In February, I got to spend three weeks away from Glasgow. The time off work had been organised to use up the rest of my holiday allowance for the year, but especially to spend some extra time down in London.

Leaving from London, the first week of our trip away took us to Belgium. This was essentially Nicholas’ birthday/Christmas present. It was nice to finally stay a couple of nights in Brussels. Despite our previous jaunts to Belgium, we’d never actually spent much more than a few hours walking around the capital, before continuing onto Bruges. Bruges itself was a mix of up and down weather and moods, the down being some utterly miserable rainy days and struggling to find places within our budget to eat. Eek, it sounds brattish, but I think I’d found myself slightly over-familiar with Bruges. Maybe the miserable weather put me on a downer. Either way, I don’t know how people do the same holiday resorts and destinations for years upon decades! Seeing as this was our fourth visit to Bruges I’m not sure what I expected, but I don’t reckon we’ll be heading back there any time in the next few decades… But lovely Belgian beer… and Belgian munchables… and the best apple crumble and hot chocolate I’ve ever had (yes, these treats from De Proeverie were the highlight for the foodie in me!)

Spiced apple crumble tart to die for! De Proeverie, Brugge, February 2014

Spiced apple crumble tart to die for! De Proeverie, Brugge, February 2014

With suitcases packed with as many Belgian beers as we could stuff in them, we arrived back in London and got down to visiting family.

The first time I went to see my mum she asked if we could go out the moment we stepped through the care home’s door and so we took her to my eldest sister’s house. And it was a nice visit. My mum seemed peaceful, quite relaxed, even laughing and joking at times (rare for her).

But I could tell something was amiss. Across the time spans of our visits down south the progression of the dementia had seemed a slow one. This time around I quickly noticed a huge change in her personality.

My mum could be quite cantankerous, crossing over into very difficult to deal with at times. In my interactions with her I first noticed this side of her personality had lessened significantly. You may consider that this is surely a good a thing. I didn’t.

It saddened me to see her so childlike, so vulnerable. She seemed meek, with little to no spirit or fight left in her. The second visit to my sister’s house was quite different to the first. The first time around there was very few of us, it was a nice quiet affair. The second time there was, undoubtedly, too many people present. I rarely socialise in big, loud groups (the last time I had to do that I downed an entire bottle of wine in fifteen minutes before getting to the venue of my friend’s birthday party… and by the end of the night this proved a fatal, mostly sickly, decision…) If I found the clamour difficult to handle, I can’t imagine what was going on in her mind. She seemed stressed and confused. We regularly withdrew her from the hubbub, letting her nap in another room, but she still found it hard to settle. Unfortunately she ended up suffering a nosebleed (something that has happened since), apparently caused by extremely high bloody pressure. Plainly and simply, those sorts of overwhelming situations are just not suitable for someone in my mum’s circumstances.

It was really nice though to spend time with my dad, installing a new PC for him, taking him out to find him a new computer chair, going to the supermarket and our second visit to the Nepalese restaurant in Woolwich (Kailash Momo Restaurant if you’re passing, this time around I got to try their thukpa, something my dad often savoured in his childhood). The kind of events we’d usually take for granted.

I spent the last week in London on my own after Nicholas’ holiday allowance ran out.

Had a trip to South Bank, popping into the Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. It was, erm, a bit odd. And I’m still not sure what to make of ‘art’ I saw there…!

Walk into the Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and this huge revolving sign spins at disorienting speeds!

If you’re over a certain height the Hayward Gallery will not let you into the Martin Creed exhibition as this huge revolving sign spins just above patrons heads at disorienting speeds! February 2014

And before I knew it, three weeks had disappeared and I was home. But not really.

During my last week in London a flurry of thoughts swirled up top, caused by a mixture of situations and circumstances. I talked in depth to Nicholas on the phone about wanting to move back to London because I felt the need to be near my parents, to reacquaint myself with my sisters, my nieces and nephews (as well as the new addition to the family, my great-nephew). The fact that I had always stated I never, ever wanted to move back to London had seemingly disappeared out of the window as I began to plot the move in my head.

When I came back to Glasgow, I came back with a cloud hanging over my head.

I talked it over with a handful of trusted people in work. Yes, of course this was a knee-jerk reaction to the noticeable deterioration in my mum’s condition. Yes, I have become increasingly aware of the mortality of those around me whom I love dearly. And yes, I am fully aware that in the real world you can’t just give up your job, your home, your partner and pack up your bags and head back to your childhood home just because your parents are getting old.

But Nicholas knows me almost as well as I know myself. And he also knows that I have long not been happy living in Glasgow. But he also knows that I wouldn’t be happy living in London. And that essentially, along with the noble, but unrealistic, notions behind my urge to pack up and move, there were ulterior motives involving my constant desire to withdraw from ‘the real world’.

But the sadness that came with seeing my mum’s mental state beginning to diminish wouldn’t shift. A building anger and frustration built up until ‘kaboom’. A month or so after I had got back into the usual routines of day in and day out, I found myself crying, shouting hysterically. I wanted to know why ‘this’ was happening. All I could say over and over was “I’M SO ANGRY!” I don’t think even I’d realise how angry I was until that moment there.

And Mother’s Day proved an strange one. Upon finding a particularly nice photo of my mum I simply couldn’t stop crying any time I saw it. I’d also had some odd dreams (well, usually dreams are odd in their very nature anyway). This was one: I was in London visiting. My mum came home with bags of party food, streamers and balloons. She asked me if I was going to stay for a while but dismissively stated that I had to go back to work and I probably wouldn’t be back. She then hugged me and I whispered into her ear “Living without you in this world is such a difficult thing to do”. I woke up in tears that morning. Just typing that out I found myself welling up.

Watching a loved one with dementia slipping away seems like nothing less than enduring the process of two deaths, one ‘living’, and one in the most final sense of the word. I know that my family and myself are all going through differing stages of grief and mourning, all while our mother, grandmother and now great-grandmother are still ‘here’, with us. And it’s in no way a linear process; the stages come around and overlap, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, tripping over each other cycles, with no sense of acceptance ever being reached. I know most of us are uncertain there will ever come a stage of acceptance.

Ever since that last trip to London, I appear to have crawled into an insular unsettled stasis. Those last two cancel each other out surely? Example: on one hand creative writing ideas have frozen up (one of the reasons I felt a sudden need to pen this was to try and break down the block that is refusing to shift) on the other, my inability to enjoy my lowly role in the workplace has forced me to stir things up, looking for a sense of change, a distraction to break the mundane routines of the day job. And yet at home I simply curl up with my headphones on, blocking out that ‘real world’ that continues to persevere around me, when I simply can’t understand the hows and whys of its inner workings.

In a few months time I should finally be getting an appointment for a referral for counselling (the one the GP was begrudgingly forced to organise courtesy of the recommendations of that rather strange autism diagnosis appointment…) Nope, I don’t want to go back on pills. Yes, I do feel that the counselling route could help. The ‘kaboom’ moment from earlier simply showed me that there was a LOT of unresolved and ongoing issues that I have been constantly pushing as deep down as I could. I could possibly do with a primal therapy session involving punch bags and much shouting! Everyone should get access to these things on a regular basis!

Well, that was THE most words I’d typed out in one non-stop session for three months and that can only be a good thing!

Four months left to take my ‘2014’ stories to a satisfying conclusion. Yes, I’m fretting about tying it all up but I WILL get there! There answers nearly always appear out of nowhere when I’m least expecting them…

So come on ‘nowhere’… I’m waiting! 😉

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