Category Archives: Family

Home again

To my unbounded joy, Mrs S has returned from the UK, and Youngest is home after her four month road trip through the States. They have brought the sunshine with them, which is very pleasing.

Stories are being literally poured out at me about who did what to whom, Youngests visits to FBI building and various cultural centres, like Museums and Courthouses (She’s a law graduate, what can I say). There was also a telling little snippet from Mrs S, who witnessed the Diamond jubilee barge parade up the Thames. The weather on that day in London was not pleasant apprently; “Absolutely bucketing down.” According to my other half, as the Queen stepped off the Royal Barge, there was a moment when Elizabeth II glanced up at the leaden, rain filled sky with an air of disgust, and indulged herself in a small ‘rolling of the eyes’ moment. A kind of “Oh bloody hell, what now?” expression on the regal visage.

Kind of says it all about the UK really.

Am looking out on a sunny BC morning and indulging myself in a small, smug ‘Glad I don’t live there any more’ moment.

At last!

Well it’s nice to have something positive to say about something. I mean all this negativity can really weigh a person down. Stuff like artificial shortages, bans, Governmental incompetence, wars, ever encroaching attacks on civil liberties and free speech, increasing fiscal dithering, currencies about to implode and all the fallout that will entail.

Yet I am like a man watching the predawn light before a wonderful sunrise. A sense of excited anticipation lifts my heart, and raises my eyes from the grim grind of work-eat-sleep. There is hope, a promise of a bright new day despite portents of doom and failure in the outside world.

It helps that I’ve just finished two weeks of back to back shifts, and now have a slightly less onerous work schedule for the next three months. There’s even a holiday in the offing, which is nice. There is the promise of uninterrupted guiltless repose. My social life is going to cough and strain back into uneven existence. I’m positively giddy with anticipation.

The pool is cleaned out, the solar collectors are hooked up once more, and it will be up to swimming temperature is another two weeks if the weather holds. I am going to buy a hammock and sleep outdoors – damn the recent Cougar sightings. If that mouldy moggy wants to snack on my hide, he’ll find himself discounted ten cents a slice at the local Deli. Not that he will, small children and domestic pets are more his speed. As an aside, there are quite a number of ‘lost pet’ notices locally. Mostly Toy dogs like Shi-tzu’s, Pomeranians and toy poodles. Full size dogs generally get left alone. The local Deer population seems to have taken a dent, too. However, this is besides the point;

Yes. Mother in law goes home today. Forever. Never to darken my threshold ever again. Huzzah! I thought she’d never leave. After a hundred and one days of whining, sleep disruption and spreading her own low grade misery wherever she goes. A hundred and one days of no social life. A hundred and one days unable to go out for a meal because she’s so totally dependent (Not to say needy) we could not leave her on her own and couldn’t take her anywhere because even getting her up and down stairs is a two handed affair. A hundred and one days of disrupted work patterns because she couldn’t even go to the toilet unaided. And she wanted to go to the toilet. Every hour and a half.

This morning the sun is bright, and the house feels a little different, as if it harbours a keen sense of imminent release. Mrs S has the duty of returning Mother in Law to the UK, and we’ve planned everything down to a finesse. Down to the car, to the airport, wheelchair out first. I carry bags to check-in desk and Mrs S wheels her up to security. Everything is packed to ensure a swift transition, and as soon as they’re in security, I’m gone. There is a house to be cleaned and sanitised. Beds to be stripped and cleaned. The washing machine and vacuum will be running red hot all afternoon. The deck and outside windows have already been power washed, and I have industrial quantities of air freshener to rid us of the stink of her passing. This isn’t sanitising – it’s an exorcism. A liberation from the continuous misery she brought with her.

Now I’m going off to have a minor fit of hysterics. Then tomorrow my Whiskey supply will need replenishing. Allow me to leave you with Roger Daltrey of the Who in Ken Russells version of Tommy, the Rock Opera.

Sleepless on Vancouver Island part 4

Yesterday I was bloody exhausted. Too tired even to eat. Flattened, floored, shattered, shagged, and knackered beyond metaphor. I couldn’t remember being this way, ever. This morning, faced with a doorstepping Jesus freak, I couldn’t even be my usual irreverent self.

This morning I saw what Mrs S had written in her care diary, where she logs Mother in Law’s doses, toilet wake-ups and washing, two words; ENOUGH NOW!

Today’s mission young Bill – Respite care. I don’t give a bugger what tantrums I have to face from MiL (Who is convinced she will die if she goes into a care facility). Mrs S and I need the rest as we’re both well into ‘caregiver burnout‘ territory, and need to back out a little to get a good run up to cope with the next sixty or so days. A few hundred dollars for our own psychic survival is a cheap enough price.

