Retirement home: No onward chain
scribbles tagged ‘sad’
The watch I wear has a fixed-length strap. The watch tells me the time and fluctuations in my size. Since starting my new job in July 2013, I’ve lost weight. The watch used to be a tight fit, now it swivels around my wrist and slides over the nobbly bit of bone at the base of my humerus
In my previous job I’d gradually grown pudgy and the watch had tightened on my wrist. It didn’t move, the strap left pink patterns indented on my skin at the end lf the day
Dad left two watches when he died. One, a beautiful Longines watch that mumsie had secretly saved for from her meagre housekeeping budget, a birthday surprise for dad. The second an almost identical visual design, a Tissot, that he wore on a daily basis. It’s a little scratched, battered. I remember it and can see it on his wrists in photographs
When I was a child mumsie gave me t-shirt with the word “Tissot” on it. I didn’t know what it meant, but the word was on the fast cars in the formula 1 racing that we watched on the TV every weekend. It was an adult size t-shirt, much to big for my gangly teenage body, I wore that t-shirt to school, proudly. It meant nothing to my friends. To me it was a present from mum, something special to her and dad
After dad passed, Mum gave the Tissot watch to me. I love that watch way beyond it’s aesthetic or monetary value. I get very attached to things
6 months after dad’s death and I’m no longer spontaneously crying. I wonder about mum…
A last-minute trip arranged to Geneva, do I need Euros? No, Swiss Francs. Rumania and I couldn’t use my Euros, USA and I couldn’t use my Euro’s, now Switzerland and I can’t use my Euros. Grumble, grumble, currencies, exchange rates, coins and stuff. World, stop making my life complicated!
The hotel I stayed in, outside Geneva, was approved (recommended), by my employer. It was in France. Yay! I can use my Euro’s. I speak a little pigeon French, left over from a CSE French course in the mid 1970′s. To call my French ‘rusty’ is more than generous. I try, at the GVA airport information desk. The information person talks fluently and fast in French. My eyebrows raise and meet above my not insubstantial nose as I try to repeat my understanding of the tyrannical stream of words he’s just blown at me. It seems I’ve understood him about where to get a Taxi, how much it should cost and what I should have done to travel cheaply if I’d been shrewd like I should have been. I feel pathetic and inadequate. It shows, he smiles at me but doesn’t wander from his native French language.
The taxi driver spews French at me. I raise my eyebrows to join in the middle “Je ne parle Francais” He looks at me with pity and continues talking in French. The ride from GVA to the French town of Dionne-la-bain was smooth, comfortable, and silent. I suspect silent is not the natural way for this Taxi driver.
In the Hotel foyer a large, elegant, elderly British woman is talking in a very raised tone with a plummy accent. Wealthy lady. She’s hurling a range of dissatisfaction at the receptionist. I don’t really hear what she’s saying but I hear the very strong pain in her tone. After a while I can bear it no longer.
“Are you alright? You seem to be having some troubles here”
Her son comes up “let me deal with this” he hugs his mother who appears to ignore him but turns to me
“Yes, I don’t speak much French and this is my first trip to Switzerland, it’s quite overwhelming”
“My husband’s in Hospital, he’s dying…”
We’re near Switzerland, an English woman’s husband is in Hospital dying. I immediately think Euthanasia, and all the awfully difficult decisions and actions that lead to that pathway. No wonder she’s so upset, no wonder her adult son is with her. I wish the receptionist had the insight to treat her emotions and not the content of her words, she wasn’t really criticising him she was showing all the pain of having to fly her husband here to get a dignified death after what’s probably been a terribly painful illness. I wanted to hug her. I suspect she knew. With hindsight I wish I’d asked for her permission to give her a hug.
I thought of Dad and how lucky my family has been by not having to deal with a painful illness towards the end of his life.
So much stuff.
Mourning is exhausting, relentlessly rolling, invisible to the people around who’s daily lives bring temporary relief.
The hangover tiredness hasn’t lifted 3 months after his leaving.
