Sunday, 24 January 2010

Car Trouble

Things with Mum haven't been too bad this week, although I have sensed that she's been disappointed that I haven't offered to take her out. As brother was with her for a couple of days this week, he could have offered to take her. But wait a minute! He can't because his car is dead in the garage at their house? Surely not!

My moan of the week is focused on that damn car. As some of you will already know, I predicted that Dad's car would become the bane of my life after he died. It was either out in the elements on the drive, in the garage needing moving out or needing a run to keep it going, so my encouragement for Mum to give it to brother was based on the fact that he would run it himself and take it away. Of course that didn't happen. He wanted to keep it at Mum's house. Re-taxing the car didn't happen because the MOT had run out, so it's been in the garage at Mum's house since August. Of course it's now dead as a doornail. I know because I tried to start it the other day, so I could take it for the MOT to be done. Of course, it being my brother's car, it's my responsibility... Odd fact this, but as he's never driven it, he could never get it out of the garage. This is tricky for me at the best of times, so I wouldn't fancy an inexperienced driver who'd never actually driven this car backing it out without a bump.

The breakdown cover has been reinstated, so someone can come to start the car. The cover is in brother's name, so he needs to arrange the call out, but I need to be there to get it out of the garage, so at least brother can turn it over when he's there. Then I'll sort out the MOT, but then NO MORE! I will have no more to do with that bloody car!

This week is going to be tough. The solicitor is coming to talk to Mum about Dad's estate and her own will. Not conversations to be relished.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Women With Pushchairs Rule The World

I have been waiting to use the title "Wheels of Steel" for when I took Mum out in her new wheelchair, but after my experience today I think this title is far more appropriate. I took Mum to buy a new wheelchair before the snow came again just after Christmas and today was the first chance we have had to give it an outing. It's very lightweight, so it's easy to get in and out of the car, and to push about, so out we went to the shops.

You don't have to spend much time either in a wheelchair or pushing one to see that there's this strange hierarchy in the shopping centre world. The people in wheelchairs come pretty much at the bottom, with counters that are too high, obstructions to the aisles when shops cram too much in, being spoken to like they are idiots and mothers using their pushchairs as battering rams in front of them. We had been to W H Smith today and Mum agreed to have a coffee, which was a great improvement on the last time we were out. We didn't go to Costa in W H Smith, as I think it's too hard for Mum to go there as she always used to go with Dad. I know exactly how this feels, as I still can't bear to go to a football match without him. Instead of Costa we wheeled round the corner to Starbucks. We were just trying to find somewhere to park/sit, when a woman pushing a toddler in a buggy barged in front of us and tried to take our table with her friend. What is it with some mothers? They ram around their fortress of a pushchair as if they are saying "Here is the fruit of my womb! Obey me!" When I pointed out that we were trying to sit down and I was bluntly told that there were two tables, so they took up most of the space and Mum and I made the best of the remaining room. Obviously in this instance that bag hanging off the back of the pushchair wasn't full of nappies. I think it contained her brain. All that hassle in the search of a skinny latte...

Despite pushchairs and Mum being patronised by various shop assistants, I think she had a good time, especially in Paperchase, a stationery-lover's paradise.

Whilst I know that I'm really helping Mum by taking her out, trips like this are filled with sad vignettes that will stay with me for life. We went to find the cashpoint in Boots and Mum said she would like to find out how much a small bottle of Channel No 5 costs. She had tried a sample of the perfume in a magazine and said that she would like to treat herself to some with the points on her Boots advantage card. She didn't have quite enough points, so she said she would wait until another time. There is something very poignant about this. Here is a 68 year woman, not far off the end of her life because of illness and she's still thinking about things she'd like to try. She'd never had a bottle of Channel No 5 and I never knew she wanted one before today. Such a simple thing like Mum wanting to buy a bottle of perfume that she'd not had before moves me to tears. And it's more than just the materialism of having something luxurious. It shows me she's not giving up just yet.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Honey, I cancelled the carers II - shrinking the visits (again)

Sorry if I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but after another casual conversation with Mum the other day she said "Well you do know I've cancelled the morning visit from the carers". Yes, of course I know, because I can read minds. I didn't know anything about this, as it wasn't a discussion Mum had with me, it was one she had with the MacMillan Nurse. This is the same MacMillan Nurse that I had previously phoned to say how worried I was about the reduction in the number of visits Mum was having from the carers, a discussion which had obviously disappeared like Scotch Mist in the vale of Brigadoon. A couple of people I've told about this are amazed that the MacMillan woman didn't think to give me a call to involve me in the discussion, these nurses being practitioners who see the care of the patient to involve those who link in with them, family members for example. She's obviously not one of those practitioners...

