Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

Remember

Remember, now, the laughter,
As we ran down to the sea,
Remember how we rolled down hills,
How carefree, then, we used to be.
***
Remember, now, the children,
How much love we had to give,
Remember, they still need your love,
There’s so much life you’ve yet to live.
***
Remember when you told me,
Forever, we would be,
Remember how we promised, then,
It would just be you and me.
***
Remember, now that life has changed,
I’ve had to leave too soon,
Remember, when you’re searching,
I’m the twinkle just beyond the moon.
***

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Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

Life’s Worth?

When kindness is mistaken for weakness,

When faced with a choice at your door,

When sadness comes knocking, the ones you must face,

Are those you thought worth living for.

***

You’ve given your all, when you were so alone,

Faced up to the wolf before death,

Foresaken so much just to clothe them and feed,

You’d offer your very last breath.

***

But with cards on the table, however they fall,

And given the chance to make right,

They’ve risen above all that paved them their way,

Uncaring, they’ll bid you goodnight.

***

You’re no more than some words which are written,

Across greetings cards, now, when they come,

No meaning, not heartfelt, out of habit inscribed,

The feeling less deep than is numb.

***

So when all’s been and gone your job’s done now,

The choices they make are their own,

You’ve done but your best, yet it’s not good enough,

For in the end, you’re always alone.

***

Daily Life, Poem, Writer's Blog

Will this be your last?

As the new day arrives make good use of your eyes, 

Notice the trees standing tall ‘gainst the skies, 

Take note of the sound of the spoon in your tea, 

Enjoy, now, your porridge, so smooth and creamy. 

*** 

Jump at the prickling hot water jet streams, 

As they make your skin tingle forgetting your dreams, 

Savour the roughness of fresh, laundered towels, 

Laugh at the drain as it gurgles and growls. 

 ***

Note how the pins click as the lock falls in place, 

Securing your world and protecting your space, 

Hear the grumble of pistons as your ride starts to purr, 

Creaking leather as you move, your handbag to transfer. 

***

Be sure to listen when a friend needs to moan, 

They’ve something to tell you, could be more than a drone, 

It could be by listening, you will improve their well-being, 

Five minutes of talking, from their problems they’re fleeing. 

*** 

Be sure to be kind, to even those who are not, 

It may not be much, but to some means a lot, 

Watch as moods change as sunlight bathes the room. 

Follow the shadows as they’re chased from the gloom. 

 ***

Laugh at the radio, lame jokes from work friends, 

Share in the joy and the fun never ends, 

Make others happy, just once in a while, 

Not always easy, but share often your smile. 

***

Remember, for many, life is far from easy, 

It’s a grind at its best, far from bright and breezy, 

Try hard not to dwell on the pains of your past, 

Make today count as this could be your last. 

***

Bronchiecstasis, Daily Life, Lung condition, Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Writer's Blog

Thankful for another year?

As we begin a day of low-level celebration for my mum’s 76th birthday, so begins a time of reflection.

A little over two years ago, and following a particularly traumatic hospital stay, mum was told, in no uncertain terms, there was little more that could be done to relieve her of the constant hemopsysis (coughing up large amounts of blood from her lungs) and persistent and painful coughing and breathlessness. A doctor came to the bedside and explained there would be no more Bronchial Arterial Embolisations (BAEs) and the best outcome she could hope for was for them to make her comfortable.

Two years, many antibiotics and approximately ten further BAEs later, the rest of the Respiratory Team have thankfully over-ruled the one who gave up on her and she is, today, celebrating (albeit very loosely speaking) her birthday on Earsham Ward of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

It has not been the best two years of her life and ‘life’ is not the best word to describe what has become an existence, but she is still with us and, at times, driving us mad to the point of walking away.

But that’s my mum. She is quite openly judgemental and easily irritated and expects the world to run in the same regimented fashion as her own life, with much displeasure and disappointment on display should, as is most often, that not be the case.

