The last 5 months have been very tough for me. There has been much interstate travel (which I am getting better at), changes in my work status, more ill-health than is manageable, injury and of course the necessary move of my *MIL out of her home of 30 years, into a Nursing Home and the subsequent declining of her health and finally her death.
Pleasingly, to me, I have not fallen into an immediate heap, as has been the normal pattern of behaviour for me – especially when things stop! I have, however, felt the desire for a servant in my home; the yearning for a beautiful garden to lift my flagging spirit; the urge to eat everything custard (but not banana custard, Mum) for every meal; and for friends and family to magically appear when I want company and disappear when I don’t!
I spoke to my Psychologist, yesterday, about how I was feeling guilty because I have not yet cried at the death of my much-loved MIL. I simply feel relief, tinged with just a little anger!
I feel relief because I no longer have to worry that she is being cared for properly. I feel relief that she is no longer in pain. I feel relief that I no longer have to put on my crisis mask and manage all the stuff …. I feel relief that I no longer need to feel helpless to make MIL happy and fulfilled with her life. I feel relief at no longer feeling responsible when myself or my boys didn’t contact her as much as we should. She was so easily made happy with a phone chat.
And angry …. because MIL is gone to be with God and I am still here wading through the mire that is my life. I’m angry at cancer because it took my husband and left me to do all the necessary stuff for his Mum. F u cancer! I feel angry because there is one less person who really knew Adrian, that I can talk too.
But I have not fallen in a heap, so that’s good – right?
My Psychologist simply said that it was now time to take care of myself for a little while. To be kind to my inner person as I had been doing to my MIL. To find those things that nurture my spirit and soothe my body and mind.
Fev is the softest, smoochiest, purriest, heart soother I have!!
I also, read blogs that inspire me – check any featured on my list of Blogs to Read (on the right of my page). I, also have been known to be nourished by words and quotes. So here are a few of my favourite ones –
I have been away. I have had another trip to my Mother-in-law’s (MIL) to finalize her move to a nursing home, where she will spend the rest of her days. It was a requested trip that I was putting off as long as possible because I knew it was going to be hard – and it was!
I booked my flight and flew out within 48 hours of the phone call I received from the cousins who had been working for weeks without my input. I owed them …. so I went, but I went with a dread within me! I knew it would be all the things I dislike. Flying, cold weather, no car, relying on others, meeting people I didn’t know very well, making decisions, packing, cleaning, no internet, being away from my support system …. I could go on and on! But I went …. I’m good in a crisis – I told myself!!
The airport and the flight went well. I love the check in online before you get there, as it frees my mind and gives me security. Once again, seat 17F came in for me with a row to myself and I didn’t need to ask for a seatbelt extender. Just before landing, I did something I usually don’t do – I used the toilet on the aircraft. I don’t like aeroplane toilets as they make me feel claustrophobic and panicky. But when the need arises, there is no alternative! Before leaving the toilet, I checked everything was tucked in and straightened and clean. I returned to my seat and waited for landing and disembarking. It wasn’t long before I was greeting my cousin by marriage, after a long walk through the airport to the baggage claim. As my cousin got my bag, I suddenly felt something dangling behind me! Yes, you guessed it! I had walked off the plane, past the flight attendants, through a busy airport like this ….
And so it began!!! From then on, it went much as I expected. There was plenty of this ….
That eventually turned into this …..
But what I didn’t expect were the hidden treasures I discovered. Love letters dated 1945! Baptismal remembrances dated 1918! Garden plans from 1982, with every rose named! Unsigned Secret Admirer letters to my husband!
And these gorgeous things from MIL’s younger days ….
I, also, didn’t expect to find the wonderful, caring, uplifting relationships I experienced from my husband’s family, both in the city and on the farm where I stayed. It wasn’t long before my tired mind and body were nourished with food and warmth and love and conversation and most especially laughter. I was embraced into a family that I had never really known I had. These people were mostly just names to me. Yes, I may have stayed at their home once long ago and chatted on the phone for a few moments but to pick me up and to make me feel loved and cherished was something I had not been prepared for. My mind and heart came back to Brisbane refreshed and full. After hard days at my MIL’s Unit, I was lucky to be able to experience this ….
And this ….
And not to forget this ….
