Saturday, 29 December 2012

Goodbye to 2012

Well it was a funny old year. To look at the bare facts, it was nothing less than a disaster for me: Dad gets ill in January and dies in September. Steve (the ex) gets sent to prison for vandalism after attacking my ex-husband's car on my drive. Steve gets it on with his best mate's girlfriend who is 19, but he keeps on stalking me anyway. Still is. Mother completely reliant on me to do anything due to her dementia, whilst simultaneously refusing to listen to a word I say. It rains incessantly.

Yet in reality, this has been a very positive year for me.

Death always has things to teach us. When my brother died, it made me re-evaluate my life and come to the conclusion that I was existing rather than living - I had become stagnant and things had to change. For the first time I felt mortal, I truly realised that I could die - and if I could die I wanted to make sure that I had really lived.

Dad's illness and death taught me the depth of my strength and resources. It also taught me how responsible I was for my own happiness. Faced with a hopeless position - where I couldn't help, where there was nothing I could do to change things or make them any better than they were - I had to learn to let go. To let go of my Dad, to let go of the illusion of having any control of the situation, and most of all to let go of my need to save: because I couldn't save him, my mum, or any of my family.

The one person I could save was myself. I remember the sorrows and the depths, and the interminable pain of waiting for death to come as my Dad drained slowly away. Then slowly I saw that it's all a question of perspective - that I had a choice of how to react. I chose happiness.

Yes, my mother still drove me mad. Yes, it still tore my heart out to see Dad suffering - and tore it out to not see him, because I felt so guilty leaving him alone. But these were things I couldn't change, these were things that had to be endured. The sun still rose on some beautiful mornings. I still  had a wonderful little son. There were still snatched days and evenings of laughter and fun. I learned to live in the present because the future was out of my control.

I also learned to live my own life. That meant that I had to take control of the ex situation, and so I did. On Dad's first hospital admission this year in January, Steve overdosed on heroin on my birthday. His Dad brought him HERE, and me with my Princess Diana act took him in. When he was put in prison it was a massive relief, not just because he was getting what he so justly deserved and hadn't got before when he beat the crap out of me, but because he was out of the picture. I realised that there was no way I could have coped with Mum and Dad with Steve still around - he demanded so much time from me - and we weren't even together. He would have been turning up at all hours causing trouble. So I went properly No Contact and refused to respond to his attempts to contact me. I've tried this before, but this year I finally have succeeded.

The consequence of this is that 2012 was the year I got MYSELF back, because without him messing with my head, I was able to finally break free of him. Oh yes, he still pops up from time to time, just often enough to give me the odd bruise and the even odder entertaining story to tell, but he can't get a grip on me any more. One day I might blog about what it was like when I was with him, but for now, suffice to say that I never want to go back there.

So that's another reason I've been happy - my TV remote is my own, I listen to music I like (and never have to listen to The Strokes droning on ever again if I don't want to), I get up when I wake up, I eat what I want, go where I want, talk to who I want, generally do all the things that normal people take for granted but that I never will take for granted again.

So as the end of 2012 approaches, I am so much stronger than I was when it began, so much stronger than I have ever been. Cos what doesn't kill you.....

2012 - a big year. The year Dad died. The year I got my life back.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Outdoing Outnumbered

This is a tale of my Christmas Day. It is often said that my life should be a soap opera, and it is equally often said that if it were, everyone would think it was too far-fetched. Christmas Day was one of those times.

I was doing dinner for my older sister Sue, my nieces Kim and Nicky, Nicky's boyfriend Paul, my son, and my mother. Oh, and their two dogs, Perry (medium sized dog, does agility, well-behaved) and Mini (tiny dog, does what she likes, very badly behaved). My sister and the rest were picking Mum up on their way here, and she was getting a taxi home, because we all knew that once dinner was over, she would want to go home, saying she felt ill. She always does this.

Well, they all rocked up about 11.30 - but Kim was feeling severely ill after being up til 5am drinking, refusing to go to bed, and apparently yelling, 'I'm gonna ruin Christmas!' Little did she know....

So the usual shenanigans of opening presents set off. My younger sister Mandy had sent Mum over a cushion that cost nigh on £50, because it was personalised with photos of Dad. We were all expecting her to love it, but when she opened it she said, 'what the hell is that?', like it was shit on a stick or something. Nicky managed to talk her around into liking it, but I am almost certain that she didn't recognise Dad at first. Which means she's getting even worse.

