Bugwoman on Location – A Dilemma

Dear Readers, here I am again in Milborne St Andrew. It’s fair to say all is not well with the parents – since I last wrote about what has been going on, Dad has been in and out of hospital for short stays twice. He is currently at home, though he insists that, while he was in hospital with pneumonia, Mum moved house to somewhere that looks exactly the same, with the same address and phone number. Apart from that he is fairly cheerful, but he is losing weight and is very frail and unsteady. I am trying to remedy this with a constant supply of ‘rocky Magnums’ – chocolate-coated ice cream bars with flaked almonds on the outside.

On Wednesday he took a tumble, but was rescued by a lovely neighbour with tremendous upper body strength, who was able to hoist him back into a vertical position.

Mum is stressed, depressed and increasingly forgetful. She abhors her new custom-made reclining chair (although it is doing wonders for her back) and has summoned the chair company by leaving a message to say that she hates the new chair, the new settee, and even Dad’s new chair, although Dad is actually very happy with it.  The technician is coming to have a look on Tuesday, and I just hope he’s wearing a tin hat. Although Mum might be little (and getting littler), she is fierce.

And so, you can imagine my delight when I sat on the bench outside their house to get a breather from all the excitement and noticed a wasp flying around my bare legs. I watched it idly, wondering how long I could linger until I was summoned again, and then I noticed another wasp. And another. I levered myself up  and had a look at the air brick in the wall under the bench.

Oh dear.

 

I have a lot of respect for wasps, and their role in the ecosystem. If you watch the movie carefully, you can see a wasp entering the nest on the right hand side, carrying what is either a grub or a lump of peach. I have watched wasps hunting for caterpillars on my sprouting broccoli, their eyes like searchlights. I’ve watched them tugging and pulling until the caterpillar loses its grip, and then fly off with the grub hanging from their undercarriage like a bomb.

In other words, if it had been my house, I would probably have left them alone.

But this is not my house. Mum had a very bad reaction last time she was stung by a wasp (many years ago), and is terrified of them. Although they were not coming into the house, their flight path was right across the area that Mum and Dad cross when they are getting into the car, and I could easily see one of them falling if a wasp flew near them. And so I called a local pest controller, who was there within a couple of hours, and who sprayed some insecticide into the nest.

‘Keep the windows closed for a couple of hours, because they’ll be cross now’, he said.

As well they might be, under the circumstances.

And I know this wouldn’t be a dilemma for many people because, for them,  humans come ahead of animals, especially where vulnerable family members are concerned. But I have often talked about how easy it is to exterminate creatures, instead of living alongside them, and there is something about the killing of an entire colony, with all its complexity and richness that makes me feel uncomfortable. If I had to make the same decision again I would still reach the same conclusion, but my heart would be as heavy as it was this time. Sometimes there is no right answer, just the least worst solution.

Back indoors, I gave Mum an Exotic Fruit Solero, which is flavoured with mango and passion fruit. This is not the healthiest food but at the moment, I’m just glad that the parents are eating something with lots of calories. Mum unwrapped it gingerly, gave it a lick, then another. She paused to consider the lolly for a moment.

‘Who’d have thought’, she said, ‘that at 82 I’d discover a whole new taste sensation?’

Mum and Dad’s current predicament has broken me open. I cry secretly when I see Mum and Dad’s former carer, who is regrowing her hair following chemotherapy, and who has the sweetest, most beautifully- formed head under her cap of fuzz.  I cry at the dead woodpigeon that I found in Mum and Dad’s garden, her eyes closed as if she was just asleep, and then I cry some more at the witless baby woodpigeon bumbling around on the lawn as if death were just a fairy story, and everything is going to live forever. And then I wipe my eyes and put my shoulders back, and get on with what needs to be done, like carers have always done, because there is respite in action. There’s something about making gravy or peeling potatoes or sliding a perfect pancake onto a warmed plate that soothes the soul, makes me feel as if I’m doing something to balance the scales that are tilting towards darkness.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the future, but I do know that we need more Solero moments, more pancakes, more roast potatoes. We need the scent of roses and the cool softness of a breeze through an open window. We need fresh clean cotton sheets and the sound of jackdaws chuckling outside. These small moments of pleasure are what make the difference to a life, even if they aren’t remembered. Just because Mum and Dad’s short-term memory might be in tatters doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy things in the moment.

