Newborn Knitting

EBL returns trailing clouds of glory, to assuage your hunger for tidings of her adventures. At least, that is the dream I had last night. Alternatively, it seemed like a nice time to drop by and say hello, share a quick cuppa and even a couple of quicker tales of existence beneath the heels of oppression (or “work” as They like to call it). As if I can have my being validated by something as boring as a payslip, a piece of paper which purports to evidence the transfer of zeros and digits across the ether from an employer’s bank account to my bank account. It’s only when I raid the hole-in-the-wall that I ever get to hold a fraction of those alleged numerals in my hands, the majority of them flying straight back out into the ether and across to other alleged accounts belonging to energy companies, the council, the mortgage lender, insurance companies and so on. Honestly, it’s a scam.

It’s been a busy month and really this post is no more than another place-holder to let WordPress know I am still alive. And a chance to say thank you to all my dear new readers who have decided to follow me this month. Clearly you will not be expecting an actual post, so I hope the shock is not too much for you.

neonatal knitted squares

I thought I might go with a knitty theme this time around. I have been knitting again, as the British summer has not been so overwhelmingly hot as to prevent me. I did a little work on a jumper – more of that in due course when there is something worth showing – but more importantly I discovered a brilliant scheme at Leeds  Hospital neonatal unit. They use knitted squares to help mother-infant bonding. Because parents can’t hold and bond with their very poorly babies, the staff lie the babies in incubators on a knitted square, and get the mother to wear another one next to her skin. When she visits they swap the squares. This comforts the baby and also amazingly helps mothers to express milk as well as learn their baby’s scent. Fabulous!

There’s more info on their public Facebook page for anyone else who fancies giving it a go!

Calling all knitters! Have you heard about our Neonatal Units’ bonding square project? One knitted square of…

Posted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on Sunday, 2 August 2015

Obviously this makes me think of my mother quite a lot. I was a premature baby and my mother didn’t get the kind of support now available, which may well explain our rather strained relationship. A knitted square or two might have been a benefit to us both. She was, however, a keen knitter of squares herdelf; in her case to make blankets for the chilly elderly. For those interested I did write about it once.

In other news I have had laser treatment on my right eye so can now see again well enough to read, knit more than a square, type, and generally participate in humanity. This may or may not be a Good Thing.

Sigoth and I are contemplating some changes in our home arrangements, and are trying to finish the last bits of decorating and furniture moving so we can make better use of the living space now that we are Home Alone. We have been poring over the bills, changing energy suppliers, cancelling superfluous subscriptions and generally getting Affairs in Better Order. There’s a first time for anything.

Meanwhile I hope you are well and finding good things that make you happy. Tell me more, if you feel so moved. It would be good to catch up.

Namaste.

Sluggish

bst failed

Well my dears, I suppose it’s time to run a blog post up the pole and see if anyone salutes it. I haven’t been writing, as some of you have kindly spotted, and one reason has been that I have been feeling sluggish.

Not lethargic, although that has also been the case. Just lately I seem to have run out of energy to do more than gaze vacantly at Hugh Laurie in “House” on Netflix. I don’t mean that’s a bad thing at all. Who doesn’t love every Sherlock Holmes spin off going? At this rate I might even watch Elementary, which someone has recommended to me and in most cases her word is as good as a promise. I find her judgement in matters of televisual entertainment sound and reliable. Just – Lucy Liu; in this instance, why? To be fair that was also my friend’s initial reaction, apparently, but she said she got over it.

My other favourite Sherlock-wannabe, Dr Who, is off the air for now too so I am driven, my dears, simply driven, to Hugh. Life could be worse.

So, in summary, EBL is somewhat lethargic, and enjoys a bit of Laurie as much as a bit of Fry in a QI context. But that is another story, best saved for a Friday evening after a few glugs of Merlot.

The sluggishness though has been of an altogether different variety. I have literally felt as if I was turning into a slug; I was positively sliming around the house in a veritable misery of hayfever until recently when the British Summer broke in its traditional celebration of the start of school holidays, and we have been shivering under Arctic blasts and torrential downpours, and drinking hot chocolate huddled under chunky blankets while gazing at Hugh Laurie.

