A Soft Touch


In mid 2013 I started knitting mum a blanket to go with the colours of her room in the carehome and to remind her of the sea. I started by knitting rectangles on 6.5mm needles with two strands of 8ply yarn. The yarn was all found in various hidden stashes in her home. Some bags of yarn date from over ten years before and were unopened.

You see Alzheimer’s slowly took all mum’s hobbies from her. She forgot how to knit. To sew. To garden. To write. She could still read simple short lists but marvelled at the writing on our calendars. Said it would be wonderful to be able to do that. 

In the mornings I used to take a cup of coffee out with a muesli bar onto one of the two balconies running the length of their house. There I would knit the rectangles undisturbed until dad got back from his morning constitutional. I was working on two blankets then. 

The next year my mum suddenly passed away and I had not been able to touch this until recently. However mum is free, her spirit released, her body freed of pain and her mind also.  So I am adapting these rectangles into a blanket mixing many shades together. I added Patons Inca to the mix which has wool and alpaca for warmth and provides a soft touch. It is being knitted on 10mm needles and as it adds up to 30ply I am knitting it in strips. So far in a few days I have almost completed the first strip.

I am so happy to be knitting again  My hands are not what they were as the joints have a lot of arthritis and there is Neuropathy too but knitting has been my passion since mum and I pulled down a jumper of hers and I knitted my first item, a jumper with lace cables and bobbles. I was fifteen. The bobbles were inside the lace pattern  Very complex. These days I am more into colour and texture than patterns. I am enjoying this blanket’s journey, who knows where it will end up?



Greeted With Open Arms

A year ago today I was out very early in the morning in the garden deadheading my many buddleja, flowering Andean sage, nasturtium and hibiscus. It is the best time to do it as at other times the plants are always covered in fat bees and butterflies. I did not want to get stung and I have an ongoing conversation with the bees that they do not own the plants, I do!

By 10.30 I had showered and dressed carefully for my day ahead. The day was going to be a full one, firstly the dentist for an extraction of a very painful molar and later on in the afternoon a visit from a special friend. I easily caught the bus up to the dentist, had a lovely chat with the receptionist and was even able to give some requested advice to one of them about not having her scheduled surgery using gynaecological mesh. The dentist assistant was a lovely silver haired girl in her teens and the dentist was a fabulous female. Very gentle.

The extraction was difficult, involving curved roots that were immediately near the sinus cavity. I was warned if it perforated it would need surgical repair. However all was well and we all smiled with relief when it was over. I did have to be careful not to sneeze with my mouth shut for a few days though! As I bit down on some gauze I tentatively made my way over to the shopping centre to get some goodies for afternoon tea.

Then I walked home, not bad considering my Cervical Spinal Stenosis makes pressure on my neck …..difficult. Perhaps the dentist asking that the nurse hold my head made a difference. Once home I had a very milky cup of tea, an interesting taste through blood soaked gauze!

When I checked my messages my friend said his daughter was through sooner than he thought so they would be over early afternoon instead of late. I rang him and asked what time and he said they were in Belmont! And asked for directions! I replied I had no idea as I do not drive and isn’t that what Google Maps are for? In the background I could hear this delightful giggling coming from his daughter G and much chatter and fun going on between them.

So after I hung up I dashed to the bathroom and spat out the second gauze plug…no further bleeding so was very pleased. I whacked on some bright red lipstick and fluffed up my hair and made sure the bathroom was ready for guests. Luckily I always over prepare so the snacks were plated up. Fresh plump blueberries, Maltezers and some sort of biscuits, perhaps Tim Tams? And lots of Irish tea.

Almost as soon as I had poured milk into the jug of my lovely Maxwell and Williams afternoon tea setting I heard laughter, giggles and chatter. I made my way to the door, suddenly overcome with nerves. I need not have worried, I was greeted with open arms by J and introduced to his daughter, whom I hugged with less reserve. J chatting all the way inside and gladly accepting the offer of a cuppa.

This was a very special meeting, one delayed by many many years, almost a lifetime in fact. We had met by phone only when he helped me with my dad in 2014, which was the year mum passed away. Early the next year he retired and his kindness and his lovely voice was quite a loss to me, so after six months I contacted him and we became Facebook friends. This led to playing Words With Friends, maniacally at times, depending upon who had a free afternoon midweek. Matches often went on all afternoon. I liked to online chat as we played. He preferred to play then chat.

We lost touch late 2015 until late last year, it coincided with my getting off my walker and having correct diagnoses for several issues which had made me less mobile than I should be. I was full of joy at being in charge of my health again and looking forward to the possibilities life might have in store for me rather than a life limited by disability. It had made me rather reckless in my online communication with J and I felt quite overcome with embarrassment at some of the things I had got up to online.

I put my best Verger front on though and we had a lovely time, with me teasing him about his many accents. He speaks in many UK dialects! Chatting with G was wonderful, about fashion, her new job and her move down here recently to be near her family. I loved her freshness and innocence. We all three trooped out to see my infamous  buddlejas and the rest of the garden.

