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Here goes..wish me luck!

I am taking on the humongous task of caring for my 83 year old Dad.Here follows my story, well his too, I suppose. The ups & downs, the highs & lows of everyday life with him.

I just knew I had to do it, to keep Dad as independent as possible & most importantly keep him in his own home. He did that for my Mum, they had made a pact not to put each other into a nursing home & he didn’t. I have to do the same for as long as I can.

January comes and it’s when I down tools so to speak & become my Dad’s official carer. ¬†Five out of seven days I go up straight after the school run & leave in time to get back for afternoon pick up.

To be brutally honest, I can’t say I relished the thought of what I had to do but he’s my Dad and that’s it. It would be challenging & difficult at times, I knew that. We would both have a lot of adjusting to do. Role reversal & all that, most of my life my Dad has looked after me, in many ways for longer than many others would. I was the youngest and I never truly felt properly ‘grown up’ until my Mum got ill and I started to worry about her more than her me, if you know what I mean. So now to have that responsibility to look after him is huge.

Anyhow, as I thought it would take time for both of us to adjust and get into a comfortable rythym.

That’s why I decided to write this blog, to release it all when things are at their worst and at their best I guess. Also, maybe it will help others in the same boat. Either that or put them off for life!

I haven’t wrote anything since I was a kid so as Miranda would say..bear with, bear with.

xxx

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That time of year…

As we all know, Christmas is nearly upon us. Everyone getting festive, christmas jumpers, songs on the radio. Oh & don’t forget the TV programmes telling you how to have a ‘perfect’ christmas. Don’t get me started on what that means!

So now, people are asking me what I’m doing this year, then adding that it will be a tough one without my dad. Of course, yes it will be, but & I don’t say this easily, it actually feels a bit easier this year. Last year was my dad’s last Christmas & I didn’t have him to mine like I have done for the past few years, he was in the nursing home & I was so worried about the logistics of it all I decided it was best for him to be there. We don’t have a downstairs loo & I was so worried about him choking. Maybe I should have thrown caution to the wind but here today, it’s a decision I have to live with. So, without the constant worrying about him and without the guilt I felt last year about Dad being in a home, this Christmas comes a lot less loaded in that respect, which enables me to look forward to the holiday season.

I must add that it won’t be without sadness obviously & I know we will remember Dad on Christmas day, we will raise a glass, which won’t be easy. Yet I know he would want us to be happy, to get on with it, he always told me not to cry over him, but that’s easier said than done, especially at this time of year. Christmas is the hardest time to grieve a loss. He always said after mum died, christmas was just another day. Although he used to say that when she was alive, whilst caring for her. An elderly neighbour says the same, he lives on his own. I’ve been tempted to invite him here but I’m not quite ready for that.

So, on Christmas day I’ll be thinking of my dad, of friends who are without theirs & particularly of a dear friend, her children & their children whose loss is very new. Not many of us are fortunate enough to get through the holiday season without a tinge of sadness & it’s important to remember that. We are not alone. Be kind this Christmas, reach out to others if you can.

Wishing a peaceful Christmas to all my readers.

xxx

“Tell her I love her”

This has been a difficult few weeks. I’m struggling with grief more than ever. I’m missing my dad more. You wouldn’t know it, unless you asked. People don’t ask though. Why should they, life carries on & others forget. They see you smile, laugh, going about your day, don’t question if you’re ok, but it’s there.. .always. Life goes on yes, but so does grief. I told a friend something that had happened to do with my Dad, she asked if it had brought it all back, but like I said, it’s always here, it hasn’t gone away.

This time last year was when it all started. The beginning of the end as I refer to it. That horrendous time when we were told (twice) that dad wouldn’t last the night, a couple of days at the most. That time when I moved in, leaving my fella & soon to be 11 year old daughter on the other side of town. Racing to and fro just to get her to and from her grandads. Not really being there for her birthday. All this is filling my brain. I’m going over & over it in my head. The now 12 year old was so excited that she would have me around this year for her birthday yet it suddenly hit her that it was her first without grandad. We didn’t say much, it was a bit of a ‘pink elephant in the room’ moment, we usually talk very openly about him but I just couldn’t bear her to be sad on her big day. She was actually poorly for a couple of days surrounding her birthday & I do wonder if it was slightly due to this.

Also, my mum’s birthday is the day before hers, so that never helps at this time of year but of course this year it’s all about dad really.

Still, I can’t quite believe that it’s a year ago, it’s a bit surreal to be honest. Yet, it feels like I’ve been grieving forever. I suppose it’s because I prepared myself to lose my dad twice before I actually did.

