In February my 89 year old Dad died suddenly after a few days of illness. He went into hospital on a Sunday. By Monday morning he was diagnosed with leukemia. By midday he had died of a bleed to the brain. After a lifetime of good health it was characteristic that he took a ‘no faffing’ approach to leaving us.
He was the main carer for his wife, my Mum who has dementia. They both always resisted our help though it was becoming evident that standards were slipping and their home was getting grubby. Dad also wasn’t a natural carer despite half a lifetime teaching first aid (you know how it goes. Up there with hairdressers with appalling hair, unhealthy doctors and teachers unwilling to learn new skills).
So it was a bit of a shock as to how much was not being done for
Mum. I can’t blame Dad. He was 89. He learned to cook, to a fashion, at age 85 but on the whole he left Mum alone for hours and didn’t really check her state of cleanliness. Nobody is perfect. We all do the best we can. In addition I may not have realised quite how much Mum had declined in recent months.
So, since February my old non-life was suspended and I became her carer. It’s been a steep learning curve. We were left a mess financially. We have no lasting power of attorney. We haven’t even started processing Dad’s will (and despite decades telling us that all details were in his wardrobe and who the solicitor was, both turned out to not be up to date information).
Add to this a very violent disagreement with my sibling over caring for Mum and as many carers have found, the complete evaporation of family and partner support in caring for an aged parent with care needs. Add my own battles with mental health issues and worries that despite doing better than I would have imagine, it is very early days and I could be quacking like a duck by Christmas.
It’s a reversal of roles. I am the sudden responsible adult whist the former responsible adult is like a confused, frightened child who has no idea who I am or my relationship to her. Tears, tantrums, humour, pathos and a broken, underfunded care system.
It’s all been like an ongoing soap opera. As life often is.
And it’s ongoing.
So forgive me if I think outloud here in future.
Having listened to The Green’s Natalie Bennett on Radio 4 and LBC this morning I find myself even more convinced that I’ll be walking to the poll booth this May and sighing heavily as I spoil the paper by writing across it ” None of the above”.
I find it hard not to see our democracy as little more than a twisted corporatocracy. I mean let’s take the two ministers currently defending themselves over cash for questions type allegations. Would any company employ an MP or soon to be Ex-MP/ career politician for their business skills alone? Their experience of the world outside the Westminster bubble? Or more likely for their connections and ability to grease the palms of law making in order to influence changes in the favour of the company?
That doesn’t mean I’ve abdicated my voting responsibility.Hell fire. I’ve always voted. It just means I no longer believe voting is where change happens.Or indeed that real change is now possible via the ballot box. I genuinely cannot see that anyone represents me out of those currently on offer. Without a change to what passes as democracy I can’t see that changing any time soon unless the main parties grow weary of endless hung parliaments and then push for changes to voting that will best grant them an overall majority. Don’t underestimate the political class’ contempt for the electorate. It’s all now just a self serving Faustian pact.
So how do I get that change. Not by business as usual that’s for sure. I will be writing as usual to all local candidates. As usual I’ll rarely get a reply. If I lived in a marginal seat this would like be very different. It would be “more democratic” if I moved to such a seat. At least I’d feel my vote would have some consequence and influence to it.
I’m a lapsed Buddhist. Or perhaps more accurately a part lapsed, neo Buddhist as my previous forays way back in my yoof were perhaps best described as a typical pick-and-mix exercise when really I was just there for the meditation exercises and Buddhist philosophy was an interesting contemplation but I was young and swayed by aims, desires and those false horizons that seem to beckon those starting out on life’s journey. Certainly accepting the impermanence of life is a tough one at a young age before you’ve even really experienced some of that life journey.
I slouch. Therefore I am. Surely?
Anyway I’m back exploring Buddhism at a local but probably little known Buddhist centre and am lucky enough to be receiving some initial one to one tuition from the head monk. Today we did posture and various health issues make this a much harder proposition than the nubile healthy individual of the past.
I Pity Inanimate Objects (Thankyou Godley & Creme)
So far I’ve learned to be respectful to inanimate objects (as well as the animate ones of course) and the use of a single ascending counting number on each out breath during meditation. This is an exercise in being mindful where any stray thought sees us restart the counting of each outward breath from one to ten.
Counting Coloured Numbers
It doesn’t help that each number appears as a differently coloured image in my mind. A big blue number one. A bold red two etc. Either my brain loves a synaesthetic trigger or I’m worried about mindfulness suppressing my playful creativity.
Age now values mindfulness (or heartfulness as it should be referred to, the former really a mistranslation that hasn’t been corrected in the west I’m told) as an added help in an imperfect body with pain issues.
There’s also talk of the middle way quite often which is hard for me to take as that’s a term tainted by its use by Tony Blair.
Oh and being told not to just accept things I’m being told is pretty radical. A dogma free zone is always a good start to any philosophy course.
I’m walking (OK hobbling) home and laden with shopping when a football comes flying over a nearby garden wall. It arcs strategically about to land precisely at my feet. In my panic in trying to not let it bounce into the road besides me I instinctively swing my foot lightly up to stop the ball. A kind of Zapruda effect applied to random object occurs as the ball smack into my feet and ricochets right back along the same arc it came from without ever having touched the ground.
I hear the sound of surprised voices and a small child who say “Who was that?. Dad-type voice: “er..I dunno”. Me (clearly in a world of my own): “It was I, the masked passing footballer”.
I had turned the corner by then so for those on the other side of the wall the mystery remains.