After a fun time involving me begging J not to make me laugh because of my extraction, accompanied by peels of laughter from G, it was sadly time for them to go. J hugged me goodbye, a protracted hug which I was mortified by as I did not have a bra on! G then answered a phone call and J came out of the car for more cuddles and said we would be talking online. To which I answered of course.

So I survived the first meeting, met my man of many voices, his gorgeous daughter, and survived my embarrassment. How good it is to be over 60. To have nothing to lose. To trust someone so deeply that anything is possible. Indeed to even meet someone where anything is possible is a rare thing. Over time since then we have committed ourselves to each other, in words and deeds. And to each other’s adult children and we love being involved in their lives.



Something Needs To Change

On May 9th four years ago we had another Guardianship Tribunal. This one was brought about by an inexperienced supervisor at Calvary Care, and my sister, who both believed my dad when he said I had finished with him.

I had finally moved out a few weeks into the new year after he hit me on the arm with the phone because I was not quick enough to do his bidding. Which was talk to the NSW Trustee and Guardian about his money.

He had been become increasingly aggressive to me on Monday mornings. He expected me to drop everything at 9am and act as his unpaid secretary. As well as his unpaid carer. There would be at least five supposedly urgent phone calls to make for him. Most of the people I rang could not make head nor tale of what he wanted. So he expected me to translate for him.

On this Monday morning I checked into Facebook while I had my morning coffee and found one of my most admired friend advocates had lost her battle with bowel cancer. She was only in her early thirties. A lawyer, a future local politician. A wonderful advocate and friend.

I asked dad for a break so I could grieve for her. Collect my thoughts. Pay my respects. Contact her mother. But he would not have it. He kept coming in, jumping up and down with rage. Then he hit me on the arm, not hard but as if I was a piece of furniture he owned that he could do that to.

I quietly said dad I have just lost a friend. A really good person who was incredibly loved and loving. And was at the start of a remarkable life. I told him that I could not put up with this anymore. I just could not.

I went upstairs and grabbed a few things, I already had some clothing at my son’s place. As I walked through the garage I told dad I would be in touch and would continue to arrange things. He just sat there and looked out to sea.

I found out later he did not visit mum that afternoon in her carehome as planned but went in person to the Trustee who could not really deal with him without an appointment, and an interpreter.

The next day the Calvary Supervisor rang me and was extremely rude and hostile. Said she would not be dealing with me in future and was filing papers for a Public Guardian. I was extremely annoyed with her for accepting a demented violent person’s word for things instead of his previous live in carer. And for her judgemental attitude. She knew nothing of our family background, of the state mum was in before dad’s stroke and indeed of the state of paranoia dad was often in. She simply accepted dad’s word that I had finished with him.

Within some weeks she had resigned and was replaced by an extremely competent supervisor, B. Between us we worked out a very good plan for aides to look after dad each day and for me to visit him during the week. And we arranged that I met him on Mondays in Newcastle when we visited mum together.

Everything ran smoothly and on 9/5/14 we went to Tribunal. My sister requested security guards and for me to be sworn in, because apparently I am such a renowned liar. She screamed over the phone that I had abandoned dad and she wanted me to be banned from anything to do with him. Dad was asked if he he was okay with me being appointed Guardian and he said he had nothing against me. It was not even damning with faint praise!

The Tribunal appointed me Guardian and appointed an accomodation Guardian after B said that dad’s needs could not be met in the house anymore. They were too complex. My sister screamed some more and hung up the phone link. A male Guardian from Gosford phoned in and had a talk with me on the open link. He reassured me it would work well.

As we left B said this shows the Members saw your good character Kate. Its obvious to everyone involved. I thanked her and dad went off with his caregiver, barely looking at me. One of the Tribunal Members came around the tables and said it was so lovely to see me again and to see how well dad was looking. She was the Social Worker Member I had met before.

I left the Travelodge Newcastle and found my way back to Wallsend where I was staying in a tiny box room in my son’s Department of Housing flat in one of the most dangerous blocks of flats in Newcastle. Ice Usage, Violence, Domestic Violence and General Bad Behaviour was an everyday occurrence there.

And yet I felt loved, safer and more at home there than in dad’s million dollar tri level house. I say house as without mum in it it was not a home, had never been a home actually.

I am writing about this today as dad is again asking for a Guardian to be appointed. Even though we had a Tribunal two months ago and nothing was changed. Except I am about $1000 out of pocket for lawyers and specialists fees which the Trustee will not refund me.

I really do not know where to go from here. I feel so overwhelmed when dad is horrid to me. When he is threatening and demanding it brings back my feelings of helplessness as a child and younger adult. I am no victim and do not want to feel like this so something needs to change.

On This Day: A Very Long Time

Four years ago today Angela the Calvary care worker and myself took dad to see a great care hostel near us in Wallsend. It was Jesmond Grove,  a short walk away and  run by Anglicare.

He liked it and did not get upset or anxious but I feared his lack of higher functioning since the stroke would stop him deciding to go in there. It had a personal recommendation from my angel Norma, my parent’s then neighbour.

