Saturday, October 2, 2021

Autumn has arrived - Memorial

The weather is now definitely autumnal.  I don't expect anything very different from now on: we seem to have settled into a normal weather pattern.

I approach the season of death anniversaries:  16th October last year, my father; 2nd October 2013, my friend Candice;  8th November 2014, Mike3; 28th November last year my mother.

I'm not sure quite what to expect this year!

On 29th September we finally had the memorial service for my mum and dad, in the church where they had been parishioners for many years.  I'm so pleased with how it went: many of my cousins came and several of their friends and fellow-parishioners and I read out a tribute I'd written.  I'm particularly pleased about the tribute.  One friend wrote to me afterwards, "... especially your tribute which was warm, loving and humorous, capturing their essential selves perfectly."  

For those who are interested, here it is in full. 

Thank you all so much for coming to remember Leslie and Anthea.  We had funerals for each of them a short while after they died, of course, but at that point we weren’t allowed to sing and when Dad died, Mum said we should have a memorial service once we were allowed to sing.  I was able to ask her about it when we spoke on the phone for the last time (when she was in hospital) and she said it would be “most suitable” to have one memorial service for both of them together.

Mum had been a dancer when she was young. She got quite far in formal ballet dancing, dancing on points, but had to give up when she suffered an injury.  Dad had always enjoyed dancing too and they met at Scottish country dancing in Catterick.  They always loved to dance together as long as they were able and the slightly comic photo on the back page of the service sheet shows this.  Dad, in particular, loved the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna and the recessional music is some pieces from those concerts. 

The readings I’ve chosen speak of love and friendship and both say so much to me about the sort of people Mum and Dad were and the marriage they had.  Friendship in the wider sense too was so much a part of what made them what they were, and they made many lasting friendships throughout their lives. They were cheerful people, stoical in adversity, and I couldn’t have wished for better, less selfish parents.  I was so pleased that as they grew older they welcomed my gradually making more decisions for them and I was able to make sure they stayed in their own home and were well cared for during the last three years of their lives.  Special thanks go to Lily and Sharlene, who were their main carers during that time.

Mum and Dad were also both known for their sense of humour and I remember many times when the three of us were helpless with laughter.  Mum had started inventing words from the age of about three and by the time they were married, Dad said they should pin a note to the front door saying, “English also spoken”.  When Dad died I was struck by how many people mentioned that he was such good company, particularly because of his funny stories.

Mum came from a background of entertaining large numbers of friends at Christmas and other occasions and since they came to live in Caversham, Dad organised a large group of friends to attend concerts at the Hexagon, followed by a buffet prepared by Mum.  I’ve inherited their love of good company and a love of cooking and eating.  I’ve inherited Dad’s methodical mind and love of organising and making lists but I hope not his hoarding mentality.  Who needs three broken telephones that had been replaced by working models?  Or two boxes full of old 3-pin plugs which “might come in handy” for new appliances, which of course come with their own plugs these days.  Mum did hoard in her way but in her latter years periodically went through things and had a big clearout of all the clothes, shoes and bags she was never going to use again.  Dave and Jean, who took the remaining things to charity shops for me, might be surprised to learn they had already been whittled down so much.  Mum really loved to dress up and in her everyday life took care with colour co-ordination even towards the end of her life.  I have certainly inherited that from her.  She liked my purple hair and even Dad was getting used to it.

I obviously inherited some of my artistic flair from Mum but Dad too could paint.  He rarely did so though and even then had a rather more rule-driven technique about such things as perspective, distance, colour mixing and so on.  But he was a rather good cabinet maker and I was really pleased that the people buying their house want to keep one of the pieces of furniture he made.  Both Mum and Dad were practical people and when Dad was 55 and retiring from the army he qualified to go on a resettlement course.  They both went on a building course and learnt everything from bricklaying to painting.  I think Dad was quite an irritant when their house in Picton Way was being built as he could nip up in his lunch hour and inform them that they were using the bricks the wrong way up.  I’ve always indulged in DIY too and of course both Mum and Dad loved gardening and I’ve inherited that as well.

They were intelligent, interesting and interested people.  They were avid quiz watchers, though they never took part in any.  They watched crime dramas, documentaries and wildlife programmes but never soaps, though amazingly Mum still seemed to know things about the main characters in them.  They loved music, opera and ballet and enjoyed the theatre too.  They also loved animals, though after owning one very wild kitten in Germany and one dog in Malaya, I was never allowed to have either again.  They didn’t want any ties, but both really loved the two dogs I had as an adult and often spoke about Ralph, the West Highland Terrier, years after he had died.

Mum and Dad were married for 69 years, with Dad surviving the anniversary by a couple of weeks and Mum by six more.  They were both very kind people and took care to express gratitude to those who showed kindness to them.  They were also modest and I’m sure would have been pleased to see so many here to remember them today.  

Go well, Leslie and Anthea.





Sunday, August 29, 2021

It's been a weird summer.

The weather has been weird, both literally and metaphorically, since I last blogged.  From time to time I think I'll write a post and then things change completely and I don't.  

Really, I feel completely cheated of the summer.  I have had no good weather in my garden since the end of April.  All the times when everyone else was complaining of the heat I was away and for the hottest week I had been pinged and was confined to barracks.

Since June I have also been suffering from a mixture of some of the worst grief and a bad bout of post-viral fatigue.  The fatigue is very frustrating.  So many things I have been unable to do.  Some of my friends just don't get it.  I ventured out for a rare coffee with friends this week and they asked if I had walked in.  