Sorry, he does keep on turning up unexpectedly. Perhaps he should play Columbo? “Just one more thing, EBL…”

Where was I? Sluggish, yes.

So there I was for several weeks, being positively glutinous. Mucus, my dears, of significant proportions from multiple outlets. Boxes of tissues threw themselves into the fray and laid down their leaves for the greater good. Sigoth protested that as we had a new carpet coming he would prefer it if I didn’t enter the living room until Autumn in order to protect our investment. He’s firm but fair on such matters.

I am in no doubt that other sufferers gave thanks to the gods of rain with me when the temperature plummeted and the heavens wept. I haven’t had a bout of hayfever this bad for some years. I’ll let the ladies into a secret; I hadn’t had a bout at all since the menopause. My dears, yet another fantastic side effect as far as I am concerned. EBL and Mature Age are Best Mates, it’s official. I’m thinking of setting up a new website: EBL4Aging.com, except people might think it was about living off roadkill and berries, which would never do.

I’ll just wait while you work that one out.

OK?

So now that I am somewhat less slimy, and my fingers aren’t skidding quite so much on the keys, I thought I would drop a line and see how the hell you all are?

Posts may continue slow for the time being as I am still waiting for my eye to be lasered into submission. I had an eye test last Friday and actually couldn’t see the board, let alone read that big letter at the top. But I should be all better on 10th August or thereabouts when they clear the membrane which has grown over the lens and I will be binocular again.

At which point I will see Hugh even more clearly.

Your homework this time is to tell me the best Sherlock Holmes, or SH-spin off, that you know.  Basil Rathbone Jeremy Brett, Dominic Bandersnatch? Dr Who, House, steam-punk crazy Robert Downey Jr? And if you don’t know any, then go away and do some research. It will be good for you.

Namaste.

Conversations

baboons

It being that time of year, it felt only right to be thinking about lists. However, the one I am about to present may not be quite as tinsellicious as some of the others floating about the ether over the holiday season. It’s a list of Conversations I Do Not Want To Have (But Sometimes You Have To).

  1. The Father Christmas Conversation

Unlike Greg Lake, I never believed in Father Christmas. I never looked to the skies with excited eyes. That was because my dad was Father Christmas for the local Rotary Club, and everything was clearly an adult agreement to keep children happy and raise much-needed funds to take old people to the seaside in the summer.

Like Greg, I did like the Christmas Tree Smell, which is why to this day I refuse to buy a plastic, no-drop-needles so-called tree. We usually lash out on a Nordmann Fir, which doesn’t drop as much but also smells less. It’s all about compromise.

That conversation with small children may well be fraught. I know someone who is genuinely distressed still (after 30 years) at the discovery that his parents had lied to him without batting an eyelid. In a supportive fashion I tell him to get over it, but he remains traumatised. I suppose there are sometimes key moments when our parents are revealed as merely human and those moments can live on with us beyond all reason. Which I suppose takes us back to poor old Greg Lake seeing through the disguise.

I have never had this exact conversation with the Offspringses. In fact they carried on for years trying to keep Sigoth and me happy until one year we all agreed to stop messing about and just enjoy the game as part of the Spirit of the Season. I’m so glad they learned pragmatism at least.

Status: Successfully Negotiated

2.  The Teenage Sex Conversation

Worst. Case. Scenario. It happened.

Offspring missed school the day of the Class Talk due to a virus. Teacher told me I would have to do the catch up instead.

How does that work? We pay taxes so some other blighter has to explain the birds and the bees to the nation’s giggling pre-adolescents. I’m not qualified for this. It wasn’t in the ante-natal classes, and you don’t get anything else in the way of advice once the sprog has popped. I’m British, for goodness’ sake. We don’t have Sex, although we do have Euphemisms aplenty, along with Carry On… films, which also involve giggling. Euphemisms are often counter-productive in this kind of situation though. So I got a book and we read it together and no more was said, quite rightly.

At least, no more was said until hormones kicked in good and proper at the mid-teen point and I found myself having the follow-up conversation about condoms  and who slept where when they came to stay over and why the law was in fact based on sound biological research and that failure to observe my and Society’s rules would have Dire Consequences including in extremis an introduction to the Paedophile Register.

