This Simple Life

I believed, stupidly, that life would get easier as we age.

This is not the case and no one escapes, in this writers life.

I always wanted to write, that is a given with me, so I blog.

I am not competitive but have learned that button once pushed does not easily switch off. I try to get to the gym  2 or 3 times a week, to offset the bad habits I have i.e. slouching over a computer screen,  and the inherited family traits of heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure. And have discovered it is addictive, sociable and exhausting but good.

As kids, we were brought up believing it is good to give back, so I volunteer.

I work with Ellie, who being a collie is all about being busy. Working with her led me to find a lab who also likes to work and now she has two sons who live to find anything I care to hide.

I almost forgot, I work not a full week but I work and now help to take care of Dad.

Add that into the mix along with a reluctance to say no and there is an explosion waiting to happen.

So I have decided to cut back but on what?  Housework is the tempting answer to that question, but I am a woman and we are programmed to only ignore the dust for so long.

Yes, this simple life I crave is a dream.

So any suggestions or advice would be gratefully received, mulled over and … tried out for a month or two.

Perhaps I should follow Bob’s example.

 

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Life’s Lessons – Maria’s Diary

Learning is an ongoing natural progress for everyone. My dad used to say, the day we stop learning is the day we die. That was when life was sweet, everything ran in a predictable fashion.  That is, toasters blew up, kids got sick with all the normal stuff, flu, measles etc. Back then money was tight but everyone managed as we simply got on with day-to-day living. Today life should be easier two kids grown and with no mortgage, we have it made.

Now, however, we are faced with a new challenge. How to cope with and help an aging parent whose memory is behaving in an erratic fashion. When I mention the words, vascular dementia, I get sympathetic looks but not much practical advice. So if anyone in the blogging world has experience of this unpredictable event in our lives, I would appreciate all of the advice you can throw my way.

Bob is as usual, kindly on standby to offer hugs to everyone including dad. Though he is still miffed over the bow  tie photo so, what the heck here is a reminder.

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Maria’s Stuff: Reality Check – One year on and still missing her.

The 30th of May was an awkward weird day. I woke remembering but trying hard not to visualise my last few minutes with my mum.

After watching her cope with being paralyzed on her left side, and her ensuing struggle to live on a daily basis I have learnt to recognize, and admire the courage of the elderly and anyone who is ill.

On a stranger note I get angered by the daily flippant changes in our Irish healthcare system which are  devoid of commonsense, logic and business sense.

I do have many regrets involving her last year. The main one being my constant questions (in my own mind) about how we failed in our lack of care. We did everything we could at the time, don’t get me wrong but looking back I see the faults, the areas where I should have demanded more on her behalf.

The reality of a situation like that is though you may be doing the best you can for them, I felt, in this case,nothing I did was good enough. I am left wondering and questioning if I could have done better, more..

For now, I focus on remembering the times we laughed, moaned or groaned to each other .

I have also learnt that a life no matter how long or short it is, is often remembered by moments. These snapshots bring back memories of vivid happiness, fun, grief, nothing escapes but they are all moments to be treasured.

For the first time in my life I appreciate and understand her unspoken philosophy of being involved, doing something no matter how trivial or menial. The size of the gesture or involvement doesn’t matter. It is the act of living, being part of life. And all I can add is for such a small woman she managed to do a whole lot of living.

Tricks, new and old.

Joe stood staring out at the sea. He was an upright weather beaten man in his late seventies. The large shaggy dog sat at his side.

Joe’s sadness stretched out and down into the depths of the sea, his school friend Larry had died two days ago. It was a fine funeral.

Joe wished he knew if there was something after this life. He would discover the truth sooner rather than later. He grinned remembering long hours spent debating the what if’s of the whole matter, while perched on their regular high stools. We enjoyed the debate, even if we never came to a concrete decision. He shook his head, now they would never debate anything again.

A bird flew low heading inland to it’s nest.

“We should do the same Rigsby”, he said, “but it won’t matter much if we take a bit more time. It’s nice out here.”

His eyes met the dog’s solemn stare, “raw and wild, the way life should be, not confined by rules we are afraid to step beyond.”

Joe chuckled remembering the way he could never colour within the given lines as a child. A talent he carried with him throughout his teenage years and into adulthood.

“Hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” he said as the dog nuzzled his hand. “But I’ve been told I have to conform, behave rather than indulge in whims, or wild and fanciful moments.”  He had spent the last six months behaving in a manner befitting his age while he stayed by Larry’s side.

“Boring, awful depressing stuff,” he muttered.  “But today we escaped our minders,”

Laura had been fussing about him going to a funeral, standing about in the cold. “You might catch something, Dad,” she scolded.

“Wouldn’t that be something! Imagine catching anything at my age,” he replied. He felt guilty at having given her the slip, she would worry and he’d hear all about it when she caught up with him.

