Friday, 19 June 2015

51 and a half.

Today, someone asked me to tell them how old I think I am.  It was in an argument about whether we should use age as a classifier for a shared or common interest.  Her view is that actual age in years from birth is only used to reinforce prejudice and that what she refers to as true age can only be determined by a number of factors, including health conditions.  I think, in a roundabout way, she has fully embraced the old saying about being as old as you feel.

Well anyway, here's the answer I gave her.
...  In my head I feel as though I'm still very young with a huge amount about people and this beautiful planet still to learn.  However, also in my head, I also recognise just how much about people I have learned, how deep my respect runs for the individualism of every person, every culture, and every creed - or no creed.  I still laugh at toilet humour as I did when I was a child, but I'm also very proud of the fact that I have a child of my own who is growing into a deeply thoughtful, caring young man.  Instead of fearing the way each second ticks by, bringing me closer to the parting of ways, I embrace every birthday knowing that the previous year has taught me so very much, and brought me so much joy and pain, laughter and tears, because I am still alive to watch the clouds.

My body is a different matter.  The mantra of my doctors since I was 22 has been "but you're too young... oh" as they've read test results.  At 42, I was told I had the hips of an 80 year old.  "OK, well she can have them back any time" was my reply.  Nevertheless, whatever my body or mind may think, I am 51 1/2 years old because a year is 365 days long and I have lived through 51 years and 6 months exactly today :-)

And then I asked the mods to close the thread because it was so far off topic.

I don't think age should only be defined as a way of segregating people, although sometimes doing so can be beneficial if that's what the individual wants.  However discrimination and prejudice prosper not because we define other people in ways in which we differ, physically or in any other way.  They exist and are fed because people in our society have, for centuries, delineated each other by determining that some of these inherent, beautiful differences are less attractive, less powerful, or at the most basic level, less human than others.  I don't think I need to elucidate on that.  The shame is that so long after one man persuaded his country that one entire such classification of human beings needed to be wiped out in its entirety, we are still doing it.

Maybe it's some amygdalean danger trigger that makes us see the difference before we see the similarities.  Maybe that's why racism, genderism, ageism, religionism are so easily fanned into the flames of hatred.  Maybe we all need to just train our responses a little better so that our immediate response to difference isn't fear, but acceptance that humanity comes in all shapes, sizes, colours, beliefs, and ages.

Monday, 1 June 2015

One year on...

Well, almost.

By this time last year, I had moved into my mother's bedroom.  I slept on a recliner chair as close to her bed as I could get, and we would hold hands for most of the night.

She had started sleeping with the lamp on, didn't want it switched off.  So I lowered it to the floor on the other side of the bed.  The muted light warmed the pink walls, made her look beautiful, and reassured both of us without stopping us from sleeping.  She would wake up several times a night, and I would feed her water with thickeners in, or squash, or even a cup of tea thickened to gloopiness.  This stopped her choking by slowing down its passage over the back of her tongue.  She would pull a really funny "That Is YUK" face, and I would say "I know, I know".  She would whisper "thank you" as I put the drink back down on her bedside.

Sometimes I would wake to find her sitting on the edge of the bed.  I would sit next to her, and the imbalance in our weight would make her tip onto my breast.  I would hold her like a child, kiss the top of her head, and give her back a very gentle massage.  "This is heaven", she would try to say.  She would reach over and rest her hand in my lap, the closest she could get to cuddling me back.  Then I would carefully help her back into bed, lifting her legs and making sure her pillows were comfortable.  With my kiss on her forehead, she would sigh herself back into sleep.

As June 2014 broke, she had lost the ability to move unaided.  Her skin had become extremely sensitive to touch.  The nurses explained this was because her body was channelling all its dwindling energy into keeping her internal organs functioning.  She had virtually stopped eating, not completely, but only one or two spoonfuls of yoghurt 2 or 3 times a day.  Her medication was stopped because she could no longer swallow the tablets, and they no longer had a life-saving or enhancing function to perform.