Status: Negotiated with a some issues on the way

  1. The Buggery Conversation

Of course, this all pales into insignificance when faced with explaining buggery to one’s apple-cheeked parent. As a teenager myself I was up late one night watching a biopic about Oscar Wilde. Mother heard the TV on and wandered down to see if I was watching anything good. She managed to walk in at a crucial point in the film where a judge was shouting at Oscar about buggery.

“What is buggery?” she asked.

Well, I was only 17 or 18 and it was still the 1970s, when society had a different approach. That’s my excuse.

“Look it up in the dictionary!” I hissed, going red.

She huffed at me in irritation and stomped into the next room to do so. I heard her riffling through the pages. Then it went a bit quiet and the book was gently replaced. Her tread could be described as “thoughtful” as she climbed the stairs back to bed. And that was that.

Status: Avoided like the very plague, thank goodness.

  1. The DNR Conversation

Today I had the DNR conversation. DNR, as the NHS likes to call it, stands for “Do Not Resuscitate.” Like buggery they prefer to avoid using words that are difficult, so they hide behind abbreviations.

Mother is still in hospital and not doing too well. She now has 9 toes and a chest infection they can’t shift. The lack of breathing is the biggest problem as far as the medics are concerned, not unreasonably I feel. However, unless they can bring the infection under control, and she has always been very resistant to anti-biotics, things do not bode well.

So we had that conversation and I agreed that yes, it would not be desirable to go to the greatest lengths to resuscitate if it would leave her in a worse state than before. She and I had discussed it merrily some years ago when it was summer and neither of us believed it would come true.

Status: Negotiated with issues.

  1. The Mortality Conversation

As a result of the above I now need to have a further conversation with the Offspringses to prepare them for possible bad news. In a way it’s trickier than the Actual Bad News Conversation. I need to prepare people for the worst but allow for the best and try to manage hopes and fears equally.

Status: TBC

Wishing you happier talks this season.

Namaste.

Letting go

My dears, this is a sequel to my post about my mother’s move to the care home. She’s doing well, by the way, and much perkier than before. She did have a small stroke due to the pressure, but has since been doing splendidly, although I am not sure she is quite aware of who I am all the time.

Since her departure, and in between other trips to various parts of the country, I have been trying to do paperwork related to her new status. It’s actually pretty much the same as if she had died, while she is in fact living happily just down the road.

So – I have been battling in no particular order with British Telecom, the electoral register, Social Services financial assessments, the hairdresser, the Department for Works and Pensions, the Lifeline provider, GPs and pharmacies, her friend in London, domiciliary care, carer’s support, the library and the chiropodist. I was also advised to set up a funeral plan for her, as she didn’t have one. In a couple of weeks I will be meeting a terribly earnest woman to talk about options for caskets.

This weekend I have been trying to clear out the annexe where she lived, deciding what to keep, what to bin and what to send to the charity shop. Most of it has gone into boxes labelled “charity shop.”

A few years ago my mother asked me what I would do with her beloved belongings when she died, and I told her the charity shops would receive most if not all of it. She was appalled.

“But they were gifts!” she wailed.

“Not to me,” I said.

“From my friends…”

“Not my friends.”

“They mean so much to me…”

“I don’t know who gave them to you, when or why. They don’t mean anything to me. They might as well go to someone who will enjoy them because I think they are awful.”

I was skirting around my true feelings of course and may possibly not have said all that out loud. I probably did though. I don’t lie to my mother.

She tried to persuade me to keep them and I stoutly refused. Too much dusting for one thing, and too much searing pain in the eyeballs for another. I am not fond of those kinds of objects.

So here I am, putting things in boxes and reminding myself that she won’t be coming home. You don’t get better from dementia. She really won’t wake up tomorrow and remember who she is. It’s not Dallas.

We took four large bin bags of clothes and shoes to the charity shop yesterday. My mother loved her clothes and shoes. I reckon there’s another two or three bags to go, and that’s not counting the generously packed suitcase I took to the home, nor the pile of laundry that I will take to the home tomorrow to add to it.

