Quite unexpectedly and thanks to one of my kids, I am enjoying 3 whole days without caring. I get those days on my respite breaks, but the exquisite joy of this time is that I am home alone. I am rarely home alone. Every single day for years I share my days with someone who may go out for 2 hours a week. Maybe. This other person, being in the latter stages of dementia, is not only present but dominant, or, rather, his needs are, moment by moment. He demands help with pretty much everything, an everything that changes daily, and one that escalates into an ever greater need as the brain cells shut down and his mobility is challenged even more.
These delightfully fresh smelling and easy days are a huge gift. I feel as if my life is in fact, a life after all. I am not part of his as I have probably always been. In a marriage where the Master Of The House takes his role very seriously, his woman will always only be wallpaper – pretty when new and then gradually yellowing into age stains, blue-ing into biro scribbles and tearing when the furniture knocks into it, or, in my case, when a child decides to skin the wall. Accepting this wallpaper life is something some of us do without realising we are doing it. Drip by drip we dilute who we are until, if we are not mindful, we become a big puddle for everyone else to jump in. These 2 days have shown me I am not that puddle, not now, even if I have puddled a lot over the decades, thinking myself only worthy if I do something that makes someone else smile. There is a lot to be said for that, but not if it becomes a modus operandi, knitting itself into the fabric of a woman until she can no longer find herself.
I sit in the newly cleaned conservatory. Not just newly cleaned (by me) but also re-arranged. Oh lord! How dare she! Sorry….how dare I? Well I did dare and it looks much better. I await the fallout on his return tomorrow. At times, when conflict rolls in like thunder and the air crackles with a killer fork or two, I back down. There are times to stand ground and times when, on looking down at that ground, the parched sandy scrubby earth beneath my feet, I decide it’s rubbish land anyway and I pull out my flag. You have it, I say without words. It won’t grow a single thing. Bizarrely, what appears my defeat is, in truth, my victory. I can see the long term of this, whereas he is fist-bunched focussed on the simple fact that I took a decision of my own. It smiles me.
I play Bob Dylan or Shania Twain at full volume. I move a planter or two because the occupants are shouting at me. We don’t like it here, they tell me. So, I listen, I hear, and I move them. I can hear them sigh with relief. I eat when I am hungry and don’t have to mop up spilt everything or sweep up crumbs upon crumbs or scrub carelessly fashioned stains from carpets. I can breathe freely through my nose without encountering dodgy smells that have a knock on effect right through my body. In fact, there are so many bonuses I feel euphoric and that also has a knock on effect. I feel light on my feet and calm in my breast. And, mostly, I feel thankful.
Nothing and nobody can change what has now become the norm in this home. It is as it is. But my attitude makes all the difference. It’s the only thing over which I have complete control. I am not wallpaper around my attitude. I am not wallpaper at all, wallpaper that sits against the walls of life, looking pretty and getting ripped and scribbled on. Instead I am a moving force of energy and calm. If I build on this, it will shelter me when the tough times come again, when the thunder thunders and the killer forks light up the sky.
And, for now, for today, for this precious moment, I am thankful with all of my strong blood red woman heart.