There were also the usual dog shenanigans. Mini got through Oscar's cat flap and out into the garden - and then through the hole in the hedge and into next door's garden before Nicky could stop her. The neighbour tempted her near to him with a dog biscuit, but she was growling and barking at him and wouldn't let him pick her up, so Nicky went around and got her. We blocked the cat flap with the bin, and thought no more of it.

Eventually dinner was served. Kim was saying how hungry she was, and she and Sue had been trying to eat the chestnuts before they were in with the sprouts even, so everyone had an appetite. There was a bit of a palaver where Sue wanted Mum sat at the head of the table, which involved her climbing into position half way behind the end of a bookcase, but soon we were all sat down, dinner on plates, gravy being passed around. When suddenly Sue asked, 'Are you ok Mum?'

'No, I feel a bit sick,' said Mum.

Feel a bit sick my arse, she was boaking right then and there! Luckily I was Olympic speed with the sick bucket, and got it in front of her just as she began to heave. But not before Nicky and Paul, whilst trying to move the table so she could get out, had caused it to partially collapse where the extra leaf had obviously not been secured properly. Champagne and pomegranate bucks fizz all in my dinner - and in the parsnips.

Meanwhile, Sue had moved away from Patient X to the middle of the room, and was yelling, 'get out! get out!' at Mum, as Mum was trying to say, 'I can't!' in between chucks. Kim, whose stomach couldn't have been feeling great anyway, was sat next to mum, looking decidedly queasy, until I got a fit of hysterics at the ludicrousness of it all and then Kim joined in. So there we are, Nicky holding up the table, me and Kim cackling like two Essex witches, Mum throwing up, Sue yelling 'get out, get out!', Paul wondering about the etiquette of continuing to eat when someone is vomiting in a bucket at the dining table - when my Son yelled, 'MINI'S ESCAPED!' For she had managed to move the bin and was off. Cue Nicky not knowing what to do - should she run to get Mini and risk the table collapsing, or should she leave Mini who could easily get out onto the road?

Luckily, through my tears of laughter, I managed to get the table together again, and Nicky managed to retrieve Mini before she left the garden. Mum got out from her seat and Sue ushered her into the bathroom.

'So,' said Paul, 'who had their money on Nanny at 1.30?' And then, 'I've gotta say, I can usually read these things, but my money was on Kimmy at noon.'

No-one really had much of an appetite after that, except for Paul. 'I did stop eating for a moment there, cos when Sue kept on yelling 'get out', I was scared she might turn on me next.' We did our best to eat, although Nicky has a vomit-phobia, and it wasn't made any better by me and Kim keeping on falling about laughing, and reliving it. It didn't help me and her much either, cos we kept on replaying it in our heads.

I went to check on Mum, and she was ok. I took the bucket and cleaned it and put it back. She was sitting in the living room watching the Corrie repeat (it's all new to her anyway) while we finished our meal. At one point there was a lull in the hilarity (we had lost the plot big time by then) and we heard a strange bump from the living room. I ran to see what had happened, but it was nothing, just a present falling off a chair.

'You thought that was Mum, didn't you?' said Sue

'I DID! I thought the only way this could get worse would be if she'd carked it before we even reached the pudding!'

There was a lot of food wasted that day.

'There was a moment,' said Nicky later, 'when I had picked up Mini, but didn't want to come back into the vomit-session, when I could hear next door through their open window. Quiet conversation, and the occasional gentle laughter... and I had a vision of how normal people's lives are.'

Strangely, when I'd watched the Xmas Special of Outnumbered on Christmas Eve, I'd found the storyline (involving vomiting and diarrhoea) a little far-fetched - 'that would never happen' I thought. If only.....

Monday, 24 December 2012

Circus Boy 12 - The Final Word

So as it is Christmas Eve, what better time to wrap up the Circus Boy saga? (See what I did there?)

I never heard from him again after the phone call when I thought he was insensitive to say I should be celebrating my Dad's life when he had only just died. I had all but forgotten him, apart from writing blogs about him and when people would ask about him.

Then one Saturday in November, my mobile went as I was under my son's bed trying to sort through the devastation, so I didn't answer. It immediately went again, so I thought it must be important and extricated myself from the spiders and fluffballs.

'Karen, it's Circus Boy,'

'Hello, how are you...'

'Well, not very good actually. Do you have an STD?'

As you can imagine, I almost choked on my own saliva at that one.

