I had a few days off and my sister asked me to stay at her house and mind my elderly mother. Mentally, Mum is wonderful, often remembering things my sister has quite overlooked. She reads well and widely and discusses current affairs. Physically she's not very good at all. She had a fall a week ago, her first, and is bruised and sore. She has bad arthritis and is unsteady on her feet and was diagnosed last September with CLL, chronic lymphatic leukemia. She has lost 20 kg, unsought, since that diagnosis. She gets her own breakfast and tidies up after it but really needs some supervision. While I was there, she turned 88 and I cooked her a special meal.
My sister lives at Forster on the mid north coast, only a couple of minutes stroll from Burgess Beach. All the photos in this post were taken on the only sunny day I was up there. There is a variety of rock formations on teh beach and inshore rocks prevent it from being a surfing beach. However, it is quiet and secluded and has lots of small pockets of sand where the waves come in and it is possible to sit and cool down on a hot day. I went for a walk there to get some exercise and just as I was coming down the access trail looked up and saw a pod of dolphin. One of the nearby inlets serves as a nursery for these animals and there are a couple of cruises on the lake and out to sea for dolphin watchers. I wasn't prepared but grabbed the camera and took some shots. There seemed to be about a dozen together with several outriders. Unfortunately my shots do not show them clearly. One of the cruises came past about 30 minutes after the pod had gone.
I stayed at the beach for quite a while, wandering around taking photos of many views and other interesting bits and pieces. Then I sat with my back against a conveniently sloping rock and just soaked up the sun. I found myself thinking of the situation. My sister has lived with Mum for about 10 years now, ever since her first operation for breast cancer. She's had several since and two or three for more unrelated items. Mum used to sit with her all day, every day in hospital because my sister is not a very good patient. She says mum would do tis for me too, although I would not want it. It has been something of a symbiotic relationship since then. My sister is on a disabiity pension and is unable to work. I know Mum helps her financially many times. I don't begrudge her that and have no intention of ever making it an issue.
While she was ill, she depended on Mum for many things and Mum was happy to be able to do things for her. As she recovered, it was easy for her to stay and they had a good relationship for quite a while. Then as Mum aged and became more frail, the roles were reversed. Unfortunately, my sister by then had developed her own life which nowhere near approximated what my mother considered reasonable, so there was conflict. Mum does not like her friends. I don't either but they are her choice, not mine, so I say nothing. I suspect she probably does not like mine either. However, Mum is not backward abut making her opinions known. Mum sees things from an older person's viewpoint, and while my sister is not young, she certainly isn't old either. She knows many people in the area and does a lot of fundraising for both local charities and cancer foundation events. She's often out, so mum feels neglected and uses this as a lever. Sometimes it seems to me that she's afraid to stop as she doesn't know what may catch up with her.
Allied to all this is Mum's increasing deafness. She wears hearing aids, as do I, but has them turned up to maximum and still has trouble. She's not good at lipreading, and if a conversation changes course abruptly, she will have trouble grasping new words she's not expecting to hear. This frustrates her, but it's also very frustrating for my sister. I found myself spelling words last week, saying them very slowly and loudly or changing my sentence structure totally, in the hope that she might catch something. I can understand that this is difficult for both of them. She likes TV turned up so high that I'm sure the neighbours could hear her channel as well as their own. I think part of her fear of being alone is that she already feels isolated even when there are people around.
Mum's younger sister admitted herself to a nursing home a few days ago. She is unable to live with any of her children and forgets much, especially medication. She has settled in well. Mum feels superior because she is not in this situation. Mum confidently manages a range of tablets at various times through every day. In fact she adamantly refuses to consider such a move. She's made this plain for may years. Her reason? She would have to be dressed to have breakfast in the dining room. Mum gets dressed after breakfast. she can't see that she could breakfast in her room and totally refuses to even think about this. However, I'm many hours away and work. My brother is many hours away and works also. My sister needs some respite occasionally and such respite is available for up to about nine weeks in every year.
Mum needs to learn to compromise but apparently will not. I'd like her to tone down her complaints and actually try perhaps a week. My sister is not well and has been told the cancer could recur either as a primary or secondary again, perhaps as bone cancer. If Mum were to see that this is a possibility for her, it would take a weight off all our minds. Much better to see for herself and then come home again than to find that she needs to make a sudden, complete change.
So I had much to think about as I sat on the beach. I can see her stubbornness in each of us. However, we seem better at compromise than she is. I don't want her to have to move suddenly, but can see something like that ahead. Getting older is not easy when families are smaller and more scattered. I would have Mum with me, but she loves that area and I'm months away from being able to have a place of my own. I have no idea where to move to or what sort of place I want. I certainly don't currently have the financial resources to move.
Mum is still strong minded. Perhaps things would have been easier if she was not so strong. We have much to be thankful for, but much of that is actually the cause of more problems.