I didn’t know how I would take this clearing out. I thought I would get upset. I thought I would get overwhelmed. I didn’t. I am tired, but it’s quite hard work and we have been at it all day.

I feel I’m in a kind of limbo. I can’t mourn for her because she is happily ensconced in front of a television less than three miles away. I don’t feel guilty, amazingly enough, because it’s easier to do it now than it would be after she died. I just don’t really feel anything about it at all, except weariness.

So that’s all good. I mean, there is no wailing or gnashing of teeth. There is no trauma, just a gentle drifting and waiting for the end to come. Each time the phone rings I am nervous, in case its The Call, but otherwise peaceful.

I am thankful she is well cared for and the staff seem kind and patient. She is so happy there it is clearly a success, and that is not a poor way to go.

I worried about what could go wrong, but this time it didn’t.

May you be as lucky as we have been, and find peace through difficult times.

Namaste.

 

 

Echoes

It’s been a while since I last wrote on this blog and that is because I have been dealing with echoes and ghosts; which is just a pretentious way of saying “my mother”. To recap, my mother has dementia and I have been caring for her in a partial way, with lots of support from Social Services, while she slowly and surely unravels before my eyes. There is an episode of Doctor Who called (I think) “The Silence in the Library” where someone’s personality is caught in a machine. At first it sounds as if they are there, and all that needs to be done is to find a way to restore them to their body. Then you realise they aren’t there and it’s just a recording of their final thoughts, on a repeat and fade until finally they are let go. The person who was my mother faded out a long time ago and all there have been are echoes of her occasionally surfacing in a grim pretence. Such is the experience of dementia carers, letting go one brain cell at a time.

It all began a long time ago, probably not long after my father died in 1992. Despite a successful history of working as a senior PA to some very demanding Directors in multi-national organisations, she seemed not to be able to cope with the basics of everyday life. My father had done the traditional thing of managing finances and bills. He even did the shopping because he didn’t trust my mother to stick to a budget, and he was probably right. She was impulsive and often unrealistic about what they could afford. However, she did at least know how to write a cheque and read a bank statement, even iif she didn’t feel confident discussing savings accounts and interest rates with bank staff. So I stepped in and helped then gradually took over managing her money and bills. To be honest I think she could have done it but preferred not to if someone else would; that was the way of her, and I had grown up with the expectation that my mother was someone you looked after.

When we as a family moved back up north, she followed. I found her a flat in Sheltered Accommodation as an insurance for later years when she would grow frailer. She was happy with that and settled in. She had lots of aches and pains, and a very good doctor who gradually worked through all the symptoms and decided her diagnosis of arthritis, given 20 years earlier, was in fact wrong and she had spondulitis. He arranged an operation to sort out a problem with two collapsed vertebrae and during her recuperation she contracted viral meningitis in the hospital and died. They resuscitated her but she was never quite the same. Not long after that we began to notice she was not really quite as mentally competent as before, and I suppose her spiral into dementia had become a very real and present thing, either brought on by the trauma or coincidentally exposing itself for the first time.

What was that like? She was frustrated of course, but so was I. We didn’t know anything was wrong. It seemed she was deliberately trying to get my attention by saying she needed help with basic jobs she had been managing perfectly well only days or weeks before. The problem was, that my mother would behave in that way to get my attention anyway, even when I was a child, so I didn’t suspect anything at first.

As she struggled more, I began to suggest she consider increasing her care arrangements. She swore she didn’t have any care arrangements despite the fact she had carers every day to help her shower and dress. My spider senses began to tingle.

Things reached a crisis when I realised that she was eating bacon that was green (no, my dears, in real life green eggs and ham are not good for you!), and that she was mixing up her medication and taking completely random quantities of Warfarin. To be fair, you need a Ph.D in Mathematics to manage Warfarin doses anyway, because they involve Advanced Calculus in working out which colour and in what quantity you need to take them each day, and in addition this changes on a fortnightly basis depending on blood tests.

We talked it over and she said she wanted to move in with us, so we built a granny annexe and made it so. She couldn’t follow the discussions about planning the layout, which I took to be laziness. The day she moved in she claimed she couldn’t remember how to use the washing machine, which I took to be contrariness. A few weeks later, she listened to one of the Offspring playing the guitar, and observed it was a shame I had never learned to play an instrument.