'Because you are the only person I've slept with recently, and now I've got sores around my anus.'

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or shout at him, a situation I often found myself in with Circus Boy. I mean, whatever we had got up to, I'd not been playing around THAT part of his anatomy with any bits of mine. And the thought that I was the only person he'd slept with was almost even more ludicrous, the boy's a supreme tart, and he must be kidding himself if he thought I didn't know it.

'Well I'm fine, and I know I was fine after Steve, so I don't think it has anything to do with me. Are you sure it's an STD? It doesn't sound like anything I know of.'

'Yes, well, I've got other symptoms as well, I'm just waiting for the doctor to call me back, I've been waiting ages.'

'You know they've got the walk-in centre at Princess Royal - and the STD clinic's there as well, but I'm not sure if it's open at weekends...'

'I haven't got time for that, this is an emergency! Anyway, do you want to go to the open mic night on Thursday....'

And right there he went back to normal chatting for about five minutes before he rang off! So typical Circus Boy - madness, insults and hilarity all in ten minutes. I asked him to text me if it was anything I should be worried about, and he hasn't, so I'm assuming (in the absence of symptoms) that it wasn't.

One day when we were talking, Circus Boy said he thought people came into eachother's lives for a purpose. I really do think he came into my life to bring me some fun and brightness at a very dark time for me. We met just after Dad was diagnosed as terminal and in the final stages of his cancer, and Circus Boy kept on popping up right until he died. And for all that he could be as annoying as hell, and completely flakey and unreliable, he was also really good fun, good to talk to, got me doing spontaneous things I normally wouldn't, and was a bloody good shag. It's maybe stretching the definition of angel, but he did bring a little sprinkling of his own brand of joy.

Merry Christmas :-)

Friday, 21 December 2012

Circus Boy 11 - In Which I Text Him

So still in a happy little bubble, that Saturday I went off for a pub lunch with the girls and their kids. And my ex-husband and his family (including my son). We all get on well.

So well, in fact, that Heather and I were still sitting there drinking when the evening drinkers arrived - including P_ and her family, who hadn't been able to come to lunch because they were geocaching or orienteering or trekking to Alaska or something equally healthy and energetic. They certainly deserved their drinks. I'm not sure I deserved the ones I continued to consume.

I don't actually remember getting home that night. What I do remember is waking up on the sofa in the early hours of the morning, and SHAMEFULLY deciding that since Circus Boy was always going on about how I never text him or call him, now would be the PERFECT time to make him happy by texting him.

Sometimes I look back on the days when we didn't have mobile phones with nostalgia and fondness. This is one of those times. In the 80s, we had to use pagers to make complete drunken arses of ourselves, and that took an amount of dedication that was not usually possible when half-bladdered, half-hungover.

Then I went to bed, waiting for a reply, but, goodness knows how, I fell asleep whilst waiting.

Fast-forward to Sunday morning. I get up in time to listen to The Archers (one mustn't let a hangover get in the way of an Ambridge catch-up), and am suddenly overcome with utter FURY. That BARSTARD hasn't bothered to text back! Now, believe me, I am fully aware of all the reasons why this fury is irrational. I'd doubtless texted after he was in bed. He wouldn't yet be up. I'd not particularly texted anything that needed an urgent reply. But this is all way after the fact, when neither you nor I are in the grip of a frenzied anger.

Better people than me would have let it go anyway, and LUCKY THEM, for they now wouldn't feel wracked with guilt at their behaviour. Not me. I fired off not one, but several utterly arsey texts, about how DARE he say I never text him, because what was the point when he wasn't going to text me back, and he is a complete LOSER anyway, and I don't even LIKE him.

Then my phone rang. It was him. For like one second I was a bit apprehensive, but lucky old me, the fury took over again and I picked up. 'WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?'

The rest of the phone call went pretty much along those lines. Give Circus Boy his due, he was way nicer than I deserved, didn't get angry at me, seemed genuinely puzzled about what was going on (as well he might be!), and was trying to placate me. Even though I told him he was unable to follow through on ANYTHING, right down to not even getting his hair cut when he said he was going to. Even when I told him I wasn't emotionally unavailable, but that he was a gameplayer and I was sick of it. Even when I told him I never, EVER wanted to see his sorry face again. EVER. And then he came out with the most mortifying line perhaps ever spoken to me.

'I think maybe you were right. Maybe I shouldn't have slept with you the other night. You seem to have.... changed.'

