Wednesday 21st October 2020

Telling My Story. 2007. Part Two. Chapter Seventeen. 81/2020.

Telling My Story. 2007. Part Two. Chapter Seventeen. 81/2020.

2007 was a very full year of significant events which is why I have made it a two-parter! 

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Seventeen. Part One from last week is here.

I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

My Mum Has Died. 

Whilst her life in the last 2 or so years were not great, Mum did have a story to tell which I, along with my father and brother were happy to write as part of her soon-to-happen funeral.I admit, some of the days prior were a bit tense but when a family comes together and they wish to do what the remaining partner (Dad) wishes, then so be it. With help and support from extended family, a private funeral service and a wake back at (Mum) and Dad’s house family set about getting organised. Mum and Dad’s early years together are part of this Telling My Story Chapter here:

My daughter – Mum’s first grandchild – and I put together the small orders of service and we reminisced about a lot. My brother and his wife were helping Dad – they lived a lot closer and things like Mum’s clothes and the food and drink back at the wake were organised. Our contingent, travelled in a couple of cars from our area of Sydney and we met at the family home. I had an idea that if each of the women and girls wanted to wear something of Mum’s jewellery to her service, that would be nice. Everyone did and kept that.

I know my reaction to the event was both sad and also of relief. I actually wanted to give the eulogy but Dad refused. He gave that job to the minister who had never met Mum and only knew Dad from arranging the service at a church that he felt Mum would have wanted. Nevertheless he did a reasonable job and there were smiles and tears at the words. Dad, again, his idea, decided that no-one would accompany Mum’s body to the crematorium. Sadly she left alone. Our son, called out to her in farewell as her casket was taken.

Back to Dad’s house – not Mum’s anymore and we all mingled, with some of the close  friends Dad invited and gave her a farewell with champers and food. Sigh. Dad collected Mum’s ashes some weeks later, offered some to his family, and we said “no, thanks, keep Mum together!”. Dad planted 3 new favourite plants of hers (pretty sure, they are in this background) and added her ashes. When he sold the house and went to the independent living unit, he took one remaining pot with him.

Dad, Me & His (then) 3 Great Grandkids: front garden.

How Did I Manage?

Given that I had to start at a new school and a new job at a college just as we received the news that Mum had brain tumours, my mind was in overdrive. However, the income was needed but over the 2 weeks or so as she was hospitalised in palliative care, my wise GP told me I was far better acknowledging the grief and distraction and to take time off now and into the time following Mum’s death. I agreed and it helped greatly to know that I could get over to see her and help Dad as needed.

Never think a job is more important than these very significant times in family life.

There Will Be A New Grandchild In Our Lives in 2007.

This news was unexpected, welcomed and a big surprise. The mother-to-be and her partner, our son, were expecting. This gave me a very different and welcomed focus. I sure love being Grandma…and had 3 gorgeous grandkids already, but it had been 6 years since any were babies. I admit I went into Grandma-Must-Get “this for them and this for our house” and more….because having passed the grandbaby part of our lives, I had given quite a bit away. I was told that I needed to pull back a bit from this and I admit I needed this big time…looking at it now, I did, ahem over do it and yes, it was probably a great way to overcome the sadness of Mum’s death.

School. Work. Back To It. Grief.

It’s always hard to return to a job after a significant event like this one, my mother’s grave illness then death, but routine and work can help. I admit to some overwhelm and sadness and I think this was more about me trying to keep it all together. I have mentioned before that Mum and I were never that close yet it did surprise me that I felt the  tears prick at times, and as Mother’s Day 2007 beckoned, I recall thinking “no need for a card any more” and that sure did cement the finality. As the years have gone on, I have had some regrets about my relationship with Mum and have, in some ways, made some peace with her in the ways in which I bring up her name in family conversations and talk to Dad about her. He saw a grief counsellor after Mum died and the idea put to him that he write letters to Mum gelled. He filled folders and folders of these, only finishing a few years back. Every family event, anything of significance, Dad wrote to Mum about it. He would say it was very helpful.

Yes, back to work. I maintained the face of not minding where I was teaching but when an offer came that I could return to my former and preferred school I jumped at it. Sure it wasn’t as it used to be there as a new teacher had been appointed but I knew the school, the kids and the staff…and was 10 minutes from home. 3 days a week. Done. Did not go back to the College once the first term was over. Yay.

Moments, Days And Times To Enjoy.

