Having one of those ‘stuck in the middle’ weeks right now….
On one hand my 93-year old Uncle has finally come home from hospital after nearly 3 months away. In his absence, his house has been professionally cleaned and re-organised to better suit his decreasing mobility, continence and general ability to fend for himself. My concern is not so much for him – he is in the eye of the hurricane, increasingly detached from reality. Meanwhile, my Dad has been making calls and running errands in order to make all this possible, so my concern is really for him – he is 85 himself and has his own health issues. I have tried to persuade the various medical and social authorities we have dealt with that they really ought to deal with me, but they seem to have decided – reasonably enough – that my Dad is best placed to help as he lives only 7 or 8 miles away from my Uncle, whereas it’s a 90 minute train journey for me. So, it’s my Dad who they ring – and being one of those completer/finisher types, he seizes the ball and runs with it, giving little or no thought to his own welfare. Short of physically camping out at my Uncle’s place, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to change the pattern of things.
Anyway, my Uncle is home now, with carers going in 3 times a day, meals on wheels- the whole shooting match. Despite all this, I think there is a general recognition that he is fading fast and that this is a final shot at living an independent life. Regrettably, I suspect it won’t last for long and I think he’ll be in a care home before too much longer. It’s my hope that the care workers will now take over and give my Dad a break, but optimism is in short supply right now….my Uncle , meanwhile, will probably outlive us all.
Elsewhere, this week has also been one for tearful daughters ringing from Manchester, and this less than 24 hours after a previous conversation in which she sounded chirpy enough to light up the night sky. I know that she is aware of this blog and for all I know may be an avid reader, so I need to be circumspect in my comments, otherwise I run the risk of getting my ear severely bent. However, though there has been a retreat from yesterday’s ‘Downfall of Western Civilisation & Global Oblivion’ mode, today we are still at DEFCON 2, which is sort of ‘Multiple tornadoes, earthquakes and sundry other disasters’ mode.
More than anything else, I suppose the conversations I had with her made me realise that short of offering to go up there or have her come home there is not much I can do – yeah, I know about the whole ‘throwing money at it’ scenario, but I don’t have any and I’m not sure it would help right now.. The girl is 19, after all, she’s a student at a major university in a major city and has been living away from here for over a year now. It’s her life, and though I can and will offer her as much love & compassion as I can muster, she has to pick her own way through the minefield, as I guess we all do in the end.
So, in short, here I sit, generationally-speaking in the middle of two dramatic episodes, geographically removed from both of them and feeling about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot.
It has been put to me that this is all wrong and that we should live close to our family members and nurture them through these defining moments – and I do understand that viewpoint. However, mine is not a close family and never has been – as an illustration, I should perhaps record the fact that my Dad was clearing out some old papers at my Uncle’s house and found the wedding invitation he had sent to my Uncle (my Mum’s brother) and his parents (also her parents) to attend their wedding back in 1948. There had been some bad blood between my Dad and my Mum’s family – basically, they saw him as a threat to the ‘family unit’ and she left home and lived in ‘lodgings’ until they could afford to get married.
They didn’t accept the wedding invitation, even though the wedding was taking place little more than a 5-minute cab ride from their house and that was effectively that until yours truly came along 5 years later. My dad wrote to Mum’s family to inform them that she was pregnant and they seized upon this new grandchild as an excuse for reconciliation.
I would love to be able to tell you all that my arrival as the proverbial ray of sunshine caused outbreaks of spontaneous folk dancing, tearful apologies and much merriment in the streets, but it never really worked out like that. Even as a small child, when I was ironed & polished and dragged off in an ungodly ritual every second Sunday to see these strange folk with their funny Northern accents, I was aware that whatever love my Mum had for her family was strictly limited and very much on probation – this was something neither of my parents ever troubled to hide from me.
Without going into details, my Dad had a similarly difficult time with his parents, though they at least turned up for the wedding. So, growing up, the attitude I acquired through a kind of osmosis was that families were generally more trouble than they were worth. Some of which may explain why I’m sitting here typing this instead of rushing off somewhere to minister tea,sympathy and familial solidarity to someone.
Actually, as well as not being very close, my family is also very small, but I am very close to my Dad – much more so since my Mum died 5 years ago – and to my daughter. Those 2 mean more to me than anyone else on this planet, so I suppose I’m not totally beyond redemption. The ‘Princess of Manchester’ (some names have been changed to protect the innocent) knows that I would be there in a minute if she really needed me to be and my Dad, well, I should be seeing him this weekend.
Meanwhile, he has re-possessed the wedding invitation as a bizarre kind of souvenir…….