He reckoned they had a good hour yet. ‘What would you do Larry if you were here with me?” He grinned as the sun switched its power on him.

He could hear his friend say, “Why Joe, I’d dive in, go for a swim, enjoy meself isn’t that what truly matters? Live for the moment.”

‘What the hell, you are right Larry. Let’s celebrate the fact that I am here,’ he chuckled as he pulled off his shoes and socks. “Come on Rigsby, let’s live!”

When the gentle ‘woof’ of approval was given together man and dog went for a paddle.

Maria’s stuff – Manners and Questions

I was clearing around Mum’s grave yesterday evening. I don’t tend to stand and pray but yesterday I felt compelled to say ‘thank you.’ I had three decisions to make in the past few weeks and was, as usual, dithering.

In the end I made the decisions in a hurry and two have worked out for the best, but it was due to a conversation I had with  her in the previous week. I know it sounds as though I have lost the plot, visiting a grave and having a one sided conversation doesn’t sound like a sane choice, but…

It worked for me.

So to make a long story short, I was thanking her yesterday when it dawned on me that those are two words that are vanishing from our lives.

We never think of the trouble people go to on our behalf and say “thank you” to them.

My husband made a comment a while back, that he doesn’t like opening doors for younger women. The reason being they either think he is up to some evil trick, or they think it is demeaning to them, inferring they need a door to be opened. His question of – “Haven’t we gone too far?” – got me wondering again,

In the past I volunteered with delight for various groups that were looking for help but today if you volunteer you are required to go through a garda vetting (which is only right) but also you have to do a number of courses to allow you to volunteer.  So here I am looking at unemployment once again and being left with a choice: I can retrain at 54 or volunteer.

The question is which role am I more capable of filling? I know that the second choice is probably the way to go but … with a string of courses already to my name I am now discovering that some wise man or woman has moved the goal posts and I will have to redo most of the courses, ( possibly trek over and back to England if I wish to volunteer with Ellie  my collie cross ) if I wish to return to the role of volunteer.

Bewildering isn’t it?

My question for today is,

Do you think that helping others has become too complicated?

Minding Mum


Mum’s ten year struggle ended on 30th May 2013.

The turning point in her life was a freak accident. A horse box ramp fell back on her pinning her to the ground. Two operations later, she declared she was alright.

I noticed a change in her, she was still bossy, inquisitive and loving but no longer the driving force for family events. Gradually, she stopped doing the things she used to love, driving, going to the local historic society, watching her grand son run at athletic meetings, until her days were spent at home, reading the papers, cooking and watching tv.

Her decline continued,  she relinquished her cooking and cleaning duties to Dad, who was hopeless at both but did his best.  Questions like, “How do I cook a turkey?”, her answer, “Put it in the oven”, became the normal for him.

In late July 2012 she suffered numerous strokes. She was given the last rites and declared, “I don’t want to die.”

She didn’t.

Confined to bed by a body that was weak and wouldn’t work the way she wanted it to brought more change.  A liquid diet and constant attention meant that by October she was ready to be released.

She came home. My husband worked a miracle and transformed mum’s sitting room into her bedroom. Lizzie, my sister and me were dad’s support in his care of mum. Rolling up our sleeves we did so with great enthusiasm, and ignorance to the amount of work and vigilance that is needed. The house often shook with everyone’s laughter as we learnt to cope.

The decline of her health robbed us of time.  My parents were robbed of their daily banters, outings, visits to friends and  simple things like shopping. Most importantly she was robbed of her independence.

Dad’s life was stressful, watching for signs of infection, having carers arrive three times a day for  thirty minutes, nurses, doctors, travelling with her by ambulance to the hospital close to us  to be told she couldn’t be given the correct treatment but the hospital  ninety miles away could take her, sitting in a & e’s while teams of doctors discussed what could be done or travelling by taxi in one instance.

Mum’s wicked sense of humour helped.

Her stubborness frustrated.  I doubted everything I was doing.

My mental health was being thrashed. On impulse, I rang a lady who offers help, she claims to be neither a medium or clairvoyant. Her first words to me were, “Come see me now.” I didn’t hesitate.

She didn’t give me a magic formula or the winning lotto numbers, but the truth. She described relations who were surrounding me in her room and with  her first words, ” The old lady with the limp says your mum is the contrariest woman in Ireland and she wants to have a haircut.” I knew she would only tell me the truth, as she was talking about my grandmother who died when I was around six years old. And mum did need a haircut.

I left her house that day and sat in the car crying. Oddly it helped. I owe her a lot for giving me hope and strength.

Life didn’t get easier in the following eight weeks.

We are still dealing with the fall out of her ill health. I had many rough moments, my brother attempting to pick a fight with me,  and  an answer to the question, should we resusitate her if… being the toughest two moments I had to deal with in the past year.

Truthfully  your health is your wealth,  protect it and ..

Laugh frequently.