Today, I picked Mum up to go for a cup of coffee down at the lagoon just out of Miles. It is covered with pink water lilies at present, which are only found in this part of the world. We had a flask of coffee and cupcakes. Well, Mum calls them patty cakes! "Cupcakes are just a new-fangled name for patty cakes", she announced. I had a hard job a few years ago finding her the cake pans that are the shallow patty cake shape rather than the deep cupcake pans. So that's the difference apparently - it's all in the shape of them. Anyway, we enjoyed our patty cakes with mauve icing with a nice cuppa, while we sat in the shade of a tree and observed the birdlife and the water lilies. Then I took some photos of her in her gray April skirt (with handy pockets - must have pockets she said for hanky and house key) and her pretty June top with the bow tied at her neck. She looked lovely, and said she felt very comfortable. Then home again for her to relax in the cool and watch the Australian Open Tennis. Perfect day!
My Mum is 92, and a big issue over the recent Christmas and New Year celebrations with her family and friends, was her inability to hear clearly. While there was a lot of talking and laughing going on, she became a bit withdrawn and upset because she didn't know what was going on. Poor Mum! It was no use saying things like "just soak up the atmosphere Mum". She wanted to hear everything so badly. I felt so useless. She has hearing aids that we get checked regularly, but it is just to the stage where in public places like respite, church, or gatherings of a few or more people, she cannot single out anything that she can clearly understand. One-on-one, she needs to have the person she is talking to face her, so that she can add the cues of seeing their mouth moving. She does have headphones at home for the TV, and a little microphone that a visitor can wear to talk to her. She needed a lot of reassurance that we loved her and really wanted her to be present at all our celebrations. She said that she may as well just stay home because she was no use at all. Well that's definitely not right, Mum. Just your presence is so grounding and reassuring. Just seeing you with us all is all we need. We can talk to you individually, we can put our hand on your shoulder as we go past, ask you if you need anything, and kiss you hello and goodnight after the celebrations are over. All that matters to us is that you are there and comfortable. You might think you're out of place, but you're not. You always have a place, and will always have a place in our hearts.
Unfortunately Mum is on blood thinning medication and this means she gets a lot of bruising on her skin even if she just rubs against something. Her skin is very delicate. You know she has had a lifetime of hard work. She has nursed patients in hospital as a young RN, ridden horses, fixed fences, drafted cattle, raised boisterous children as a housewife and mother on a rural property. Nursed her husband through ill health. Amazing. A very tough lady in her hey day. Anyway, today she said to me, that she needed a dress with long sleeves to cover her old arms that had a lot of bruises. Also, the weather here in Central Queensland in March is starting to cool off. She feels the cold, even when I say, Mum, it’s not cold!! I was dropping off some frozen meals for her. My husband, John, does a lot of cooking, and we always prepare a meal for her and freeze it. I drop it off for her to heat up. Anyway, she said, she was looking for a long-sleeved loose dress for autumn. I gave her the Grace dress. I was worried that size 14 was a bit big for her, as she has lost some weight lately, but it was perfect. Had to take a photo to show everyone how beautiful she is.
Mum has macular degeneration. She takes daily Macu-Vision tablets that have antioxidants and vitamins for eye health, and her doctor advised me, myself, to start taking Lutein Defence because it is an hereditary thing. But her sight is deteriorating to the point that it's hard for her to read the paper or her beloved books. So we got a Kindle. She is way out of her comfort zone with technology, having been born in 1926 when 'technology' was probably not even a word. Her little mobile phone is a constant source of bafflement for her, but she tries very hard to master it. So she was doubtful about being able to manage the Kindle. There have been a few hiccups.....panicked calls at night saying she can't get back to the book after somehow getting into some sort of book store, and where do you put the charger again? But she is absolutely thrilled about being able to see the written word so clearly, and being able to turn the pages just with a tap of her finger. And fancy, it just opens up at the page where she was before. No more book marks for Mum. It amazes her that I can load a new book of her choice onto the device in just a quick minute. She's rapidly devouring all the Danielle Steel books that she hasn't yet read. Hurry up Danielle! Get cracking writing some more books. Mum's catching up fast.
Recently, Mum had to go into hospital. I visited her at home one afternoon, and thought she looked a bit off, but she said she was just tired after a bus trip that day. Then, that evening, she rang me to say that she definitely wasn't feeling well. Once I saw her, I called the ambulance, because I felt sure that she was not quite with it. In the past, when she was like that, it has been due to an infection somewhere, whether it be a flu bug or a bladder infection. Once in hospital, all the tests were duly done, and she was put on a drip. It took 5 long days for her to recover. It was a bladder infection, and she got much worse before she got better. She became delirious and could hardly move. I had to feed her, and the nurses bathed her. I really felt that she may not come out of it. But being the amazingly tough thing that she is, she rallied around. We had to organise her home help to supervise her morning showers for a week or so, but then she was nearly back to her old self. It makes me appreciate the time that I get to spend with her, and make sure that those times are happy and full of laughs.
