Let’s Go for a Cup of Tea, Mum
August 9th 2014. That date is firmly etched into the neurones of my brain.
Let’s go for a cup of tea mum. The suitcase was already packed. It took all but two minutes to gather her things. The shiny hire car waiting outside in an attempt to put some dignity into the situation. Somehow the white R reg campervan with its eclectic sticker collection seemed inappropriate for the occasion. The 15miles in 30mins or thereabouts consisted of constant reassurance that we were going for a lovely cup of tea. Where are we going? Followed by continuous where are we goings? Knowing that this journey away from her home, would be her last. No return would be possible. Home had been deemed an unsafe place. A ‘special interests care order’ had been implemented and a deprivation of liberty document would shortly be signed by me too. This felt like the cruelest act I could ever do to another human being. To know that I was capable of such deceit and persuasion, let alone the ability to carry it out, disturbed me.
Ronnie had been ready with his 2:2 air rifle and the local police had been informed. We were not to take mum, not over his dead body. If only he had allowed the carers into the house. If only he hadn’t given mum neat rum. If only he hadn’t left mum alone for so many hours each day. If only he’d allowed her to go to the day centre in Catterick but that was full of thieves and vagabonds. If only, if only, if only. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable might of happened. Either mum would wander onto the moors by the house and become lost, have a traumatic fall or be involved in a road traffic accident or any other unimaginable consequence of her unsafe environment.
Double incontinence and sleeping in her clothes, unable to carry out any personal care for quite sometime. Mums situation was becoming messier by the day.
Two years leading up to mum leaving, visits by auntie Maureen increased to three times weekly which involved her catching three buses. Susan and I visited weekly, sometimes twice, especially for meetings with social services, community psychiatric nurses, GPs, consultants, district nurses, memory nurses and care managers. Susan had retired and I took 8 months off work to help. It seemed as though every agency was involved. It seemed as though nobody knew what to do, except for singing for the brain in Richmond, organised by the Alzheimers association. Singing all the old songs with a voluntary ukulele orchestra was brilliant for mum. She knew so many of the words and although couldn’t follow the actions demonstrated by the helpers, she had a whole set of her own actions as if she were singing on a stage. Susan and I, without exception, cried at every singing group. Perhaps because we could see mum, as she had been, before she became lost.
There were odd moments. Mum would often think I looked familiar and that I sometimes looked like her but she had no idea who I was. Rather than always explaining who I was, I just said I was a visitor. One day, I laid down on the spare bed in the front bedroom because I was both physically and emotionally drained by all the visits. Mum was so restless and I invited her to lay down beside me. I told her to close her eyes and go to sleep with me. She lay looking at me for a while and then said, “I don’t think I’ve been very nice to you” mum repeated this and looked perplexed and tearful. It was as though she knew, in that moment, that perhaps she had at times been a bit harsh. She hadn’t been the caring hands on nurturing type. I told mum that she had done her best and that was all that mattered to me. In that moment, I let go of so much from the past. I no longer felt anger or resentment towards her for all the cruel things she had said and done to me over the years. I thank God for allowing the gift of that precious moment.
Continually attempting to escape. Shit, shite and buggery and numerous expletives, all day and all night long. Kicking and hitting all who tried to stop her. Kicking and banging the front door and windows. Two weeks in and it was six days notice. Either a secure psychiatric hospital or 1:1 care. From that point on, mum was moved to the more secure area upstairs, I signed the deprivation of liberty document and she had varying levels of 1:1 care. Sometimes mum was allowed downstairs to join in activities. The lift had a mirror in it and we always had to say hello to the lady in the lift. Mum no longer recognised herself.
In August 2016 mum lost her mobility following a fall. Mum sustained a fractured ball joint in her left hip and a fractured left shoulder. The hip replacement was necessary for pain relief but she would never walk again because she was unable to process any verbal instructions from the physios. Language made little sense and verbal communication was intermittent and random in context. Two weeks in hospital included ten days without oral fluids or nutrition. I said goodbye, again, and went to Galway for two weeks, expecting a phone call.
Mum returned to Springfield Care Home for a further nine months where she spent many hours on a special air mattress in bed. She was hoisted from bed to chair and spoon fed puréed meals of beige slop. Mum continued her feisty ways and the last time I visited her, she punched me in the face whilst i was trying to give her a drink of tea from a lidded beaker.
Mum contracted a chest infection and passed away quickly on 21st April around 6am. She died before I’d been informed that she was near the end of her life. In the end, she took us all by surprise. That morning, around dawn, I awoke in a state of anxiety following the most disturbing dream I can ever recall having. I think the dream is too graphic and disturbing to share but will remain with me although the intensity has lessened over time. The following day, I awoke with some words and I read them at her funeral on 10th May 2017.
Lament not that Wynne has gone
She’s just putting her dancing shoes on
And playing all her favourite songs
Now get that record player on
Stock the larder
For its time to bake
Because if she knew you were coming
She’d have baked a cake
Polish the mirrors
Wynne’s wearing her smile
She’s gone shopping for new clobber
And will be gone a wee while
Boarding the ship
For her final sunset cruise
Imagine her singing and dancing
To all her favourite old tunes