By the end of the year this room will look like a guest bedroom; shelves removed, walls papered and painted, new carpet. Dad’s stuff long since reorganised and prioritised. It’s this removal that hurts the most. I can understand why people keep rooms untouched as memorials to their past owners.
Today, at work, in a one-to-one meeting with another woman - she interrupted the meeting to take a personal phone call. Afterwards she explained by saying her father had died in November. This was the first time I just burst into tears in a public, work, situation. She sweetly went on to explain how loosing her father had changed her life. She didn’t cry but commented on how she tended to spontaneously cry.
I told her of how my mother emptying her fridge of the stuffs that she would not eat; things she’d bought because my father liked them, had made a painful impact. Mostly because everything mum wanted to dispose of was something I loved to eat…. it’s these small pragmatic details that bind us and demonstrate the loss in such a concrete way. I enjoy eating. I remember, with
- Blue cheese
- Pepperoni Pizza
- Pickled beatroot, yummy!
Day 6: October 26th
One of several ghost towns on route 66. This one on the Oklahoma, Texas, State border. So many questions are raised, who lived here? How did they live? Why did they leave? Why did no one else move onto their property? Were all the derelict homes left at once or was it a gradual desertion? The ghost towns are peaceful yet sad places. I would take a break from driving to walk around and feel the place that had once housed families, heard laughter and crying.
Sometimes I don’t cry on short car journeys.
The real crying has started, home alone, listening to music while cleaning the house. The sort of crying that splatters the inside of your spectacles, a thunderous downpour without windscreen wipers inside of my spectacles. Needing a big hanky to clean the streams of mess. Temporary disabled in a sudden storm. It feels like some form of progress.
My dreams have taken a slightly sinister turn. Not nightmares because lucidity takes them to a peaceful conclusion, but they all start with a variation on one theme; Someone has broken into my home. I never meet the intruder, I see the results of their intrusion.
During last night’s episode the intruder broke in to connect a 2nd phone, identical to my current landline phone. The new phone produced calls of a baffling nature, they were for me but came from people I didn’t know who sounded confused and distressed. They needed help and I’d try to unravel their needs and sort their problems. I didn’t want to answer the phone with the disturbing calls. As the dream progressed the calls gradually stopped.
When I told my line manager that dad had died he offered condolences and said “take all the time you need to grieve and stay in touch“. An awesome reaction, just what I needed. Later I went to visit personelle, official leave for bereavement is 3 days.
- 1. Day of death. When I heard the news I was unable to work. Had to leave.
- 2. Day of funeral – For a close relative (Dad) I can’t imagine not attending the funeral. Luckily, I love less than 2hrs drive from my parents so there wasn’t a major flight involved to and from the funeral. That could easily add a day either side of the funeral to the ‘needed’ leave.
- 3. Day after funeral – so with the wake alcohols is consumed, stories are told, relatives are staying over. It’s highly probably that the mourner os going to be able to turn up at work on the day after the funeral. This day needs to be taken off.
3 days compassionate leave is woefully inadequate for parental death. Luckily my dad had a will and solicitors in place and was financially organised, my mum is competent, organised, pragmatic and impressive. If any one of these things were not the case. My personelle specialist implied that I could take more leave unofficially and no one would cause a fuss, she said I should consider taking sick leave if necessary.
I’ve taken 2 days, and an hour here and there, of sick leave. It’s necessary to be healthy. The unofficial attitude of staff and colleagues enables me to contribute while being tired (grieving disrupts sleep) and a bit grumpy.
I was due to go on a business trip, had just driven home to pick up my bags. As I was about to leave the house my phone beeped with a message that I had a voicemail. My parents home number is filed under dads name because he nearly always answers the phone at their home. Dad had called me. Dad has only called me once during the day. The day his brother died. So I knew instantly it was seriously bad news. No point listening to the voicemail of I can talk directly to Dad.
