, one banana, one apple and a very large bag of bacon.

"What's this?" I asked pointing to the bacon. The dogs were going bizerk. Mum stuttered a bit explaining Dad had bought it. "I don't know why he bought so much of it" she said. I knew, I thought. "I can't believe he's sent you over here with a bag of bacon. That's hilarious." They really did think she was going to starve. We all drank our coffee and tea and looked at the bag. "Well its not going in my fridge" I said "I'm not cooking it". The dogs looked hopeful. I looked at Colie. "Do you want it?" I asked. Tom came into the kitchen "What's that?" he asked on tiptoes peering over the counter top. "Sliced pig." I said, "Bar Bar sent it over in case Ninny gets hungry". "I want to have a look" he said reaching for the bag with the insatiable curiosity of a four year old.

Eventually Colie said he'd take it. Poor Curly looked crushed as Colie headed to the door with the bag. He said his advice to Ninny if she got hungry was to ask to be taken to McDonalds.

That was two days ago. Dad had his knee operation and I took Mum to see him yesterday. He looked tired, like you would on morphine after a very taxing operation. It crossed my mind that Mum might be staying a little longer than the week we had planned. I wondered how Tim would take this news, after all he had been very comfortable in the quiet child-free guest room himself before Mum came to stay.

Tom on the other hand was loving every second of Ninny staying. The first afternoon I had heard riotous laughter coming from the lounge while I prepared dinner. Tom was saying "Stop! ... Go! ... Stop! ... Go!" and curiously I had looked in to see what was going on. It was a funny scene. Ninny was shuffling round the room to Tom's command bearing a striking similarity to C-3PO. I told Dad later on the phone "Mum's having a great time, she hasn't sat still for a second, and Tom's thrilled, he's got his own personal robot." He could picture the scene and snickered obviously finding it as amusing as I did; Dad and I always shared quite a black sense of humor. I went on to tell him how Tim had made his usual 'coming home from work' phone call and Tom hadn't rushed for the phone as per usual, in fact I'd had to almost bribe him to take it holding out the phone and whispering to him threateningly "Say - Hello - To - Daddy." Then when he finally did take it he just said loudly several times "Who is it? ... Who? ... Who?" then dropped it back to me before running off.

Mum seems to have settled in fine. She goes to bed when the children do and gets up early. Both mornings I have been a little startled to see her already showered and dressed with make up on when Charlotte and I are only just surfacing. Saturday morning she came into my bedroom dressed in stockings and a black and cream patterned skirt and blouse. It felt a little alarming to be so dressed up at seven in the morning but I am used to my Mum after all these years and I realise this is one of the things I was looking forward to with having her stay. Living with someone is quite different from just paying the occasional visit. This morning I opened my bedroom door to find her in a bright pink Chinese style satin jacket and black slacks. I found myself wondering how she washes it. Personally I don't even buy clothes that need ironing these days. Must be dry clean only I thought.

I have some bad news to tell her in the morning. Dad is unconscious and in intensive care. The doctors at St Vincents suspect he has had a stroke, possibly a large one. The doctor told me not to be 'overly optimistic'. Its all that bloody bacon he's been eating for years I think to myself while she talks about assisted breathing and scans. I got off the phone from the hospital and went upstairs to find Tom limp with sleep on Mum's lap in the story-telling chair, he would have been asleep except that she wouldn't stop talking and kept waking him.

My Mum will see how good my husband is, he hasn't flinched a bit at the thought of her living with us indefinitely. Tim and I are strong, we are good at steering through a crisis. I will fill in the hours with distractions for as long as it takes. My weakness will be showing my emotions, being a receptive shoulder to cry on. I have hid many of my feelings from my parents for years, except for the occasional outburst that never seemed to have any positive outcome, ours has not been an easy relationship. I was so looking forward to the intimacy of Mum living in our house with my family, but this is more than I bargained for.

Not to be printed without written permission of the writer Katie Little.

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