The family froze. It was my guitar, and I had played classical music for years. My mother had tapes of me playing which she listened to after I left home for university. Something was wrong in a very big way.

I spoke to the GP and he arranged an assessment and eventually she was diagnosed with vascular dementia, for which there is no treatment beyond anti-coagulants such as Warfarin (which obviously she was already taking for other conditions). That was in 2008, and the dementia was already reasonably advanced. Her contrariness and laziness were in fact her brain falling apart at the seams, and I hadn’t realised. No one in my family had had dementia before. We had planned the annexe layout to cater for mobility problems but never for mental problems. It was a long time before we really understood what the diagnosis meant.

And so she has faded away, receding from me and returning to past lives where I cannot follow. She no longer knows her grandchildren; some days she may not be sure of me or Sigoth. Every day when I go to bring her through for dinner I listen at her door to try and hear her moving, frightened I’ll find her cold and stiff in her chair. Every day I wonder if she will panic because I am an intruder, and bring on a major stroke. Every day I hear her asking the carers the same question over and over again, on a loop, and inventing answers to their questions.

I admire her ingenuity at hiding her condition. She is expert at getting people to ask closed questions so she can just agree amiably. She tells everyone cheerfully that she makes herself lunch every day and doesn’t see anyone at all for days at a time. It’s all untrue but she can’t remember. She takes a bite of an apple or pear then leaves the rest because she forgets it. She has a permanent cup of cold tea at her side, equally forgotten. She asks me for a drink because she is thirsty despite the beaker of water next to her. She can’t be trusted with the toaster in case she electrocutes herself sticking the knife into it. She can’t work out how to change channels or volume on the TV or how to write a Christmas card or address an envelope. She can’t remember the way from our living room back to her sitting room. She is convinced that she can do everything for herself and doesn’t need any care, or indeed, receive any care.

She sings to herself in her chair, and is happy. She leaves the TV on all day for company, even when people call in. She smiles at people and reads out the headline from the newspaper over and over. She wonders about the weather out loud and recites clichés to sound like conversation but can’t respond to other people’s comments.

At Christmas we had to stop her anti-coagulants, designed to reduce the strokes, because of internal bleeding. She is at greater risk of mini- and major strokes than ever, and over the past 6 months she has slid away from me at a faster rate, disappearing around the bend of the helter-skelter while I try to follow.

We have been very lucky that she has not displayed any of the difficult behaviours that often accompany dementia. She isn’t aggressive or violent. She doesn’t shout or swear or hurl abuse. She just gets confused and stressed if her routine changes, so that a trip to the doctor can bring on another mini-stroke and another step down the stairs to a final oblivion.

She is no longer my mother of course. It used to be just me and her, after my father died, but now it’s just me. And her, over there in a different place, her own little island of dreams. There’s no bridge any more, no shared stories or memories. She sailed out past them some time ago, and now is living in her own childhood, before Dad, or I, came along.

Every day I care for her. Until recently when I went to the doctor and he told me that my recent asthma symptoms were in fact stress. That my heart palpitations were stress. That my sleeplessness and irritability and forgetfulness were stress, stress, stress. And that stress is Very Bad for your health. He gave me the look that said “things must change.”

I talked to Sigoth about the fear of opening the door to her room every day and he looked at me with the same look as the doctor.

I called in Social Services to do a review. They gave me the look too.

It was the look I had been giving myself secretly, when I was alone in the night. I knew they were right but I felt like a traitor and murderer. Because she always said to me she would rather die than go into a home.

Yesterday we took her to a local care home and left her there, like an abandoned kitten.

We didn’t tell her before that morning, even though it took some weeks to plan. Whenever I told her I was going out, even for a few hours, she would panic. If she thought we were away overnight she would get completely hysterical, crying and shouting and begging me not to leave her, inducing asthma and going blue. So I didn’t tell her in advance we were taking her to her worst nightmare. Talking it over with the various people involved we all agreed it would be counter productive.

