I’ve always been a bit protective towards my Mum, not wanting to let anyone hurt her either physically or mentally. This goes back years but more specifically to 1972 when due to the circumstances at the time, we were living with another family as ‘lodgers’.
It was a difficult time for me anyway, being slap bang in the middle of my O levels, and when I got home from school and most weekends, Mum wasn’t there as she was looking after my sister. However, it was Mum who kept house here, Mum who prepared all the meals, and Mum who took the flack from ‘Matey’. His wife would recline on the sofa all day, watching TV and smoking her head off until she heard his car in the drive, then she was up at the cooker mopping her exerted sweaty brow (from the rush, not the heat), giving the impression that she’d been hard at it all day.
Things came to a head when he said some vile and terrible things to my Mum reducing her to tears, so I ran away.
I didn’t go far, just a couple of roads away to a friend’s house, but it took a few hours for Dad to find me, and when he did, I said the only reason I’d go back would be to pack my bags. I was 16.
We had nowhere to go actually, so ended up living with my Grandfather and his wife on a temporary basis which lasted almost a year.
My Mum, now 94, has dementia, though as to whether she has actually been professionally assessed is unclear, so we take each day as it comes and deal with ‘the mood of it’ accordingly.
We have seen her disoriented, confused, unsteady, reminiscent, happy, subdued, frustrated and angry at her forgetfulness on many an occasion when we visit, and try to encourage her to engage in conversation rather than sit in her chair by the window as if she’s on the outside looking in.
Whenever possible, we try to take her out, just to give her a change of scenery more than anything else. We understand that she talks about these little trips quite a lot, in fact several times in the space of a few minutes over a couple of days before tucking them away with her other memories.
With my current health business, I have a dilemma, and talking to our friends, they too are divided.
I feel I should tell my Mum, but this could lead to a multitude of questions, repetitions, and dwelling on the issue, which is something I don’t want.
Should I just tell my sister, someone who doesn’t handle stress well at the best of times and has always relied on my Mum for support but is finding it difficult now the situation is reversed.
To be honest I get the impression she has a pretty low opinion of me anyway, especially during our house sale in 2014 when we couldn’t have Mum up for a holiday (we would have actually been moving out the day of her arrival). Living on a boat hasn’t helped smooth that over, but we do the best we can, as we always have, with the cards we’re dealt. Buying a boat was definitely not in the pack, but we had no other sensible or practical choice at the time.
I foresee friction in an already strained environment which would be of my making and believe me, the blame would definitely be left at my door. My shoulders are wide enough to take it, but my Mum’s aren’t, especially now, and we’re too far away to prevent it.
In a perfect scenario, I could go down before my op and explain to them together that I have to go into hospital for minor surgery and it will be a while before we get down to see them again, leaving it at that.
Sadly, I can’t see that happening, and our friends are quite right in that I will be worrying on the journey down. There are always so many imaginary conversations going on in my head, and the tension in the car as we near our destination is palpable. We never know what we are going to find or how we are going to be received, but accept this is our own doing as we never announce our arrival because we want to see things as they really are, not how someone wants us to.