Dad is a very practical person and he had run the house he and Mum lived in for at least 2 years before she died. Mum, who was incredibly energetic and liked to socialise had changed greatly over the years and this had taken a toll on Dad but he also needed to get stuff done. He stayed in their large family home for the next few years. More on that in chapters to come. He was the one who, on Mum’s death, disposed of her clothing and more once any of of us had a chance to speak up for what we might like. I took some scarves (never was my Mum’s small size anyway) and I was given all of her jewellery after others had a chance to select something for themselves. I have these in safe keeping now. Dad had a good set of friends and one part of his  family were not too far away. He got on with some days well, and at other times he craved company and went next door or to his local club to catch up.

I was busy back at the school I loved, and wrote the school’s English as a Second Language policy. The person who replaced me (ha!) got the job based on seniority on a waiting list. Her skills in administration were not, ahem, those of a former school principal. Fortunately for me, I was able to choose my work path and we only needed to connect from time to time. I was also getting closer to becoming Grandma to a little one again. Joyous times awaited.

HE is here.

The first son (and child for his parents) arrived…not as his mother had hoped…on a different day to her birthday but, yes, ON her birthday. Ah well, they will never forget each other’s birthdays! This young baby boy was a bit big. OK. A lot big..in the head. We do have big heads in our family. And, whilst his birth was a trauma for him, as he had to be delivered by forceps, his Mum and his Dad – along with their Obstetrician were champions. We got to meet this second grandson for us a little while after his arrival. Because of his rocky entry to the world, he could not be held by anyone other than his Mum (and Dad, I think) whilst in hospital.

My tradition has been to secure some tiny wee cloth/soft toy for the baby and I managed to get him a little bear for inside his hospital bed. His parents had a double bed in the room, and our son stayed too, in between I think Uni and work. I do know that I kept up snack and drinks supplies to the new parents.

And then they came home. I was invited to take photos of their arrival home. Luckily it was school holidays but knowing me, I would have taken the day off.

Firsts.

In 2007 we remembered these firsts:

  • first Mother’s Day without Mum
  • first time I worked in an adult English as a Second Language setting
  • first time I learned our son and his then partner were having a child
  • first time Dad spent Christmas with us, and without Mum
  • first car I owned which would be the one I helped with being a regular carer of  grandchildren because: 7 seater. Lots of room for carseats to fit “all” sizes.
  • first time our family spent time together at my parents’ house but without Mum’s presence
  • first time I held a baby boy who is the son of my son
  • first time I knew that I wanted to have time to teach for only 2-3 days a week…because:
  • in 2008 I would, for the first time, be caring for a young grandson when his Mum went back to work, and Dad too, along with Uni for up to 3 days a week.

That’s a wrap for a big year. So big it was written in two parts.

Thank you for reading…and commenting too.

Denyse.

Linking up here with Leanne and friends on Thursdays.

 

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Telling My Story. 2007. Part One. Chapter Seventeen. 79/2020.

Telling My Story. 2007. Part One. Chapter Seventeen. 79/2020.

2007 was a very full year of significant events which is why I have made it a two-parter! 

So, about a hundred three years ago ….I thought it was time, seeing I had a blog, to start writing my story. It was on advice from a blogging friend, now published author (her story is here) that I did. Then, for a long time I did not. Because cancer was diagnosed. Nevertheless, I eventually returned to the story and now I am at…drum roll… Chapter Seventeen. I know it’s been a while since I last posted. All the posts are here if you would like to check them out.

 

We Did Not Know What 2007 Would Bring.

Of course no-one can predict a year and what it might hold….case in point 2020…but this one sure did challenge me and those I love. Where to start? I guess, of course right at the beginning of 2007. And as I began to write, I realised I would need to make this a Part One and a Part Two year. Next week, I will conclude Telling My Story 2007.

My teaching role: changes. Not happy, but at least I have some paid work.

I am a practical and resourceful person who love(s/d) her teaching role. After gaining my Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in 2006 I heard the disappointing  news that I could not stay at the school where I had started (again) in 2004. There was now a permanent person appointed. What to do? I sent emails to a few former principal colleagues  about my availability as an E.S.L. teacher 3 days a week and within a few days, was able to say “YES thank you” to Sue at H.P.S. I would add to the staff she said, not only my E.S.L. expertise but my leadership skills. OK. Flattered of course. I readied to leave the school I loved and my dear husband was my courier of all things teaching to the new school to a very old half a portable building in the back of the school grounds. But wait, there is more before I even start at school.

Mum becomes much more seriously ill. 

