At nine o’clock last night, I was sitting in semi-darkness in Mother’s living room, grateful for the sound of a busy bell as Not Cat cantered briefly back through the door for a rest in his explorations. Mother came home at four yesterday afternoon.
On Monday, when I called the ward, I was told transport had been booked for the morning and to expect her between nine and midday. So I drove up in the evening, calling the AA out after the first third of the journey when the car behaved oddly.
At half past twelve yesterday, wondering if I should be putting lunch on, I called the ward again to find out what time Mother had left.
She was still there.
Transport, I was told, had been booked for the afternoon and she could be home anytime between one thirty and nine in the evening. So I could have gone to get petrol in the morning after all. And slept a little later. Or even driven up yesterday morning and enjoyed Monday night in my own bed.
I know the hospital staff are stretched, but they don’t have a monopoly on being busy and having to juggle demands. Sometimes I find them quite cavalier in their attitudes.
Anyway, the important thing is Mother is home.
She looks frail and is certainly disorientated. But she recognised her flat, and the moment the ambulance crew had left, up she got to go to the loo. I went with her, guessing correctly she’d be wearing some form of incontinence pad that she would first struggle with and then discard.
While she was sitting on the loo, I helped her out of her trousers and into a fresh Tena pant. For some reason I started counting. Maybe it’s the influence of Janh’s counting backwards from two hundred cycling up hills. I don’t know that would work for me. Cycling up hills is not something I’m planning to do anytime in the next century. So one two, buckle my shoe, I said. Three four knock at the door. Mother joined in. I counted, she completed the rhyme. The only one she got stuck on was nineteen twenty.
Back in her chair, and a cup of vanilla Complan to hand, we read Debi Gliori’s book No Matter What. Twice. Then The Owl and the Pussycat.
The last line appealed to Mother. By the light of the moon, she repeated softly. We agreed it is a perfect love story, and Owl is so much more attractive a personality than Mr Rochester. Years ago we listened to Jane Eyre in the car as we jaunted around East Anglia. Neither of us could understand Mr Rochester’s status as romantic hero. We’d have both got away from him as fast as possible. The man was evidently complex and trouble to boot.
The hospital had sent most of Mother’s clothes home in plastic bags ready for washing. I’d nipped down to the laundry with it when one of the carers came in. Now I needed to get it out of the machine. I pushed Mother in her chair. When we reached the communal dining room quite a few of the residents were there. We sat for a while and Mother visibly relaxed. In fact I thought she was going to fall asleep. But no, suddenly she was wide awake and ready for action. We continued to the laundry and I hung the washing on the airers; Mother commenting on the view from the window.
Mother was starting to fidget and want to get out of the wheelchair. I hadn’t thought to bring the zimmer, so that wasn’t an option. Or at least, not a safe one. Back to the flat.
I could see she was tired. We had some sweet potato and parsnip soup I’d made, and the glass of strawberry Complan disappeared in an instant.
The carer came to give her her night meds. I suggested to Mother that she might like to go to bed. Oh can I? she asked, looking relieved. The carer and I got her comfortable in bed, and the carer left. Almost immediately, Mother announced she wanted the loo.
Although she was tired, Mother took a long time to settle. She got out of bed twice more. I sat in her bedroom and sang Au Clair de a Lune over and over until she dozed off. I tried to remember Oh Danny Boy but was only able to hum most of it.
The carer I’d booked for the night arrived and Mother sat up. Gail introduced herself, and Mother lay back against the pillows once more.
I was rather concerned that the only questions Gail asked me were to do with the television. She declared herself an Eastenders addict and said she needed to watch it. Our handover was interrupted by a call from her boyfriend. A call she took.
Reminding myself how much this service was costing, I said I needed her to supervise Mother, make sure if she got out of bed she was safe and to record if and when she was restless. Gail had already found the fridge which she stuffed full of food to get her through the night. Now I showed her the Complan I’d made up and where to find more.
Mother woke up and threw back the covers. Gail already had the television on. You may need to sit in with her for a while I said, just until she’s settled.
I went to the guest room with my bag, returning to collect Not Cat. Mother was in bed and Gail was on the sofa in front of the television. But it was quite low, and the doors were open, so I had to trust she knew what she was doing, and get myself to bed.
I may have found this harder if I had known what she told me this morning. After handing over to me just before seven, she said goodbye. I have booked someone through the same agency for tonight. Will it be you? I asked. No she said. I’ve been up for twenty four hours now, and I’m working a day shift tomorrow, so I’m going home to get some sleep.