What’s surprising is the short length of time it’s taken for us to get to this point. As individuals Mrs S and I are generally both pretty tough cookies. We’re resilient with a high bounceback factor. Yet in just over thirty days we’ve suffered significant debilitation due to sleep disruption / deprivation. No wonder it’s so popular as an interrogation technique. The low level pressure headache is a constant presence. Difficulty concentrating is a given. I have to double check everything I do, because I’m scared of making critical mistakes. My trains of thought are all over the shunting yard, and things which used to raise an ironic smile now just get a disgusted shrug. I’m a zombiform version of my usual self, but without the cannibalistic appetite for brains. Friends are solicitous and kind despite our currently irascible attitudes and we love them all the more for that. Despite that, we’re being ultra-careful not to upset people we like.

Notwithstanding, I’m putting MiL into a care facility for a few nights – damn the cost – damn her tantrums, and damn the judgmental proxy guilt of family who won’t step up to the plate themselves.

Sleepless on Vancouver Island Part 1

Have you ever been so tired you read the word ‘Local’ as ‘Lolcat’? Are your reaction times so slow you make a stoned out hippie look like he’s got the reflexes of a cobra fighting mongoose? Had bags under your eyes so big you feel like Customs, Homeland Security, and the TSA have been rummaging through them? Well that’s how I feel right this minute. My head feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton wool, my fingers are vibrating like quadruple tuning forks, and I swear half the time I’m hallucinating. Mrs S is suffering even more. Stringing two thoughts together has been all but impossible for almost seventy two hours. If it weren’t for the mercy that I got four and a half glorious, continuous hours of unconsciousness last night I’d be even worse.

It’s all down to lack of sleep caused by one thing, and one thing only; my Mother in Law. This is no exaggeration. a few days ago I’d gotten to the point where I actually feared sleep, knowing that my happy repose will be jolted into bleary wakefulness several times during the night by as sound more dread than the pitter of a Tarantula’s tootsies in an arachnaphobe’s mind; a little bell. A wee small tinkling tinny tyranny that shatters somnolence more effectively than a sledgehammer wielding strongman and a very large gong. Every hour and a half, without fail. Christ on a bike, I’m so bloody tired I can’t sleep. This is crazy.

Let me explain; before Christmas my Sister in Law, who lives partly in England decided that it was high time she had a time out from being Mother in Law’s primary carer. So she announced that she was going to the land of Oz, and which one of her other sisters would take on the job for a while. No, Mother in Law was fine, sure she could look after herself most of the time, yes, she’s having a little trouble making herself understood, but otherwise she pleases herself with a little help. She’s no trouble whatsoever. No, she refuses to go into a care home, but that’s not a problem. Honestly.

Yeah, right. Lies, damn lies, statistics and bigger porkies than an entire decades output from the Melton Mowbray pie factory. Much against my wishes and better judgement, Mrs S put up her hand to say of course we’ll look after Mum, it’ll be all right Bill, really. I objected, but had to back down as all the womenfolk on my wife’s side of the family voted against me. I was outnumbered. Being right had nothing to do with it.

The truth is, my ninety plus year old Mother in law is incapable of even going to the toilet without assistance. Even wiping her own bum is a task obviously beyond her. She is effectively deaf, dysphasic and has no, repeat no sense of balance, and a short flight of stairs might as well be a vertical rock face. She has to be dressed, fed, pottied and washed. There is no task of self care that she can perform unaided. Her every need must be catered to, no matter the time of day or we’re left with spreading puddles and the stench of urine all through the house. Hence the bell. We cannot leave her alone because she cannot walk or stand unaided. She’s also a major stroke risk. By stroke I mean Cerebrovascular Accident, and according to prognosis, she’s due for the big one.

This would not be a real problem were she a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident, but she’s not. I know my wife and her sisters insist current insurances will cover all eventualities. I, as a humble male, have serious doubts. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to weasel out of coughing up, quoting clauses citing ‘pre-existing conditions’ etc. If Mother in Law dies or worse, becomes even more incapacitated, my concern is that we will get saddled with a bill that may just wipe us out financially speaking. Now every day has me waking after my fitful repose with the following small prayer; “Please. Not today.”

Mrs S and I both work at two jobs apiece. We’re not high fliers, but those jobs swallow up most of our daylight hours, and a few more beside. Up until recently this wasn’t much of a problem. Now it is. A major league problem with little dayglo warning stickers all over it which say; Crisis. This way up. Fragile. Do not bend.

