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Holding on

7 Feb

On 26 July 2021 I wrote

How lucky am I? Thank you #InstaPal #crying

Sometimes holding on is precarious. Our fingertips go numb and we are so near the edge that even taking a single breath feels dangerous.

And sometimes holding on is just love.

I opened the post that morning and found this gift, from the artist. I had built up an Insta-friendship with Ruthie through our 100days projects and I’d bought some of her work, which I just adore. Finding this gift in the post was overwhelming, such a powerful message, and also such incredible kindness to give me that advice.

So, I kept holding on. We keep holding on.

And looking back, I see that a few days earlier I had messaged my friend Juliet to thank her.

SheWolffe: I thank you

Juliet: It was nothing

SheWolffe: You’ve held on to me some days. When I was quite unmoored.

Juliet: It is the very least I could do.

Juliet, who was 100 miles away, may say it’s the very least she could do, but we both know that it was so very much, and I will always, always, thank her for not letting me fall too far, for holding on.

And then a few days later, on 3 August 2021 I was back sitting on our glorious Terrace overlooking the Clyde Valley and I posted this pic and wrote this

Holding on

During this time, Mum was still in quarantine, after being in effective isolation for five weeks in hospital. She couldn’t read any more, and was utterly bored. She no longer got any pleasure from listening to an audio book, or the radio – her short term memory was smoosh, so she couldn’t follow a story from one sentence to the next. I wondered if she would be ‘better’ when she got out of quarantine, or if this was it? Was it too late?

We were all just holding on.

I hope that whatever is going on in your life, you are holding on. Holding on to beauty, to love, to joy. And holding on to those you love.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

If you feel like a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. Today I’m making a batch of Chinese Beef, and also Coconut Slice, neither of which feature in my recipes here, but probably should. Let me know if you’d like to see them. They are so very very tasty.

Slow worms and personal catnip

1 Feb

On 25 July 2021 I wrote:

Local wildlife. And more local wildlife

Days were already easier, more predictable, less stressful. And much less tiring. We could start planning things for the future. And we could just stop for awhile and enjoy Galloway.

We still went back and forth to Mum’s house all the time (it’s just across the yard from my brother’s house where we were staying), and one day I discovered a slow worm squirming about on her kitchen floor. I, of course, thought it was a snake initially and instinctively was a bit squirked by it. But I knew I had to be a big brave girl and get it outside, whatever it was.

And now, having done the most minimal research into slow worms and their habits, I discover that they are found throughout mainland UK, though more in Wales and South West England. And, as I anticipated, they prefer more humid conditions – Mum’s house was dry and warm and the poor thing had some fluff caught on its face, no doubt picked up from an expedition under the fridge. It looked somehow too dry.

Should you ever wish to capture an unhappy slow worm on your kitchen floor, my patented method is to slide a piece of stiff paper under it and sort of scoop it into a bowl. If you don’t have a piece of stiff paper, I guess a newspaper might do. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll work it out. The slow worm was released into the bank, not a money bank, a grassy bank with various shrubs which were mostly slightly overgrown .. it seemed like the sort of place a slow worm might be happy enough, or at least happier than in Mum’s kitchen.

Talking of wildlife, my cat MisoCat has been really needy the last few days and has taken to jumping back up on the desk, and playing with the keyboard, or nudging my fingers off the keyboard. This morning she wanted to just sit on it. I’m not going to get much work done if she behaves like this all day – usually it means she’s hungry, but it’s not that just now, so perhaps she just wants attention. When I was having a tidy up in here the other day I found a bag of ‘herbs’ which I’m pretty confident is catnip, and judging by her reaction it definitely is – she is rolling about in the dried leaves, then trying to catch them and lick them, then more crazy rolling. It’s keeping her off the keyboard for now, and I’m hoping that her catnip come down will encourage her to sleep for the rest of the day. She’s an old lady cat now, and we keep thinking she hasn’t got long left, but looking at her antics now, perhaps she’s not that old after all. We are all just as old as we feel, eh?

So, work out what your personal catnip is and have more of it – if it makes you squeak with delight, then you’re winning at life. I’ll probably write more about mine some other day.

And Mum. There’ll be more of a Mum update in future posts.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

If you feel like a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. I’ve been getting lots of carrots in my veg box lately, so have been making vats of carrot soup each week. I have a recipe for a carrot and lentil soup here, which I might update one day soon, as I’ve been experimenting with my pressure cooker (in a bid to use less energy) and honestly, it makes the best lentil soup!

