By mid February 2004 I was already half way through the month I had come to spend in England. I had arrived with no plan but to get Mum's life back after finding her in hospital, depressed, and looking beaten at the start of the month. Within a week she was out of the hospital and home and we began recreating her world.
Each day Mum, Rob and I navigated new territory, trying new things on for size and discarding those that didn't work for Mum and Rob. I made many phone calls, making arrangements for house calls for foot care, glaucoma tests, meals on wheels and the hairdresser. All the world was willing to come to Mum it seemed.
Just as we began to feel less freaked out about our lives being invaded by the Helping Hands carers who supported Mum three times a day, Mum's social worker reminded us that they were purchasing the services of Helping Hands only because there were no council carers available and that if that changed, they might switch back to the council carers.
She seemed to feel badly telling us that. It was hard for us to contemplate saying goodbye to the people we were just beginning to feel comfortable with and who knew Mum now. I had worked so hard to ensure that Mum wasn't just a time slot they had to fill. It was so important that they know her abilities and the little things, that mattered to her in a big way.
I trusted God with the worry of this possible change, knowing that he had taken care of us this far.
Mum, who was always a careful, strategic and creative thinker, managed to do more than I expected. I would go upstairs to brush my teeth and come down to find that she had turned off the light, her lamp and the electric blanket, turned back the bed covers and got into bed! She had a drive to do these things, although other things, such as making a cup of tea, she had lost all interest in doing. Fortunately Rob became a daily presence in a closer way, in Mum's life. He made sure that she was well supplied with cups of tea! Meanwhile, I struggled to fade into the background and not be overprotective, so that Mum could do what she was able to without me hovering!
One night I asked her, "Was it a good day today Mum?" and she said, "Yes, every day is a good day."
I met the first carer I worried about. I hoped that she would not be assigned to Mum too often. She was nice enough, but seemed very "slap-dash" and breezy. I wanted her to be careful and gentle and pay attention to what she was doing. I hoped that I would see her again just so that my mind would be at rest.
After a Sunday morning service at Alvechurch Baptist Church, when we had celebrated communion, one of the leaders asked me about some of the deacons coming to serve Mum communion. I could only think how wonderful it would be for her to be bound into the Body of her little church in this way.
A few days later the social worker called again to say that the government had a new initiative called direct funding. She had approached her supervisor with a suggestion that Mum was an ideal candidate. What it meant was that Mum would be given the funds assigned to her to purchase the support she needed. This meant that Mum could continue to have Helping Hands and not have to change to new carers from the council.
Mum's name was also now on a list of people waiting for more suitable housing and we heard that she was number seven on the list. The fact that Mum only wished to live in Alvechurch, we were told, would slow down her chances of getting housing quickly, but it mattered that she be where she belonged.
As my time in Alvechurch drew to a close, Mum made her first visit to the Sycamore Club, a place she used to visit every Monday morning for tea, a chat with friends and lunch. I went with her, and enjoyed listening to the ladies, most of them in their 80's chatting with one another. The lunch was a tasty beef stew with roast potatoes, cauliflower and peas, with apple cake and custard for desert (or "pudding" as it is called in England.)
It was pleasant and comfortable sitting in the sun, and I fell into a snooze, listening to the drone of voices. All of the elderly people found that very amusing.
Our friends Chris and Eileen visited too. All of the pieces of life were fitting back together again. It felt so good to see Mum in the mainstream of life although it remained hard that it was so difficult for her to communicate. If she tried harder it just made it less easy to find the words she was looking for. I prayed that God would unlock her speech.
I prepared for my return to Canada with a sense of a mission accomplished. Even attending Mum's church had been strategic. No one knew how she was or where she was until then. She had vanished into the medical system and they had only heard limited information since mid September, the year before, when Mum had left for Canada. She never made it back to church when she came back as her leg was hot and reddened that first Sunday back and the doctor had told her to rest all weekend. I felt that I was there "for" her as well as for myself. I knew that I would bring her to the forefront of people's minds and caring by my presence; that I would make her "important" to them. The result was two bunches of flowers from the church soon after she arrived home; a visit from her old friend, Trudy, and communion being served to her at home; as well as hearing her name being lifted up in prayer in the church.
Mum's friend Trudy assured me, "Don't worry, the church will look after your mum. We'll do our best." Then she told me that she wished she was 20 years younger because then she could do so much more--which was so funny, because that would have still made her 70!
To be continued...