So far it’s been twenty days and twenty of the longest nights I can ever vaguely remember, and that is no small statement. We have seventy more days to go.

Fuck. Fuck. fuckity fuck fuck, arghhhhhhhhh!

Update: The bell has been confiscated, nocturnal nappies have been applied. Nurse has been hired twice a week. Mrs S and I actually got a full nights sleep last night (apart from one alarm around 4am). Now Mother in law has developed Hives. Emotional stress seems to be the most likely cause. She’s stressed? I’m surprised that Mrs S and I aren’t covered head to toe in nasty red welts. Insurance has been notified. Visit to clinic arranged. Ho de doo dah day, wibble my millennial hatstand your worship. Where’d I put my straitjacket?

Update 2
: Oh sod, it’s bloody Shingles. Fortunately I had my dose of Chickenpox when I was five, so my likelihood of developing Shingles late in life is much reduced. Or so says my friend Mister Flibble.

Interruption of blogging

What with work and having an extremely mobility challenged Mother in Law (We’ve had to hire a Nurse twice a week) dumped on us for the next three months, writing and commenting are going to be highly sporadic. “Bill. Mum’s falling again – help me out.” Flags up every twenty minutes. Add to that the demands of someone who basically gave up trying, and time for anything but work – eat – sleep goes out of the window.

One compensation is that I’m now a firm fan of the Netflix series ‘Lilyhammer’.

Steven Van Zandt slices his Mafia boss ham performance thick and sweet in a culture clash comedy well worth getting Netflix for. Original, funny (Often both at the same time) with some interesting insights. Five stars. Two thumbs up.

Oh gawd. The “I need the toilet” bell is ringing. There goes my day off.

One of the reasons I left the UK

One day in mid 2006, I was off duty and busy writing when the doorbell of our tiny little terraced house buzzed. I went to the front door to be greeted by a clipboard wielding woman from ‘child services’ demanding to see “The baby”, telling me I had to let her in because “It was the law”.

That is the absolute honest truth, those were her exact words, and they have been burned into my brain, leaving me in no doubt as to the wisdom of our leaving the UK. The woman had the wrong address and seemed incapable of reading road signs, but despite this tried to bull past me on my own doorstep. My own fucking doorstep. No warrant, no Police, no evidence, no nothing. Not even the right bloody house. Needless to say, she was refused entry, and the error of her ways pointed out. Although upon reflection I’d have sent her to the other side of town had I been a bit more aware in those days. Right into the heart of Chavland.

No wonder, as Ranty quite reasonably points out, they keep sticking the wrong people in jail. My grandchildren will not grow up over there if I have any say in the matter. Not unless the Augean stables of certain Government departments are given a thorough cleaning with a few hundred gallons of this, and one of these.

Moving on

At the risk of coming over all morbid, I’ve elected to post my thoughts about our family friends recent demise over the next couple of days. If you don’t like descriptions of dead people and bereavement, stop reading right now and pick something a little more light hearted off the sidebar.

Todays unpleasant little task was the formal identification of our friend before cremation. Just to make sure we get the right pile of grey granular dust from the crematorium on Saturday.

Mrs S and I arrived at the funeral Directors at three as arranged, and were shown into a very comfortable side room. Our newly widowed friend elected to come with us, even after she’d said she wouldn’t. “Okay, here’s the drill.” I said after we had settled on the sofa. “I’ll go in, do the formal identification as agreed, and if everything’s okay, I’ll call you in.” Mrs S and Widowed friend nodded approval and I was shown into the little side room where our old friend lay.

My first thoughts were how like a manikin he looked; all dressed and tidy in his old Royal Canadian Navy dress uniform. Patent leather shoes polished to a brilliant shine. Hair and beard neatly trimmed to match an old passport photo. Crisp white shirt with uniform tie perfectly knotted. Quite an array of medal ribbons, including (I’m told) a DSO, on his dress blue jacket with Chief Petty Officers badges embroidered on the lapels. All smart and polished, yet lying in a cheap chipboard box. The pallid waxy and mottled complexion with dark pink filmed blue patches under his fingernails. Knobble jointed fingers with fading bruises under the skin where in his penultimate confused delirium, he’d lashed out at everything. Cheekbones standing proud above cheeks collapsed into shallow bowls, mouth and eyelids open just a hairs width, and so terribly, irrevocably still. Looking like all the life had been forcibly vacuumed from his earthly husk. Which is what I was looking at. A very smartly presented shell. Not the sharply humorous and bluff old cove I first met over four years ago. Mrs S of course, has known him since she was very young, when she first came to Canada.