Mum has always expected one hundred percent punctuality and woe betide you should you be late. She will stare pointedly at the clock if you arrive a second later than arranged. Unless you are willing to acknowledge your tardiness, the conversation will not flow until the error of your timing has been pointed out. I know this is where my phobia (oh yes) of being late has stemmed from. I arrive unfashionably early for everything, my fear of beration for being late so deep-seated that I would rather not arrive at all than enter to find a room filled with people who have been willing to arrive at least on time. I can’t even be late for a Sunday morning breakfast date with my own daughter. I would rather, to the amusement of all concerned, arrive and sit in the car park for ten (ok, often more) minutes than suffer the anguish of making them wait for me. I know why I am like it, but I have no way of changing it. It’s simply not worth the panic.

So, as you can likely imagine, if the nurses are late bringing my mum her medication, or the doctors don’t see her right on time, her mood plummets and we have to bear the brunt of her gloom. Being in an NHS hospital, where staffing is tight and wards are full to overflowing, you can imagine it’s not easy to be punctual and if the nurses are chatting at their desk, which unfortunately for them is right outside my mum’s room, she will stare at them pointedly until she gets the attention- her voice clipped and irritated – and they will be blissfully unaware of their crime, if there even was one.

Mum’s condition, Bronchiecstasis, has left her permanently breathless, coughing violently at the slightest movement resulting in further breathlessness and, at the first sign of infection, which is more often than not, coughing up blood. Imagine waking up to a metallic taste in the morning, gingerly sitting forwards and, before you have even taken a step, you open your mouth and without even a cough, a large amount of blood spews forth. At times, there has been up to 400ml of blood which is more than the volume of a can of your favourite fizzy drink. According to the NHS guidelines, anything more than 100ml of blood in a 24-hour period is considered a massive hemoptysis and a medical emergency. Mum has the good sense to know that normal, for her, is anything over 250ml because if she didn’t change the criteria, she would be calling for an ambulance most days. It’s terrifying.

As she celebrates her 76th birthday on Earsham Ward and into her second week of this stay, the fifth in the past six weeks, she is waiting to find out if the radiologists are prepared to carry out one more BAE and attempt to reach the bleeding vessels they have, in the past, been unable to access. If they agree, she may spend many hours lying flat on her back with a tube in her groin through which the necessary equipment is passed and finds its way up into her severely damaged lungs, to cleverly seal the bleeding areas. At times, she has spent over six hours having the procedure, throughout which she must remain awake and cough as little as possible, which is ironic because of the condition being treated.

The rollercoaster of damaged lungs, built up mucous, swelling vessels, infected, splitting and, thus, bleeding vessels is ongoing and there is no cure as she is far too frail to undergo the removal of the most damaged part of the lung. Removing the damage would, at the very least, alleviate the bleeding, resulting in less coughing and breathlessness but her body won’t take it, so the team struggles on.

I don’t want her to spend her birthday, when we are close to it possibly being her last one on this earth, lying on a table undergoing an unpleasant procedure, but if it gives us a few more months with her, then so be it.

I wonder if I am selfish for hoping for more time with her, when her life has become a mere existence and every day is a constant struggle. But the alternative is one neither of us wishes to face right now and, selfish or not, we take one day at a time and hope she is with us for the next.

Daily Life, Writer's Blog

Rock Bottom

Her life had never been easy but, then, who’s was? Recently, though, it felt as though it was becoming increasingly difficult when, at fifty, it should have been starting to settle down a little.

Throughout her childhood she had been surrounded by school friends and much time was spent playing on the streets and at parks with the local kids. Sunday trips to visit older family  members entailed getting dressed up in pretty dresses and woolly tights and eating homemade lemon cake by a roaring fire while the adults put the world to rights. Christmases and birthdays had always been filled with treats, gifts piled high and she had enjoyed birthday parties and days out the same as any other child of the seventies. In short, she’d had a normal and fun childhood.