At the end of Chapter Sixteen I wrote that Mum and Dad celebrated their 60th (Diamond) Wedding Anniversary with the family and a few friends but Mum’s health had been declining for more than a year. Dad says over 2 years. He of course, noticed far more than we did. Mum made it, with Dad’s help to celebrate Christmas 2006 at my brother’s and we all joined them. That was probably the last time we did have Mum with us all. Early January 2007 after an incident where Mum had a ‘bump’ into a door and hurt her head, Dad was reluctant to let us know as we had taken a few days to have a break on the south coast. His birthday was celebrated very simply with my daughter, some of her kids and my niece, joining my parents for a simple morning tea. The last photo of Mum is at that small event. It would have been important for Mum to have a cake for him. She did not make this cake though as had been her tradition.

We returned from our holiday and I was surprised to be asked to help Dad out, because they lived an hour from us and I wondered why. I guess, he had downplayed Mum’s condition for “protective measures” and also because Mum was exceedingly private about anything medical. Oh, and worrier to the nth degree. I drove to their place, as requested, on a very warm mid -January afternoon to be the chauffeur to take Dad and Mum to a much needed catch up appointment with her specialist Neurologist. Back story: Mum had, for some time, exhibited symptoms which could have been Parkinson-based or maybe not. This man was a kindly person and whilst Mum found it hard to hear (deaf most of her adult life) he tried to ease her anguish. I did not go into this appointment with them but when Mum came out, I assisted her to the ladies and for the first time, saw her need to guided help as she walked. A wake-up call for me.

I drove Mum and Dad home. The specialist was going to organise for Mum to have an MRI (I think) within the next weeks. Time did not allow for that to occur on his watch, as that weekend, Mum became confused somewhat by pain and Dad made the call to take her to the ED at the local hospital. She was seen by a couple of people that Sunday and Dad tried to let them know what the history was, but with a couple of tests and a CT (I think) they said “take her home.”

Dad was appalled but did as they said. The next day, Monday, he was onto the specialist Neurologist immediately who was sorry he had not given Dad his mobile number but said, I will arrange for her to be admitted to the private hospital now. But then, Dad took another call, from the local public hospital. “Oh, could you bring your wife in please, we have seen tumours in her brain”. Umm. No thank you.

Meanwhile, I started a new adult teaching role.

Gosh, way to add complications to my life. However, I needed an income and found work on a day when I was not going to be in a school, at Chatswood helping older people learn English to function. I admit, it did last for only 10 weeks but it was not a role I loved. More later. The one thing that was a bit convenient on one of the days, was that after teaching, I was close to the hospital where Mum was.

Term One. School, Adult Education and a New Vehicle.

Before returning to teaching at the end of January 2007, I sold my sedan and became the proud owner of a Grandma-suitable vehicle called an Avensis. It could seat seven and even though we had only 3 grandchildren then, I felt this vehicle was more appropriate for my travels to school as well as across Sydney. I did not, dear reader, anticipate the number of grandchildren would change. This news…later.

I kind of settled into the new (to me) primary school where I was a part-time E.S.L. teacher for 3 days a week. I found it a hard role in some ways as at my previous school I was able to make it my own but, ever resourceful, I was able to find I could contribute to this school’s teaching and made some kind friends. It was though, at the back of my mind all through February that Mum was seriously ill. Not quite fully cognisant of what would lie ahead, I did make meals for Dad and did what I could on my days off to help. The role at the adult education college was not my ‘cup of tea’ because of the lack of relationship I was able to foster with the ‘students’. They all turned up with electronic dictionaries and really paid no heed to my teaching much at all. I will admit I sighed with relief when I said I was not able to return. Schools (and Uni teaching) were much more my style.

Knowing Mum Was Going To Die Soon.

By late January 2007, the decision NOT to operate on Mum’s secondary brain tumours (primary cancer never determined) was made by Mum. After the diagnostic MRI showed the reasons for her loss of sight and more, it was Mum who said “no more”. Dad asked us kids (my brother and me) and of course we agreed. So did her then team. What next? It was a confusing and not great time for us, mostly Mum.