Then there’s the torture I put myself through, people say not to have regrets, but in reality its so hard to just accept it as it is, when you grieve I don’t think you can help it. I still ask myself if I could have done more, done things differently, said more, said less! We had our moments of madness, there were situations that I didn’t handle very well, at times I felt way out of my depth & my dad wasn’t a saint, I won’t say he was just because he’s died. He pushed me to my limit, one day I was his best friend, the next I was in his bad books & on those days I could do nothing right & I often felt I couldn’t carry on. ( I’m sure he felt the same, as I am also not a saint) I do still wonder how I did it some days but I’m glad I did. I know I got him through the last few years of his life, sometimes by the skin of my teeth! I can’t imagine how the elderly get by on their own, with no family near by. No one to care for them. I find that so sad. He often said I was his ears, his eyes..his friend.

So, did I tell him enough that I loved him? No. Did I tell him how wonderful he was? No. I like to think actions speak louder than words. I hope they did. I know my Dad loved me and was so grateful for what I did. Sometimes he told me, sometimes he didn’t. It’s not easy for men to express their feelings, especially of that generation. I guess that’s why he asked a good friend to tell me that he was really grateful for what I’d done and that after he’d gone & not before, she was to tell me that he loved me.

xxx

Grief Triggers…

I was awake in the early hours of this morning & started thinking about how many triggers I’ve had of late. Never a good thing to start thinking at 4am but I couldn’t switch off. I came to the conclusion that I had enough in my head to write a blog post.

I had to stop myself from getting up and writing it all down there & then. When’s there’s so much in my head I know it’s time to off load, I’m not always comfortable dishing it out to friends so here we are putting pen to paper..well, of sorts.

Grief pops up with no warning mostly, a photograph, a song (can you believe both songs played at my dad’s funeral were on the radio within days of ech other), random thoughts, on other occasions I can feel it coming. Sometimes I try to stop it but I know it’s best to let it flow. One of the ones I was expecting was end of term blues. My daughter ended her primary school years this summer. Having to say goodbye to her teachers was always tough, but they’d been particularly supportive these past 12 months. Writing their cards was a bit a bit more of just a thankyou for me. They all knew about my dad, what we were going through & that if Ava found it too much they gave her support & the space she needed. She had art therapy which she loved, it really helped her. The art teacher has known her since she went to playgroups & she told me that it was a big deal for me, I knew what she meant. So, that was a biggy, a tough year six but also a good year six. I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I’d be on the day, to the huge relief of my daughter!

Saying goodbye to my friend in Penzance and also to her parents that were staying was a moment too. I heard her mum say she didn’t know if she’d see us again, not that we would really but just the thought of it. Little things like that just get me.

Another trigger was when my girl tried on her new secondary school uniform. My first thought was so overwhelming. I just about held it together, I dont want exciting moments to be dampened by my tears. It’s just that my Dad would have absolutely loved to have seen her all grown up & smart. I would have loved for him to see her. God, that was a killer. Still is.

Facebook….those ‘on this day’ memories jump out at you & just hit you where it hurts, so unexpected, lovely to see, but I’d like a warning first please FB, something like, ‘how are you feeling today Suzanne? We are just going to knock you off your feet for a moment!’

Even going away for the weekend, which is now something I don’t have to think twice about. I still pause, think of Dad, just for a fraction of a second, then think no, I don’t have to worry.

Triggers, they come in all shapes & sizes, all colours & shades.

Do you have triggers? Do you ignore them or let them get you? I do both, there are times when I really don’t want to be sad, just switch off from it, so I think it’s ok to avoid them then, if possible. Also you do learn to deal with them, or try to make it a happy trigger & laugh through the tears, find the funny side to the sadness.

At the end of the day, just thinking about my dad is the trigger that won’t ever go away. Over time I know the pain will lessen little by little, that I’ll be able to think about him without tears in my eyes, but for now the grieving process goes on.

xxx

A Cornish Adventure.

Cornwall…how I love thee. Well, as a child I was lucky enough to go on yearly holidays with my parents, mainly to Cornwall. My Dad worked hard, saved & having travelled the South West as a salesman, he found the nicest places to go to. Perranporth, Praa Sands, Penzance to name a few. When my sister & I talked about where we would scatter my Dad’s ashes we mentioned Cornwall, he wouldn’t be close to us but it was somewhere that he loved & had a connection with. We still haven’t decided but it’s a strong possibility.