High school brought its own problems to the party with the beginning of four years of name-calling and what was considered back then to be minor bullying. Her confidence was knocked for six and she retreated into an invisible protective shell, with an externally visible loud and outspoken attitude among her close friends.

As a teenager she ran into the usual angst with boys and relationships, but it passed by normally with no more ups and downs than any other teenager. Her relationship with her parents was fraught with arguments and moods, the relationship with her mother a particularly contentious one. Often, minor disputes led to days of non-communication between the two of them after tempers had boiled over. The lock-down from the bullying had left her unable to put into words how she was feeling, and she struggled to communicate with her mum at times of high emotion. During one such episode, she took the first of many overdoses, resulting in being rushed into hospital to have her stomach pumped. An unpleasant experience indeed.

More ups and downs and failed relationships later, she met and married the man she thought was her soulmate. Children soon followed and, although he spent a lot of the time at the pub, life chugged along and was mostly ok. Until the drinking at the pub started to spill over into her husband’s home life. He had been a heavy drinker when they first met but, despite having a good job and a loving family, his drinking habits worsened over the years until he was coming home every evening with cans of strong lager, drinking them all and then acting bizarrely and often violently.

From finding him peeing in the kid’s wardrobes and discovering similar puddles on the kitchen floor in the morning to, worse still, punching her and locking her in the cupboard under the stairs, especially if she suggested he might have drunk too much, the drinking was fast becoming quite scary. She knew the problem was out of control when he punched her full in the stomach when she was  carrying their twin babies.

Life became unbelievably unbearable and with the children growing fast, she was fearful for their safety. Working at weekends she often returned to find them playing in the garden with the back gate unlocked and him sprawled comatose on the sofa surrounded by empty cans. She feared for their safety and, indeed, her own, the violence increasing week by week. She tried talking to his mother, herself a semi-recovered alcoholic but was pushed away and told she was fussing over nothing. He was so pleasant and friendly around others that even her closest friends would not believe her so, after a few failed attempts at cries for help, she gave up trying.

Eventually, after a particularly nasty argument, she knew she could take no more and she grabbed what she could, packed the car up and left with their young children.

The divorce became messy but for the wrong reasons. He wasn’t bothered about custody or arranging to see his children, he was more concerned about material things, insisting he get custody of the new Dyson vacuum cleaner, for example. If it wasn’t so sad it would have truly been laughable.

The split had left her with debts totaling over £15,000 because somehow, even though her husband had been in a good job as a Financial Adviser, he had not been meeting targets, resulting in debts to his company while, all the while, he had been spending on lavish items for his top of the range sound system, for example. Unbeknownst to her, and in her young naivety she had allowed him to control their finances, they had missed payments on their mortgage and had all kinds of money troubles, all of which had to be addressed when the house eventually sold, leaving a huge deficit. He never had time for the children and didn’t pay one penny towards their upkeep, wonderful as the newly-instated Child Support Agency were in the nineties.

Life moved on and with two more failed relationships, including one with a woman, she eventually met and married the man who turned out to be her true soulmate. They had to move into rented accommodation because money was tight and with five teenage children between them they knew the purse strings would need firm control. Debts from her former marriage were spiralling and she eventually had to declare herself bankrupt. A dreadfully worrying time, coming from a family who only borrowed on mortgages and saved hard for every other purchase they had ever made.

Slowly, over the years that followed, the children left school and started on the path to college and employment and life plodded along, with a semblance of normality on the horizon.

One of the children was starting to go off the rails, experimenting with drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Her husband and she spent hours trying to talk sense into him, refusing to drive him anywhere and helping him to find work when he suddenly quit college. However she and her husband tried, they could not get him to see sense and he continued to argue, take drugs and a spiral of messing up jobs had begun.

Eventually, she could take no more and, after a huge argument, her son packed his bags and left home. This closely followed the sad loss of her father, who died very soon after discovering he was riddled with cancer and her son made wild claims on social media, accusing her publicly of stealing his Grandad’s savings while he was on his deathbed. This was far from the truth when, in fact, the money had been a loan from her parents to again help with the debts from their former life which she had (and eventually did) fully intended to pay back, not knowing at the time her father was so ill.