Pimped up carrot soup

This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Black dogs. Brown river.

27 Jan

On 24 July 2021 I wrote:

Black dogs. Brown river.

These black dogs and the brown river help protect you from that other black dog.

On 24 July 2021 I wrote:

I love it here.

The fairies leave out giant pink marshmallows in the fields for when you’re hungry.

Mum was safe. She had come home.

It might not have been the home she’d lived in for 30+ years, but all she knew was that it was home, and that she was being cared for. Not just looked after, but properly cared for, with real care.

And I was so relieved. Finally we could acknowledge how tired we were, how much we needed this, as much as Mum did too.

We now had the luxury of time.

And when I have time, I allow myself to think, some might say to overthink. I’d been thinking about Mum’s house, and I realised that it wasn’t so much her house, but the things in it which made it home. But also this part of the world. I felt that the hills and the coastline were the contours of my own body.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. You could try my Apricot Upside Down Cake, which was made with non-butter and I felt it necessary to give you my thoughts on such things. Several years after I first wrote that recipe I am much more relaxed about non-butter, and regularly use Stork to bake these days – butter is probably The Best, but Stork is perfectly good and much more affordable. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Hot toast

24 Jan

On 22 July 2021 I wrote:

A couple of days ago I was sitting at Mum’s dining room table and noticed there was a strange scrunching sound coming from over by the window.

It was the sound of hot toast crackling as it cools down.

It was the sound of light rain pitter pattering on an awning just a foot above your head.

But no. It wasn’t either of them.

It was actually the sound of wasps chewing, to make their nest. They had made a hole above the window and now were making a new home inside the wall.

The wasp man came within an hour of calling him, donned his PPE and zapped the wasp nest. I hid inside till the angry wasps had all flown away.

Then I waited a bit longer. I REALLY don’t like wasps.

This incident happened on Mum’s Escape Day. You’d think sorting a wasp infestation would be enough for one day. Or transferring Mum from her hospital ward to her new forever home. But we did both within the space of a few hours.

And as with everything back in that summer, the logistics took more than a wee bit of planning.

We didn’t want Mum arriving at her new home too distressed and confused. So, James drove to Stranraer to chaperone Mum in the ambulance on her journey back to Gatehouse. Then, later in the day I would give him a lift to Stranraer so he could pick up his car. And now, only 18 months later, I realise I have absolutely no recollection of that drive with James back to Stranraer to pick up his car when we must have talked about how we felt Mum had reacted to her new home, what we thought of it, how we thought she would settle in there. Knowing this happened, but having no memory of it helps me to comprehend dementia a wee bit – no matter how much I try to persuade my brain that it happened, it can’t conjure up those memories. Somewhere along the way my brain decided that this memory was not one of the important things to hold on to, so it has let it go… never to return.

Mum was in an unfamiliar place and in ‘isolation’ for 2 weeks

Anyway, while James was making that first trip to Stranraer and back that morning, I was packing the final bits and bobs of Mum’s belongings, and then (after an interlude when the wasps were zapped) meeting Sean and Robbie who came to pick up Mum’s belongings and take them to her new room. James and I had curated what we thought would be comfortably familiar things for Mum to have around her – though now we realise that perhaps we were curating comfortably familiar things for us? If Mum was still surrounded by such familiar objects, perhaps everything was still as it had always been? And it would be ok?

But of course nothing was as it had always been and everything had changed again.

But at least we had stopped her house being eaten up by wasps, and she was on her way to her new home.

I visited her today. She was in bed, and mostly snoozing, but awake for long enough to ask me how I managed to get in (to her room without her opening the door I think she meant) and also to tell me that she is not so good at membering these days, and that she doesn’t know why she is so tired.

Yesterday when I saw her I mentioned that I am going to Ireland next month and will see her big sister, Jennifer. Mum looked slightly bemused, and responded “So many layers”, this may have been in response to the fact that I was knitting a big jumper, and wearing another jumper and also a big knitted shawl. But perhaps not.

So many layers.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking inspiration then you could check out my recipes here. I’ve just remembered that tasty winter salad that I made a few years ago, and now I’m craving all its healthy goodness. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Mum’s Escape Day

20 Jan

On 20 July 2021 I wrote

Well that’s been quite the day!

I went for a much needed swim late this afternoon, the tide was out, far out but that was fine. The sea was almost as warm as the Scottish sun and I floated on my back and splashed my feet in the salty water. Nearby a heron stood watching everything… occasionally poking its head into the water and coming up with a snack.

