I was looking forward to the summer.
My mum suffered several strokes, beginning with ‘mini’ ones from the spring not long after the CoviD19 vaccines. After the second shot the mini strokes became major ones. She had to stay in the hospital until November. John and I visited 2-4 times a week. It was a long drive and as John doesn’t drive in England and because of my chronic pain problems we couldn’t always visit. It was exhausting both mentally and physically, but strangely, it was a kind of respite too as the mind-games between family members were put to a thankful halt. Yes, I do care for and love my mother – I have saved her life a few times this year! – but she isn’t the easiest person. A dysfunctional family is incredibly hard to fathom and navigate. I know that if I was able-bodied and well again I wouldn’t be here, in this house, not another day.
My periods became incredibly painful due to the vaccine. They were already very painful and heavy, I couldn’t believe they could worsen. I’ve been taking extra (gentle-on-the-stomach) iron supplements.
It was a strange time, having to make these decisions on my mother’s behalf, multiple phone calls daily with this specialist and that. I explained I am chronically ill and crippled but I still got the odd judgemental look.
John, despite his usual tendency to let everything fall into my lap, was brilliant.
I started phoning my mother’s friend. We spoke a few times a week with me updating her about Mum’s condition – there were times I thought she wouldn’t last another day. She could barely speak one word let alone a sentence and she kept getting ill from chest infections. This friend is a kind of aunt, knowing me since I was a baby. My mother’s oldest friend when she was 12 and B 11. I offered to drive B to the hospital but her son forbade it: he was afraid she’d catch the deadly Chinese virus.
Golden (younger sister) couldn’t contain herself and played games where she tried taking over the care of our mother and leave me completely out in the cold so I had no idea what was going on / and the prior arrangements I’d made (since I live with my mum again) would be messed up causing me more trouble and time. There’d be surprising equipment deliveries, and equipment surplus to our requirements – since I already have some due to my own physical disability. And, Golden, would suddenly stop visiting her and our mother would complain she hadn’t heard from her.
Mum cried and told me she loved me. I asked her why was she so mean to me then? Being narcissistic and far removed from reality she then answered, don’t mind me, I was in a bad mood. I told her I loved her too, but I wouldn’t be able to continue caring for her – as I was with almost all my energy and ability – if she continued to keep me out of the loop (not letting me know what’s going on; and later, if she ever got home again, disappearing from the house and not telling me). Because, how can you, just in a practical sense, properly care for a senior parent who’s ill, if they suddenly disappear from the home? Also, I told her, I’m fed up of the mind games. Maybe I shouldn’t have said these things and bit my tongue, but it has worn me down over the years.
I take the stance of doing the decent thing, of caring for my elderly parent whom I do still love despite all the crappy things she and my father have done to me.
While we were hospital visiting, my dear dog, Chester successfully had another – long – troublesome cyst removed by the vet.
I thought life might be easier when she did come home again but both my siblings caused me and my mother problems.
Golden poked about in my food cupboards but disappeared without a hello when I came into view. She arranged home visits from various health professionals when I was already taking care of it. She left a strange answer-phone message – accidentally – verbally running me down to a friend, that I wasn’t doing enough. (Not true, two consecutive days I spent literally wiping clean the walls, doors and door-handles of my mother’s excrement, and then cleaning her bed. With my fractured spine and hip nerve damage that killed me and I spent the 3rd day in bed. I could not expect John to do that, it isn’t his mother). Golden doesn’t clean it but she certainly loves creating it and throwing it about.
My brother’s wife continued to harass us for drug-money although I’d told her on two occasions not to come to the house anymore. My daft mother was in the habit of always handing the money out to them when R (brother’s wife) asked. I told them in a letter that I don’t have the word BANK written across my forehead and when I was an able-bodied well person I used to work – and maybe they could try that?! Also, in that letter, I admonished R for shining torches (flashlights) through our bedroom and living room windows at all hours of the night. But R didn’t intend to stop. Being the Family Scapegoat, R began scapegoating me too, saying I was the cause of all these problems! One day she actually got to my mother and John had to gently take my confused parent by the arm to guide her back into the house. I was enraged when I heard about that. If I’d been there I’d have attacked R with my walking stick! So, I called the police – and I don’t like calling them.
Amazingly, we had a fine officer this time, a real old school type who actually cared. He told them not to come to the house. This was after leaping over the chain-locked gate and unfortunately landing in some prickly brambles before repeatedly shining his torch through their windows. (Not fun having a torch shine through your windows, is it R?). Afterwards, R slashed my car tyre – slashed so it wasn’t inflatable – and we were lucky not to have had a nasty accident. Thereafter, I ordered cameras to put up outside. And audible sensor things to put in the bushes. The receivers, plastic owls with eyes that light up and flash orange as a doorbell sounds – and whilst the nurses/therapists were startled the little dogs love them! The slow pruning of the enormous hedge at the front of the house, which John and I both tackled in the late summer had retained ‘useful’ brambles poking out the one side of it. I deemed it a handy and natural trap to ensnare R who has the habit of wandering about the place late at night, peering in the windows, up to no good. Reading this back has John and me in laughter, it so reads like fiction, but I can honestly tell you I was at breaking point by then.
