Give me a spider any day


Give me a spider any day – by the time you’ve made it to the end of this blog, you’ll understand why. It was 12.30am, just before setting my head down to sleep and there it was. A cheeky spider right above my head, on the wall, just above the insanely shallow headboard in the spare room at Mum’s house.

A thumbnail sized spider crawling across a wall above a bed headboard.
It looks small… it is really. This spider is about the size of my thumbnail. But it was QUICK!

It always takes me a while to settle and get to sleep when I’m there – usually because I’ve been driving and I need to wind down.  So my first scary dealings of the day and the day hadn’t even begun.  On reflection, I wasn’t actually sure if this should be counted as Day One or Day Two; now there’s a conundrum to bother your head with at such an early hour! I mean, I know it was 12.30am, so strictly speaking it’s Day Two. But in my head, if I haven’t been to bed yet, it’s still the previous day. Isn’t it?

So unlike my previous spidery outbursts of early autumn, I breathed deeply and dealt with this one relatively calmly using a beaker and an envelope. I made my way gingerly downstairs and carefully unlocked the front door to ensure I didn’t drop it. Mr Spider was then promptly sent on his flying lesson across Mum’s front garden. Not sure how I’d react handling the spider with bare hands however.  Hmmmm, now perhaps that’s one for another scary day…

Oh my – what have I just openly considered??  Good grief.

Tiredness and moulding the moment

Tiredness left me feeling a bit grumpy this morning and not as patient as I would usually be. Mum had woken at 5.30am and headed downstairs to pull the cuckoo clock chains (this raises the weights and keeps the clock ticking – otherwise, it’ll stop!) and to turn on the immersion heater. I wear ear plugs when I sleep there, to avoid being woken at times like this but on this occasion, I heard her movements.  With ear plugs, if Mum called out to me for help, I would at least be able to hear her in an emergency. The plugs just mute the sound, as opposed to blocking it completely.

When Mum actively woke me at 6.30am, all I could mumble was a muffled, “morning”, while trying my hardest to sound bright and cheery. I went downstairs and filled a hot water bottle for her soon after and then slid myself back under the duvet to read my book for a while. Returning to sleep was not an option and I knew I would have to keep an eye on the time to give Mum plenty of opportunity for getting ready for her appointment this morning, without any rushing.

Pleased to report that I managed to escort Mum to the surgery for her blood test without incident or remarks (which I am slowly learning to turn a deaf ear to, more and more).  Lunch with 24 year-old Laura, 22 year-old Lara and 86 year-old Mum was lovely – although I found myself having to bite my tongue to prevent myself from asking them to include Granny in their chit-chat a bit more and put their phones down.  This was another ‘scary moment’ for me – stepping back and letting things happen naturally instead of working to ‘mould the moment’. Just stop for a second and think about how many of us do that as an automatic response to trying to keep the peace and ensure no one feels left out? 

As an alternative, by asking Laura and Lara to explain things to Mum and show her their photos on their phones too, I found that things were much smoother and not seen as me controlling the situation – which I am sure I probably must be guilty of at times. I was pleased with how it went as I was keen for Mum to be positive of their visit as sometimes she doesn’t hear and can, by default, be left on the sidelines somewhat.

Returning to a multitude of worries

Following the girls’ departure, Mum was indeed very positive about seeing her granddaughters. However, she soon began talking again about changes that have been suggested for her home, once Mike and I have moved out of our house and onto the boat.  Such things as my offer to give her my wardrobe (she currently doesn’t have a suitable wardrobe and worries about moths getting into her clothes), giving her one of my bookcases (so that her books can come back out of storage) and giving her our washing machine (she’s never had one in the house and previously did all the washing, including sheets, by hand until some years ago. I now do all her laundry).  Unfortunately Mum doesn’t cope with change very well and the thought of these new options have been making her very anxious.  My husband, Mike, thinks that it will be better if we simply find another way of doing all the laundry together, even if we have to take it to a launderette. I am inclined to agree as I don’t want to cause Mum any more concern. 

launderette with a woman head first inside a tumble drier, feet dangling
Bring on the launderette experience!

