It’s the end of May. How much has changed in the past year.
In May last year I was busy with my freelance work, preparing training courses to help charities in Devon and elsewhere to improve their fundraising skills by writing better funding applications, and training Trustees of charities working with prisoners and ex-offenders. Diary full of commitments.
In May last year I was viewing properties in Spain, able to buy if I found just the right thing, but with no pressure so to do – I could do more visits to different areas until the right home came along.
In May last year I was driving up the A30 to Salisbury Hospital every day to see my mother.
Only a year ago. A whole lifetime ago.
I never thought I’d retire. I used to think “Even if I won the Lottery, I’d still work, helping charities achieve their objectives.” Turns out I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did. Though perhaps I did – I still get requests to look at final draft funding applications or draft constitutions. Sometimes I say yes, and do it pro bono. Not always. If there’s time. There often isn’t – life after early retirement is full to over-flowing. Never thought of me, retired.
I never thought I’d buy the second house I viewed. Others go on a dozen house-hunting trips, first narrowing down the area, then viewing twenty or more houses. I’d only been to Colmenar once before. Liked it, hadn’t yet fallen in love with it. There was no rush to buy. I’d saved up over the previous ten years, had a budget, could buy if I wanted but no pressure. Mum had nudged me to go on a house-hunting trip. Saw four, bought the second. Never thought I’d buy on that first trip. Never thought I’d find my new home.
Never thought mum would die. We only went in for a chest X-ray. “Bit of fluid on the lung” said the doctor, “we’ll keep her in a couple of nights.” Three weeks later, transfer out of Salisbury Hospital to our little community hospital in Shaftesbury. When I arrived, an hour after her, the nurses looked at me with kindness and with pity. They knew.
Never thought mum would die. Early stages of Alzheimer’s, she had. And a bit of fluid on the lung. We’d had our regular Sunday Scrabble game just a few weeks before. But at the little hospital – they knew. Twenty-two years after she gave up smoking, it got her. We’d celebrated her giving up, aged 60, by walking the Dales Way. Ilkley to Windermere – a lovely week. So she never did have Alzheimer’s. The massive, creeping, secondary tumour in her brain was just squeezing out the memories. Control, Alt, Delete. One by one it pushed out random memories and slivers of personality.
Never thought mum would die. She was meant to come home after the X-ray, then after they drained the fluid. But there was that look on the face of the nurses. “Poor Tamara” their faces said. I’m invited into the GP’s office. He gives it the name. The one nobody wants to hear. Scarier than Alzheimer’s. Scarier than fluid on the lung. Found so late, she only has a few days left. All around Shaftesbury bunting is everywhere, all around the country royal fever is at its height. Diamond Jubilee weekend. “You’ve got a house, haven’t you? A home in Spain?” she asked me, urgently. “Yes mum, a lovely house.” “Good,” she said, “You’ll be fine.” Rare coherence. It seemed to be important to her.
Never thought that mum would die.
It changes everything. Everything is different now.
Most of it is good. Very good. Some of it can’t ever be fixed.
© Tamara Essex 2013