Wind. Out. Of. Sails.

'Sorry,' I said, in a wee small voice. 'I think maybe you are right.' And in my head I could see visions of all those shags that we could have had flying away on little angel wings. 'You must hate me, I have behaved really badly, it's YOU who must never want to see ME again, I've gone completely loopy haven't I?'

'Yes. But that's ok. I do really like you, and I do want to see you again... But when you've calmed down a bit maybe....'

Well, yes. So we said goodbye and I slid under my crocheted hangover blanket and waited for the sofa to eat me.

My son got home later on and I told him what had happened. He was horrified. 'It's ALL YOUR FAULT!!!' And it was.

Which makes the aftermath even odder.

An the Monday morning, I woke up feeling a bit odd. When I went to get out of bed, I couldn't feel my left leg properly, it sort of wasn't under my control. Ditto with my arm. I realised this when I tried to touch my face, because as I looked in the mirror, I could see the left side of my face was swollen - but not as swollen as it felt.

I could hardly make it down the stairs - had to go two feet to one step. Opening the living room door really hurt and it was like I was trying to remote control my arm very poorly.

In my head I was terrified I'd had a stroke, but I had to get Son off to school, and I was even considering going in to work - but realised there was no way. I phoned in sick and got a GP appointment, thinking she would just reassure me and then I'd get off to work. But she didn't - she referred me up to the hospital, and even offered an ambulance to take me there! Well, no way - I got a taxi, and two nurses from the Stroke Unit were waiting for me. They examined me and told me I would probably need to be admitted overnight. for various tests and scans. Now, I was scared, but not THAT scared.

'But I CAN'T! I've got a son, and my Dad is dying and my Mum has dementia, and I don't have time for this, there's no-one else to take mum visiting him, and he could die at any time, and I need to be there and...' I was crying by this time, and one of the doctors was watching from the desk. A short time after this he came over.

He said I could choose to stay and have all the tests if I wanted, or - and he wasn't against this at all, because my obs were fine and I wasn't in pain, didn't have a headache or any other signs of brain compression - I could just go. There are some funny things that happen, he said, neurological illnesses that seem to come out of nowhere and act a bit oddly and, like my migraines, can happen at times of stress - and it sounded as though I was under stress. I nodded, I definitely was under stress, and so I was only too happy to go home. He said to rest and to try not to worry, because he had never in his career heard someone who had had a stroke begging to be allowed to go home, because normally they felt really rough, so he was 99 per cent sure I was fine. But to come back if I got worse at all.

So off I went. In my head, I had translated what he said as meaning I'd had a weird sort of migraine. I didn't actually feel any better, but I didn't feel worse either, so when I got home I just lazed about on the sofa feeling a bit cruddy.

Shortly after Son got back from school, someone knocked at the door. I got off the sofa, all swollen face, cried off make-up and greasy hair in a ponytail (because I hadn't felt like washing it when I thought I'd had a stroke). It was Circus Boy, standing a short way away from the door, with his friend from The Night When I Sided With His Mother.

'I thought I'd come and see if you'd calmed down,' he said, trying and failing to not show how nearly he had yelled out, 'WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE!'

'Is that why you have moral support, ' I said, gesturing to his mate.

'Well, I wasn't sure what mood you'd be in.'

They came inside and stayed for a couple of hours chatting, and Son was VERY excited to see Circus Boy, because he really likes him. And Circus Boy was quite keen to show off his new haircut. To which the only response could be for me to apologise yet again. Because it doesn't matter how much a person says you are forgiven if you can't forgive yourself. Then off they went 'to look for beer'.

Circus Boy was DJing on the next Saturday, and he was wanting me to go and see him - now as it happens, a couple of girls from work were going out with their friends that Saturday in that town, so I said I'd probably go if they were up for meeting there. So when he left on the Monday night, the plan was we would probably meet up on the Saturday.

Five hours after Circus Boy left, my Dad died and all plans were off.

And I know he is young, and I know he meant well, but when he rang about the Saturday and I explained, I wasn't impressed when he said, 'come out anyway, celebrate your Dad's life.' This was only four days after his death, I wasn't finished grieving the loss of him.

Now by all rights this should have completely been the end of it, and it was nearly the last I've heard of Circus Boy, but there is one more incident that has had me laughing whenever I think of it, that perfectly sums up all there is to know about Circus Boy, all in one simple telephone conversation.

But it deserves a post all of its own... ;-)