Just recently, I attended the Retirement, Travel and Lifestyle Expo in Brisbane, QLD. Everyone loved the display of pretty tea cups and saucers, doilies crocheted by my Mother, gorgeous roses, and Scotch Finger biscuits. There were a few cheeky old fellows who snuck a bickie or two on their way past, even though they expressed no interest whatsoever in the stylish Cuppa Tea fashion!! Funny that! I received many compliments on the style and idea of fashion for older ladies. Many women loved the fabrics, and the ease of wear. But what made me laugh was when they said, 'but I'm not old yet, I don't need that stuff yet!' They are so totally spot on in their attitude of not being old yet. I saw so many older women that certainly were 'not old yet' and very proud of the fact. My clothing is definitely for women who may have a bit of trouble doing up buttons with stiff fingers, or who cannot reach behind to pull up a zip. But it is also definitely for those ladies who have young hearts and even younger attitudes.
What a beautiful photo of three generations of hands. My Mum's 90 year old hands have seen a lot in their lifetime. She grew up on the land, where her parents had a dairy and a beef cattle property. Those hands milked cows day in, and day out. Then when she grew up, she became a nurse, so her hands tended and soothed a lot of people. When she married, she had three children, and her hands cooked, bathed, washed, ironed, knitted, and played. Then there was a lot of crocheting, praying, doing crosswords, and gardening. My daughter's beautiful smooth hands, on the other hand (pardon the pun), have a lifetime of experiences in front of them. Our hands together express all of our love and support for each other through the years.
There is nothing more beautiful than your daughter's wedding. Caprice was married in March, and I was lucky enough to have my mother there to witness the gorgeous occasion as well. I count my blessings to have my mother and my daughter around me every day. I couldn't resist sharing our photos. It's so good to be able to have these beautiful photos for Caprice's future family, so she can show them how lovely her Nanna looked at her wedding. Of course I'm not forgetting how stunning Caprice was. I swear she could look good in a hessian bag. I didn't cry at any time, because I was so happy. Alright, I did get a bit watery, but I was determined not to let any tears escape down my cheeks because the mess it would've made of my mascara and false eyelashes did not bear thinking about!! But why cry? My daughter was marrying a handsome, lovely man, and all my family and friends were around me, ready to laugh and enjoy the momentous occasion.
And of course, Mum was dressed in Cuppa Tea. She wore the Beth dress, and expertly fielded compliments from every angle.
This has to be one of the most precious experiences in life. I pick up Mum and we drive out to Caprice’s house about 5 minutes out of town. Caprice has relocated a 100 year old cottage and is gradually renovating. She has impeccable taste and we find it so enjoyable checking out what she has been doing lately. Her new kitchen is light and bright and Mum marvels over the hexagonal tiles in the splash back. She tells us about her first little cottage when she got married nearly 70 years ago. It was basic and money was tight, but she loved her first home. The wood stove was unpredictable, but she learnt to bake her famous sponges and scones. She still makes scones and I swear she uses them as a type of currency. They get exchanged for veggies from Bill’s garden next door, or given to people who happen to do something for her. I think they would trade better on the stock exchange than the Australian dollar. Anyway, after patting the cat, April, who Mum adores, we notice the old sideboard in Caprice’s dining room. Mum’s mother passed it onto her, then she passed it onto me. I had it restored, and have now passed it onto Caprice. We are delighted that it fits in so well and looks like it was specially made for the spot. Then it’s time to take our tea out to the veranda and settle to watch the world go by. Nothing much happening because we’re in the country, but we laugh at the puppy, Chester, getting into mischief. Hardly a puppy, Mum says, he’s monstrous. Caprice says he’s still a baby, Nanna, he’s only 6 months old.
Too soon, it’s time to drive back to town, via a few paddocks so she can check the cattle. She lived on the land all her married life, and loves the rural lifestyle. She remarks that it must be going to rain soon because her knees are playing up, and just as well because it’s quite dry. Back home again, I kiss her goodbye, and as always she thanks me for the outing.
I picked Mum up on Christmas Eve and brought her out to my house. My two brothers had arrived and we were busy making potato salad, fruit salad, and trifle for Christmas. She was site supervisor, giving instructions as to how many apples, how much lemon juice, and how small to dice the potatoes. Then she said she was sorry to keep telling us what to do. I said for goodness sake, Mum, this is your domain. We have no idea about making this stuff so you’re in charge. A few years ago she had written down the recipes for the foods of our traditional Christmas dinner. I had fished it out from my neglected pile of cookbooks. The kitchen is definitely not my strongest area of expertise! She’d made ‘patty cakes’, she refuses to call them cup cakes. So we sat out on the deck with coffee and ‘patty cakes’ and discussed the events of the past year.
Next morning, my brother drove her out for the big day. No Christmas presents this year, I had announced earlier in December. We have no one below the age of 22 in the family, and everyone was relieved to not have to rack their brains for ideas. Mum was really glad not to have to shop for presents because, at the age of 90, tackling the Christmas rush, even in our tiny town of Miles didn’t bear thinking about. So coffee and slice that she had made, was the first thing on the agenda. My husband and I then retired to the kitchen to peel the veggies and put the pork, turkey, chicken and ham in the oven to roast. Definitely a hot roast dinner for our family, including plum pudding (made by Mum), fruit salad, trifle, custard, cream, jelly and ice cream.
So another traditional family Christmas ticked off. So obscenely full, no one can move. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. Mum is a big part of all of our family traditions, and she always will be.