How relieved I am to be able to leave my MIL in the Nursing Home, knowing that these caring family members will visit her and care for her when I am not able to be there. They made so many sacrifices for me while I was with them, as they have done for my MIL over the years. Yes, it was hard to leave her but I know she is cared for and happier than the last time I saw her – mostly because she had been visited by the hairdresser and had a cut and perm! Not bad for nearly 97!
My flight back to Brisbane gave me some stunning views of Moreton Island from the plane window. (As seen at the top of my post.) This completed a most wonderful trip away, full of Hidden Treasures!
Some would say I am lucky – I choose to called it blessed.
Last week I was so tired that I could not function! I was unable to string two words together coherently or move without bumping things. Thinking clearly was just not possible. I was physically and mentally shot!
It had been a busy weekend, which included, a quick flight to Adelaide and then a hire car drive to Murray Bridge to visit my mother-in-law (MIL) who had had another fall and was in hospital. BossBoy and BabyBoy accompanied me and I could not have survived without them.
Sleep is my number one stress release and when stress increases, so does my need for sleep! When you are on a quick trip – jam-packed with activity, sleep is not a priority but stress is high! It began with Brisbane being hit by some massive storms, which closed the airport for 4 hours! Free wi-fi was found. Junk food was eaten. People watching took place.
You would think that when we eventually boarded the aircraft, I would feel relief? Not so! Flying is not my thing and walking out on the tarmac in driving wind and rain, made me pray that the Valium I had just taken would kick in quickly! Of course, squeezing into budget airline seats and having to ask the cabin crew for a seatbelt extender did wonders for my stress levels. I have never ever seen anyone else ask for or be given one of those things. My stress levels continued to rise. It was a bumpy flight with plenty of turbulence and my sons held my hands. I couldn’t sleep and was happy to get off.
By this time it was almost midnight, we were 4 hours late, our phones had run out of battery and no one could remember the name of the rental car company! BabyBoy began the arduous task of entering every rental car premises in the airport car park and asking if they had a booking for us! The very last one did!!! We checked into our hotel and then wandered out to find somewhere to eat – none of us had really eaten since breakfast the previous day. It was after 1am before we climbed into bed. I was exhausted before we had even seen my MIL and we still had an hour or so drive in the morning before we got to the hospital.
The next two days was a mixture of lovely family time, beautiful Autumn scenery, pub food, out of date packet food, remembering, meetings to decide important care issues, trying to do the best for MIL, trying not to step on anybody’s toes, bad beds, hospital visiting, encouraging, listening and talking, talking, talking! We were grateful for the small band of distant relatives that live closer than us and had put their hands up to help with the care of our 96-year-old MIL and Nana.
By lunchtime on Monday, we were all packed up and back in our rental car to return to Adelaide for our flight home. We took a more scenic route back, thanks to BossBoy’s creative navigating! Note to self: BossBoy is a useless navigator! The Boys wanted to visit some of their father’s old haunts so a brief visit to the Sturt Football Club, the old Luther Seminary and a meal at The Welly were squeezed in before we all hit the wall of exhaustion together. It was decided that any other planned activities would not be fulfilled. We would head out to the airport and find somewhere to sit/lie and wait for our plane. It was about this time that BabyBoy remembered that we still had an ancient computer in the boot of the car to dump! I smiled to myself as I watched my sons, under the stealth of darkness, wait until there was a break in traffic, then deposit the offending computer and monitor into someones wheelie bin that had been left at the side of the road. They were in their father’s territory …. he would have been proud!
We returned the rental car, more easily than picking it up – we remembered the company this time. We found our boarding gate and sat for an hour before a change of gate saw us moved then boarded. I took my Valium, but no longer cared that I had to ask for an extension belt. I closed my eyes but my mind would not close down. The flight was smooth but my son held my hand for take off and landing. I do believe that if you are flying on a budget airline and the flight is only 2 hours, you should NOT be allowed to recline your seat! For 2 hours I could not move my legs or use my tray table. I got fidgety and jiggly. I tried to distract myself by looking out of the window. It was pitch black and I made the comment to the Boys that “The plane is hovering!!” The looks of shock that came back from the Boys, gave me the first inkling that my brain and body was no longer functioning properly.