Then I sat on my usual rock and stitched. And breathed in that fresh salt air.

First thing this morning I sewed more name labels on to Mum’s clothes. I’d emptied out her chest of drawers, and chosen her capsule wardrobe. The chest of drawers and a holdall of clothes was ready to go. We removed favourite pictures from the walls of her home.

And then I took a Covid test. I’m Covid-free. Phew.

Because today of all days I could not have Covid.

Today is Mum’s Escape Day.

She arrived, by ambulance, just after I got to the care home to get her room ready. Her chairs and the bed have familiar throws over them; her old chest of drawers is in the corner; there are vases of flowers from her garden.

She thinks she will be fine there. I think so too.

I needed that swim.

20 January 2023 and as I re-read those words I wrote exactly 18 months ago, tears pricked at my eyes, and I could feel a first sob try to escape from my throat. I’ve put the sob back, but the tears are gently falling.

No more to add today, except to say that yes, she has been fine there, and she continues to be so. And, as I was told on that first day, I have been able to go back to being ‘just a daughter, not a daughter and a carer’ again.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making use of the short Seville oranges season to make some delicious marmalade then you could check out my recipes here. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Just click your fingers

17 Jan

On 19 July 2021 I wrote

I’ll come back to the flower and pick out some details, but for now I’m done with pink, so it’s back to the stem and frondy leaves.

The pendant was Mum’s (of course) and I remember as a child thinking how glamorous she seemed when she put it on. Mum has never been someone who cares much about fashion and she never wore make up, except perhaps a smudge of matt pink lipstick sometimes, so glamorous wasn’t a word I often associated with her.

Mum has given me lots of her jewellery over the years, and gave me this pendant when I came to mind her back at the beginning of this year.

Then a couple of months ago I found her one day distressed and trying to remove her wedding rings (dad gave her a second gold band for their golden wedding). She couldn’t explain why but she no longer wanted to wear them, she wanted me to look after them. I did, but made a deal with her that all she needed do was click her fingers if she wanted them back.

A couple of weeks later she clicked her fingers and she wore them again. Until she broke her wrist and the quick thinking nurse removed her rings before her hands and fingers blew up like balloons overnight.

I’ve been wearing her wedding band now for the last 5 weeks, but Mum still knows she can click her fingers if she wants it back. It’s hers.

And now, 18 months after first writing those words about Mum’s wedding rings, I wear her ring all the time. Initially it felt odd to wear a gold band, on my wedding ring finger. I have never been married, so in my late 50s I had never worn such a significant gold band. I was constantly aware of it. Shortly after I started wearing it I also took to wearing a ring Mum had given me several Christmasses ago (it was simply attached to a ribbon and hung on the tree, for me to find). It had been Granbunny’s ring, and it fitted the same finger and, being a ring with a large cut topaz surrounded by seed pearls, it hid the simple gold band. I felt like the gold wedding band was my secret. It was also symbolic of the strong bond I had with Mum. And of our separation. It was a constant reminder to me (though none was needed) that she was now so very different to the Mum I’d known all my life. And also a reminder that some day, she would no longer be with us.

I also regularly wear a modern amethyst and silver ring which Mum used to wear often – I’ll never know for sure now, but I think perhaps Dad bought it for her on a trip they made to Orkney in the 90s. Again, Mum had given this to me a few years ago. The other ring I now put on every day is a simple limpet shell, picked from Carrick Shore – it feels soothing to carry this bit of the shore with me all the time; despite the slight discomfort when I first started wearing it!

I haven’t taken Mum’s wedding ring off for more than a few minutes at a time since that day she went into hospital. And each of those few minutes have been at her behest. Initially she thought she might wear it again, and she would tentatively try it on; she would also try on Granbunny’s ring… but always, always she would give both rings back to me, saying I should keep them safe.

Latterly, she talked of another woman who ‘lives here and sometimes comes to see me’ who had a ring like Granbunny’s ‘but not as special’… and Mum was somehow worried that this woman might get confused and believe that Granbunny’s ring was actually hers, or that both rings might get stolen or lost. I continued to assure Mum that I kept all her things safe. But, as ever, if she wanted anything back all she had to do was click her fingers.