After a few moments checking that all was neat and there was nothing apart from the inertia of flesh, I was moved to remark to the empty room; “My, my old mate. You do spiff up well.”

After a moments considered pause I went to tell the girls it was okay to view. Leading them into the little viewing room, I let the Widow grab hold of my hand for comfort, then let she and Mrs S go and see for themselves. There were subdued tears, and a few sniffs, but the major dam breach of heartbreak had spent itself on Monday night, and this was simply a further closing of the door between past and future. For my own part I felt a smaller tightness in the throat than seeing him ekeing out his last moments on a hospital bed. Yet the last bit of grieving was still palpably there.

My only criticism was perhaps the funeral home might have improved their presentation by draping the naked chipboard cremation shell with a cloth or something. Five dollars for a sheet for him to lie on whilst waiting for his last trip through the crematorium might not have made such a difference to their margins, and made it look like they cared a little more; even if what they do is ‘Just a job’ as one of my workmates commented earlier in the day.

We dropped the widow back at her house, and Mrs S went on a short errand, leaving us to talk about her deceased husband. I recounted my own experiences of bereavement. You know, the little hallucinations the brain creates to take your mind off the pain of loss. Hearing the voice of a departed love, seeing them out of the corner of your eye in quiet unguarded moments. Even holding conversations with them just as you’re drifting off to sleep or daydreaming. The sound of their voice reconstructed from memory and used by your sneaky subconscious to spur you into a specific course of action, and how they fade, but never quite go away.

She seemed comforted, and talked about moving forward into a future of her own. The house will go of course, and she’s been packing stuff to go to the Salvation Army and local Thrift stores. I’ve seen her new apartment, with its view over the nicer end of a lake. It was to have been for two, but her husband of many years did not live long enough. Still, I wish her what joy she can find, and hope we get an invitation to lunch occasionally.

Did I mention the care home sports a very pleasant restaurant. High end Canadian care homes are more like fully serviced apartment blocks, including shops, hairdressers libraries and gyms. I believe the one our widowed friend is about to enter has a physiotherapist and full time nurse on duty.

She is moving on, and that is as it should be.

Death and other mysteries

Well the inevitable has come to pass, and our old family friend is no more. We got a panic stricken call from his wife on Monday night and went haring off into town to support her. As it happened she was just having ‘A little moment’ and just needed some fellow grown ups to talk to. The actual final blow fell on Tuesday afternoon, when Mrs S and I were summoned by his wife to the hospital, where he was headed down the final furlong of life. His lungs were finally giving up the ghost, and there was nothing more that could be done for him.

I’ve seen people die up close and personal a number of times, including close relatives, but it’s always a rough emotional ride. Seeing once vibrant and alive people transformed into inert waxen husks. No matter how many times you watch people succumb to the entropy of existence, it always gets to you. The swelling tautness in your own throat and chest, the tears that won’t come because you’ve seen it all before and you know people are relying on you to be the strong one.

To cut to the chase; after a brief discussion with the Hospital medical staff, it was agreed that the man we had known no longer inhabited the fleshly shell currently gasping for each tiny sip of air. The oxygen was turned off, and we said our final goodbyes. I tried to take our friends hand for one final handshake, but there was no response, but I bid him “God speed” all the same, and watched for a while as his breathing grew ever more uncertain and ragged. I’d hate to think the last thing he heard on this Earth was impersonal gossip. Better a friendly familiar voice than the disassociated concern of medical professionals. If there is a life beyond our short traipse across this window in time, a kind word or wish, I hope, may make the transition easier.

At his widows request we left before the final denouement and I stepped out of the Hospital entrance to see a glorious full arc rainbow, as though something were trying to say “That’s it. The tough bit is over. It’s okay.” It was a day of rainbows, which I normally consider favourable portents, but not that Tuesday.

Fifteen minutes later the phone call to say he was dead came from the hospital. His widow smiled a little to know his suffering was finally over. She’d done her real crying the night before, when she realised this was it. Now all we felt was a small lifting of a choking cloud of uncertainty. She bid me clear out his basement workshop, and I did my best; packing box after box of tools and gadgets. Mrs S kept a steady flow of that great English panacea, Tea, going. I swear, if the apocalypse came and the world was in ruins, you would still find real English people sitting on a barren waste waiting for the kettle to boil with a smile and a “Cheer up. You’re still breathing!”

We laid out a timetable for Wednesday, and today has been spent running errands for our newly widowed friend. Making arrangements to get her into a nice care home where she will have company, and the grim reaper has a more genteel and studied touch. Funeral arrangements to make. Fielding phone calls from tearful relatives, which ironically made the Widow cheer up. “She was worse than I was.” I heard her comment about one particular friend, who had phoned from Nova Scotia and had hysterics when handed the news of our friends demise.