 

 

 

29 thoughts on “Bugwoman on Location – A Dilemma

  1. Ann

    I was very moved by today’s post. I wish you and your parents well.

    But regarding the wasps, I’m in two minds. I try to leave them alone, but only last week I was minding my business with a cup of tea in the park when I was stung; I’m sure I hadn’t even
    moved my arm to annoy the bug. I guess he was just jealous of my toasted tea cake.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Wasps do get a bit crochety at this time of the year, unfortunately. And the stings really hurt, don’t they! I remember accidentally treading on one when I was walking barefoot on the lawn ( a hazardous occupation at the best of times).

      Reply
  2. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    Your post certainly rang a few bells with us, quite frankly when your parents have been unwell you’re just glad to see them eat anything. Our mother took a great liking to Ambrosia rice puddings and our father loved his Ready Brek and numerous cups of tea with four sugars and evaporated milk, he would not touch anything that said ‘low-fat’, still it couldn’t have done him much harm as he lived until almost ninety 😄 Just keep doing what you’re doing, sometimes you think is there anything else we could be doing, but when you look back you realise that,no, you had done all that you could. I’m sure they love your company and the time you share with them. Also it did amuse us with your mum’s dislike of her new chair, it reminded us of our dad’s hatred of the new rugs we bought him, and he was a man that was never afraid to tell you exactly what he thought 😀

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Fran and Bobby….my Dad has a thing about custard in any form, but he does also like rice pudding so thank you for the suggestion!

      Mum seems to be getting supremely disinhibited, after a lifetime of being diplomatic. It’s quite refreshing if you’re not on the receiving end 🙂

      Reply
  3. Sarah Ann Bronkhorst

    My mother maintained that the stairlift she agreed to have “sits and looks at me”. She didn’t mean it literally; I think she meant that it was a constant reminder of her weakness and of the likely future.
    Love your reference to doughty little Hermia in MSND. You’re a tall version but not at all like Helena.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Yes re the stairlift, a friend of mine’s mum has exactly the same love/hate relationship with her wheelchair. Nobody likes to be dependent after a lifetime of looking after themselves, do they.

      Reply
  4. Gail

    I am so sorry about your parents, it’s far from easy for them and for you. Your writing about your parents is moving and I admire your strength in finding the time and energy not only to notice the life around you, but to share it with us.
    Perhaps this might help just a little –
    https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/aug/03/how-to-eat-magnums-ice-cream-on-stick
    Who’d have known that there’s a way to do it?
    I hope that these moments of tranquillity remain with you.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Gail! My Dad eats a Magnum while completely swathed in tea towels to catch the falling chocolate shards, and Mum has developed a technique involving wrapping a paper towel around the stick. I have no idea what it does, but she seems to end up with less chocolate in her lap than either dad or I do, so there must be something to it!

      Sharing with you and the other folk who read the blog has been a real life-saver – so many people are or were going through something similar. I always wanted to build a community here, but when I started I had no idea what a support and source of inspiration and ideas it would be. So thank you too, for reading and for commenting, and for just being there…..

      Reply
  5. Kathy Whalen

    I remember my Dad in the last days of the pancreatic cancer that was going to kill him saying angrily “I hate this damn chair more than anything else”. He knew it was the only way he could get up and down without assistance, but that didn’t matter–he just wanted his old chair back. It’s the little things we mourn for. But isn’t it amazing how little joys also break through, as well, and you will remember them too.
    Your posts are taking me right back, I remember how difficult it all was. My heart hurts for you. Take care of yourself and cry all you need to. Lots of good wishes and gentle hugs. xxx

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Kathy….it’s bitter sweet, these days. I’m so sorry about your Dad. So many of us are going through these devastating times with our loved ones, or have been through them already.

