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.

 

 

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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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Betty

My dad moved into a new care home near me in November 2017. Three years after moving into the dementia specific one where my mum was when she died

Mostly ladies in his old home and they loved him as he made sure they were fed and looked after. I often said he was like a school prefect. Which is ironic as he left school at 14

We had a lovely farewell morning tea on the morning he left, with everyone involved in dad’s care for the past three years popping in to see him

I went back a few days later with my son and his friend Gen and a lot of the ladies asked how he had settled. So sweet. But sweetest of all was Betty who had been non verbal for over eighteen months now.  Dad always used to stop and ask if she was all right, if she needed anything and give her shoulder a squeeze

Anyway, as I walked towards her she became frantic  and she is normally zoned out or appears to be.  I walked over and she tried and tried to talk. Only sounds came out but by then I knew what she wanted to say so I hugged her and assured her dad was okay

She settled down immediately after that, bless her face. She obviously knew what was going on, just could not move or verbalise

I have been so privileged to share in the lives of these gorgeous people.  I miss them so much