Saturday, 31 May 2014

Losing Your Marbles

Somebody once said, ‘Stress doesn’t kill.  What does kill, is the way stress is handled.’  Currently I’m not sure whether my stress levels are being handled brilliantly or, thanks to some heart twinges, whether my life plan to live to one hundred is actually going to end in the next one hundred seconds.
          We all suffer stress, and many of us on a daily basis.  Most of us juggle work, kids, spouse, home, and chores on automatic pilot.  However, if you add too many extras into that juggling act, there is a danger of everything collapsing around your ears.  When my mother was taken into hospital as an emergency admission three weeks ago, all the balls I’d been juggling began to falter.  In order to find considerable time to visit her every day and see to her personal needs, something had to give.  The ironing was the first thing to go.  Like a rolling snowball, it quickly gathered momentum.  Within days a huge pile of crumpled clothes had accumulated.
          ‘I’ve nearly run out of shirts,’ said my husband, reclining against the sofa to watch his beloved football.
          ‘How shocking!’
          He gave me an uncertain look, decided I was being serious, and ploughed on.  ‘It’s true.  My wardrobe is nearly empty.
          The shopping was the next thing to slide.
          ‘What’s for tea?’ asked my daughter.  ‘I’m starving.’
          I peered inside the freezer.  ‘Brussel sprouts, peas and roast potatoes.’
          Eleanor looked confused.  ‘Isn’t there something to go with that?’
          I looked inside the freezer again.  ‘Yes.  Ice-cream.’
          The next thing to lapse was housework.
          ‘Mum, there’s cat hair everywhere,’ said my son when he visited last weekend.  ‘You haven’t vacuumed.  You know I’m allergic to Dolly!’
          The washing was the next thing to be abandoned.
          ‘I’m out of socks,’ said Mr V.
          ‘I’m out of pants,’ said Eleanor.
          ‘I’m out of anti-histimine,’ said Robbie.
          ‘And I’m out of patience,’ I said.
          It was at that point that everybody ran for cover.  The blue touch paper had been lit, and there was no holding me back.  Like a bottle of dropped Cola, stress fizzed up and exploded out of me.
          Suddenly my son was vacuuming as if his life depended on it, my husband was whizzing an iron backwards and forwards over the mountain of crumpled clothes, my daughter tidied her room and walked the dog, and then everybody took off to the local supermarket to do a mammoth trolley fill.  I left them all to it and rushed off to the hospital to speak to doctors about unchanged dressings, potential cellulitis, lack of bed bathing assistance, drug changes, care assistance and post-operative delirium.  At the end of it all my mother berated me for ‘interfering’.
          ‘My life won’t be worth living,’ she snapped.  ‘They taunt me you know.’
          ‘Everybody.  And one of the nurses here is absolute poison.  And she hates your guts.  She’s reported you to all the national newspapers.  Do you realise everyone is reading about you?  Your name is mud.’
          ‘Yes, Mum,’ I said.  ‘You kindly told me all that yesterday.  And the day before.  And the day before that.  And the day before that one too.’
          ‘You’ve got to stop causing me trouble.’
          I knelt before my mother and cupped her face in my hands.
          ‘Listen to me, Mum.  Try and hang on to what I’m saying.  I care about you.  I love you.  And I’m interfering – as you call it – because I love and care.’
          She gazed back at me with vacant blue eyes.  The lights were on but nobody was home.
          The time when the tears actually fell was when I mislaid my mobile phone.  Silly how something so trivial can reduce you to floods, but that was the breaking point.  I needed my phone!  I couldn’t function without my phone!  Where was the ruddy thing?!  I dashed off to the hospital trumpeting into a packet of Kleenex, and minus the phone.  I met my father in the hospital foyer.
          ‘I’ve mislaid my mobile, Dad.  Can I borrow yours?  I need to text Eleanor to say I will be late picking her up from college.’
          ‘Of course,’ said my father.  ‘You can use my new mobile.’
          ‘What happened to the old one?’  It wasn’t that long ago my father had upgraded to a Smart phone.
          ‘I couldn’t get on with it.’
          ‘Really?  Oh, that’s a shame.  Well, never mind.  Give me the new one.’
          And with that my father placed a small clam in the palm of my hand.  It was, possibly, the very first mobile phone ever invented.  Oh, hang on, the first mobile phone had been the size of a brick.  Okay, this one was possibly the second mobile phone ever invented.
          ‘How much did you pay for this?’
          ‘Oh, it was a bargain,’ he assured.
          I bit my tongue and wondered what salesman had fleeced my father.  Now wasn’t the time to fight another battle.  I opened the clam and tried to remember how to use such a mobile.  Dear Lord.  Where was the internet?  It didn’t even have a camera!
          ‘Okay.  I need to text.  Do you know how to text on this thing?’
          ‘I’m still finding my way around it,’ my father said vaguely.
          ‘Right.  Not to worry.  Ah.  Found it.’  I started to stab out a message to my daughter.  ‘Blast.  How do you backspace?’
          ‘I don’t know.’
          ‘Damn.  All the words are joining up.  Do you know which key is the space bar?’
          ‘I don’t know.’
          ‘Doesn’t matter,’ I smiled, whilst inwardly screaming.  ‘I think Eleanor will understand the gist of this message.’  I hit the send button.
           Later that day Eleanor found my mobile phone, where I’d left it, on the study floor next to a brochure about a nursing home for my mother.  I stared at the phone’s screen.  There were thirteen missed calls, a voicemail and one text.  Twelve of the missed calls were from my mother.  So was the voicemail.  I pressed the button and listened to her quavering voice.
          ‘Please tell me.  Please, please, please.’
          I shook my head.  Tell you what, Mum?
          As if on cue, she continued.  ‘Tell me whether your private life is in all the newspapers and your name is mud.’
          I gave a weary sigh and deleted the message.
          The other missed call was from Eleanor, followed by a text.  It read:
          Grandad sent me a really weird message.  Please can you translate:
          Well it made perfect sense to me.  Which reminds me.  Did you hear about the two mobile phones that got married?  The wedding was terrible, but the reception was terrific…

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