So it would likely be up to his new guardian. We were having a new Guardianship Tribunal on 9th may. That was two semi formal and stressful legal hearings in less than a month.

Wonder if that is why I was getting nightmares? In both cases two people who had caused me enormous trauma were present and I had not seen either of them for a very long time.

Nothing Came Up

On This Day four years ago I dressed myself appropriately for an appointment with Anglicare Jesmond Grove. It was for a possible bed for my dad who was a danger to himself at home.

I walked up the back streets to the care home. It was only about ten minutes walk from our flat at the time. It was very nicely landscaped and looked to be well run. I also was fortunate enough to have a personal recommendation from our lovely neighbour Norma whose mother had lived there for many years. I was inspecting the secure dementia area.

I was quite pleased with it but unfortunately nothing came up for dad.  And we could not wait. He was unsafe, carrying bottles of gas bigger than himself. Getting up onto the roof. All with Hemiplegia. Unbelievable. The neighbours were at their wits ends!

So the search was on for another home suitable for dad.



The Face Of Grief

My mum was not able to have a funeral. For some strange reason mum and dad were allowed to sign forms with P Funerals even though mum was clearly in mid stage Alzheimer’s and Dad had brain damage from a stroke. They both signed for cremation only with the notice of their deaths to be in The Herald the Saturday after they passed. They were both under the Trustee and Guardian NSW at the time and any decisions they made about spending money etc would have been fairly suspect.

The day mum died my son and I were at dad’s house comforting him and he came out with two suits to choose from to wear to mum’s funeral. He clearly expected a funeral. He is Irish Catholic and it is Canon that ashes are interred etc. I was expecting a funeral, I was so shocked and went slightly crazy with grief when I found out we would not be able to give people who loved her a chance to say goodbye.

After a short period of time I contacted the care home and asked them if we could have a Service Of Thanksgiving for mum’s life. The care home had a lovely little chapel which was perfect for the amount of people who would be there. I phoned P Funerals and they said they could arrange everything for us and NSW Trustee and Guardian said to send the accounts to them.

We were advised to not advertise the service so we asked relatives who were unfortunately unable to come. Dad was there in his green tweed suit, my son and his girlfriend, the wonderful neighbours Norma and Norm came and Michelle the NUM and Greg, the lovely AIN who had found mum that morning, when she had passed in her sleep.

At the last moment we were unable to get a Catholic Priest as there was a Conference in Newcastle and there was not a spare priest to be had! We ended up with a Funeral Celebrant. I actually overcame my terror of public speaking and told them I hoped the wonderful poem Two Mothers Remembered by Joann Snow Duncanson that I read would help comfort them.

I thanked Greg for being so wonderful to mum and being so kind. Mum actually thought he was a policeman. Because of the keys he had on his belt, and his uniform. She once said that he was such a clever policeman, that he even showered her and gave her cups of coffee! She was amazed at his versatility. I also thanked Michelle for everything, she had welcomed mum to Respite Care and then welcomed her to the care home to live a month later and then had the awful task of informing me that my beloved mum had passed. I told them how I loved to see the person mum had become. Totally full of fun and laughter and feistiness.

My son, mum’s much loved first grandchild read out Daffodils by Wordsworth and we had some of mum’s favourite songs on a CD player. Mum had a favourite saying since she had mid stage Alzheimer’s. She would say well then they will sure see you coming whenever I wore bright coloured clothing and it never failed to make me laugh with delight. So I wore a scarlet knitted cardigan coat to the service. However, there was no laughter for me that day.

Later on I was shocked to see my face in photos, it was weeks and weeks since she had died, but it showed on my face, the sheer depth of my grief. Still. But perhaps the grief had deepened because there was no way to say goodbye to her. Nowhere to go to pay my respects. To show my deepest love and devotion. And there still is nowhere to go, but over three years the grief has abated and I can even forget for a while that her ashes are in my food cupboard.






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Moving On

Late July 2014 my mum died and a few weeks later I was royally screwed in my financial settlement prior to the divorce later in November. It was an incredibly stressful time plus I was battling a then unknown massive (see the size of my tummy) parastomal hernia and the pain that went with that. Dad had gone into the care home where mum had lived in the last year of her life. Everyone was moving on and I had to try move on as well.

But it’s not that easy, one cannot just click one’s fingers and turn grief off. It would hit me out of nowhere. Sitting at the bus stop waiting for the bus to the shops I would realise there were tears on my face. I would wake up every morning crying, no dream, just tears of deepest despair. Because I had wanted to share so much with mum. She was so much fun and a joy to be with since moving into care. Her anxiety and fear had simply gone as the structured days alternately stimulated her and then soothed her.

There never seems to be enough time to do everything we want to do in life and I realised that I had to try to do something to help us all move on. Then I could concentrate on the two men who needed me so much. So I asked my son and his girlfriend if they would like a trip to New Zealand, to thank them for all they had done. And to ensure that they saw his girlfriend’s Grandmother while she was still well.



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