Daily Life, Writer's Blog

Opening up old wounds…

I received a letter in the post this morning from the Child Support Agency. Nothing strange there you may think, but my children are now in their late twenties.

My ex-husband was an alcoholic bully, even tempered and ok when he was sober but nasty and aggressive when he had sunk a few pints. We eventually divorced after one too many bruises and discoveries of him urinating in our six year old daughter’s wardrobe (for example) as she slept.

He was given numerous chances to change. When he was sober I begged him to get help, to save our marriage for the sake of our three beautiful children. Of course, I never broached the subject if a beer had passed his lips. Oh no. I kept quiet and as far out of the way as possible at those times.

The divorce was a bit of a farce. He would not allow me a divorce unless I admitted to being the guilty one. I took another on the chin, and stated I wanted the divorce and he was not at fault. He was more concerned at what outsiders may think than trying to save what could have been a good marriage. He fought hard when it came down to it. Not for custody of his children, but for material items such as the new Dyson we had recently purchased. His priorities were all materialistic. His children didn’t matter.

He had always frightened me just a little as a violent drunk but, when I found rented accommodation for myself and my little ones, he took to sitting outside in his car and simply watching the house late at night. I was always on the alert for a knock at the door which often never came. He just watched, waiting for who knows what.

Eventually, he asked if he could see the children and, when he secured himself a flat around the corner, requested they stay the night with him. He promised he wouldn’t have a drink when they were with him and I was happy for them to see him. They needed their father and maybe the time had come for him to take responsibility.

After a few months of weekend visits, my daughter told me she wanted to stay at home with me. She was eight years old and clearly upset. She cried lots and I told her she didn’t have to visit that week. My sons both went happily on their way and my daughter stayed with me.

A few weeks passed and one of my sons also said he didn’t want to visit and my daughter was still adamant she wanted to stay home. So, he took one of our sons and the other two remained behind with me. Within two hours he was back at my door with a sobbing little boy who didn’t want to stay with him on his own. This went on for a few weeks until none of the children wanted to go with him and they didn’t even want to talk to him at the door.

I didn’t quiz them too hard as I didn’t want to upset them but eventually, one morning at breakfast my daughter asked me why Daddy slept so much. Probing further, she had woken up in the night to find him as good as comatose (she couldnt wake him up and she was scared) and there were lots of cans on the floor. He was drunk when she had woken up from a bad dream and he had not been lucid enough to comfort her. This prompted stories from my boys who told me their daddy wouldn’t play with them when they visited him. He sat in front of the TV while they were in their rooms with some toys. They all sounded so sad when they relayed this to me.

Time passed, and the CSA became involved. I was awarded a small sum of money each week to help with raising my three children. I had a part time job which fit around their school but it didn’t pay much.

The child support money never came. He never paid me one penny and eventually he lost his job for being drunk at the wheel the morning after. As a financial consultant he had no means of travelling for work when they took away his drivers license. The debt, his debt, built up and the years passed by. I supported my children with part time work and benefits until they were old enough for me to take a full time job.

I received a letter from the CSA every month and then every six months to say that, even though he owed me well over £6000, he was not working and they had awarded me £0.00 for each child. The £6000 would have been helpful, of course, but I managed as best I could.

My parents and sometimes his parents, helped with clothes and little food parcels and gave the children pocket money but it felt wrong that he didn’t want to help support his children at all. The children received a birthday card from him each year with a few pounds inside but the handwriting was his mother’s. By this stage the children had not seen him for a few years and, as they grew up, the situation never changed. I suggested supervised visits but he was not interested and, in the end, aware that he was still a drunk, I gave up trying.

At the age of fifty he died as a result of his excessive drinking and the children’s feelings were really put to the test. There had always been the chance that he would fight to see them and seek help for his alcoholism but now there was no chance and they had never even known him. It was sad for those reasons and I felt so badly for them as they didn’t really know what or how to feel.

In the meantime we later discovered that his brother had ‘helped’ him to rewrite his will leaving his life insurance and any monies to his own daughter, my niece, and nothing to my children. He had always promised me, even calling my parents drunkenly one Christmas day to reiterate the fact, that there were a few thousand pounds for them when he died to make up for not being there when he was alive. It was unbelievable that he had changed his will in this way and his own children, whom he had abandoned and not supported over the years, were left with nothing.

So, today, as I opened the letter from the child support agency, I held my breath as I read the words that they had reviewed my case. Certain that there would be a few thousand pounds to share between my children now they had recovered what was rightly theirs, I read on.

The CSA were informing me not that they had recovered the money owed but that they were, after all these years, writing off my unpaid child maintenance as my ex husband had passed away.

Letting go of my held breath, I sighed, resigned to the fact that, even after death, he had been able to deal one more kick in the teeth to his children and that hurts way more than any of his physical violence ever could.

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.
***

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.