Life took a very downward turn and much nastiness and accusation ensued, resulting in some dark years. Somehow, she and the rest of the family coped and managed to remain strong. The adage ‘life goes on’ took precedence but her heart was torn in two, not knowing where one of her sons was living and unable to help him, coupled with anger at the accusations publicly thrown her way and the discovery of more thefts from family members he was still in contact with. She feared her youngest son had truly hit rock bottom but worse was yet to come.

Two years passed, and her wandering son made contact.  He had been ‘sofa surfing’ – a term she unfamiliar with until that time – and the drug taking had spiralled but now he was in dreadful trouble. He had been sacked for stealing from an employer and the courts had ordered him to pay the money back to avoid a prison sentence. He had no money.  She and her husband helped him out, convinced he was ready to make a new start and, along with huge rent arrears which they paid too, they helped him to find alternative accommodation which, again, cost them even more.

This was just the beginning of a bail-help-recover-repeat cycle which continued over the next few years. Life carried on around them – her other son underwent surgery on his brain, three surgeries in fact – the second two being emergency to sort issues brought about by the first. Her mother’s health deteriorated due to a debilitating and horrendous lung condition, resulting in time in and out of hospital, life becoming more of an existence for her with each passing day.

Her youngest would go AWOL and then return with debt collectors on his tail and even the police at one stage.  She refused to believe he could not turn this around and continued to feel in her heart that the blame lay with her. Fearful he would end up on the streets or worse, she continued to ‘help’ and spent thousands of pounds on payment of the latest debts, never believing that she was, in fact, funding his drug habit in a roundabout way. Stories of thefts from friends and other family members filtered back to her and her hopes for his recovery began to fade. In her heart she knew there was little more she could do to help – he had sought counselling for his drug abuse, spending time at a group suggested by the courts and every time they met he appeared to be moving forwards, spurred on by hitting rock bottom and the fear of returning to the same. He would secure a job and, almost always started to work towards a promotion to supervisor or similar as he worked hard and his attitude was just right. Each time, he would either meet someone and get back into taking drugs or the money he was earning would draw him back towards the same and the next she would hear was he had walked out of yet another good job, never to return. He would go AWOL again and she would try not to worry herself stupid but, as a mother, her heart was heavy with the knowledge he was out there somewhere, slowly killing himself.

Her own mother, by this stage, was terminally ill and, it seemed, was living on borrowed time with more and more time spent in hospital and with much less of a life than ever. Visiting her poorly mother was difficult with work commitments, although work was more than flexible and understanding. She was, at this stage, a manager and she was proud of her role. Somehow, she managed to keep it together and balanced visits to the hospital with working out of hours to keep up, often accruing time off in lieu. That part of her life was not good, but she muddled through, keeping a semblance of normality with the rest of the family.

She next heard from her youngest son when he sent a message to ask how his grandmother was doing. A conversation was had where she tactfully had to tell him he could not visit, her mother’s fearful request, each of his sorrowful replies tearing at her heartstrings.  But worse was yet to come. As always, she asked him what he was doing – she had heard he had given up another decent job recently – and was devastated to discover he had been staying in a shelter but would be living, quite literally, on the streets for the next two nights as he had to prove himself homeless before he could secure a place at a hostel. This was, to her knowledge, the worst-case scenario he had endured thus far. She knew she couldn’t ask him to stay with her – she would awaken to find him gone, along with who knew what else from her home. His messages suggested he had to do this as he needed to turn his life around and stop hiding behind his lies and stealing and drug-taking. He spoke of appointments with the Job Centre, a doctor to help with depression and anxiety, and a housing officer to help with the latest crisis. With each message, her heart became heavier, and she lay in bed listening to the gusting wind and feeling the temperature dropping to below bearable and cried herself to sleep. She didn’t even link the timing of his latest demise with his message asking about her mother, thinking it a pure coincidence.