  • She was allowed home with no support added at this stage, just Dad. My sister-in-law got in touch with some home care people and that was arranged for the next week
  • Mum became almost mute. We will never know how much she understood about her condition. Dad has told me since that “she was just not the woman I knew for the 2 years before this”. Of course, we have talked a lot about this and reckon it was a lot to do with Mum’s reticence along with her distaste of anything to do with hospitals.
  • Dad managed by himself initially and with a couple of aides who came to help Mum shower…and who Mum said ‘I don’t like this’ So that stopped.
  • I recall my s-i-l and I trying to wash Mum’s hair and dry it. Mum was soooo particular about her hair and in the previous months had no salon visits and would not allow her hairdresser to call in to help. We did not do a great job.
  • Mum needed attention through the night and Dad would help her to the toilet etc. This became very hard.
  • Dad had to really consider his own physical health and with some discussion with us (even though his mind was made up) and in consultation with Mum and Dad’s GP, it was time for Mum to go into a local private hospital for so-called palliative care.

It Seemed Very Sudden But It Seemed To Take Forever. 

Mum actually brought up the fact that Dad’s full-time care of her was very hard on him. I like that she was compassionate enough to see that. However, the next stage was very challenging. For them both. Even hearing about how it transpired still makes me both sad and a little mad. Dad too, as I now know.

The Regrets.

  • Dad and Mum’s GP was able to get Mum a bed at the local private hospital. Dad was reassured by that.
  • He sat with Mum on the lounge to explain what was going to happen on that same day. A Friday.
  • I am not sure who else was there. I know I heard about it after it happened.
  • An ambulance arrived for Mum’s transfer and that, my dear readers, was the last time she saw her home of 49 years. 1959-2007.
  • Dad had not realised, of course, that putting Mum in hospital prior to a weekend would mean no particular treatment or care would start till the Monday.
  • Mum was placed in a shared room. Her loss of hearing made that a huge challenge, along with her somewhat confused mind about “where and why”.

The Reality.

  • Dad did need this respite from care 24/7. There was no other option. Having said that, we have talked about it a lot. He would have waited till the Monday in hindsight.
  • We visited Mum around lunchtime Saturday and it was HOT. Her room, with a view of the harbour (at Manly) was nice but it was overpoweringly warm too. We lived an hour away. Dad lived within 15 minutes drive and my brother and family about 20 minutes away.
  • My husband offered to help Mum with the food that had been left for her. As he fed her, she said, heartbreakingly, “If I eat this, I will be allowed to go home.” Neither of us will forget that.
  • Mum who was a very private person found it awful to be sharing a room and I am pretty sure, told anyone in the family who visited.
  • We did try to organise visits to Mum was not burdened by too many even though she communicated very little.

Moved To a Better Room And Palliative Care Finally Happened.

  • Close to 3 weeks after Mum was admitted to this multi-purpose private hospital, Mum died peacefully late on a Monday night just before midnight. Dad was at home, and when he knew, he rang each of his kids.
  • But in the weeks in between Mum struggled. She spoke little. We knew she was in pain but it was unclear what would actually happen to help.
  • We know, some 13 years later, that advanced care plans are enacted and with the right medical people on side, comfort levels can be achieved.
  • It was only with some words from my sister-in-law, to those who were in charge, that she was given the amount of medication which should have happened much earlier. 
  • She was no longer on any kind of hydration nor offered nourishment.
  • However, hindsight is a thing. None of us wanted Mum to suffer needlessly.
  • Dad was with her every single day for part of the day. She was given care. Family visited on a planned basis.
  • I admit it became really, really hard to wait for the inevitable news, and with my husband present we sat beside Mum, talking softly and saying farewells along with handholding, and my husband saying the Lord’s Prayer….this was something my Dad asked him to do.
  • We did not return after that Friday visit.  I was very sad leaving her for the last time.
  • We waited at home and I began the inevitable task (lovingly sought) of writing up some words about her and making an order of service.

Life Goes On. In a Most Interesting and Unexpected Way. 

  • On the weekend before Mum died, our son and his partner told my father they were expecting a child. This was something completely unexpected by them as well as us.
  • We had been told too.
  • My son, particularly close to his grandmother, wanted to share the news with her. His grandfather, my dad, decided that it might be best left to him. Unsure why…but that IS my Dad.
  • Our son and his partner visited Mum too on that last  weekend of her life.
  • On hearing the news, my traditional mother reacted in a sweet and typically conservative way, asking if a wedding would also happen. Made me smile that did, that she could rally in that way!!

Gratitude for My Mum.

Whilst I would admit we were not close, as the years go by and I am ageing, I also find I am more like her than I realise.

Thank you Mum….

Love, Denyse.

 

Part Two: Next Wednesday. 

Joining Leanne and friends here on Thursdays for Lovin’ Life Linky.

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