“Skye would be nice” suggested Dad.
It was a simple request; a favourite place. It was spring and plans were being made for the summer. It was a time of juggling diaries, confirming dates and trying to find somewhere suitable for Dad; wheelchair access, ground floor, ensuite with walk in shower, countryside but close enough to shops, nice view, self-catering.
He would ask over and over again when we’d be going on holiday and I realised that whenever it would be it wouldn’t be soon enough. It seemed like forever since my brother had died yet it was mere months. Dad needed a break away from the endless cycle of waking, washing, eating, medication, losing things and finding them again; thinking; drinking tea or irn bru or that nice flavoured water that Linda brings; the hustle and bustle of nurses and carers and where’s the red button when it’s needed; the stress and distress of watching and listening to other residents’ stress and distress and reminding another that she’s in the wrong room a hundred times a day and that those DVDs aren’t hers; the decision making required for menu choices and activities participation; finding peace to concentrate on the newspaper, listen to the pre-programmed news at 6 o’clock or the soothing sound of Aker Bilk’s greatest hits; watching John and Maureen in a favourite film, laughing at Compo’s antics in Last of the Summer Wine; chuckling at the ongoing decline in Midsomer’s population; and trying to follow Horatio cracking another overcomplicated CSI case in between it all. A break was definitely needed.
The simplicity of the initial request was soon overcome by complications. If you’re a carer you will understand how even the slightest change in circumstance can alter plans at a moments notice. Nothing is seldom ever straightforward. Repeated infections, deterioration in mobility, restrictions on dates and availability all meant that the seven hour drive to Skye was perhaps too ambitious. I ignored the tug at my heart and the thoughts that surrounded that disappointment, pushing them aside. Even then, Dad understood why we had to be closer to home. June and July passed. Still Dad waited, patiently accepting his reliance on others.
It was nearing the end of August and Dad, Stewart and I headed north to the lovely town of Aberfeldy where we’d spend a week. I’d found a house that ticked all the boxes; a peaceful place to stop that was just outside the town centre with its lovely tearooms and shops. I even spotted a place that would be perfect for my own, very special, teashop. But that’s another story. The weather was kind to us and in the morning we were treated to the sight of Highland cows (a particular favourite of mine), deer, lots of squirrels and rabbits and birds that swooped in the hills behind us. Dad and I looked forward to seeing them each day.
It was only natural that Aker Bilk accompanied us and played in the background as we tackled a jigsaw. Dad always loved jigsaws and introduced them to my son. I was reminded of a time when he and David would work conscientiously together, after school, and the sense of satisfaction and achievement on completion. I watched him closely, conscious again of deterioration, and was aware of unspoken frustration; sometimes his sadness. But he never gave up. That’s not who he is.
We introduced him to ‘Band of Brothers’ in the evening which he enjoyed and we talked about his life growing up and those people who were important to him. We talked about young men going to war. He remembered his own son and a grandson in the RAF. He is quiet and becomes sleepy. Dad explains that he’s tired a lot these days, could sleep at the drop of a hat he says.
Fresh air, a pub lunch, browsing round the shops before sitting in the square tucking into raspberry ripple cones, it was still sunny but getting cooler now. It was time to make a move, time to get back. We sat outside the house for a while having coffee and admiring the view. There was no need for conversation and we appreciated the space for silence. There are moments when I can almost read his thoughts and other times the shutters are closed, tight. This is private.
It might not have been Skye but Dad enjoyed the trip and told staff in the nursing home he’d ‘had the best of care’. He’s never been one for compliments but I’m staking claim to that, owning it, and will treasure the memory of our week.
I’d forgotten how tiring and emotional it can be to look after a parent whose independence is compromised. I wondered how I’d managed. For those of you who do it 24 hours a day 365 days a year, you have my admiration and respect. It’s easy, in the middle of it all, to get lost. Sometimes you don’t even feature on the ‘to do’ list because there are other more important things that need to get done. Immediately. Now. This minute. But don’t lose sight of yourself. You’re precious too.
Autumn has arrived and Dad is content back in his normal routine.
“Wonder what they do in here for Christmas?” asks Dad.