Wendy: dad just called, um, I just got a call from this number
Mumsie: It’s your dad dear, it’s not good news
I could hear she was not her easy self
Wendy: How are YOU?
Mumsie: he said he was feeling strange when we were having our morning coffee, feeling strange – what do you do with that? I didn’t know what to do. He said call an ambulance, so I did and when I got back (from the hallway phone, she doesn’t use a mobile yet) he had keeled over. He’s dead.
The maritime reference was a beautiful, natural, touch. They live in the old port of Bristol, dad loved ships, Britain is an island full of nautical sayings. She went on to describe what happened next which involved helicopters. Dad would have approved, many of the retired engineers he mixed with worked on helicopters, he’d shown me video of the testing of the “Bristol” a helicopter with two sets of rotary blades. She’d been busy on the phone since the paramedics had taken his body. She listed who’d she’d called. How organised and thorough. Mum sounded like me.
Wendy: I’ve got my bag packed for a 2 day trip in front of me, can I come over to your place and get a hug instead?
Mumsie: yes, yes, that would be good, drive carefully though
Wendy: I’ll be there in 2 hours
When the call ended I was stood by my front door with my bags at my feet. A bag with a William Morris print, the strawberry thief. The sofa in dad’s study is a William Morris print. I called work to tell them (about the death, not the William Morris prints). That’s when I started crying. The call ended somewhat awkwardly as I trailed-off into tears and my manager said take all the time you need….
My mind was busy during that drive:
- I’m glad he died quickly
- I’m glad I visited last weekend to tell them about my route66 trip adventures and share a birthday (Chinese take-away) dinner
- I’m glad I moved back to the UK and enjoyed his company for the last 5 years of reasonable health
- What do you say to a mum who’s just lost her life-long partner, over 55 years living together?
- I must cancel my hotel
- Are my tears blocking my road vision or just making my cheeks itchy?
I stopped at a motorway service station and picked up some wine, chocolate and dried apricots. It’s not clear what works for the recently bereaved. I don’t eat chocolate or apricots but I remember a friend telling me that a constant supply of food was useful and both these products would last if not eaten immediately. The wine was more for me, though later I only drank a glass.
Sampo is so glad to have me home she’s sleepy smiling. The cats don’t show sympathy, they appreciate here and now and get on with being a cat. I find their being around very grounding and comforting.
I’m getting increasingly tired, everyday has less sleep than I normally need and more stuff to fill the day. The funeral wasn’t a relief and I just want this to stop. It’s only been 3 weeks since his death. I’m hoping that being patient keeping active and engaged with normal life will bring back restfulness and a background of good cheer. I need to be more patient.
- February 2013, the morning my mother had her first stroke. insurance fixed it by replacing the fan, mother recovered.
- November 2013, the morning my father died. Insurance fixed it by replacing a valve.
Just in case the myth created by coincidence has any basis in reality I thought I’d head-off the proximity of the next boiler breakdown by paying for a thorough overhaul and upgrading a few elderly components. I didn’t replace the boiler because all the Heating Engineers I’ve seen have said that it is an excellent, well designed boiler that should last for decades yet. Evidently “they don’t make them like that anymore“. Like my parents.
Wake attendee: Are you (mum’s name)’s sister?
Mum’s only sister is more than 40 years older than me, I was a bit thrown by the question and thinking of myself in relation to Dad:
Wendy: I’m (Dad’s name)’s youngest daughter
Wake attendee: But he’s only got one daughter
Wendy: that’s me, youngest and oldest daughter, at the same time
Many of the people at the funeral remembered me, from when I’d baby-sat their kids, or some other event that my memory had filed somewhere too dusty for me to find. Mainly the guests seemed like strangers to me. They enjoyed the PowerPoint slide deck we’d put together illustrating Dad’s different passions, it prompted conversations across club members as the Gloucester Richard the III society started talking the Retired Professional Engineers Club (Bristol) members about history.