      I spoke to Mum on the phone today and she was really cheerful, although I suspect Dad didn’t really know who I was. We’ll find a way to get mum a chair she’s comfortable with, she spends too much time in it to be miserable. I still feel sorry for the technician though :-).

      Reply
  6. Julia

    Beautiful post Viv. I wish you’d write a book. Your writing is so incredibly evocative and heartbreaking but also so full of comfort and hope at the same time. I know these moments so well when life slows right down and everything has huge significance and the smallest things can break you. Please keep sharing your story – hopefully it helps because it’s truly a privilege to read it.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Julia – yes, it does help to share it, not least because of all the support that comes from the people who read and comment on the blog. I had no idea when I started that a simple nature blog was going to grow into something more existential, but here it is. And maybe I will write a book, once I know what it’s about…

      Reply
  7. Liz Norbury

    Oh Viv, I do feel for you – and the last thing you needed right now was a wasp’s nest. My mum was similarly resistant to her reclining chair, but has reluctantly accepted it! All the things I would have suggested which might help you are things you’re already doing – enjoying happy moments, treating your parents to whatever they feel like eating – there are many worse things than Solero! – and crying when you need to. I used to walk up the road on summer evenings after leaving my parents’ house, look out to sea, take some deep breaths, and cry until the harbour lights were a blur. It did help. I’m thinking of you and your mum and dad every day.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Liz….there’s nothing like a good cry for helping a person to carry on doing what needs to be done. And thank you for thinking of us. I had no idea how many people are, or were, in similar situations to mine. It’s so good not to be alone.

      Reply
  8. jemimatoo

    I needed to hear this about your parents today, being a carer for my 92 year old husband I’m sometimes at my wits end. Interesting about the wasps, they have a part to play

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Oh Jemima, I don’t blame you for being at your wit’s end – there are so many good things about caring for someone, but it can be exhausting, frustrating, heart and back breaking too. I hope that you can find ways to care for yourself too in the midst of all this, my heart goes out to you.

      And yes, wasps are important too, I agree.

      Reply
  9. Toffeeapple

    I do admire you for managing to cope with your parents and your home life and for caring about the critturs. xx

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Toffeeapple, much appreciated. I’m ever so lucky, though – I have a supportive husband, we can survive without my having to work full-time, and I don’t have any children, so I have the time to be able to spend time in Dorset. My heart goes out to folk who are struggling to cope with crises with their parents and with their kids, or with a demanding job. There is a real crisis of social care in this country that needs to be sorted out.

      Reply
  10. Jo

    So poignant. You write beautifully about a heart rending situation with your parents. I can, at least in part, relate to what it must be like for you. Lovely that you are able to have some perspective and appreciate those little things that really count while you deal with the difficulties caring for people you love brings.

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Jo, much appreciated. I honestly think that it is the little things that make all the difference, especially when there’s nothing that you can do about the big things….

      Reply
  11. Pen Thompson.

    As ever, you combine the woes of ageing with recognition of the delights of wildlife . Unfortunately, the worries for our frail aged Ps are ever present and the dilemmas of what to for the best , are serious. I really empathise. We have similar challenges. Keep appreciating the small things in the present . All the very best, Pen

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Thank you, Pen! So many people are struggling with these dilemmas, and often the solutions are not simple or cheap or easy to access. We have a real crisis in social care for elderly folk in this country, and I don’t see it get better any time soon. I am just very lucky to be in a situation where I can spend time with my parents without worrying about work, or children. My heart goes out to all the people whose life situations are not so straightforward.

      Reply
  12. Laurin Lindsey

    I am crying with you! Your words are so filled with love of your parents and nature. You are having to make tough decisions. You are doing the things we don’t imagine doing. I do want you to know you will carry on filled with happy memories even when this part of your parent journey is over and they have gone into the light. You are making it so much better for being there with them. My farther has been gone 22 years and yet he lives on in his family. I think of him daily and a grateful for all the time I had.
    I am taking a minute to visualize a big nurturing hug and sending it to you!

    Reply

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