Still unable to cope with the realisation that her own son, now an adult, had thrown away his twenties for some badly-chosen friends and drugs, and he was out there, on the streets, sleeping rough with nothing to his name, she felt she couldn’t live with herself and something needed to be done. Her husband, seeing her pain, offered to help by meeting her son the following day to ensure he had warm clothes and a supermarket voucher to buy additional food. She gratefully agreed, unable to face her own son in this state, but knowing in that deepest of places in her heart they shouldn’t be doing it, they were once again, on a smaller scale, helping.  But what could she do? She must be the only mother walking this earth who had a good job, a wonderful family life, great friends and the most caring and kind husband, who was sitting by and allowing her youngest son to sleep rough on the cold, scary streets.

She didn’t think she could get through this, couldn’t live with herself knowing he was suffering through this, and despite her family and friends constantly telling her he was an adult and had made his choices, the pain was almost too much to bear. She still felt she had failed him and she could have done more in the past to change his path.

The pain deepened as she held the pills in her hand. Turning them over and over, she tried to imagine how her other children would feel, and her husband – would he cope without her? She knew then that she would only ruin more lives, would maybe send others down a path of self-destruction. She knew she couldn’t do it. Her own pain did not equal the pain she would leave behind. She alone had to bear this heartbreak, had to endure this debilitating crush to her heart. There was nobody else who would share in the blame, her children’s own father having drunk himself into oblivion and died many years before. She had a duty to her family to remain strong. Silently, she poured the pills back into their bottle, screwed on the cap and picked up the phone. Painting the usual smile on her face, she messaged her daughter and son-in-law to see whether they felt like a night out.

 

 

 

 

Bronchiecstasis, Daily Life, Lung condition, Poem, Writer's Blog

The Time is not Right

We’ve fought for years, but silently,

Accusations they have flown,

To and fro relentlessly,

But it’s still not time to let you go.

***

My hackles up, the anger flows,

You’ve often made me mad,

But in the end, you’ve always been,

The best, along with dear old Dad.

***

You’ve not been well for many years,

The illness, it’s quite rare,

Taking you to its lowest depths,

Sometimes it seems you’re barely there.

***

You’ve fought this hard, and still today,

Your strength has been quite stoic,

You sometimes need to gripe and moan,

In my eyes you have been quite heroic.

***

The cough has been relentless, yet

The worst was still to come,

Your lungs are shot to pieces now,

This would have ended more than some.

***

The days drag by, you dread to wake,

Each morning brings such fear,

Will this be the worst one yet,

Each day, each week, each month and year?

***

The interventions came and went,

With drugs and surgeries,

The vicious circle damaging,

Your poorly veins and arteries.

***

The risks are high, this latest try,

But try, we must continue,

For if we stop, it takes it course,

The time’s not right, you’re feeling blue.

***

It can’t go on, we’re all aware,

Chances, they now are few,

We won’t give up, we still have hope,

We’re far from ready to be losing you.

***

So, soldier on, please let them do,

Whatever they think is best,

Let’s face the risks, be strong and bold,

More time with you, we will be blessed.

***

 

Daily Life, Writer's Blog

How Much Can We Fit Into One Treat?

The early morning fog blanketed the town as my husband and I drove over to collect my niece and take her out for the day to celebrate her 12th birthday. Twelve! How very grown up this young lady has become, so deciding upon a suitable day out was difficult. We didn’t want to travel far, keeping within the county, because my mum is poorly in hospital and we needed to be nearby just in case.

Great Yarmouth on the East Norfolk coast seemed just the right place to head towards. Yes, the fog was quite dense but the forecast was sunny and warm for a late February day.

Wrapped in warm jackets, we headed off on our journey. Within a few short miles, the blinding early Spring sunshine was warming the car and had burned away most of the early mists.

