My Snazzy Walking Stick

My snazzy new walking stick with its blue wood handle and patterned metal height-adjustable shaft – I decided if I have to walk with a stick, I’ll have a fun one! 🙂

PS I also have a plain burgundy stick for when I feel the need to be more sombre… I might even start myself a small collection of different sticks to match my many different moods…

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Snazzy

April A-Z: Y is for Yoga

In the ideal world of wishful thinking I’m someone who’s good at yoga, someone who practices regularly and is strong and supple and good at stretching. I love the thought of having the clarity of mind that goes with yoga, the balanced chakras giving a healthy flow of energy surging from the roots of my hair to the tips of my toes.

Sadly in the real world I’m stiff and stressed and however many times over my lifetime I’ve really tried to encourage myself to build up a regular habit and properly get into my yoga groove I really struggle to get anywhere meaningful so become despondent and sooner or later always end up giving up… sigh!   

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

April A-Z: X is for X-Ray

Long before there was the possibility of ultrasound scans of babies in the womb, pregnant women were sometimes given X-rays of their mid-section to see how the baby was lying – my mum had multiple X-rays during her difficult pregnancy with me in the early 1960s. I ended up being a transverse breech so I was delivered by emergency Caesarian Section in the middle of the night after mum went into labour nearly a month early. Although a breech birth is where the baby is born feet first, or sometimes bottom first, a transverse breech is where the baby is lying sideways across the uterus. (See, I told you I was indecisive – even in utero I was prevaricating as to which way to be born, up or down, and ended up being taken out a different exit!)

Fifty-eight years on and I’ve had another flurry of X-Rays more recently too as my arthritic hip has been giving me more and more mobility problems and my Orthopaedic Consultant wanted to see my slightly crumbly hip joint from several different angles – I even had an MRI scan a couple of weeks ago, which was a completely new experience for me. So hopefully I’ll find out at my next clinic appointment (in about a month’s time) what the long-term plans will be for fixing me up so I can move more easily again… fingers crossed… 🙂

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

April A-Z: W is for Walking Stick

Historically I’ve always loved walking everywhere but currently have an arthritic right hip so out of necessity have been using a proper heavy-duty walking stick for the last few months.

To begin with I was so self-conscious about using a stick at all, concerned that people would be looking at me and wondering if I was some kind of attention-seeking fraud pretending to be in need of a walking aid when at my age I really shouldn’t. But I soon realised that walking with a stick is a much better option than limping along in pain outdoors or hobbling around slowly indoors, and as I’ve got used to it I find I don’t really care what other people think any more. At least I can still walk, albeit on a much reduced scale, and keeping as mobile as possible is what matters most for now.

And anyway, with my walking stick as a visual cue to others I find it’s definitely so much easier to cross the road safely when drivers can see I’m not deliberately dawdling, it’s more that mechanically I’m just a lot slower than I used to be…  

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

April A-Z: F is for Food

Food has never been just fuel for me; over the years my love of eating has been both a blessing and a curse. We all need to eat to produce energy, and enjoying something so fundamental to human survival may be fine in moderation, but not so good in excess.

Historically I am one of life’s emotional eaters; I eat not only to comfort myself but also to punish myself, to soothe my sorrows and to swallow down my disappointments. I eat to find solace in the texture and taste of food, which has inevitably led to a lifetime’s failed struggle to maintain a healthy weight. I feel bad because I’m too heavy, so I habitually eat to comfort myself, and – yeah, yeah, you get the picture…

Sadly for me since I caught Covid 15 months ago I’ve never quite fully regained my precious sense of taste and smell, so I’ve effectively lost some of the deeply-engrained satisfaction of any nuanced savouring of comfort food. Yet still I search in vain for that elusive hit of old, trying this previous favourite and that previous favourite to no avail… sigh!     