I was very annoyed and disappointed that Mum had felt cancelling the morning carer's visit was a good idea and did ask her if she knew how worrying this was for me. I said that if she got up in the morning and didn't feel like making her breakfast, she would then be waiting until lunchtime. If she called me for help, I might be on my way to work somewhere in the wrong direction from her house, or snowed in even, not such an unlikely prospect. We only managed to dig out the cars on Saturday, so if this situation had occurred last week, she really would have been on her own. In a childish rage Mum said she would "speak to the Macmillan Nurse" (Grrrrrrrr!) and get the visit reinstated, but on seeing Mum today it's obvious she had no intention of doing this. She was actually quite glib about it. My reminding her that she would have been very worried had my Granny (her Mum) refused her carer's visits did not hit home.

So that's how things are. Mum is just having a lunchtime visit and no more. Will I wonder every morning if she managed to get her own breakfast ready? Probably. Have I lost all faith in the MacMillan Nurse? Certainly.

On my way home from Mum's today, my phone was ringing and I managed to access the message that was left at some traffic lights. I had left my house keys back at Mum's. Bummer. This is the product of having such a full brain. I had also forgotten to put my glasses on this morning, something I'd not realised until I was in the car and everything was slightly blurry. I LOATHE the fact that all that's going on with Mum makes me come across as being ditsy. Yuck!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Honey, I cancelled the carers

And the snowy picture of the day is....

It's high time I posted the account of the Christmas period. Ho ho ho!

On Christmas Eve I was thinking what a miserable prospect Christmas with out Dad was. He was always the Christmassy one, the one who organised the tree and the dinner, the one I went to the footy with. I would have gladly not done Christmas this year, but as I missed Dad's last Christmas because he was on chemo and I had the 'flu, I couldn't miss what could be Mum's. I'm not really a Christmas fan anyway, Bah, Humbug, enforced festivities, yuk, etc, but really did wake up on Christmas Day with a sinking feeling.

We got to Mum's just after midday and I asked what there still was to do to for the dinner. My brother was not looking like he was going to participate any getting anything ready. Mum said she had put the chicken in earlier in the morning made a list of the timings of everything else. I was also wondering why there were two pans of boiling water on the hob, without anything in them. "They're for the veg!", Mum said, like I was an idiot who thought the kettle was for boiling the water to cook up some frozen veg, an idiot who didn't appreciate that the pans should be boiling for half an hour before the veg was ready to go in. Mum's list was very thorough and included all the different cooking times for the rest of the items, but with no indication of the actual time that it should all go on to be cooked. Dad used to be very good at this sort of thing, but being a technical man I suppose it was natural to construct the Christmas dinner into a project with precision timing. I had a quick work out that if the chicken went in the oven at 10.30, then everything had to go in, like, now, but then realised that the oven was on too low for the rest of the stuff, so just put everything in and hoped for the best. I had bought a pre-packed tub of mash when I did Mum's Christmas food shop and looking in the fridge it was nowhere to be found. That was because Mum had put it in the freezer for some reason and, naturally, you weren't supposed to cook it from frozen. So it goes on defrost in the microwave FOREVER...

Meanwhile everyone else is merrily unwrapping their presents. I got to see Mum unwrap only one of the presents I gave her. She seemed very jolly though. Merry Christmas!

Back to the microwave, which didn't appear to be doing it's defrosting job very well. Every time I stirred it up there were big lumps of frosty mash in the middle. As time was ticking on and everything else was nearly ready, I developed an internal dialogue about potatoes. "You can cook mash from frozen, right? Of course you can!". So mash is merrily cooked from frozen. No more lumps. And I made sure it was piping hot. Then a battle in the cupboards trying to find the serving dishes for the veg, the rewashing of the cutlery that wasn't so clean, the disintegration of the meat, the realisation that there were too many Yorkshire puddings. At least I pulled it together at short notice and got everything just about on time. No-one suffered the ill effects of poorly cooked mash, so I seem to have got away with it.

Mum offered to help with the pots, but I could see that everything needed a good clean in the kitchen really, so retreated to the sink with Barry Manilow on Radio 2. His version of River is surprisingly good. It took me nearly an hour to clear everything up, but from a standing start of trouble-shooting the Christmas dinner, I was surprised that all went well.

New Year was pretty rubbish, worse than Christmas for realising that Dad was gone really. I went to see Mum on New Year's Eve and rang her New Year's Day. She made a comment about it being very quiet and not having seen many people out and about. I casually asked if the carers had been and was told that she had cancelled them as she "wanted a rest". Here's me thinking that they were there help her to do just that! So, not only had she reduced the number of visits without me knowing, she was now cancelling visits altogether, even though no-one was planning to go round to see her. I was pretty annoyed and also worried that she'd actually got herself something to eat and drink, so we called round briefly in the evening to check she was ok.

I have concluded there is nothing I can do about Mum's views about the carers' visits. I spoke to her MacMillan Nurse last week and she was quite dismissive about my worries, probably because she won't be the one that's hot footing it over to Mum's house when she finds out she's not felt well enough to cook a meal after cancelling the carers. I am going to go with it for a while and see what happens. However, if the weather continues as it is, I won't be hot footing anywhere, cancelled carers or not. The snow is now definitely worse than when Dad was in hospital last February and very much colder. Of course brother managed to travel the 40 miles to Mum's house via public transport yesterday, with no problems. How some are blessed!