It isn’t working. Certain things, such as having to climb half a dozen stairs to use the lift, are admittedly problematic, but could be dealt with, given time. But it is clear that they have already made up their minds. Everything is wrong. “It’s never going to work,” says Dad. Mum is crying, and wants to go home. (Don’t we all?) This, I am convinced, is what Dad wants to hear. After all, she cries at home too. She has dementia.
I plead with them to stay at Upton Manor a bit longer. So does the manager, who says that they should at least stay until the end of the week, or until we can get them some care at home. I express my frustration to the housekeeper who has become my confidante, and for the first time in many a year I cry a few tears. In agreeing to take them home I am sure I am making one of the biggest mistakes of my life… but I really have no choice. I go back to London promising to return on Friday. Nevertheless, the messages on my mobile keep coming.
Colin, you have to come. Please. We must get Mum home!
After three nights in my own bed I’m on the 11.07am train back to Liverpool. At 2pm I arrive at the house (the taxi driver having clipped a parked car on the way). I rope in a kind neighbour because I cannot handle both of them – 95 and 91 – by myself and we need two cars. We drive the five minutes to Upton Manor. They are desperate to leave, coats and hats on. Dad has more or less packed, forgetting things in the bathroom and the cupboards. Anticipating this, I have a rucksack to hand. I say goodbye to the staff, hurriedly, saying I’ll be back on Monday to pay the bill. We help them into the cars and back to the house. It is blowing a gale and hailing.
Dad is cock-a-hoop
He turns on the gas fire and declares, “I feel better already.” Mum seems not so sure. Within a few minutes it is uncomfortably hot.
“If you don’t like the coffee Mum, I’ll bring you a glass of water.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”
“Well, it sounded like it. Here’s some water anyway. You can have either, I don’t mind.“
“God, what a bloody life. Thank God he’s going home.”
“I know you don’t mean it, Mum.“
She never used to swear.
To be fair, it isn’t always that bad
I serve up dinner at 6:30pm: sausages, with actual, real mash – they are a bit tough and dry as Dad has advised me to roast them in the oven. So Mum has an excuse not to eat them. She doesn’t do chewing thee days. It’s followed by strawberries and cream, which Mum does eat. Anything sweet – and chips, of course.
“I just want to know what you want. I am going tomorrow to have a look at Caldy Manor and I want to know if it has to be on the ground floor, if you’d prefer a double room, that sort of thing.”
“Not yet. We need a rest.”
“So not this year.“
“So if I go and they say they have two nice rooms together I’ll say not to bother keeping them?”
“Your Mum needs to settle down. We need a rest. Why are you always in a rush?”
I am tired, distraught and, frankly, angry. I decide to drive to Caldy Manor, have a chat with the manager and look around, and take some pictures to show Mum and Dad.
On the way I see that there are quite a few trees down, Storm Arwen having been worse in the North-West than expected. Caldy Manor is even posher than Upton Manor and very, very expensive. They could have a double room on the ground floor, with a nice view and near the dining room. All very good. But will they ever agree to go?
“Would you rather stay at home and have a carer in the house 24/7? I have set up a meeting.”
“Tell us how the meeting goes.”
“No, it will be here on 15 December.“
“It’s not very nice of Colin to bring this up now.”
“He’s only trying to help. He doesn’t want to go back to London with no arrangements made.”
“I way I feel I’d rather leave here in a box.”
I am eavesdropping from the hall. I understand. But if Dad has an accident Mum would not even be able to call for an ambulance or get out of the house to call for help. How long will this phase of denial – that they can manage in future because they have managed so far – go on?
After a day cooking, cleaning, emailing and dealing with the idiots at Lloyds Bank (who have decided to bounce a cheque and cancel the entire chequebook because they don’t like the fact that I’ve filled in the details and Dad’s signed it), I need to get some fresh air. I wake up Mum, rather than Dad, and leave a note.
“I’m going out for a walk, Mum.”
I walk to Upton village, uphill to St Mary’s Church, which I used to attend as a teenager. The weather has turned quite mild and I’m in no great rush to get back.
I return at 10 past 5, having been to the shops on the way home.
“Mum was worrying about when you were coming back.”
“Did you not see my note?“
“We weren’t sure if you had left at 4 or were coming back at 4.”
“You could always have phoned me if you were worried.“
“I wasn’t worried, but your Mum was.”
I cook mince and tatties, the Scotsman’s favourite, with the potatoes overcooked, the way Mum likes them – so she can mash them up with a fork.
“Lovely,” says Dad. Mum, as usual, doesn’t eat much.
“Don’t be offended if I say something.”
“I won’t be offended.”
“But I usually put an Oxo cube in.”
“I did put one in.”
Once they’ve nodded off I slip upstairs, ring home for a moan to Anne and sink a bottle of beer.
It is a bit like failing an exam
People tell you that you can always have another go. Not to give up. But you have to get over the psychological blow of knowing that you have tried your hardest and you couldn’t do it. In time you may find the energy to have another go, but not just yet, not for a while.