Life events have conspired to pull me away from blogging over the last couple of months, and the idea of taking part in this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge seems like a good way to try to get back into the habit of reading and posting regularly. Originally I thought of just using any old random words to go with the particular letter of the day, but realistically without a clear theme to work towards I’m not sure I’d be able to keep my focus for a full month… So instead I’ve opted for a relatively simple, if slightly self-indulgent work-around: This year I’ll be posting 26 things about me, nothing too taxing to write about yet still fulfilling the brief!

When I’m Sixty-Four…

This week Fandango asks us provocatively:

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Ha, that old chestnut! The favourite career-building interview question that opens up the way for giving some stock smart-ass sound-bite answer that trips off the tongue and tells the prospective employer just how committed you are to meeting their particular needs in the long-term… Well I’m not a career girl, never have been, but when it comes to my personal life maybe I do have long-term plans to think about putting into words?

In five years’ time I definitely see me still living here with my husband, in our lovely little bungalow we bought not quite two and a half years ago. Hopefully we’ll be a lot further along the road in getting both house and garden exactly the way we want it – we’ve done plenty so far, slowly but surely, and have plenty more to do. I find that plans change organically as time passes, imagined ideals are knocked off their perfect pedestals and their more down-to-earth replacements generally turn out to be far more realistic practicalities. And as we like to do the DIY stuff ourselves as far as possible, to date the transformation has not been a quick process, but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end!

In five years’ time I see me still in the pre-retirement stage of my life and still proactively planning for my post-retirement phase – currently I’m on course to receive my UK State Pension at 67, in 2030, so in five years’ time at 64 I’ll still be three years short of that goal. At that point I might still be working part time, health permitting, and I imagine I’ll either have a very crumbly old hip joint or a very shiny new hip joint, depending on the particular level of internal disintegration and current NHS waiting lists. Hopefully my Long Covid symptoms will be a distant memory by then, and surely this God-awful pandemic will have become endemic and managed by annual jabs, much like flu is now?

In five years’ time will I still be blogging? Not sure about that one, I might be, but then again I might not – watch this space, and we’ll find out! 🙂  

A Place Full of Strangers

I haven’t written about visiting my 85-year-old dad for a while because sadly, due to Covid restrictions coming into force at the hospital for three weeks, I simply wasn’t allowed to visit for the duration.

We kept in touch with the ward by phone, so we knew he was doing fine… but still, it was a difficult time not to be able to see dad in person. He has vascular dementia and doesn’t remember about the Covid pandemic, or understand why ordinarily he is only allowed two designated visitors never mind none at all for weeks on end.

So as soon as hospital visiting recommenced at the end of last week I booked a slot to see dad again, and it was such a relief on that first visit to find that we simply picked up pretty much exactly where we had left off – he seemed to have no recollection of the fact that we hadn’t seen him for a few weeks, he was settled and chatty and he looked well.

I noticed that dad has had his hair cut since I saw him last, and with a puzzled look he brushed his hand over his head and said in surprise – oh yes, so I have! So I asked him who had cut his hair, but all he could offer (with a wry smile) was – I’m buggered if I know!

But as soon as I saw dad this morning I realised he was having a ‘lost’ day – where he finds himself neither easily in the here-and-now, nor happily living in the past, but stuck somewhere in between. He said hello and gave a brief smile as I hugged him and sat down, but he kept looking around, distracted and agitated, seemingly trying to pick up visual and aural clues to work out where he was.

I asked him if he was OK, and with sad eyes he said he was in a place full of strangers where he didn’t recognise anyone… A friendly nurse came in and spoke to him by name, and he was surprised that she knew him – he was so sure he didn’t know her. Poor dad, he was so aware that everyone else seemed to know with confidence where they were, so he concluded he must be the one who is confused.

While I was visiting we called mum at home with my mobile phone, and then afterwards my brother called us with the on-screen video function so both he and dad were able to see each other in real time, but dad really struggled to keep his attention on the screen with so many distractions in the background and soon handed the phone back to me, disappointed he was unable to follow the conversation.

