I've just had a total knee replacement, followed by a bout of gastro, and then a flu. I hadn't seen my mother for a month, but have phoned her twice a day. She alternates between thinking that something has gone wrong in our relationship, to wondering if I'm too busy to see her anymore, or perhaps I've just given up on her. It's a psychological minefield!! Some days she remembers that I have had major surgery, and then got sick. Other days, she announces that she is quite independent, and doesn't need my help anyway, thank you! "I am quite capable of looking after myself. I am not an invalid." Then there are the days when she's so emotional, and feels like the end is near.
Oh, the guilt of it all.
Anyway, I'm back on track to calling in most days to see her. It's back to listening to her stories about the nice NBN man, that's it's going to storm tonight, that the soil in her little garden at the village is rock hard, and that the jigsaw she's doing has definitely got a piece missing.
Thank Goodness we're back to normal, and I feel so lucky to see her every day. It's not for ever, so I count each day as a blessing.
It's 5.04am and freezing cold and my phone rings. It's Mum's alarm. I'm immediately on high alert as I wait impatiently for the prompt to press the star key to talk to Mum. There's no reply! Oh no! My mind is racing as I imagine all of the horrid scenarios. Has she fallen going to the toilet? Has she had a heart turn? Can she breathe? I call out to her really loudly over the phone but she doesn't reply. I fling on some clothes, race back for a coat, then into the car and roar into town to her unit. As I'm going, I call the ambulance, explaining the situation, and arranging to let them in.
I enter her unit with trepidation and walk into her bedroom calling out to her. She sits up in bed with an awful shock, blinking like an owl. What's happening? "Your alarm Mum. You activated your alarm."
Apparently she had squeezed it instead of her bedside light when she'd got out of bed to go to the toilet.
Anyway, it was a good practice drill, and I could let the ambulance know quickly that it was a false alarm. We do a practice every month, but she is finding it more and more confusing as time goes by, and has trouble coming to terms with the logistics. At least, she now knows that when she squeezes that alarm, the cavalry arrives!!
Now I know what Mum must have felt like when she had a grandchild. My beautiful granddaughter Remi Rose is an absolute delight, and Mum loves her. My daughter, Caprice, is such a practical and loving Mum. I must say that I don't know who to hug first when I see my daughter and grandchild. I know a new Mum needs lots of love and attention as well, so I try to give her lots of kisses too, but I don't blow raspberries on her tummy like I do to Remi!!
It is a special feeling when the four of us get together, which is just not often enough. Mum is feeling the extreme heat here in Central Queensland Australia. It is hot and dry, and I need to remind Mum to have her airconditioning on as well as drinking lots of water. Urinary Tract Infections are a very common complaint for older people, and the symptoms are hard to detect in them. In fact, whenever I notice that Mum is a bit irritable and feeling uncomfortable, we march off to the doctors with sample in hand to check. It quite often requires a dose of antibiotics, and her disposition returns to her normal old self. She has cranberry tablets every day for a bit of prevention.
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.