Anyway, when my Dad died, a friend that had moved to Penzance around this time last year invited us down to her new home. It’s just what you need, she said. It was, but what with everything to sort out and other commitments it just didn’t happen. So another (mutal) friend of mine & myself set a date to go visit her in the summer holidays, together with our girls.

On our first afternoon there, we all went to the little harbourside beach of Mousehole. Our girls and our friend’s children all went out in the Kayak.

Sat on our towels, chatting, reflecting, my friend noticed some rings on her daughter’s sandal. I suddenly realised they were mine. I had absent mindedly taken them off & put them in my lap whilst putting suncream on. They would have fallen out of my skirt when I had stood up, but I hadn’t noticed.

There were three rings. I had four. Where was the fourth? The fourth being my Nan’s ring. My dad’s mum. Probably 100 years old. I’d been wearing it for the past 20 odd years. I can’t have lost it. We searched & searched. We dug & sieved through the sand. People around us asked what we were looking for & started looking. They all had a story of a ‘lost & found’, but that didn’t help. The children came out of the water & my daughter gasped when i told her what jad happened. She knew this would be hard to swallow. My friend went home to get her sons metal detector but even that didn’t find it. Sadly it was looking like we’d never find it & we didn’t. The most frustrating thing was that it had to be there somewhere. The water was coming in and I had to accept it. Let’s think of it going to the king of the seas my friend said, let’s make a celebration of it, but what did this mean? If anything. We left the beach, me with a heavy heart, thinking if only.

The rest of our stay was lovely. My daughter got upset at one point, missing her dad & Grandad. We’d often talked of Grandad’s love of Cornwall & it made her kind of sad for a bit.

So we said goodbye to our friends, goodbye to Cornwall, goodbye to Nan’s ring.

A few days later my friend messaged me that the harbour master had been driving all over looking for her. My ring had been found!!!!!!!

There was a giant sandcastle competition, my ring was dug up, put on Facebook & someone who had been on the beach on the day I’d lost it, saw the post, got in touch with the harbour master & voila!!

I couldn’t believe it! It has made me so happy & now I have my own ‘lost & found’ tale to tell!

My own little Cornish Adventure. Until next time.

xxx

Time goes by..

Well, fathers day came & went. I had, in the end so much going on that weekend, that I didn’t have chance to dwell on it. My fella had been rushed to hospital on the Thursday before with sepsis. He was in London at the time so I had to drive up there to see him and (thankfully) bring him home on the Sunday. So it wasn’t much of a celebration for him either. My daughter was really overwhelmed by it all & said that it brought back memories of her Grandad being in hospital. I know how she felt!

It’s how it is at the moment, everything relates back to my Dad. Memories, events, just life in general. My daughters transition day at her soon to be secondary school. She walks off & all I can think of is that he’s not here for us to tell the tale to. She always used to ask if Grandad would be around to see her off to secondary school. I used to tell her, I doubt it. She would then nod, knowingly.

My head is full of memories at the moment as my sister & I are clearing out his house so we can let it. Piles of carboot, to keep, charity & throw out stuff. We’ve sold lots, we keep saying how he’d like that, he didn’t like giving good stuff away, always after a tenner or two. It’s nice to see some things going to a good home too. A recently divorced fella came for a sofa & chairs, he was so grateful. We gave Dad’s neighbour a picture that he’d always admired, something to remember him by, he said. Friends have had various bits of furniture & bits. I really love that. Some things have even gone down to Cornwall to a friend’s place by the sea. My Dad loved Cornwall, so even that has meaning. One item I couldn’t decide wether to sell or not, was an old coleman coolbox. It nearly sold a couple of times but we got let down, so when it’s sat in my hallway & I see it every day, well that’s when I can’t let it go in the end. So I’ve kept it. My advice to myself is, if in doubt keep it for a while, then see how things feel.

It’s a weekly task that is surprisingly healing, some things just need to go, some bring back memories & some things mean so much that we hold on to them. Friends ask if its hard, clearing it out, well sometimes it is, if I think about it too much. We are taking it slowly, week by week and it’s nice still going up there. We feel we are doing him proud, sprucing up the house. A lick of paint & new flooring is all it needs. He was house proud & it’s paying off even now, and we are thankful that we don’t have layers and layers of wallpaper to strip off and everything is in pretty good shape.

So for now things are just ticking along quite nicely, quietly. Then some days the ticking is noisier, some days it’s so loud that I can’t bear it & then the tears flow. I have a feeling the clock won’t stop ticking for a long time.

xxx

Birthday Blues.

