Sunday, 19 June 2011

Rantings of a reluctant altruist

The last 48 hours... A GCSE maths exam, a motorway drive, a hospital radiotherapy appointment, two kids' sleepovers, two minor shopping trips, a long conversation with my father's social worker, meals cooked and dishwasher loaded (maybe it goes without saying), dog walked, beer drunk, about 11 hours' sleep, and a couple of bad-tempered squabbles of course.

At least Friday and Saturday aren't working days.

This is my first blog post. It should be a gentle beginning, like spreading the slices of bread I suppose. But I can't give you all the background because it's too boring and complicated, and you'd probably stop reading before you began.

I'm going to try to avoid too much moaning, you'll be pleased to hear. I'm not the only working-single-parent-carer who's juggling too many responsibilities, and we all want to scream "But what about ME?!" sometimes. I'm bitter and bitchy when provoked, and I'm often as exhausted as limp lettuce.

I'm no saint. I'm not long-suffering. Putting other people's needs before my own does not come naturally to me. I do not like the situation I find myself in and I would really, really like to run away and live happily ever after on a Greek island in the sunshine.

But so far I'm still here. Becoming a reluctant altruist.

That'll do for a first installment. Have a look at 'Me and my sandwich' over there on the right of the page, if you want to know a little bit more. 


Catching up with the sinking sun

I just filled the kettle with left-over cold tea instead of fresh water. Not a good start to the day.

Every parent knows about sleep deprivation. You can't live through the baby-and-toddler years without missing a few nights' sleep. Or in my case, since neither of my kids slept through 'til they were three-and-a-half, 365 nights' sleep in each of the first few years! I learned I can still function (though admittedly not very well or very happily) on as little as four hours' sleep a night.

Those days are long gone - hooray! My boys - especially my sixteen year old, of course - don't want to share beds any more... unless they can persuade someone far younger and prettier than me! My nighttimes are generally (teen-popcorn-type incidents permitting) peaceful.

But for the past five weeks I've been forced to re-learn how to function on less sleep than I need.

I have had to squeeze an extra 15-20 hours' work into each week - to visit my dad, take him to hospital appointments, have conversations with doctors and social workers, and do all sorts of other bits and pieces. The Care Service people are 'not allowed' to do task that is medical, because they're not trained for it. Fair enough. But I haven't had any training either, yet it still falls to me to sort out my dad's medications and oxygen. More annoyingly, they're 'not able' to do his shopping either, though you definitely don't need special training for that. So it falls to me to do that, too. Hmm. Perhaps in a way it's lucky he's stopped eating.

(Yes, don't worry, I am joking).

As a working single parent, my days were already pretty full. I'm sure I don't need to convince you of this, cos you'll already know from your own experience. There simply aren't that many hours hanging around in my week doing nothing.

So. I have to borrow them. A couple of hours a week borrowed off my working week (they have to be paid back; it's called 'flexi-time'). A few hours borrowed off housework. A few minutes borrowed off bedtime stories (I don't like that one). And the rest - probably about ten hours' a week - borrowed from my sleep.

I run and run to catch up with the sun... And each evening, though it's sinking, I think I've almost got it!

The mornings are a bit blurry though.

But what am I doing wasting time here, I hear you ask? Well, apart from the fact that these little outpourings are helping to keep me sane at the moment, it's a good question.

So bye for now.


Saturday, 18 June 2011

No rest for the sleepless

I'm tired this morning: I was awake again in the middle of the night. This time, I was woken by the smell of burning: my teen and his mate were trying (unsuccessfully) to make popcorn. Now I like a bit of popcorn myself, but not enough to help lads make it at 3.30am!

Then I couldn't get back to sleep. There's a lot to worry about when your dad is dying. He seems to be going downhill so fast. Yesterday I had to collect a bag of medications from the chemist: all drugs for the syringe driver. No, I didn't know what that was either. Turns out it's a sort of tap that will be fitted to his arm, so he can easily be given whatever drugs he needs as he approaches death.

My youngest boy came with me yesterday. He wanted to show his grandpa the balsa wood car he'd made. But my dad was too gaga to pay much attention.

I worry about how much of their grandpa's death I should let my kids see. Perhaps it's deeply disturbing. Perhaps I should keep them away. Probably. They only really met him a few months ago, after all. How sad for them to be losing him before they really get to know him well.


Sent from my HTC

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Another fine mess I've gotten me into

I don't have much time for housework. There are plenty of days - well, ok, weeks - when nothing gets done. 'Nothing' doesn't actually mean nothing, of course, since I spend hours every day cooking and dealing with things that will otherwise become smelly or mouldy. But tidying and the like are low priorities.

But even I have my limits. And my bedroom has over-reached them, as you can see.

So, it's Tidy Up Time today. But I must admit it irks me. I don't want housework to become my only 'Me Time'.


Sent from my HTC

Monday, 13 June 2011

Oxygen at teatime

When I woke this morning, I didn't expect to be trying to fit oxygen tubes up my father's nose by teatime. It's been one helluva day.

Monday, 7:30am... Not my favourite day or time. My eldest son had a GCSE today, but not 'til this afternoon. I'd offered to cook him a 'brain food breakfast' but sleep was obviously more appealing. My younger son and I were running around getting ready: breakfast and packed lunch (his), shower (mine), consent form for an outing - you know the sort of stuff. We did really well: he was only 11 minutes late for school.

When I got to work at 9:45, I realised I had a missed call from my father. So I 'phoned back, and heard him answer and fumble with the handset. Then the line went dead.

I called again, and the line was engaged. I called again, and again. And again and again and again and again. Still engaged. Of course I was worried... But it was quite possible that my father was just 'phoning to say "Could you bring me some milk/yoghurt/whisky/tobacco?" (Yes, I did say tobacco, and yes he does have lung cancer)... So I needed more to go on, before leaving work and making an emergency dash 10 miles home.

Well, to cut a long story short... I got hold of someone from the Care Service in the end, and spoke to my father, and his GP... He had had two falls, and the carers had called an ambulance, and he'd refused to go in it. The doctor visited, and diagnosed pneumonia on top of his lung cancer. He'd again refused to go into hospital. He was still at home.

I left work and went to collect my father's antibiotics, steroids and morphine patches. The doctor said a home oxygen machine was on its way.


I arrived at my father's to find him subdued and very confused - away with the fairies, as they say. He was gazing out of the window: "Just look at that speedboat go!" he called happily. But when I asked him which arm he wanted his new morphine patch on, he protested: "Oh no. I don't want to be involved. It's obviously the perfect way to smuggle drugs out of the country. It looks more and more likely she's involved". Who's she? "You know, Whassername, the drugs mule".

And when the man came with the oxygen machine and showed us how to use it, my father was quite annoyed. He wrapped the tubes around his eyes and complained: "The last time I had CCTV fitted, there wasn't this palaver. I can't see anything!"

So I found myself trying to help him to insert the tubes into his nostrils, like the man had shown us.

Not something I ever imagined doing. Ah well. Try something new every day, they say; it's one of the top tips for good mental health.

But really, if I've got to deal with oxygen, I'd sooner learn scuba-diving.


P.S... At least my kids (remember them?) have been great today. My eldest even cooked the tea!

P.P.S... 9:40pm. Had a 'phone call from the Care Service to tell me my father has refused to take the oxygen to bed.

P.P.P.S... Half past midnight. The doctor told my father he give him 24 hours at home, to see if he rallies, before admitting him to hospital. Tick tock, tick tock. 12 hours passed.