I have a rule that I never lie to my mother, but I lied by omission for weeks. I plotted behind her back and against her express wishes. I put my health above hers, because there was a genuine risk that the move could induce a stroke or heart attack which would kill her. All the Health Professionals agreed. It was a genuine risk. Then they would give me the look again. Things still had to change.

On Thursday night we had our last dinner together, secretly and silently and lying by omission. No toasts and farewells, no reminiscences about what had been and what adventures may be to come, no thanks or time to share unspoken love.

Yesterday morning after the carer had come for the last time I said to my mother “I need to talk to you,” which is the phrase people use instead of just talking to you because something is wrong.

She knew that much. She looked like a guilty child who was about to be told off, because of course that is how it works now. She is innocent and I am the parent who spoils her fun and tells her off and chivvies her along. Take your tablets, use the inhaler, eat your dinner, drink your tea, go to the toilet, get your shoes on, turn off the TV.

“Turn off the TV,” I said and she did. She looked all big-eyed and anxious and I hadn’t even begun.

I told her I had found somewhere to stay for a while to have a break and to give me a break, that I couldn’t look after her any more. She gave me a look too, the one she gave me when I was very small and did something very bad. She was extremely angry. Her mouth went into a line so straight Blondin could have used it walk over Niagara Falls. Her eyes narrowed. Her face was frozen into some kind of kevlar mask. I was a Very Naughty Girl. She argued. She didn’t need looking after.

“You have to give me a break,” I said. “I’m not well.”

Yes, I resorted to emotional blackmail.

For a few moments she protested some more that she didn’t need looking after. Her body was stiff and tight and rebellious. Then suddenly she relaxed and asked where she was going. It may have been another mini-stroke, or it may have been she reached the end of her attention span.

“Not far, just up the road,” I said comfortingly.

“How long am I going for?” she asked.

“Just a few weeks, see how it goes,” I soothed.

Her assessment is for six weeks, so it wasn’t a lie. The omission was that no matter what, she can’t come home. It is no longer safe for her, and I cannot cope anyway.

We went through those two Q&As all the way to the home. When we got there we sat in the sun for a few minutes and I pointed out the flowers in the garden.

The carers came out to say her room was ready, and we went in. As we went in she asked again.

“How long am I staying?”

“Just a few weeks. See how you go.”

The next time she asked the carers said it instead, skillfully, brilliantly taking my lead. I loved them for it. We took her to her room and the carers bustled around her and fussed and pampered and she enjoyed that. We saw the hairdressing salon and she liked that. We talked about knitting and embroidery that she could do, and people to talk to. She liked that because she never sees anyone for days on end at home. She just manages on her own, you know. Company would be nice.

I put out some of her photos in the room, of her parents because she doesn’t know anyone else, and her Rupert Bear pyjama case and her favourite stuffed toys. We had her knitting bag and her books and her newspaper to read to the staff, and her radio that she can’t use but recognises, and her blanket for her knees. It looked a tiny bit like home.

The carer suggested she finish unpacking, so I said I just needed to pop into the office.

“How long am I staying?”

“Just a few weeks, see how you go.”

“You will see me, won’t you?”

That was new. It was an echo.

“Yes, very soon. I’m just down the road.”

They told me to give it a week before visiting to let her settle properly.

As I walked down the corridor I heard her reading the headline to the carer, about carrots curing cancer.

I went to the office, it wasn’t a lie. There was paperwork. But I lied by omission because then Sigoth and I got in the car and drove away.

We do what is needed, and we do our best.

Namaste

Eventfulness, thankfulness and creativeness

OK I made that last -ness up. The Rule of Threes demanded I did so, and I can only apologise for any unintended damages caused to the English language. It’s a robust little chap though, the English language, so I am sure it will recover. It’s one of the things I like about it, that you can put words in pretty much any order, or invent new ones, and still be understood. That, and the fact that loads of people in other countries have made the effort to learn it so I can relax when I go on holiday. It’s really very considerate of them.