So, I’ve just got through another ‘first’. My birthday. My 51st birthday. As I turned 50, I had my dad with me. We went out for lunch. He gave me a card , that my daughter had chosen for him to give to me. He gave me money. He also wanted to buy me perfume, for me to go and choose some, but I told him not to worry, money was enough & it was nice to buy something to keep. I knew then that it was very likely it would be the last birthday with my dad around. Pictures pop-up on Facebook & it seems like yesterday. He loved that meal. I loved that day. A memory I will cherish.

I felt under pressure to have a great day on this birthday. To be happy. My daughter was desperate for it to be the best birthday ever. (She does however, say that every year!) This year though she knew what it would be like for me. No dad.

Well, I tried to give grief the finger for the day but how ever much I tried it crept back in. It started days before, I kept feeling a dread, first I didn’t get it, it was half term, I’d been looking forward to some downtime, why was I feeling like this. But yes, that was it. A bit like Mother’s day, I used to have to go up to my mums grave a week or so before, get it over with so I could be happy on the actual day. I didn’t want my daughter to see me sad on a celebratory day. Seven years on and I don’t do that anymore, so I know it gets easier to deal with, but the firsts are the worst. I couldn’t exactly delay my birthday could I?

To be honest & I don’t like how it felt, but I was glad when the day was over. A friend asked if I had a nice birthday, I say yes it was lovely, well actually no I said, it was just ok. Why conform, why say what people want you to say, expect you to say, tell it how it is. We shy away from the truth so much because we think it’s expected of us..to enjoy when we feel shit. To do things ‘to make us feel better’ or ‘because it’ll do you good’. Well, I did my best, it wasn’t the best day ever but also not the worst. Just ok.

Now we have Father’s day looming. It’s everywhere, online, in the shops, every corner you turn. I don’t have a dad to buy for..it was never much but always an occasion. I know life goes on & I don’t expect the world to stop for me & my grief but shit it’s hard out there. Maybe I’ll give the shops a miss til after next wkend….in an ideal world. I can’t go to a grave like I do for Mum as we haven’t done anything with Dad’s ashes yet. I have them but, well, that’s another story. Well, I’ll just have to miss him, remember him & hope he’s somewhere having a laugh with his Dad. (Or running through the fields with my mum, as my daughter suggested the other day!)

So firsts are staring me in the face at the moment. They’ll be over soon, until the next one. I’ll be ready for them & no doubt I’ll let you know about it.

In the meantime, love your dad on fathers day & every day after. For those who will be without their dad’s, try giving a finger…it might help!

xxx

Words…

Condolences, sympathy, cards & gifts. I had many cards, phonecalls & messages of sympathy. For about two weeks at least one card came through the letter box every day. Every one meant so much. Some had one or two words wrote inside & some had a few sentences, they were the ones that made me cry. I’ve re-read them as those days were a bit of a blur.

I’d never underestimate the power of words at a time of loss. Some say, that they don’t know what to say, theres one mum I know at school that hasn’t said anything to me yet, just sad looks, (I think I’m going to have to make the first move). I know some find it incredibly hard to approach soneone who’s lost a loved one, but don’t let it be the pink elephant in the room, or is it blue? I’d say to say anything, dont be afraid, it’s not going to make things worse. (Well, as long as you don’t say “Ahh well, he had a good life”). Some ask questions, that’s good, it really helps to go over what happened. A friend asked how it all happened & before I know it I’ve spent 20 minutes going over every detail, I apologise because I’m not sure if she wanted to hear all that, but she knew too well how it matters & how it helps to go over it. Friends are very important at this time, mine are worth their weight in gold. Some reach out for a hug, also good especially if you have no words. I was at the school gates & a Dad went by, took a step back, gave me a hug & walked on, I knew what that meant & it was very comforting.

There were phone calls & friends dropping by with flowers. Flowers left on my doorstep. All so greatly appreciated. A graffiti artist I know kindly gave Ava a print of his work to cheer her up. It was meant for us as a family but it had her name on it so she’s claimed it as hers. It’s lovely & it really did cheer her up. Ava’s other grandad gave her some money after my dad’s funeral & she went out & spent it on a lovely necklace with a heart on it. To remember the love she has for them both. The thought behind things & actions mean the world.

And keep asking, I don’t mean just me, although if you know me feel free, keep asking how one is, not every day but when it feels right. We don’t stop grieving just because it’s been weeks, months, years even. We don’t stop grieving just because we are having a good time, laughing, acting normal. Grief stays, but life has to go on. Lives have to be lived. Behind every smile there’s still a huge loss. That doesn’t go away.

xxx