In the months after Mum went to live in Fleet Valley we would occasionally take her out bundled up in a wheelchair, for a short walk in the fresh air, and then for ‘soup and a sandwich’ for lunch; or if it was still too early for lunch, then for a hot chocolate. Mum loved a hot chocolate. The first time we went out, she seemed so diminished, and almost frightened of her surroundings, and she probably was. By this time she had been institutionalised for some months, her dementia meant that she found it difficult to process anything new or unfamiliar and this was far out of her recent experience of life. Her hot chocolate arrived in an enormous cup and saucer and Mum just stared at it. We all wondered if she would be able to lift it to her mouth, and at what point we help her. Mum picked up the teaspoon, and delicately started to spoon off the froth on top of the hot chocolate, licking her lips with delight at the sweet taste. In that moment I realised that whenever I buy a hot drink with any froth on top, the first thing I do is spoon off the froth and eat it… I hadn’t known until this moment that I was just copying Mum.

Out for a hot chocolate with Mum, and she clicks her fingers to get her rings back!

There was one day, when we were having this conversation, and Mum realised that she could no longer click her fingers – this mattered not, she knew that I would honour my promise and that I was just looking after things on her behalf.

And truly, this is how I’ve felt about so much this last year. As though I am just holding on to Mum’s most loved things on her behalf. And in that list of most loved things, I include myself and my siblings.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making use of the short Seville oranges season to make some delicious marmalade then you could check out my recipes here. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Snacks as self-care

13 Jan

On 18 July 2021 I wrote

I drive past the Galloway Smokehouse at Carsluith every time I go to visit Mum in hospital.

I lie.

Some days I don’t drive past, but stop in and see what snacks they might have for supper.

My brother and I knew from the outset that caring for Mum would be, as they say, an emotional rollercoaster. And it’s fair to say that it was. I hardly need to say that I’d known Mum all my life, so witnessing her slow decline each day, towards an inevitable death was almost impossible to bear.

But it was not by any stretch of the imagination unrelenting sadness and doom. Though most days one of us would cry, we looked after one another. Being in Galloway was a huge comfort in itself – the views would make my heart sing, the trees in the local woods bathed me with their dappled sunlight, but the shore was always the balm of choice for my soul. And even on days when I didn’t manage to get down to the sea, just knowing it was there, waiting, always there, was a comfort to me.

Our family has always found comfort in food, in eating well, in caring for one another through making something that nourishes their soul as well as their body. So, of course we were going to buy a lobster from the Galloway Smokehouse! And it was delicious, and only £12, if I remember right.

On the last day I drove the 84 miles round trip from Gatehouse to the hospital in Stranraer and back again, I also stopped off at the Antique Shop I’d driven past so many times. You can see its big sign on the side of a farm building from the main road, but essentially it is deep in the middle of nowhere.

It was one of the hottest days of the year (I know this for a fact, because one of my other projects that year was making a temperature blanket, so I recorded the highest and lowest temperature of each day for the whole year), and there was not a breath of wind. I’m not used to hot weather and don’t actually like it very much, so it was sweet relief to head into the cool byres and rummage about in the piles of musty furniture and random stuff. It was fairly inevitable that I’d come away having bought something, but who would have predicted the vintage jelly mould? Eighteen months on, I’m still to get into the jelly-making habit (not helped by the jelly mould being stored in Mum’s larder, while I live 100 miles away). But there’s time, there’s always time. Until there isn’t, of course.

As I write this I’m about to set off to see Mum. It’s a 200 mile round trip these days, but I do it so willingly and with joy in my heart at knowing I’ll see her when I get there. When I arrive in her room, with my arms open wide with joy, I greet her with “Hello Mum… it’s me…. Loïs”. I started doing this instinctively at a point when she found it increasingly difficult to find the words she wanted, and that could include a person’s name. And, although this is a kind thing to do for someone with dementia, I realise it is a kindness to do it in all sorts of situations (though post pandemic I don’t find myself in those network type situations any more, so perhaps I will never put this into practice).

I know that I won’t always look forward to seeing Mum, there will be times when it is more than I can bear to see her so changed from that vibrant, confident Mum we all knew – and over the last 18 months there have been times when I have almost dreaded visits. But I seem to have found a zen spot that works for me at the moment. If she is alert we can have a limited conversation, and there are usually smiles somewhere along the line. And if she isn’t, if all she can manage is to vaguely flicker her eyelids open and then go back to snoozing, then I can sit quietly knitting or embroidering for a while. I occasionally read a section of her memoir to her, or just talk to her about things she’s told me about her childhood. We often will make sure she has a lucky stone to hold, and I tell her how lucky that stone is to be held in her hand, how lucky I have been in my life to have been held by her, my favourite mother.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making Energy Bars, then you could check out my recipes here. This blog started out as recipes, sometimes accompanied by wee stories, so I’ve got a back catalogue of tasty things to make. Do let me know if you’d like me to add more recipes in the future – I had an ambition to make a carers cookbook a couple of years ago… perhaps some day.