I reassured him that it was still good to be able to see my brother via the phone, and dad agreed but wondered why he hadn’t spoken to his mum and dad for a while – he hoped they were still doing fine? I smiled and quietly admitted I didn’t know – what’s the point of reminding him his parents have been dead for a good 30 years…

Dad often lives in this nightmare psychological no-man’s-land these days, alone and lost in a mental landscape ravaged by dementia, increasingly burdened by his inability to make sense of his surroundings. He tries so hard to make his brain work the way he wants it to. He thinks and he thinks and he thinks; puts in so much effort to try to understand it all but somehow nothing makes sense any more.

It hurts us to see him hurting and struggling so much, but with the best will in the world there’s nothing any of us can do to ease that burden for him. There’s no easy-to-read how-to handbook to help with all of this, no instruction manual for coping with the disintegration of mental capacity caused by dementia. All we can do is be there for him and guide him and continue to love him for a long as we can…  

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Handbook  

Covid and Me, One Year On

In two weeks’ time, on 3rd January 2022, it will be a whole year to the day since I tested positive for Covid. Which means it’s almost a whole year since I last felt properly well in myself. Although I wasn’t badly ill with Covid, as in not hospitalised, to be honest although I am now feeling a million times better than I was in January, a few of my most tenacious Covid symptoms have never fully gone away.

For the first few weeks afterward my initial infection I waited patiently for my symptoms to fade… and then it moved on to being patient for the first few months… and then I realised that like it or not I clearly had Long Covid, and it seemed it was here to stay. At that point I was hopeful that after my first vaccination my symptoms would miraculously completely disappear, but was disappointed to find it made no real difference to how I felt.

The first real glimmer of hope came with a partial return of my sense of taste and smell, which slowly went from zero to… well, not quite zero any more. And although much improved since then, both still come and go from time to time on a hap-hazard blunt instrument continuum of sometimes quite good, sometimes not so much. These days I rarely have nothing at all but sadly it seems I’ve lost any nuances of smell or taste. Whether or not it’s permanent I can’t say, but presumably only time will tell on that score.

Thankfully, though, after my second jab amazingly I felt as though a lead weight had been lifted from me health-wise. My extreme breathlessness improved immensely, and it was such a huge relief to feel so light-chested again, so much better than before. But however much my lung function was improved, two things soon became clear – ‘better’ is a relative term, as like my sense of taste of smell my breathlessness still comes and goes on a whim, and even at its best my breathing is still not back to pre-Covid levels.

Some days I can be reasonably fine, but on others walking any distance at all even on a flat surface can leave me puffing and panting and wheezing like an unfit heavy smoker running a marathon uphill. Other Covid symptoms which have improved over this past year but still remain noticably present are (in order of making their presence known on a daily basis) extreme fatigue and tiredness, dizziness (sometimes even when lying still in bed), and headaches.

I know I’m luckier than many – I caught Covid and survived. But I feel the whole experience has aged me before my time, and it’s one I’m in no hurry to repeat any time soon. I’ve had Covid, and from the timing of my infection it was probably the Delta variant. Since then I’ve had both vaccinations and my booster jab, but still I’m worried about catching it again. So far Omicron seems to be more infectious but less deadly – but again only time will tell.

Honestly, I get breathless even thinking about it…

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Breathless

Limbo…

For the past five years my elderly dad, dealing desperately with the ongoing difficulties of vascular dementia, has experienced an ever-moving mix of three potential states of being – fully aware of existing in the here and now along with the rest of us, stuck happily in some time-warp parallel universe where for him the past is strangely superimposed onto the present, or suspended scarily in an unfathomable limbo…

When dad was first diagnosed with dementia, of course he was mainly present in the present but with the odd random serious lapse of memory that was certainly more than one step beyond common-or-garden forgetfulness. The first real sign of dad’s depth of confusion came a few days after he returned from his brother-in law’s funeral. Dad was chatting to us about people he’d seen there who he hadn’t seen for ages when he suddenly said – I think I’ll give Ian a call to see how he’s doing. We couldn’t get dad to understand that it had been Ian’s funeral he’d been at to see all those people from his past in the first place…

And then dad started doing the occasional odd thing in place of the everyday thing he’d been doing for years. Like when making a cup of tea, dad would have the cup sitting on the counter upside down but not understand why he couldn’t put anything in the cup. Or worse, he melted the plastic bottom of three electric kettles before we finally stopped him trying to do things in the kitchen. On two occasions dad had filled the kettle then sat it on the hob to boil – the acrid smell of melting plastic had brought my mum running. And on the third occasion dad filled the kettle, balanced it on top of the toaster, and switched the toaster on.

