Man in the Middle – Chapter 58: Mother has gone into a nursing home

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.58: Mother has gone into a nursing home

Mother is in a nursing home with a broken pelvis and vascular dementia. Her last fall has taken a big toll on her. She now needs specialist care and I’m facing down the guilt which comes with accepting I can’t look after her anymore. The frustration that we can’t visit her in the home makes that feeling worse.

At the moment, though, she is better off in her nursing home than with us. Our WIFI is down, our boiler is broken, and the dishwasher is dead. Home may be where her heart is, but she’s better off somewhere with functioning central heating and clean crockery.

‘We’re actually living like people did in the 1950s,’ says my daughter.

‘More like they did in the Ice Age,’ says my son.

He’s got a point. The house is so cold my daughter’s boyfriend, who is ‘bubbling’ with us, hasn’t taken his overcoat off for three days and I am sleeping with my socks on for the first time since I was at University.

There’s a stack of unwashed dishes on the sideboard which will soon slide onto the kitchen floor unless we can agree whose turn it is to hand wash them. At the moment, everyone is pretending it’s not their time because we ate roast lamb last night and no one wants to go hand to hand with the congealed lamb fat which is glued to the plates without the help of hot water.

The electrician, who’s come to fix everything, tells me I have a score of 38 on my electrical loop inhibitor. It should be under one. He’s not even allowed to touch anything with a score that high.

‘You need to call your network supplier immediately,’ he says. And leaves without fixing anything.

‘I have a problem with my inhibitor,’ I say to customer service, who don’t laugh.

One hour later, two service engineers have finished in the basement inhibiting our loop from any further excesses.

‘How long has it been dangerous like that?’ I ask.

‘Probably since you moved in,’ they say.

The thought that we’ve been living in a tinder box for twenty years adds to my sense 2020 is a year best forgotten.

‘You’re not normally emotionally sensitive enough to feel sad,’ says my wife. ‘Make a list of all the good things that have happened this year. That’ll cheer you up.’

An hour later and I have quite a long list. It includes the scientists finding a Covid vaccine; Donald Trump being told to find his ‘big boy pants’ and the realisation that his vanity and bullying will soon be a thing of the past, or at least one that I no longer have to hear about; my son’s A levels; my daughter’s graduation and my wife’s continuing forbearance.

But top of the list is ‘Sock Amnesty’, which is a fun and inclusive game for all the family which I invented during the first lockdown. The goal of Sock Amnesty is for everyone to hunt out their old orphan socks, dump them into a laundry basket and then battle to match up as many orphan socks with their lost twins in an hour. The person with the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner. It’s like apple bobbing only with socks and you can’t use your teeth.

‘Is ‘Sock Amnesty’ really the best thing that happened to you this year?’ asks my wife. ‘Even though you are usually so flippant.’

‘It’s not the sort of hard-core game they’d play at the Bullingdon Club, I admit. But anything that makes us more conscious and encourages us to think about issues like climate change and recycling is useful. That has to be a good thing don’t you think?’

‘If push comes to shove, I think I prefer a more traditional drinking game to Sock Amnesty,’ says my wife.

My son comes into the room and says that he’s just heard that the government is going to ensure make testing available to everyone who wants to visit their relatives in a care home at Christmas.

‘That’s really good news,’ says my wife, looking at me and I feel the sadness lifting ever so slightly.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Chapter 59: Hurrah for my free bus pass

Read the previous one – Chapter 57: The runway to Me Time gets blocked

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

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