Birdsong

10 Jan

On 18 July 2021 I wrote

I sat in the shade yesterday and completed the main stitching on the cosmos flower. Sitting in mum’s garden was beautifully calming, despite my double espresso. The only sounds were of birdsong, including the less than tuneful quackery and splish sploshing of these ducks.

In other news, the swallows took a couple of weeks off after their first brood fledged and now they are back under the eaves, with a second nest of eggs.

Mum wasn’t happy in hospital. She was aware of enough to know that this was not a good place for her to be, but she was unable to speak up for herself. Our time in the hospital was absolutely focused on her and on being with her, on giving her an hour or two each day when she was reminded of who she was, and that we would do everything we could to keep her safe. We didn’t want to lie to Mum, and we knew not to make promises we could not keep, so we never talked to her about getting her home, but talked often of her Escape Plan, of getting her out of hospital, of making sure she was looked after and happy.

One day she looked up at James, and said to him “I’m not going to go home am I?”. There we were, dancing around this truth, and she just came out with it. Even in her dementia, in her confusion, she made life easier for us. This was said at the point when we were just beginning to research care homes. It was perhaps the kindest thing she could have done, though I doubt that she knew it; she took away any sense that we were letting her down, that we were betraying her wishes. We already knew we could not cope with looking after her at home any more, no matter how often a day a carer popped in to help… but it was such a relief to know that at some level Mum recognised this too.

Mum absolutely accepted that we were making good decisions for her, and was so grateful to us. We didn’t want to give her details about the Escape Plan until we had it properly in place. Bits of information could circle round and round in her head, making her more anxious if they didn’t quite fully make sense to her. So, until we had everything confirmed we just referred to the Escape Plan.. and she seemed to quite like this concept.

In other news, around this time I was finally informed that I had not been successful in the internal job interview I’d attended a couple of weeks before. I had worked out for myself that I hadn’t been successful, but had become increasingly hurt that no-one told me (despite assuring me I would be informed within 48 hours of the interview). The reason I was given for not being offered the job was that I didn’t have another language. My new colleague is ace, but we are both perplexed by this reason for me not getting the job – they don’t have a second language either.

In other times this might have been a spur for me to really apply myself to finding another job. But, it had the opposite effect – I realised that I didn’t have the emotional energy to put myself through a recruitment process. I knew I could not present my best self to a potential employer, and also that further rejection would utterly break me.

Life continued. But I had absolute clarity about where my priorities lay from now on. And work was nowhere near the top any more. This was a new way of living for me – it didn’t yet sit very comfortably, but I have always been a relatively quick learner!

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started after I realised Mum might have dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life; meanwhile her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making this super simple Throw It In The Oven Chicken Dinner (I know, I should have just called it Winner Winner Chicken Dinner), then you could check out my recipes here.

A N I M A L S

8 Jan

On 16 July 2021 I wrote

It was hot enough at breakfast time to eat outside again. And as today was a hospital visit day again I didn’t need to rush off to work, so filled a quiet hour with some stitches. It’s a lovely way to start a day.

When my brothers and I had left home, mum took up her art more seriously again. She attended pottery classes locally and when she couldn’t get on to the wheel, she started sculpting with her clay. Of course she was drawn to animals (you’ve seen some of her sketches) and before long she was commissioned to create a prize bull from a photo. And her business was born… she created ceramic models of animals, and sent them all over the world. This was before social media, so she traveled to craft fairs and agricultural shows to promote her wares. And she had an old school leaflet, featuring this lovely picture of her with her wee dog, Mouse. (And wearing a fisherman’s smock!)

I share her love of pottery, and have treated myself to some lovely pieces made in Galloway over recent months – as you can see in the carousel of bonus pics below. If you want to own something beautiful, handmade by superb artists you might enjoy @minniwick and @wemakepots.

Eighteen months after I first wrote the words above, in the heart of winter, I am looking out of my window to a cold blustery day, the sky beyond the horizon is dark inky black, promising more rain to come.