There was a stove (cooker) to fix. The central heating had sprung a leak, and there are still forms to fill in. Always forms to fill in. Annuities to transfer, Service Canada to notify. Service BC to talk to. The blandishments of smoothly practised sales people at the funeral home to resist. Did you know they made steel coffins? I didn’t until today. Title of assets to be transferred. Lawyers to be reminded. Fortunately I haven’t had any serious work to do for the past couple of days, so we could spare time to help out.

My penultimate task in this little drama is the formal identification of the body prior to cremation. The legal niceties must be observed, and the tax man takes HST on it all. Death and Taxes together. The irony clangs. At the request of his widow, there will be no service or memorial. Donations to charity, and keep the flowers in your gardens.

I did ask her if I might write an obituary for him, but she said no, and I must respect that. Apparently there are vultures in human form who trawl the obituary columns and prey on the newly bereaved, so my friend will cross to eternity without public recognition. I find that very sad for a man who has had such an eventful life. He should be remembered, but as his Widow insisted “All the people who needed to know about him know.” I conceded, and we owe him that final discretion.

I will be busy for a while.

Busy

Too busy to blog. Even more family are due to descend upon us shortly. Still running errands for terminal friend. Major project finished and have been asked to deliver a talk at a book signing (Write presentation, practice speaking, rehearse, promotional material design, work, work, work). Mrs S has insisted I make time out for fishing as I’m as hyper as a puppy with a new squeaky toy.

All in all, having a nice time. I think.

A short interlude

Not really the time or inclination to blog recently. The awful reality is that an old family friend is, not to put too fine a point on it, dying. Cause; Mesothelioma (Cause, Asbestosis) probably contracted as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. So we’ve been spending quite a bit of our free time visiting, doing the shopping, running other errands for his wife (Who doesn’t drive) and reading to him, as he’s too weak to hold a book.

Nothing too strenuous, just a bit of Kipling, Frost, Robert Service. The more ribald the better. Although I have to tone the funny stuff down sometimes as the poor chap’s only got half a lung left, possibly less according to his Doctor. I don’t want him to die laughing because of something I said or did. Not that laughing is such a bad way to go, but I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was the cause. Besides, he and his wife helped us a lot when first we arrived in Canada, so we feel that we have a bit of a moral debt to discharge, and too little time remaining to do it in.

Considering the life the man has had; WW2 saw two of the ships he was on torpedoed and sunk; Distinguished Service Order; lost in the Arctic for ten days while surveying for Decca radar, travelled trans Canada any number of times with a Radar training unit. Yes, he is a ‘real’ person, and when he dies I will publish a link to his obituary if it’s available online. Although for our old family friend I think that’s pretty much certain, and if not I’ll bloody write it myself. Such people should not slip from memory so readily. They are too rare.

Watching someone die slowly is not exactly my favourite pursuit, so to lighten my glumness (and Mrs S’s), I’ve been scouring the Interweb for ‘cheer-us-up’ recipe’s. Stap me if I didn’t hit paydirt. Perfect chip batter in a simple, quick and easy recipe. See the youtube clip below. Just tried it out on Snapper and Pacific Cod fillets, and believe me, the result is light, tasty portions so easy even I can get it right every time. Much better than store bought, and rivalling most chip shop batter I’ve tasted. Try it for yourself.

Don’t forget, the water should be properly chilled and the mix thoroughly whisked for lightness. With only a handful of decent Chip shops on the Island, sometimes the DIY method is the only way.

The more it changes.. the more it stays the same

I can’t think of a topic I haven’t beaten to death, which is why posting has been pretty sporadic of late. That’s because people who simply refuse to use their brains insist they are fit for elected office, and because there are so many people who live in a fluffy pink la-la world, and think everyone else has to, too. I’m just trying to ignore them and hope they’ll go away.

For myself, I’m busy welding words together over a red hot keyboard, and have resurrected the ‘Stepdad’ Manuscript, which is a humorous but hopefully instructive treatise about my experiences as the stepfather of two teenage girls. Which I hope to release shortly in cut down form as an eBook.

Seeing as I have survived the experience with health and sanity relatively unimpaired, and seen them graduate with honours from university, I think that now qualifies me as an expert on the subject. Although if asked, “Have you the right qualifications?” I might respond “There aren’t any, now fuck off.”

Posting will be even lighter than usual because there’s a lot of fruit harvesting and processing to be done. More plums than I know what to do with, and the grape vines and blackberry bushes in our little back yard look like giving up a bumper harvest. Hunting season starts in September.