Her speech had become very limited.  "I love you" and "Thank you" still outnumbered in frequency "It's hurting", but not by much.  She was still smiling, in between ever-longer bouts of sleepiness.  On one very early morning, she said "Give me joy, give me peace" and so I sang the hymn to her, the opening hymn at our wedding.

During the days, Peg, Margaret and I would sit and chat around her bed.  Sometimes hushed, but often normally, and frequently laughing.  Mum would smile in her sleep.  I remember using a hostess trolley to serve tea and coffee, and getting a belly laugh from both sisters.  It worked for me!  There were no tea spills that day!

But looking back through a year of blurs to a time I can see so very clearly, feel so piercingly, I relive the joy of being told that I had become a wonderful woman and that she was so very proud of me; the pain of watching my dearest, closest friend slip away; the comfort of knowing that she wanted me there, and that I could be useful.

Mum died on 10 June 2014.  ELO's Mr Blue Sky was playing on the radio, and Peggy was in the shower.  The Macmillan nurses and the district nurse turned up 2 seconds after I had called to Peggy to come now, and rang Margaret.  We held her hands, stroked her hair, and said our goodbyes as she gently left us.

Today I can describe these events with tears on my face and pain so fierce that I can't breathe for it.  I can never look away from her eyes, her smile, the love which was tangible as it poured from her face.  My gentle mother, my lifeblood, my soul, how I miss you.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Yesterday, my mum hugged me, kissed me, and told me she loves me.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Upsy downsy day

So this is my first blog of 2014?  I'm aghast.

Well anyway.

Today has been one of those days.  One of those days when I don't want to do anything.  When I don't want to go out.  When I am determined to get *something* - just one little thing - ticked off my to-do list.  Have I done that little thing?  Probably not.

The black dog is snapping at my heels again.  Every little bit of inertia, or wanting to crawl under the duvet and hide, of overwhelming sadness, of total apathy, feeds him.  And he can jolly well bugger off.  Only he won't if I try to ignore him.

I made myself go out and get a haircut.  You know it's bad when the lovely haircutting man holds up the mirror and asks your opinion, and your eyes fill up because you desperately need to feel lifted by something, somewhere.

When you walk home and are too tired to make a cuppa.  When you look around you and you hear the black dog howling right behind you as you despair of ever seeing the house tidy.

When he stops howling and backs off just a little, because a neighbour stops you in the street to tell you you inspire her.

There's still time to do that list.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Fare thee well, 2013

And so the year ends and another begins.

What did 2013 mean for me?  I can't remember most of it; it's gone, and hopefully left me a better being.

What do I hope for from 2014?  That everyone out there finds the meaning of true love - the love that comes with inner peace; with that acceptance of self that, in my generation at least, was guilt-tripped out of us; and that stems from looking outwards.  That is my meaning of true love; without it, giving love to others is worthless - why would someone give a gift to someone else if they rejected its inherent value?

Success and failure are just two sides of action.  If I have failed, it means that I've tried; and I reject the idea that to try but not succeed, is failure.  It's not.  Doing nothing, saying nothing, passing by and not trying to give of oneself - that's the only true failure I can think of.

2013 was a mixed year.  It's had its lows and even lowers; but it has cemented so many relationships, brought my friends so many new family members, human and otherwise; and some of my friends have lost family or friends, human or otherwise.  The pain and the joy are likewise two sides of the same coin - they mean that love has been shared.    To think of someone, positively or negatively, is to bestow a gift on them - the time and effort to generate that thought.

And so another year is born.  Long live the New Year, its hopes and dreams, its fears and torments, its strengths and its weaknesses.  My hope just for me is that I have the wisdom to shape it for good, and to resist those forces inside and outside that would shape it in any other way.

May 2014 bless you with love, whoever you are and wherever you may be.