Our first stop was an attraction I had first visited with my parents and grandmother over 46 years ago, the Merrivale Model Village. I had no idea if this would be something a game-playing, music-loving almost teenager of 2019 would find interesting but there was one way to find out. We had our photos taken which would appear in the giftshop later and allow us to be superimposed as miniatures of ourselves, and entered the tiny world.

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Parts of the attraction were as I remembered them from previous visits with my own children and parts were updated to keep the areas interesting and topical. My niece discovered the push button sounds and interactions and was keen to hunt out more of the same. The delights of a modern-day NASA rocket and a suspension bridge over a pond of giant Koi Carp, giant by our standards not miniature standards, mixed well with old fashioned funfairs, maypole dancing and even medieval jousting and dipping. My niece especially enjoyed the sensory garden, although picking and tasting mint and herbs was unavailable due to the time of year.

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We steered little bumper cars around a driving area, another old-fashioned style of beach entertainment, watched a makeshift wedding party at a church, a fire engine rescue a girl from a burning window, with ‘real’ smoke emissions and then headed to the gift shop where we purchased a picture of ourselves in miniature.

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The Merrivale Cafe yielded treats such as homemade soups and pasties and traditional favourites such as tea and toast and cream teas. Refuelled, we used our day pass and re-entered the attraction to play a round of crazy golf.

At risk of overuse of the word ‘traditional’ we spent an hour playing the old-fashioned slot machines and 2p games, spending only £1 each, as the winnings just kept coming!

By this time, the sun was unseasonably warm so we grabbed some bags from the car and, stopping for ice cream cones along the way, made for the beach and a spot of kite flying.

My husband, an avid kite flyer, wanted to teach our niece how to fly his stunt kite. At over twenty years old, his ‘Top of the Line’ kite was in perfect condition and he had brought along a tail, 150 feet in length, which he had made himself.

To begin, he positioned our niece in front of him, allowing her to feel the pull of the kite while he held onto the straps for safety. She soon mastered how much movement was needed to create whirls and patterns against the bluest of skies and even had a turn at flying it herself. Giggles of delight and gasps of astoundment when she almost whipped an onlooker with the tail, were lost in the breeze as the kite danced and gave the onlookers a welcome aerobatic display.

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An hour of beach kite flying under blue skies, surrounded by a light breeze and we were ready to find a gift shop before returning to Norwich for our first ever meal in a vegan restaurant.

Trinkets and the obligatory Great Yarmouth rock purchased, we drove back to Norwich, parking the car at my workplace – a school in the heart of the city and set in the beautiful grounds of Norwich Cathedral.  My niece had never visited this part of the city and was awestruck by the cathedral’s dominance. We were a little early for our table booking so decided to go into the cathedral and show her around.

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The choice did not disappoint and we were treated to the Cathedral Choir singing their hearts out, while my niece photographed tombs, stained glass windows and historical plaques. Even my husband noted there were parts of the cathedral he had not been into before.

My niece and I spotted the prayer candles and lit one for my mum, her grandmother. It felt a nice gesture and we included a donation.

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We arrived at The Tipsy Vegan in time for our table booking and were pleasantly surprised. A lovely restaurant with friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere, previously undiscovered. Our option to choose a vegan venue was largely dictated by my niece’s vegetarianism and the lack of dedicated vegatarian restaurants available, when we searched. Pleased with our choice, we feasted on Saffron Risotto Balls, Korean Ribs, Sweet Potato Curry and Ricotta-filled Pasta Parcels, accompanied by home-made lemonade infused with charcoal, sour apple Palomas and blackberry and mint lemonade.  Our tastebuds were treated to a number of new delights, and all of them well presented and filling.

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Even though we were full to bursting, we greedily walked to Sundaes Gelato, an ice cream bar, for desserts which we surely didn’t need.

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Needless to say we didn’t finish our desserts, a food coma for all was almost induced, and apart from some picture taking of the Cathedral at night, our journey home completed our day of fun. Even if our niece didn’t sleep well, we were ready for bed by half past nine!