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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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care

Medium TV Programmes: Thursday 13th Novembr 2014

Mum likes to have the TV on while she’s in bed. She’s grown quite fond of the “ghosty programmes”, as she likes to call them, like Most Haunted, and ones where mediums pass over messages to audience members.

This morning there was a medium programme on in the background while I was giving Mum her morning tea. The presenter was talking to two women about their mother, and he said “she says to tell you that she wants to thank you for everything you did for her in those last three weeks”.

>It’s true you know.

>What’s true, Mum?

>Everything you’re doing for me.

I’ve been a bit watery recently, but Mum’s eyes are usually closed so I’d been getting away with letting some tears roll down my face while I was holding Mum’s hand and feeding her ice. She heard my loud breathing/sob and turned her face to me.

>Are you crying?

>Hmm.

I know she doesn’t like to see me cry. She’s only seen me cry twice about her health. Once when I came to visit in May 2014 and she was much thinner; it took me by surprise and I just burst. Another time when I was staying with her in the summer, and she was saying that I could give one of my children her first name as a middle name, a practice that she had always been virulently against before she was sick. When I cried, she would say softly “Noooo, nooo, don’t you cry. It will make me cry, and then if I start to cry, it will all be over”.

>There’s nowhere else I would rather be Mum.

>Thank you.

>I love you.

>I love you too.

Mum’s pain gets worse: Saturday November 1 2014

It was my friend’s birthday so we had gone to a rented cottage to celebrate for the weekend. Mum’s pain had been getting steadily worse, but she kept on saying she would “call [the doctor] tomorrow”.

I baked the entire week to take my mind off it. I was a thousand miles away. I tried not to stress. “Worry is a rocking chair that gets you nowhere”, I reminded myself. I swam everyday, trying to release the emotional tension from my shoulders, as with every status change in my mum’s health, the muscles there became tight and painful.

I went away to a cottage with some friends for my housemates birthday. Mum called me on the Saturday night, when we were playing poker. The GP was just arriving. My blood ran cold. A GP visiting my mum at midnight on a Saturday night?

I took a deep breath. There was nothing I could do. My sister was going the next day. Everything would be OK.

Poker finished. People drifted off to bed. I held on to my phone, jumping every time I received a Whatsapp.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I went outside for a “walk”, following the path of a river. I began sobbing uncontrollably, leaning against a fence, staring at the moon all the while. I screamed, and cried. I said “no”. The sobs wracked my body. The moon stayed the same.

Useless, depressed, and I don’t even have cancer: August 2014

First my partner left, then my sister left, then my other sister and her boyfriend left. Now I’m alone with Mum and it is killing me. I cook for her twice a day. She’s not able to eat much and she’s convinced that certain foods are causing her to feel sick. Vegetables with the skin off. Lacto-free milk and cheese. Diabetic icecream. Nothing works and Mum continues to be in pain. I feel useless, unable to do anything to alleviate her symptoms.

I feel grateful that we are getting this time together, and that time has been running out for us to get to know each other before she passes. We’ve had some good chats, as adults. I’ve listened a lot, which is new… I liked to talk before, but now I’m more interested in what she has to say.

She likes to tell me how, although she loves us, she wouldn’t have children, if she could live her life again. Or if she did, she would only have two. Although I’m her third daughter, I don’t take offence to this. I find it funny as I have no plans on having children, although that may change. (Who knows, with all the medical advances, maybe my partner can carry our child and give birth to it, seahorse style. On second thoughts, Junior was a terrible film, so best just steer clear.) “You can be happily married without children” my mum says, sagely.

She’s refusing to start care on every possible grounds she can think of. She says she doesn’t have the money (even though it’s quite cheap in our area), then she says she would rather give me the money, which makes no financial sense as it would barely cover my rent on my flat, in Spain.

I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to take a long term job as I want to keep the freedom to come and spend time with Mum, but I definitely did not want to be left to cope with Mum alone, and to gradually start doing everything for her. She normally has prescriptions delivered, but when there has been a problem, I have gone to get them. Pharmacy, GP, pharmacy, home, don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry. The doctor’s surgery Mum is registered at is a big, semi-impersonal practice, with a dickie fax and a problem with misplacing prescriptions. The thought of Mum being left without morphine makes muscles in my stomach contract as if a phantom has kicked me in the gut.

I decided to leave. I realised that my taking care of Mum had become enabling. I was only helping her to deny reality by not starting/accepting care, and as much as I had tried, I felt lonely, I felt depressed, and I missed home. I hadn’t lived in my home town for 8 years, and I didn’t want to start now, when I was feeling psychologically vulnerable.

I told Mum I had a job interview and was heading home to the Basque Country for a few weeks. Mum and I had a blazing row. I said some things that were true but unkind. She was very very angry. I think she was most angry that, for the first time in her life, she needed someone else; she is such a proud and independent person.

“I don’t want a carer. I don’t need one.” she said. “I don’t want them touching me and talking down to me. They speak to me as if I had lost it. I don’t want them touching me ever. I couldn’t bear it”.

I lay on the sofa, unable to get up, unable to watch TV. I was depressed and unable to stand or contemplate doing simple things like making food or even checking my phone.

Finally the day came to leave and I dragged myself out of my pit. Mum’s wrath had been appeased by Deborah’s arrival from London later in the day, so I kissed her goodbye, hoping it wouldn’t be for the last time.

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