Monday, 16 December 2013

It's the end of a decade... Abba

Today is my last Monday as a forty-something.  I'm as excited as a child that on Thursday I face the next 10 years even more liberated and liberating.  But I've been reflecting on the year, and the decade, and thought it time to blog again.

When I turned 40 in 2003, Great Chief White Hair took me for a day out in London.  Young Master was then 4 1/2 and it was a school day, so he didn't come with us.  We flew on the London Eye, had a very posh dinner in the very posh restaurant in the OXO Tower, and went to see a theatre performance of The Hobbit which had a cast of about 5 people.  It was a magical day.

Shortly after that, my GP told me that after 40 my body would break down - how right he was!

2003 was also the year that I bought my first computer.  My father's daughter, I've always loved electronic gadgets, and I often think of him when I'm tapping away at the screen, remembering the hours he used to spend teaching himself to program his first computer.  He taught me how to use MS-DOS to get it to tell the time - but I never mastered anything more technical than that.  All I remember now is "if A = B, run like hell" or something.  Taking my own machine out of its many boxes, plugging it all in, and expecting it to explode as I put the wrong plug in the wrong socket - so exciting.  Of all the life-changing events that happened in this decade, getting a computer was probably one of the most subtle.  It should have had fanfares and drum-rolls or something.

I could do a year-by-year documentary, but I'm not going to.  Although the scales would probably still tip towards the good rather than the bad, it's been.... an interesting decade.  I'm still making the same mistakes, but I've learned far more about who I am, and about the amazing men I share my life with, than in any other period of my life. 

So what about 2013?  It's been another interesting year.  By interesting I mean that it's had good and bad but it's never been boring.  I am somewhat more debilitated now than I was at the start of the year, but then I have degenerative problems so that's to be expected.  But I've been blessed with the love and support and friendship of so many wonderful people. 

This year I lost a cousin who meant the world to me.  I couldn't go to his funeral, couldn't even express my sympathy for my cousins in words.  He had lost his teenage daughter in January, and the loss within his own family is unimaginable.  I remember Paul as one of my only childhood playmates, when my cousins used to visit with my grandmother; I remember the time she won the pools - but he'd lost the ticket.  I remember visiting Nanna Annie and Paul roaring up on his motorbike...

It's been a difficult year in many ways.  Some of it will carry forward to next year; some of it can be thankfully left behind without a backwards glance.  But it's also been a huge year.  A year of love, laughter, peace and fulfillment.  What more can I ask?  

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mugged by a memory

Ever since I woke up this morning, I've been revisiting a memory from early childhood.  Why today, and why so vividly, I have no idea.

I was with my father in a market in London.  Right now I can feel his hand wrapped tightly around mine, warm and comforting, as we crossed a busy main road.  I was so little, and he seemed so big to me, his youngest daughter - dark, with almost jet-black hair.  We walked into the market and he became engrossed in a stall selling electrical gizmos.  I didn't wander, but was far enough away for a blond, tall man in a yellow sheepskin coat to approach me and hand me a leaflet, saying "give this to your dad".  He was friendly and smiled, and called me pretty so I took it. 

When I handed it over as instructed, Dad did something that, on reflection, was just amazing.  He glanced at it, asked me gently who had given it to me; I pointed at the man who hadn't walked far away.  Dad strode up to him (bearing in mind this guy was considerably taller than Dad's 5'6) and engaged him in chat before yelling in his face that he was a coward to use children to spread his poison.  "If you've got anything to say, you say it to me, not my little girl".  The leaflet went in the bin, I asked but wasn't told what it said, and I got a stern lecture about talking to strangers - even nice, smiley, friendly strangers.  I can still remember the look of frozen surprise on the man's face as my fair, terribly English father grabbed the hand of the little, dark girl he'd encountered earlier.

It was many years later that we were in another (or the same?) market, and another (or the same?) man in a yellow sheepskin coat was handing out flyers.  This time, he sneaked one into my hand.  This time, I read it and stuck it in the next bin without having any understanding of what the National Front stood for.