I suppose I am fixating on language because I have been doing some Anglo-Saxon revision today. This week I have been on holiday so that obviously meant I got to rush about doing jobs instead of sitting about sunning myself. It was just as well, because there has been precious little to see of the old currant bun. Anyway today, Thursday, was the first day I was able to spend at home, so I decided it was time to break out the inks and start practising my penwomanship for a little project I have in mind. It involved cataloguing three shelves of books and sorting out the drawer under the bed before I could begin. Isn’t it always the way? I needed to find some books and they have all got themselves rather higgledly-piggledy of late, so I had to tidy up. That meant I discovered I had two copies of a book because I had forgotten I had already bought it and bought it again. So I created a spreadsheet which I can check on my phone when I am out to try and prevent me doing that again. That also led me to discover that a particular book I was looking for had gone AWOL so I ended up searching under the bed, and tidying that up too. It was two hours before I had the items I needed on the desk.

Beowulf manuscript

First page of Beowulf, from WikiCommons

Then I spent a happy hour getting all smudgy and blotting ink all over the paper and generally providing evidence that I am not really very good at calligraphy, although I certainly enjoy playing at it.

After that I thought it was time to sit down in front of the fire with my Anglo Saxon language course and refresh my memory of how the wretched thing actually works. Naturally I also messed about on Project Gutenberg finding a copy of Beowulf and downloading it to my Kindle so I can read it on the train, or rather, stare blankly at it on the train. That reminded me to pre-order the new Tolkien translation which is due out in May. Of course then I had to check my emails and figure out how to put audio files on the Kindle as well.

All of this went fairly smoothly though because of my great good fortune yesterday, which is the thankfulness part of this post.

I had an appointment at the eye clinic at the hospital because my left eye has been getting rather blurry. Last year I had cataract surgery on both eyes which resulted in the miracle of sight for the first time in my life. To celebrate I had a special ceremony where I burnt my contact lenses in a miniature Viking dragon ship on our pond.

However, back in the Autumn I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble reading sub-titles on the television, and car number plates and so on. Eventually I went to the optician who told me I needed to go back to the clinic because the membrane in my eye was growing over places it should not grow over and obscuring my sight. Yesterday I went to the clinic.

Snellen chart

They are such nice people at the clinic. They tested my eyes and I was unable to read even the letter at the top of the chart with my left eye. It was a bit of a shock. I almost started reading the furniture by mistake and wondered if I had inadvertently slipped into a Two Ronnies sketch.

After the failure of the eye test, the consultant explained to me what was happening with the aid of a little model of the eye, and that I needed laser treatment to get rid of the membrane otherwise I would lose my sight completely. Then he said if I would wait he would try and fit me in that afternoon as they were doing laser treatments that day anyway.

Sigoth and I sat and waited. The place was packed and there weren’t enough seats and I felt a bit of a fraud for taking up everyone’s time. Then I saw the man in charge, who had also performed the operation on my eyes last year. He explained it was important to do it as soon as possible and that although risky, the alternatives were not much better. Then he clamped a special lens on my eye and within ten minutes I had my vision restored. Another miracle! I was completely wiped out by it all, both emotionally and physically.

I am being cautious for the next few days as I am at quite high risk (1 in 40) of a detached retina, but hopefully I will be OK. It’s fantastic being able to see so well again; it had really crept up on me, like the frog in the pan of water.

Today as I have worked on my Anglo-Saxon writing and reading I have been untroubled by eyesight problems. As I type this post I am able to see the screen more clearly than for a long time. I have no idea why I waited so long.

I love science and medics and the miracles that are possible. I know that often we are let down by them, or they fail to live up to our expectations, or the side-effects are worse than the symptoms. But just for once it all worked out and I feel so lucky. Sometimes it can turn out OK.

I hope you have a miracle of some kind this week too, large or small. Perhaps even sight of the old currant bun – who knows?

Share your good fortune when you do to give us all a boost.

Namaste

 

Dilemma

It was a challenging day today – well, a little more challenging than usual. It all began, as every day should, with a cup of tea. Today, however, Sigoth mumbled at me in bed about how he “supposed” he “ought” to get up and make the tea. Because I am a sensitive and thoughtful kind of partner I proposed that I do it instead and the wretch had the nerve to agree. Well, I ask you! He always makes the tea. Do I look like the kind of person who makes tea first thing in the morning?

