Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lasting Firsts

Like everything in my life at the moment, two ends of the spectrum run in parallel - sometimes so close, the lines lie against each other, indeterminate, entwined, indistinguishable. My mum needs caring in the same way as my baby. My girls teach me as much as I mother them.

And so I constantly memorise every 'last' situation with my mum - her last kiss to me as she said goodbye after visiting me in hospital with Ruby; our last phonecall just three hous before her catastrophic stroke, how happy she'd been; our last hug; our last fight. Everyday moments in our relationship, forever now memorised as momentous.

And alongside that, all my new firsts with Ruby. Her first smile three months ago, like a rainbow after a storm. Her first giggle, a trickle that has gushed into a flood. And now, her first solid food - her surprise, my delight, her excitement, my satisfaction, from those first tentative tastes of rice, to my freezer bursting with bags of heart shaped frozen cubes of steamed sweet potato, brocolli, carrot, pear and apple. I spoon feed my mum - favourite flavours no longer lighting up her eyes, and I spoon feed my new baby, marvellous mouthfuls of taste, surprising and lighting up her face.

Different ends of the spectrum. Same love.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grown up love

I'm so proud of them. No, I'm not talking about our girls - although they make me so proud there isn't a blog host or an internet range large enough to hold the stuff I could write about them. No, I'm talking about my other family - my mum and dad and brother. I know this is not normal. We spend most of our lives being embarrassed or pissed off, or more often than not irritated and frustrated with these strange people who are so familiar they're like our skin, yet so alien to us, they feel like a rash on that skin. And I've often felt all of those things.

Like most families, mine has had its fair share of dramas... but despite the sparks and the strifes, we've shared time, willingly and with pleasure. Despite branching out in our own lives, in the last ten years my brother and I have found ourselves coming together to holiday with mum and dad, and strangely our family strengthened instead of weakened as we married and grew. My mum was the central nervous system - the magnet which pulled us all together no matter how far apart we were. And in the awful days and nights after her catastrophic stroke, my dad, my brother and me - supported by my sister-in-law and husband - formed a vigil, a protective presence, a desperate determination that she would never be alone. As the weeks have slowly drifted into months and decisions were made, plans put in place we did so as a family - as she would have wanted. We are the family she taught us to be - strong in support, united in love.

My dad has been outstanding. He is 74 and caring full-time for my mum now. Most men his age couldn't cope on their own for a day. He cares for her - and himself and does it with extraordinary competence. I don't just mean he copes with the house and manages the washing. When I went up to visit last weekend, we had homemade soup for lunch - with homemade bread, and a stupendous homemade fish pie for tea. It was a sunny spring day so we got mum into her wheelchair and wrapped her up and took her round the park at the end of the road. The first crocuses of Spring were waving hello in the grass and we stopped to feel the sun on our faces for a moment. It was almost bearable. Because we were still together.

My mum is in a terrible place, but while she is there she is being wrapped in love. She taught us that and I hope we are making her proud. For I am proud of them - my mum, my dad, and my brother. So proud that my life has been shared with them, through the good times and the bad.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's so sad, I'm laughing

Just when I thought life couldn't get any harder? It got harder. I feel like I'm on one of those fairground rides - and like most fairground rides, I just want to get off. The one where you walk along the shaking ground and try to keep your balance? That's what my life feels like right now. Everytime I think I can just step on to the solid ground again, the ride gives me one big shake up and I nearly loose my balance. Last week, after days of my baby being unwell I rushed her to Emergency where she was hospitalised. A week of sleeping on the floor beside her as oxygen breezed up her nose, fluids seeped into her arm, and finally milk was poured down a tube into her stomach left me feeling like I am in some awful parallel universe and I just want to get back to my old life now thank you.

And it was another reminder of how much I miss my mum.. As I nursed my little baby back to health, I needed her to nurse me back to sanity. On the ward was a little baby boy, not more than 4 months old. And in the week I was there, not once did his mother visit him. He broke my heart as he lay alone in his big cot, crying for the comfort that was never going to come his way. And while I feel so bereft that I've lost my security blanket, it made me realise how warm my mum has made my life. It made me hold Ruby a little closer, and renewed my determination to protect my girls through life, to be their security blanket too... because the world is a colder place without it..