Dad’s dementia is the vascular type, brought on by several small strokes, so as well as cognitive difficulties dad also has worsening mobility issues. In the past he has forgotten how to walk when half way across a room, standing precariously, leaning on two walking sticks and unable to move further because he doesn’t know what to do next. He has forgotten where he was in the process of walking to the bathroom, confused and bewildered and agitated because he needed to go to the loo but couldn’t find his way through the family home he’d lived in for 40-odd years. And we soon found that when dad was in a more lucid frame of mind again, he consistently forgot that he had been unable to do these things. When he was lucid he wouldn’t believe that he’d been so incapacitated, in his mind he was still fine which was so frustrating for him.

It was almost more difficult in the early days when dad was far more aware of his surroundings and what was going on in his brain. In a sense it has become easier as the dementia progresses and dad is spending less and less time in the here and now. We get the occasional glimpse of grounded reality but on the whole these days much of dad’s day is spent reliving random memories of his past in real time, often including people and places long gone. Knowing his family history we can join him there, and have perfectly enjoyable conversations that leave dad feeling visibly content. The other day dad was convinced I was his sister Edith, not his daughter Ruth, so we were chatting happily about going to visit an uncle and aunt along the coast. Everyone dad mentioned has been dead for years but his memories are so real they carry him through.

At other times, though, dad seems to lose his visual and experiential link to the past, but at the same time cannot quite reconnect fully with the present. These are the days where dad just looks lost within himself. He’s neither here nor there, stuck in limbo, and you can see the confusion in his eyes, traced on his furrowed brow. His speech loses its clarity, slurring a little, and often the wrong words come out so communication loses its vibrancy and leaves dad feeling even more lost. He says sometimes he hears my voice and knows I am talking to him but cannot quite understand what I’m saying, everything just sounds jumbled in his head. He looks intently into my eyes trying to make sense of everything but then soon he looks away, despondent.

It’s a horrible situation for him to be in but in spite of all of this, on the whole I find dad is still very much dad. Somehow deep down he has retained some of his dry sense of humour, which always fills me with such an overwhelming feeling of warmth and love. I asked him the other day how he had slept the night before, and he said with the merest hint of a wry smile – With my eyes shut! Oh, how many times over my lifetime I’ve heard that same response, and how wonderful to hear it now. I’m not in denial, I do know that dad’s mind is slowly disintegrating, but personally I prefer to focus on what we can still share together rather than on what has been lost between us.

Dementia really focuses me on the importance of spending whatever time I can with dad, while he’s still with us, while he still knows us. So I visit him, and sit with him, and chat with him. I hold his hand, and hug him and let him feel the familial security of the father-daughter bond that has always been so strong between us. We are where we are in life, but he’s still my dad and I love him as much today as I always have done… ❤

Life and What Matters Most

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

What’s the best thing you’ve got going on in your life at the moment?

It’s a really good question, and it’s really brought me up short. Life may be far from perfect for me at the moment, but I know in the past it’s definitely been a hell of a lot worse. Not only do I still have a lot going for me, but also I need to acknowledge that every cloud has a silver lining.

At grass roots level, the best thing I have going on in life at the moment is life itself. I’m still sitting here, safe and warm in my own home, with lots of people around me to love who love me too. I have food in my belly and clothes on my back and money in the bank and hope for the future.

OK, so I have a few annoying health niggles, but I’m a post-menopausal woman in my late 50s who has had poor health since childhood so perhaps that’s only to be expected. And yes, we have a few quite serious family worries just now, but at least I have loving family members to be worried for.

So there we go – I honestly think without doubt the precious reality of living has to be the best thing in my life at the moment 🙂