I laughed.  

They were surprised.  

I had to explain post-viral fatigue all over again.  Interestingly, although I've always described the condition as post-viral fatigue my cranial osteopath talked about "people with ME" and then corrected himself to "post-viral fatigue" so I suppose I'm crossing the line between the two.  I've bad PVF before, though, about 18 years ago, and got over it completely until April 2019, so watch this space.

Part of the problem in recent weeks, though, is that one of the feelings - best described as tired brain-fog, I suppose, can be caused either by the post-viral fatigue or emotional "stuff".  I'm usually pretty good at working out emotional stuff but it has been a challenge.  I now know to look for stuff first and if I can't find anything it's probably fatigue.  But the fatigue is definitely getting better and the brain fog associated with it has mostly gone.  I still need to be careful, and probably haven't been today as I've done quite a bit in the garden/patio.  I think it will have done me good, though, even if I have to rest tomorrow.


Thursday, June 10, 2021

It may be summer

It may be summer; my garden says so.  In this weirdest of times, though, I don't always feel that it is.  There was a short period at the end of April when it was lovely and much sitting out was done, by me and by visitors.  Since then, though, I'm not so sure.  May's weather was truly dire.  June has begun better and things are coming into flower ...

But what about me? 

I have post-viral fatigue and have had for the past two years.  It's not quite ME but it could turn into that.  Fatigue and brain fog are the main symptoms in my case.  On the face of it, flare-ups are unpredictable but when I consider that stress is a trigger and look for one, there always is one.  It's often something small, but related to the underlying stress, e.g. currently grief.  When it hits, if I don't notice and do too much, it can get significantly worse but it's very minor compared with ME and I want to keep things that way.  

Most people seem unaware that for two years after a major bereavement your immune system doesn't work as well as it should.  This includes it being much more likely that PVF will flare up.  I am now really taking that on board and trying to be positive and know that the difficulties I'm having at this particular time will fade.  I need patience (not a trait Aries people are known for!)  Gradually my friends and relatives are understanding where I'm at. 

So it may be summer.  The grief hit really hard in the middle of May, but now I think I'm coming out of the worst now.  But in the garden the summer-flowering plants are competing with spring things, like wallflowers, which shouldn't be around any more.  In my life PVF is flaring up badly from time to time, along with other, minor, ailments.  I'm hoping the warmth and light provided by summer - and people - will give me the patience to continue moving forwards.   


Sunday, March 7, 2021

It feels like spring


I'm cheating with this particular photo, as when I took it (early February) it didn't feel at all like spring.  The flowers are so joyful, though, and every year they encourage me to look forward to when spring will be here.

February, too, did feel like a never-ending month.  I often felt fatigue, I often felt depressed in spite of anti-depressants, I often felt the year would never move forward.  Of course, in one way I had good reason to feel depressed and every visit to my parents' empty house has made me ill for the first few days of returning home.  

But now, early March, it does feel like spring.  There have been gloriously sunny days, with actual warmth in the sun.  I've been able to do some outdoors jobs, which includes a massive tidy-up of my biggest shed.  It isn't outdoors, of course, but as far as temperature is concerned it might as well be as it has no heating.  I booked a trip to the local tip and got rid of some huge things and now the shed looks like it never has before.  I went on my first walk since October.  I just haven't had the energy till now.

Spring is a time of new beginnings.  And suddenly I do feel I've moved forward to a new time in my life.  My mood has lifted in the last three days.  Apparently I even sound better on the phone! 

Having brought back lots of tools from my parents' house, and added them to those I already had, which was more than most people have, it occurred to me that I needed to prove to myself that I could still use them and wanted to.  It has been about 18 years since I've done anything with tools other than tiling and decorating as Mike3 did everything with tools and after he died I just asked my builder friend to do all the odd jobs.  It turned out I was quite scared of trying and this has become worse as the years have gone by.  I think somewhere in there was a sense of responsibility to stay ok for my parents.  Now they've both gone, I can have a go again, and if I damage myself, well, there's nobody really depending on me so it doesn't matter.

On Friday I needed to put up a spice rack in the kitchen.  I didn't want to wait till aforementioned builder comes to do various jobs on Wednesday as it meant I could empty one of the boxes I'd brought back.  I would do it myself!  And I did.  Not entirely, it turns out, because I needed advice on using Mike's drill as it was different from my old one.  And advice on size/length of screws and rawlplugs.  But my builder had 15 minutes on his way into town and popped in and advised and now I've done it!

So it feels like spring out there - and it feels like spring inside me too.  I am moving forward, discovering rejuvenated me after a period of statis. (Blogger doesn't know the word but I'm sure all my readers do.)  Nothing I haven't been before and of course now with various age-related aches and pains but still, I feel better.  I feel like spring is happening.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Dining-room cat

Dining-room cat
So this is what this grief is like.
This time it’s taken
seven weeks to hit.
I was waiting and thinking
maybe it wouldn’t.
by the invisible
cut but not cut cord
all my life,
so like each other
in mannerisms
and talents.
The last person I was allowed to hug.
Yesterday I brought home
Dining-room cat, a painting
your grandmother gave you,
and with it I brought the grief
at last.
Symbolic of you, Dining-room cat
has been there all my life
the archetypal cat
as you were, to me,
the archetypal mother.