I was afraid of further repercussions, vandalism to the house or either car. For three weeks we had no working car or dependable camera that recorded. I was taking anti-anxiety supplements to try calm my frazzled nerves. My chronic migraines became debilitating and further incapacitated me. My mother’s health was rapidly declining, she’d no appetite for food and couldn’t keep any down/in from the vomiting/diarrhoea. I said the symptoms had to be a side effect from one of the medicines – and I was proved right, but it took about a month to sort it out. This was in part due to her inability to make herself understood, as the strokes had affected her speech/thinking and also due to her being prescribed a great number of meds.
Our usually inept doctors were being – guess what? – inept, and had re-prescribed her something she shouldn’t have been on since the hospital had taken her off it. Then there was the problem of the inept doctors not answering their phone calls – because they were afraid of catching the Chinese lurgy down the line – and not prescribing her vital Lantus. Having no car, John had to walk several miles there and back to the doctors and pharmacy and after my mother argued she couldn’t possibly ask Golden’s friend from church to simply collect her meds and deliver them to her – which is something done within ten minutes – she finally agreed to it. I had to write the doctors’ practice a very stern letter saying the medicine was indeed urgent and that I wasn’t happy being hung-up on and then left phoning them for an hour (they repeatedly put the phone down). Thankfully, this hand-delivered letter worked wonders and my mum had her meds by the end of the day. John remembered the healing elixir of Ensure that his grandmother took when poorly and soon my mother’s health improved. So much so that she is again quite difficult to deal with. What have we done?!
I have to add here… I noticed time and time again so many senior stroke sufferers at the stroke unit. They seemed so lonely and bored. Some were far worse off than my parent. The thing is, if a stroke isn’t caught in time, the brain suffers more damage. Urgent, immediate attention is vital at the time of a stroke/suspected stroke. It can make all the difference regarding the outcome for the individual.
I must admit that the most exciting update concerned the arrival of several tiny but leggy beasts. They are pink with bobbing heads and antennae, and have the word ‘dragon’ in their name. These millipedes – the Pink Thai Dragon – are a recent discovery in the bug world, harking from caves in the Thailand region. Indeed, I have a thing for exotic beetles and could self-identify as a six-year-old-boy. Four months and some fish-flakes on, the six mini-beasts have multiplied to at least sixty. I blame it on the red plant lights, it must have made them randy.
The most serious undertaking this winter has been the decision to begin studying again. This time I’m tackling it from another angle, psychology with counselling. This part-time home study university degree will enable me to become a psychologist. However, to become a psychologist who is a licensed therapist will take further learning. I aim to set up on my own as an art therapist. I want to help others. I don’t want to study psychopaths or criminology, I’ve dealt with more than enough toxic people within my own family. I will give it my best and if I don’t succeed, I don’t. But at my age, this is my last chance of trying this.
The most crazy thing to happen was when my mother got it into her head she was going to drive her car again. Golden had put it into her head that she was thoroughly capable of getting behind the wheel! Golden obviously missed her free taxi rides. This happened on a Saturday. Two days after a specialist explained to her that no, she couldn’t think about driving yet; there had to be a test with another specialist first, to determine whether she could, but it wasn’t likely… What began as a fairly relaxing morning for me went quickly haywire: she was telling me she was driving and going out with Golden to meet her grandson (Golden doesn’t have children, this is the adult child who was taken off my brother; he rebelled and leads a normal life). She was very difficult to deal with, she was verbally angry and rude with me and John had to hide the car keys. On the phone, Golden was quite stoned and quite chilled, and quite surprised that our mother wasn’t permitted to drive due to the brain damage. I phoned the stroke team and the helpful receptionist said I needed to hide the keys because she could have obviously endangered not only her own life, but other people’s too.
Christmas Eve arrived and my mother instructed me to keep out of the way as Golden and her Weasel were visiting Christmas morning. Weasel who threatened to punch me, all those years ago, before his friend finally did attack me summer 2020. Of course I was angry and objected about this. This is my home too, and I’m the only one of her three children who has really taken care of her. I don’t deserve to be segregated and treated this way. John wasn’t too happy either. So the two of us with our six dogs celebrated the earlier part of the day upstairs while my mother waited alone for her visit. Golden finally arrived, by herself, several hours later and late, about two in the afternoon. I would say that’s the most absurd part of my update. I really cannot go on much longer like this. It’s utter madness.
The following posts will include about an antique clock and a vintage beauty book written by Anita Colby, an Old Hollywood model and actress, fashion and beauty consultant, and inventor.
Copyright Faith McCord 2022
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.