Anyway, up I got and stumbled down the stairs. The very nice newspaper man chose this moment to push my mother’s paper through the door.

To recap, I have a demented mother and she lives with us in a granny annexe we built to accommodate her every need. Sadly we did not predict that she would develop dementia so all my plans to allow for a stair-lift and a downstairs shower room came to nought. Still, she has her comfy armchair and she has her television and she sings to herself contentedly, She also enjoys a morning paper.

newspaper

A while ago, maybe a year or so, we had a difficult period when she found the newspaper headlines distressing and frightening. She is attached to one of the red-tops, because it was the one her parents always bought, back in the days when it was actually a real newspaper and reported actual news. She never quite understood the metamorphosis it underwent at some time in more recent years from daily reportage to mindless fantasy, round about the time Sauron became the owner. As a result she believed what it shrieked at her from its poisonous headlines about immigrants, health scares, the weather and Princess Diana.

It runs on a cycle usually between those four. Lately of course it has been making hay while the sun fails to shine and the country slides beneath the waves in watery Armageddon. If it came in multimedia format it would be chortling with glee and rubbing its pages together in a frenzy of delight over how absolutely terrible things were.

I literally was considering telling her that the paper had gone out of business and substituting the i.  Then she lost another part of her brain and no longer was bothered, so I left it alone. She likes the cartoons and photos of the Queen or kittens or whatever.

But today this paragon of journalistic achievement had finally become disenfranchised with the flooding and moved back to the familiar territory of NHS-bashing:

NHS ban medicine if you are ‘too old’ in new attack on Britain’s elderly

Today I was thankful that my mother no longer understands enough to be frightened by this spurious claptrap.

Allegedly.

In the interests of fairness and proportionality there are other red-tops which provide similar levels of nonsense. Indeed even the so-called broadsheets (some of which are now confusingly in tabloid format) can come up with total nonsense but they use longer words so that it takes longer for the poison to seep through.

My automatic instinct is to stand on the opposite side of whatever these headlines proclaim and usually I find I am then in the right place. Vide:

  • When there are conspiracy theories about Royals, I trust my instinct that the government is nowhere near competent enough to carry out such complex operations successfully.
  • When it’s going to be the worst weather in a thousand years I assume that they are referring to a bit of a breeze in the Home Counties and not to anything which will affect me north of the Watford Gap.
  • When there is a new health scare or a new wonder drug I am generally correct in asserting that they are neither new nor scary/wonderful, but merely statistically interesting.
  • When it refers to immigrants and/or benefits scroungers, I understand the hacks are on some kind of manic auto-pilot and suspect their own mothers would be ashamed.

So today, as well as having to be thankful that my mother is so incapacitated that she can’t follow the headlines, I also found that by logical extension of my usual position I support the notion of withholding treatment for elderly people because they are old.

Damn. I’m not that person.

Yet I have to recognise that in fact that is the very position I have had to take recently on behalf of my mother. The doctor and I had some long chats about it following some internal bleeding and general deterioration. We have withdrawn the anti-coagulants which were exacerbating the bleeding and she has rallied very well. The invasiveness of the procedure to check for bowel cancer would be so stressful it is unlikely to be worthwhile, especially as she would not survive any surgery or chemotherapy to treat any cancer that was found. She may not even have cancer; it may have been a tear which is healing. The only way to find out is, as I said, too invasive and would possibly be inconclusive anyway.

Why would I put her through it? She wouldn’t understand what was happening. She may have a stroke or heart attack from the stress. And the results may not show anything, and even if they did, the treatment would kill her.

So I agreed to withhold the anti-coagulants, and yes, it was largely because of her age.

It turns out I am that person. Damn again.

She’s 87 in a couple of weeks. I am interested to know if she recognises her birthday this year. She uses the paper to keep track of date and was able to tell me when it was Christmas Eve, which was unexpected. She hasn’t remembered her wedding anniversary or my birthday for a number of years now. But her birthday was still there in her addled mind last year. We can but hope this year it is too.

I’ve made a decision for the right reasons. Now I just have to forgive myself for making it. And that tabloid isn’t helping.

Namaste.