A middle aged man realises his elderly mother can no longer cope alone, so she moves in with them. Squeezed by the demands of the demographic time bomb and the requirements of the rest of the family, the Man in the Middle is bemused that life has become a hi-wire act, just when he thought it should start getting easier. How can he keep everyone happy and survive with his sanity intact?
If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read
No. 1: The Letter here
No.57: The runway to Me Time gets blocked
I unlock the door and breath a huge sigh of relief. Thought for the Day hasn’t even finished and all my tasks for the day are done. I hang the car keys up and let a smile hitch up the corners of mouth. Me Time beckons.
Thanks to my world class project planning skills, I’ve done my day’s work almost before the day’s begun. Not even Dido Harding could match that. I wonder if I should call her office and offer to run a workshop for her track and trace team?
Of course, success hasn’t come without grafting. I’ve been hard at it for at least an hour, selflessly making sure the day gets off to a flying start for everyone else so I can clear my take off slot to Me Time. And, as every male Boomer knows, this is not easy. Everyone else can be very demanding.
I tot up the tasks so far. This morning’s selflessness has included driving my daughter to her college; laying the breakfast table with crockery and cutlery; filling the kettle; putting tea bags into mugs and neatly stacking three boxes of breakfast cereal next to each other, like sentinels, on the kitchen table. I’ve loaded the oven with frozen croissants and, this time, remembered to turn the oven on. Jeeves could not have done it any better.
‘Hand brewed. I waited until it turned the dark brown colour you like and then whipped the bag out,’ I said, as I passed my wife her morning cuppa.
‘I’ve got to dash. Can you put it in my flask?’ she said.
‘Your word is my command,’ I replied.
Now I have returned to a nearly empty house a wave of optimism flows over me. I head to the kitchen for the Colombian speciality roast and my one cup cafetiere. The only ‘must do’ left on my listicle for today is a lunchtime appointment with my oldest friend to celebrate his birthday, which will mean the afternoon will be frittered away in a velouté of incoherent piffle and wine.
The coffee grinder stops. The phone is ringing. It’s my friend to confirm details for lunchtime.
‘Have you talked to your liver about lunchtime? Given it a heads up on the punishment heading its way?’ I ask.
‘There is no lunchtime. I’ve checked. The pubs are shut,’ he says.
‘Even if we drink outside?’ I ask with a faint tremor in my voice.
‘There is no outside service.’
‘What about we pretend it’s a business lunch?’
‘That’d be a lie.’
‘Donald Trump lies for a living,’ I say.
‘Do you really want to behave like Donald Trump?’ he asks.
We postpone the lunch until another time and hear my liver breathe a sigh of relief. I had forgotten the return of lockdown.
‘I haven’t even sent you a card, I’m sorry.’
‘I’d rather you bought me a pint when this Covid business is finished,’ he replies.
I sip my coffee, wondering what else I can do now with the day. Then, I hear a faint sound like a whisper. It repeats itself a few times. It could be from next door or it could be Mother upstairs. She’s left her newspaper on the breakfast table, so I guess she’s after that. I pick up my coffee and put her newspaper under my arm and head upstairs.
As I reach the top of the stairs, I see she is on the floor, her back to the door. She is propped up on her arms and calling for help, softly. Next to her right hand is a pool of blood and an old red leather glove. One of her clothes drawers is upturned on the floor at her feet. There’s a black space where the drawer should be, like its lost a tooth in a fight.
As I bend down towards her, I realise that ever since she was first diagnosed with dementia, I knew this moment would come. Her age and condition made this inevitable. There was always going to be another fall which would trigger a new chapter in her life and ours. I’m not glad it’s happened but I am glad it’s me here now, not someone else in the family, especially the kids or her carer.
Suddenly, birthday lunchtimes are a lifetime away. Me Time has hidden itself away in shame. Only one thing and one person matters right now. I reach for the phone and call 999.
Read more blogs by James Thellusson
Read the next in the series – Chapter 58: Mother has gone into a nursing home
Read the previous one – Chapter 56: Mixed emotions about the day ahead
See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here
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