And Mum is still around, though a much diminished character to the one we knew so well in July 2021. We cannot know what is in our futures, so it is strange thinking myself back to this time, knowing what I know now. I distinctly remember saying to James around that time that Mum might survive to my birthday (end of August) but not to Christmas. And he responded, that it would not then be to his birthday (just before Christmas). Mum has lived through another two Christmases since that conversation, and as we still cannot look into the future, we do not know if there will be another, or several more. It seems inconceivable, but then I have lived in the foreshadow of her death for so long now.

I visited her yesterday – she was in her bed, as she so often is, but was wide awake and quite alert. She was amused when I told her how our animals are – Puck the naughty black Patterdale terrier, Max the big black labrador with the stinky breath, Brutus the cockerel and only two hens (the others have been taken by badgers, which she remembered) ,, and then I said “And Gordon….” and she giggled, as I added “though he’s not really an animal”. I hadn’t seen her actually giggle for a while, so it was a delight to see.. and she still agrees that he’s a keeper. He certainly is. Mum realised it before anyone else, and despite her limited abilities, she still knows it.

So yesterday was A Good Day. I left her, promising to visit again this morning, at coffee-time.

She was dressed and sitting in her chair this morning – she can no longer dress herself, a combination of her dementia, but also her frailty. She has no power left in her legs. After a couple of incidents when she was sitting on the edge of her bed, and a carer turned around for a minute (probably to get her clothes) and Mum slipped and landed on the floor, Mum is now moved from bed to chair via a hoist. She sits in a large padded chair, which has hidden wheels to wheel Mum to the dining room, or wherever.. .. and her feet don’t touch the ground, so she cannot even try to stand up should she forget she can’t do it any more.

Anyway, Mum was in her chair, dressed, and her hair was looking nice. But she seemed so very far away again. She hardly spoke, but seemed happy to sit and watch me knitting. I blethered a bit, telling her that I’m knitting a jumper for G, and that I also really love embroidery these days and I described the painting of silver birch trees that I found in her sketch book which I am embroidering, slowly, oh so slowly. Mum had little interest, but politely sat there. She also had no interest in looking out the window when I could hardly hear myself speak over the loud drumming of the hailstones outside. Seeing this change in Mum makes me realise how much I value curiosity in people.

So, if we’re categorising, I’d say that today was Not Such A Good Day. But honestly, what is Good or Bad in relation to my dearly loved 91 year old mother? By what criteria do we measure Good and Bad? After all, she is content, and she is treated with respect and dignity, with care and love by the staff. So perhaps today is just Another Day. And tomorrow will be one too.

***

Finally, if you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started shortly after I realised Mum might have the early stages of dementia. There I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life as her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking, perhaps making a delicious Banana Chocolate Nut Cake, then you could check out my recipes here.

Tide out. Tide in.

15 Dec

On 15 July 2021 I wrote

I don’t even know what day it is any more.

The sun was properly blazing today and high tide was at 4pm. By lunchtime I knew I wasn’t going to be able to focus on work so I booked the afternoon off and headed to the sea.

Sitting on a rock sewing as the tide comes in, then the tide goes out is a really good antidote to the world. As I sat there it all changed. Tide in. Tide out. But it was all the same. And it will all change again overnight. Tide out. Tide in. And it will be the same. But different.

As I was there I got further confirmation of an element of the Escape Plan, so it’s nearly all in place. I sat happily alone on that rock. The tide came in. It went out again. I cried.

Then I took off my dress and immersed myself in the sea.

The day before this, we had visited Fleet Valley Care Home, which was going to be Mum’s new home. I was born less than 100 yards from where Mum was going to spend the rest of her days. Her new postcode would be the same as the postcode where I was born and where I spent my happiest of happy childhoods. It all felt so RIGHT.

Mum was going to be looked after, would be cared for. And, at that moment, it felt as though this wonderful wee community, which helped to give me the best start in life, would step in and help Mum live her best life to the end.

This day felt hopeful, and as tears flowed down my cheeks and mingled with the sea I realised this was the most positive feeling I had felt in months.

***

If you want to catch up on how we got to this point, this series of posts starts here, with Taking Smock of the Situation, an embroidery project I started shortly after realising Mum might have the early stages of dementia. So, there I was, embroidering her old fisherman’s smock with symbols relating to her life as her memories were being thrown around like so many pieces of jigsaw in a big box.

Not in the mood for this? That’s ok. But if you feel like a bit of cooking or baking (my cheese scones are MIGHTY) then you could check out my recipes here.

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