We’re not quite sure what the laundry solution will be just yet as moving onto the boat means that we cannot take the washing machine with us. Some narrowboats do have washing machines but ours isn’t long enough for this.  I told Mum that she didn’t need to worry about the washing machine any more, as the suggestion of giving it to her wouldn’t be happening now.  She kept asking what we would do instead but I repeated she didn’t need to worry and that it was for me to figure out when the time came.  I had to be quite blunt to end the repeated requests for answers, as right now I don’t have answers. I do not want it to become a cause of anxiety for Mum so had to be brave and say “sorry, but no more of this”. It makes me sad that Mum will always worry, as this is part of her condition. It comes from years of mental health problems and is now exacerbated by Parkinson’s disease.

I wasn’t expecting that

The conversation developed further into a thread I wasn’t expecting.  Mum made some complaints about how ‘silly’ I am to be doing such a lot (referring to work) and that she doesn’t get to see me very much.  I stayed strong and gently reminded her that I had given up teaching in the same school for that very reason, because I WAS doing too much.  “Why are you still teaching in schools then?” she came back at me and suggested that I shouldn’t be doing it all.  I think she was leaning towards the idea that I should be spending more time with her – and Chris too, even though we both need to work.  I calmly offered that she needed to be thankful for the days that my brother and I DO spend with her and not disappointed at the days we don’t. I have driven home from their house in tears on many occasions, because I was frustrated at not being able to help more and I could clearly see both Mum and Dad deteriorating.

It has been twenty nine years since I moved to Dorset. Despite living seventy five miles away, Mum could not remember that for twenty five of these years I have visited every half term and every holiday; at least every six weeks in effect. Four years ago, that became every two weeks and two years ago, I changed it to every week. Mum passed a comment that I was probably coming up to do other stuff as well, like visiting other people, old school friends and attending organised events.  I repeated again – “no Mum – I visited you and Dad. I have come up to see you as much as I can, regularly”.  She then referred to the fact that I’m getting on with doing ‘all these things’ that I want to do (i.e. HeadRightOut and going out walking), as if I shouldn’t be doing it. This is so difficult to balance and hard to hear.

The time I give is never enough

A quiet tear rolls down my face as I write this.  Because it does hurt.  I feel that Mum thinks my time spent with her is never enough.  But I can’t give any more.  The reasons I have given up my job of thirteen years: to move to Wales to be closer to Mum. So I am not so grumpy and tired in the morning when I wake up there due to long hours travelling.  So I can be with her within an hour if she needs me, not two and a quarter hours, as it has been for twenty nine years.  So I can spend more time with my husband. So I can be happier doing what I enjoy in my life and not marking, planning and ticking boxes. It all leads towards a more positive lifestyle for all of us and Mum ultimately will benefit.

If I look after me, I can look after Mum better.  That moment I faced my fear today of sticking up for myself and ‘putting the record straight’ to my Mum was an important milestone.  I’m still learning but I’m getting better at it.  My 86 year-old Mum who is gentle, sensitive, frail and anxious, yet so bold, cleverly manipulative and commanding.  I say this with a huge bucket of love and with no malice intended at all.  She is my Mum and I love her dearly – but the elderly definitely know how to work those around them, especially their families.  It’s scary and it’s hard for me at times but I still wouldn’t change it for anything and I write this in the hope that the many thousands of people who are going through similar family care stresses can perhaps gain a little comfort from reading it. Just as I have gained a little comfort from writing it.

Still terrified but decision made and going ahead

Onto another scary matter, I haven’t told you how terrified I am of publishing this – but I’m sure you can guess… more scared than dealing with a spider. As I said at the beginning, give me a spider any day! 150% courage required and a sincere hope that family and friends will understand where I am coming from in the delivery of my message here. I suppose it is #100ScaryDays after all and that’s what this is all about – I really have faced some BIG fears today and yet they are so incredibly small. There are no photos of me jumping from a diving board or climbing a mountain. The best I can offer is a close-up of my caught spider from this morning. The fears I have faced today make for massively huge micro bravery at its finest.

That’s an oxymoron…

close up of a spider crawling on wall
Not yet ready to pick this up… but perhaps one day!


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