Dad’s funeral was just right for him. The funeral directors were excellent. A man from the funeral directors in a top hat with a silver-tipped long cane walked in front of the hearse as it approached the crematorium. Something wonderfully reverent, respectful, about this little show. I couldn’t deal with the physical presence of Dad’s body. Being in the same room as the body that no longer hosted the dad I knew was overwhelming. From the moment the hearse pulled out in front of our cortege car I was in full mucus-soaked tears, unable to pull words together.
Despite dearly wanting to say some words at the ceremony, I opted put, unable. I hadn’t anticipated being the blubbiest of the family though I was well prepared with multiple thick white cotton handkerchiefs. Everything went smoothly. The funeral was a very traditional, Christian, event. The archaically expressed Christianity didn’t speak to me, the sentiments and shared respectful kind words were good to hear in the company of so many people who’s lives he’d touched. My brother’s tribute was spot-on, as was Dad’s ex-boss’s.
I didn’t wear a hat (Mum’s request), I didn’t wear black. Mum requested that I wear my new dark-blue tailored suit, she wanted me to look good and talk bout my new job with the guests. Only a couple of people wore hats, they looked good.
I wonder how the funeral process will change over time? Live twitter feeds with hashtags projected on the wall relaying condolences from those who can’t be present? Live camera shot of the coffin moving to the incinerator?
The wake made much more sense than the funeral. It was good for me and I hope for the guests. More emphasis on the wake please.
I took mum to the hairdressers and wandered around town trying to think of Christmas, stay warm, share the apparent normality of the other pedestrians.
No rush, everything sorted, I just wanted to get it over with. I think we all expected the funeral and wake to bring a closure that might release deep sleep and remove what feels like a physical hangover as if mild alcohol poisoning were running through my blood, amplifying noises, emotions and bringing a feeling of physical sickness.
Mum’s hair looked good. Later she showed me dad’s tie collection. Did I want any? I wanted them all, I wanted to look at them and imagine him wearing them, I wanted to tease him about his taste in ties.
Wendy: “No, I don’t think I’ll wear them and I don’t know anyone who wears ties. That one’s nice“
Mum: “It was your dad’s favourite”
I believe (based on some psychologists having studied crying and healing in rats) that crying is a good thing. It speeds-up the healing process. I’m not trying to avoid crying, I’m embracing it
I’m not hit by the sort of crying that mass-produces mucus, interferes with your breathing, prompts wailing and schlurping. My crying comes as overactive tear glands, not necessarily prompted by memories of dad, they seem to come from no-where with one common theme. If alone I let them fall, if in company, I take a rest-room break to let them fall. Short leaks, that feel disconnected from thought as if my body is trying to regularly remind my mind that I am really, truly living in being upset no matter how much I laugh and chatter about reliable, everyday, things
My tear glands like to pump when I’m in a car or on the bus. Driving to and from work, visiting mum, two weeks after his death this is still the way of things though I cry for shorter periods, the frequency remains the same. The bus is tough because, despite my efforts, passengers do notice and deal with the dilemma of whether or not to intrude and offer help. Dark glasses aren’t a realistic option during this cloudy British winter. I’ve got a hanky stuffed up my sleeve, like I used to have when I was a child prone to crying after I’d fallen over (often). I use this to surreptitiously wipe the spillage away
There’s a sense of guilt about not being sufficiently disrupted. Tired from reduced sleep, yet I seem to have so much more energy than normal. Energy that is helpful for thinking through what needs to happen, double checking things after being easily distracted, making arrangements, making lists.
This energy seems to be swept along and shaped by what’s happening around me. My family, and work, are calm so this energy is mainly good but it could easily go off track.
While driving to work I sang along with Joe Jackson’s “Is she really going out with him?”. My emotions so quickly got wrapped up in the anger of the song. I’m not really angry, but I wouldn’t recommend including me in religious or political discussions for a while…
As soon as the phrase ‘parents live’ left my mouth a mental autocorrect screached ‘WRONG! should be – mum lives - mum, mum, just MUM, you don’t have parents now’. I just continued without adjusting my mistake, hoping that I was the only one who noticed this inaccuracy. Mental autocorrect is overreacting slightly. It should be a bit kinder in it’s correction message, I’m not deaf or stupid, just prone to a comfortable, life-long used reference habit.
