Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Trying times

Well. This has been a hell of a crappy two months. First, Granny (MadCat's gran) had to be hospitalised because her hip replacement popped out (what the hell? How does that even HAPPEN?). She didn't recover very well form the op, and ended up back in hospital for several weeks, deteriorating rapidly. MadCat and I went through one Sunday and she looked terrible - although she managed to whisper to me that she hoped she would find peace soon. It was really heartbreaking. For a while she seemed to be improving, and MadCat went through to visit her every single day, which was good for both of them.

Then, on 22 June, I got word that mama Ella had died. It wasn't unexpected, as she'd been deteriorating for several months, never mind the 10 years of dementia through which she'd suffered. Selfishly, I must admit, I was relieved that the strain would be somewhat lifted off my mother, who's basically been looking after her single-handedly, although her siblings have helped for a day or two here and there. Still, she made it to 90, a good innings, but even though we couldn't really communicate over the past few years - telephones being difficult for her - she was the sweetest woman who ever lived and I miss her dreadfully. We immediately made plans to go down for the funeral, especially as Granny seemed to be pulling through.

Then on Friday 25 June, McGee couldn't stand up. He'd been struggling for a week, and we'd been letting him out through the back gate because he couldn't handle the steps. Still, it was awful to see the confusion on his face as he struggled to stand, even with me helping him, and his legs failed beneath him. I knew it was time, and I gave him the softest food I could find. MadCat put him in front of the heater in the lounge and I called into work, then let Deafboy and Adventure Girl know so they could come and say their goodbyes. My one regret is that I gave my boy only one last Marmite cookie that day, instead of liberally feeding him the entire jar. It's still too difficult to talk about, so I will simply say that it's the hardest thing I have ever done, comparable only to putting down my beloved Rudi, and MadCat, Deafboy and I were emotional messes. Mo didn't understand, although we tried to get her to smell his collar, and she still pines for him every day.

We made plans to go down to Cape Town the following week, as Mathilda was flying out from New Zealand for her mother's funeral; then, tragedy; the night before we left, Granny died. Fortunately I had been to say my goodbyes the week before, and Michael had last seen her that morning, but still; it was an emotional punch that we really didn't need during an already-tough week.

We headed down to Cape Town in one 18-hour run; it was hellish. Road-trips are usually fun for us, but this one was a complete nightmare, what with mist and roadworks, long delays and a screaming match about my vertigo when it comes to driving through mountain passes at night. Anyway, we made it, leaving at 6am and getting there at 11:30 that night. The funeral itself was lovely, just what Mama would have appreciated, and I got to spend some time with Mama Jo, not enough, but some. MadCat and I were very solicitous of her, which partly annoyed, partly amused and partly gratified her; after all, at almost 92, the old bat needed some help getting around. Pastor Selwyn had me walk the honour guard for Mama Ella with him; watching that hearse leave broke a little something in my heart, and then watching my mother, aunts, uncles and big old cousin break down completely ... well, I don't actually want to witness something like that again.

The wake was actually wonderful, reconnecting with my cousins, taking stupid pictures of each other, chatting and eating and generally raising hell. My father, as ever, was a total pain in the ass and I took him down a few notches for being unfeeling about my mother's loss. I guess that's the way we'll always be with each other - confrontational.

We came back over three days, trying to heal our souls. That's a tale for another time, but it was worth it, even with the unexpected expense right in the middle.

So, back home, and to work, and time to look for a companion for Mo.

Then i got word that Mama Jo had taken ill and, well, we all knew what was going to happen. She spent two weeks saying goodbye to all and sundry and then, on 21 July, while I was at bellydancing, I got the news that that was likely to be her last night. And so it was; she died at 01:30 the next morning, surrounded by her family, in her bed, in Mama Ella's bedroom. Old age and a wonky ticker had claimed her.

We flew down to Cape Town on Saturday night, to work on the eulogy, which I'll post later. This funeral, at St Aidan's, was a lot more bittersweet for me. For one thing, I'd been able to interact more regularly with Mama Jo, and we share the same looks and temperament. We both love reading and writing, cooking and baking, and I had more of a connection with her. I asked to do the eulogy and am told that I did a fairly good job of it. When the coffin left, this time, we the family stood behind it and for once, just once, my father allowed some of his emotion to shine through. This was his mother, him being an only child; he had no siblings with whom to share the pain, only his wife and children; and we clung to each other as we walked back into the church.

The wake was different, too; being my father's family, I don't have as much in common with them, so I didn't interact with my cousins as much. In fact, Luh visited and I chatted to her most of the time, as my eldest female cousin from my mother's side. That night, my mother insisted that we go through Mama Jo's stuff and divide what we wanted between us. It was incredibly hard, feeling like a vulture, deciding what to take and with screaming matches about nothing. We were all incredibly overwrought. It was not pleasant, even looking at the cute things Mama had kept as mementoes of our childhood.

We flew back at 6am yesterday morning, which meant a 4am wake-up. I got my CPAP machine but it doesn't seem to have helped; I still woke up unhappy and headachy today, and MadCat had to go in for a night-shift last night, on virtually no sleep.

It's going to take a long while to recover from this.

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