I was quiet on the taxi and car ride home. At 1:15am, I sank into my bed but my over stimulated body and mind was not conducive to restful sleep. I had to attend work in the morning and I knew in my gut that my job was no longer going to be available for me. I eventually fell asleep just before the alarm went off.
Work went as I had expected. I almost fell asleep at my computer screen. When the news about my job was confirmed, I cried! I felt weary beyond anything I had ever felt before. My drive home was not a safe drive. I couldn’t concentrate. When at last I sank into bed, I did sleep, but it took until Friday for my body and mind to feel normal.
In the last week and a bit, I had stretched my mind and body further than I thought was possible. I had made it through and come out the other side with no sense of despair or failure. I enter into the next scary part of my life knowing that the two things that I thought have been my weakest – are strong enough! I am strong enough!
For the last 35 years, I have had the same mother-in-law (MIL). I have been lucky with my MIL. She loves me and my boys, constantly finding ways to help us out over the years with baking, cooking, sewing, knitting, praying and the “don’t tell Dad but here’s some $$$ just incase you need it” money gifts! She has always been positive about our marriage and family, although in the beginning she must have wondered what on earth her only son had brought home!
I entered her family like a freight train. Head on, whistles blasting. She didn’t get to meet me until we were engaged and well on our way to being married. My husband and I were living in New Zealand at the time of meeting, his family were in Australia. When that first meeting took place, it was a harrowing experience for both of us. You see – the airline had lost my luggage and I had been in the same clothes for two days and one night while we drove from Melbourne to the country town an hour out of Adelaide where they lived. I know I was stinky and crumpled and unsure of myself, when I stepped out of the car to meet this very stylish, immaculately made-up, perfectly permed lady that was to become my MIL! We sat down to tea (best china) and cakes (homemade of course) and nothing that I was experiencing made a bit of sense when I looked at my handsome, sloppy, daggy, no dress sense, sport obsessed fiancé.
Years later, when talking about our first meeting – MIL has often said that she was scared of me and then quickly realised that she would have to lower her expectations for her son, because obviously he loved me and had chosen me!! Every now and then she would come out with classic comments like this – with absolutely no understanding of what she had just said and how it might affect the person she was talking about. I absolutely, love this about her …. once I understood that she did not have a mean bone in her body.
Over the years, it became obvious to MIL that I didn’t really have a domestic bent and so preserved fruit & jam that was so sweet I couldn’t eat it, made its way to Queensland, where we were now living. Along with curtains for our house; machine knitted jumpers by the dozen; pages of hand written names from the local newspaper – for when the babies started coming; home-made honey biscuits at Christmas; and then there were the months long driving visits to stay with us ….. with no going home date! I had never experienced anything like this. Not that my Mum wasn’t a happy homemaker – she was. But this was on a whole different level!!
I had some advantages – MIL could bake up a storm but I could cook her out of the kitchen. And I made amazing babies! Winning! We each had our gifts and we learned to accept the other’s ways and our love and respect for each other grew strong.
Time has marched on. We have both had too much loss in our lives. MIL is now aged 96 years old and has been through the deaths of her husband, step-daughter, all of her brothers & sisters and of course her much-loved son – my husband, Adrian. Too much sadness for a mother – they aren’t supposed to bury their children. She is an amazingly strong and determined woman.
MIL still chooses to live alone, in a retirement village, in the same country town where I first met her. She manages her own money and only stopped driving at 90. She has help with showering & house cleaning but still insists on cooking, doing her own washing & many other things that I think she should not be doing! She is being careful, she says but has now had 4 or 5 falls in the last 4 months. She won’t press her emergency button when she has a fall because she would rather wait until her next booked doctor’s appointment to be checked out! This worries me but she tells me not to. She only tells me she has fallen, weeks after the event – so she won’t be a worry to me!!! She cut her toe last week when cutting her toenails, but can’t see that she needs a podiatrist to do it! She was silly and would have to take more care, she says.
She loves me and my boys and always will. I live too far away to visit often but our phone calls are filled with love & laughter & pride in her Grandsons. I’m learning to let go and let God. Soon, she won’t be able to make those phone calls anymore and we will just have the precious memories of the love she gives us.
And of course the memory of when she told us that she had to have a small medical procedure on her head because it had fossilised!!! We are sure she meant calcified but will forevermore enjoy sharing about MIL’s fossilised head!