I’ve noticed mum using the current tense, talking about ‘we‘ in contexts where ‘I’ would now be more accurate. I hope her mental autocorrect is kinder than mine.
I go to the local Chinese take-away for some lovely food, I think of Dad because he liked to treat mum to a Chinese take-away meal on Friday night. I smile. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.
Goodness, so many things prompt thoughts that affirm who dad was, things he did. I notice the way I stand when I’m listening to a story, I stand like dad. I’d never noticed before. I hear my voice as I laugh and I hear the faint echo of his intonation. I never noticed while he was alive.
I welcome these spontaneously intrusive thoughts, they are beautiful intrusions, it’s as if my mind is trying to let me know how alike we are, how together we’ll always be. It’s saying,
“don’t worry, you have always been together and you always will be. He’s part of you”
The thoughts often arrive when I’m in the company of others. I say nothing and let the thought roll. I suspect my continually adding “My dad used to…..” to conversations would upset and begin to bore the people I’m talking with. With family it’s different, mumsie happily chatters about dad which I find comforting and I happily join in. My brothers are relatively silent on the topic, their silence makes me suspect they are finding the experience more painful than I.
I’ve listened to their long silences. There’s something peaceful and reassuring in sharing a long silence over the phone. I’ve heard their curiously monotone voices. I’ve listened to them repeatedly describe their situation as-if they’ve forgotten what they said before their last silence. A brief auditory glimpse into what may be depression.
Scary Duck pointed out this blog post: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/depression-part-two.html
Allie’s story captured my attention, held it with wit and comic engaging sketches. It’s helped give me an insight into one way of experiencing depression. I’ll be following Allie’s writing from now on, once I work out how to replace my google reader….
Names on below the Maiwand lion in Reading town’s Forbury Gardens.
The lion commemorates the deaths of 329 men from the 66th Berkshire Regiment during the campaign in Afghanistan between 1878 and 1880
Attempting to conform to current femininity fashions such as displaying large breasts is both
- expensive – financially and emotionally
- dangerous for your health – mentally and physically
The UK for-profit organisation that supplied most of the PIP breast enlargement implants (made from industrial grade silicon) does not have the resources to rectify it’s mistake by removing the 14,000 implants and ‘reconstructing’ the deformed breasts. The NHS will not remove implants until after they have malfunctioned. That means that they will wait until the woman is injured before they will take safety surgery – they will not repair, they will just remove the leaking implant.
The mainstream media covers this from a ‘faulty goods’ supplied perspective, acknowledging that the recipients of PIP implants are experiencing distress and pain and that PIP was naughty for breaking the law and not using medical grade silicon. None of the mainstream media I’ve found has dared to comment on the socio-cultural environment that first drove these women to choose the physical pain and risk of major surgery to change thier bodies. This is a critical causal precursor for the existence of an industry that makes money out of mutilating women, a critical part of the story. Removing this industry would remove the possibility of faulty goods in the first place – remove the pain and the risk.
Meanwhile, the internet provides alternative news style stories, for example, The London Feminist refers to the illegal practices of the Harley Medical group and how they explicitly leverage (illegal) advertising to promote their for-profit services. It’s good to find intelligent, well researched, alternative news stories but sad that feminist perspectives rarely seep into mainstream media storylines
Today this tragedy, one of many perpetuated against women, leaves me feeling:
- Sadness for, and anger on behalf of, the many women around the world who were given PIP implants in their attempt to conform with current fashion.
- Relief that I chose to accept the lesser risk of ongoing abuse for not aspiring to conform to femininity fashions
- Guilt that I am surviving without the fashion trappings of femininity when others are suffering more than I….
