I remember how patient Mum was with me when I was ill or anxious overnight. I was never, ever turned away from Mum and Dad’s bed if I needed comfort during the night–this continued long after I left childhood. When I had chronic insomnia in my late twenties we three used to sit up in the dark with cups of tea (made by Dad) and when I was in my forties a prolonged virus used to make my skin itch unbearably at night. Mum was always willing to wake up and keep me company as I scratched!
And now our roles are reversed. From time to time Mum gets confused and this seems to get worse at night. I sit beside her and tell her that no, we can’t ring up Miss X (dead many years ago) at this hour but yes of course I will ring her tomorrow and make sure Miss X is not upset. (About what I have no idea). Yes, of course Dad (another dead many years ago) will be able to help. And going amongst rich people will be fine. In between repeating these anxieties over and over, Mum stares into the far distance, her eyes wide open, her mouth in an “o” of worry.
“If I could just go ping pong” then people could cope,” she says. It makes me think of lift doors opening “Ping pong, first floor…” Perhaps that is what happens at the end of life, we go up in a lift until “Ping, pong, last floor, Heaven”.
When Mum is agitated at night, she goes backwards and forwards between her bedroom and the loo. And I mean backwards and forwards over and over again, sometimes with only a few seconds between each visit. She rarely sits on the pot, preferring to sit on the small chair beside the pot. There is a path trod in the carpet by her feet and her trolley.
The noise of the trolley as it transports Mum to the loo is a useful alarm clock when I’ve gone to bed. Sometimes I need to do nothing, other times I need to re-insert Mum between the correct layers of bed linen as she occasionally lies on top of the bed instead of getting inside.
Last night, I listened as she paced between bedroom and loo even more often than usual. It was tempting to assume that all was well and go back to sleep but something made me get up. The poor love had thrown up, very neatly on the cushion on top of her trolley. She apologised profusely and told me to not let it bother me. She was sorry she had disturbed me. I thought of the many times I had disturbed her and after cleaning up, sat waiting until she went back to sleep. So often these times remind me of my daughter’s early years, sitting waiting till her hands stretched out like starfish before tiptoeing away, standing with a basin underneath her top bunk catching her vomit like a ball and cup game. That daughter had just been accepted by Kings College University, London to do a degree in Adult Nursing. And so the circle of life goes on.