The sound of the phone ringing gradually woke me. Nearly 6am (Pacific coast time), only UK friends would call me at this unearthly time in the morning. Sleepily I reached for the phone and pulled it to my ear only to hear the dial-tone. Who-ever called had hung-up. I never found out who called. Awake I decided to get up and make myself a cup of tea, to enjoy the sunny morning before setting out for work.
In my doziness I stubbed my toe on the half-packed suitcase, preparing for my planned sailing holiday in Greece. Scheduled to fly out on September 16th I was looking forward to a club holiday with English friends I hadn’t seen for a long time, a reunion vacation.
I put the kettle and TV on. The sound of emergency services, the stressful pitch of the voices, the urgency and drama was clear before I’d even realised what I was seeing. I watched as flight 175 hit the South Tower. I cried.
Nearly 3 hours later at work, not much work being done, by anyone. Many people just didn’t turn up, those who did were phoning relatives and friends, trying to reassure themselves that the people they knew who worked in the World Trade centre were ok. Everyone seemed to know someone who worked in the towers or lived nearby. The general sense of anxiety mixed with silence lasted all day and soaked into the future.
All flights in the US airspace were grounded. I never joined my friends in Greece, a small loss in the whole scheme of things. My parents, in Italy, had nowhere to stay because American tourists, unable to get home, were staying in the hotel rooms my parents had booked
That day changed my world
In my dream I was still living with the *anker that I actually left in 2000 after years of building up the pluck to walk out. Tight black leather jeans, tears bullying, and that was just his his contribution to the dream, mine was even more icky. I fell over several times at a cricket match during the game. Most embaressing.
Godley and Creme sang Under your thumb
Prefab Sprout put their finger on a fundamental truth when they pointed out that some things hurt much more than cars and girls. Cars and girls have been kind to me so far, some things have been less forgiving, for example Dentists, Ski Lifts and Curb Stones
Prefab Sprout sang Cars and Girls
Wendy: yes please, how is she?
Mumzie: she died last week.
Her children thought they’d inherit the house, were planning to move in. They would have been good neighbours. But she had a reverse mortgage which means the bank owns the house and is selling it.
- Human or computer? Can a computers intellignce make it indistinguishable from a human by another human? Turing test
- Hererosexual or gay? Can a gay persons behavior make them indistinguishable from a heteresexual to the UK law? Turing failed this test
The UK prime minister apologises to the now deceased Alan Turing for the government removing his security clearance and hence his job when Alan was found guilty of being gay. Reprogramming involved chemical castration, Alan committed suicide.
This morning BBC Radio 4 appeared to focus on the
- Prime Minister’s apology to Alan
- broadening of police record checks for people that have regular or intense contact with children
- Afghanistan election irregularities
September 11th 2001 was mentioned, a brief comment on the lack of progress in redeveloping the site of the former Twin Towers.
Matrix starts chasing her tail. She has never chased her tail before. I stop making the bed to watch her playfulness, she is bearing her teeth and growling. She falls over, her bowels open and her body twitches wildly. After less than a minute she stops convulsing and lies still. I pick her up and carry her to a warm soft bed on the floor by the phone while I call the emergency vet. Matrix and I cry as I dial.
While the vet questions me. Matrix stops crying and starts to walk around. Yes her breathing is normal, yes her movement is normal. She’s not dragging her back legs. Her pupils are no longer dilated. The vet advises me to keep her warm, let her eat and drink and watch her closely for an hour. The vet says it is fairly common for aging cats to have seizures.
I called mumzie. “Oh yes dear, Jason had a seizure while he was sleeping, about 4 years before he died. He hardly noticed it, I did because he emptied his bowels all over our nice new sofa, what a mess”
Peacefully, Matrix watched while I cleaned the mess.
Today I’m catless, carless, surrounded by dissembled furniture and half packed suitcases.
Goodbye blubbing by me and soulful wailing by Sampo. Matrix looked her normal relaxed self.
Matrix and Sampo can’t join me in the UK until the last 4 months of their PETS passport process, 6 months quarantine, is finished. Today they moved to their US foster home.