Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Mom is coming up on being in hospital for a year. I am hyper aware of that. She's had several not good days and appears to be getting weaker. The questions are there - if the treatment plan had been followed completely would she be doing better? If the diagnosis had been made earlier would things have been different? How many others are simply tossed away because they don't have someone to advocate for them? Mom has Dad and my sister talking to the doctor and striving to make sure she gets the best care possible. My youngest brother David is researching and digging for more information...watching her symptoms and trying to figure out what the changes mean.

Along with the questions on her care come the questions I wish I had asked her. How in the world did she keep meals on the table for 6? Two main meals and breakfast. We didn't have a microwave or prepared foods or even much in the way of canned foods. Everything had to be cooked from scratch on a gas or wood burning stove. Did she ever have days when she was just ready to tear her hair out dealing with us kids? We fought often...especially my sister and I. I don't remember ever hearing her and Dad disagree in front of us kids yet I know they must have had disagreements at times. I remember only one time seeing her weep - we were getting ready to go on a trip from the coast to up-country by bus. Something wasn't going well and Dad was short with Mom. I don't know how it was resolved but I know that it was somehow. I remember lying in my bed at night and hearing them reading the Bible and praying together out loud - low murmer of voices. In the mornings Dad would be up way early to read his Bible and pray, Mom would wake later and read hers in bed while Dad was getting breakfast. (Mom had to eat within 30 min or so of waking up or she would get dizzy and shaky - I am like her in that respect - have to have breakfast and coffee fairly soon after I wake).

The laundry we 4 siblings brought home from boarding school at the end of term must have been absolutely mind-boggling. Each time our quilts had to be washed as well as most of our clothes, other bedding and towels. While we had a washing machine of one sort or another for most of my memory, we had no dryer. Everything was line-dried outside. My job was often to help hang the clothes. I tended to enjoy doing that most of the time as it gave me time to think and dream about what my adult life would be like. If rain threatened there would be a mad dash outside to bring in the remaining laundry that hadn't been brought in yet. Seems like we never finished doing all the laundry until it was just about time to return to boarding school a month or so later. Of course, after it was brought in it all had to be folded and sorted and put away. Some things were ironed.

I remember having other students at school comment to me on how "cute" it was to see an older couple like my Mom and Dad walking around campus holding hands. They often did that when they were up visiting - and they usually made the trip up at least twice a term. (Terms were 3 months long with a long weekend - mid-term - in the middle). I don't remember what I thought about Mom and Dad holding hands in public at my school - just the fact that others thought it was neat. I know that mail call was huge - always hoping for that letter from Mom or Dad. They took turns writing to us - individual letters to 4 kids written by hand or typed. Eventually there was a computer but Mom's letters were still mostly handwritten and Dad's were often.

Returning to school was always an adjustment. My sister and I would spend the week prior to return to school time baking cookies to take back with us. Molasses crinkles were made, brownies of various sorts, probably oatmeal raisin cookies...I don't remember the rest. There was hot cocoa mix to be made, tea and other school supplies to be purchased. Eventually the packing was done, the last snacks were organized and time came to head to usually the train station. (Occasionally we took the bus to the capital but that was a much more crowded unpleasant trip and the train was preferred). A "picnic" supper would be packed along with sweet rolls for breakfast. Eventually our stuff would be hauled to the train station and packed into our 2nd class compartment. (First class was too expensive and we were too many to ride 1st. In 2nd there was room for 6 people to sleep). Until bedtime we would read or talk or journal or walk the hallways of the train. Come bedtime it was time to pull the bunks up and make them into beds. There was only one window in the compartment and a small sink. Once the beds were made up there was no room to sit and really only room for a couple of people to stand at a time. Who-ever had the middle bunk on both sides had a small sliver of window to look out. There wasn't much to see except sometimes at the little places we stopped but it was fun to try. When we did stop one could often hear people talking and smell smoke. Mornings would come early...we would all be up by around 6 or 6:30. By then it would be light out and we would be watching the animals in the game reserve we were riding through. Dad used to joke that we were watching the gnus (news) and we would try to see how many different types of animals we would see. The train would usually arrive at the station around 8:00 am and the process of getting cabs and unloaded would begin. That day would be spent shopping in the capital before we headed out to the school later in the day or sometimes the next day. Mom and Dad would get us settled into our dorm rooms and then they would have to leave to return to the capital before it got really late. They would head back to the coast the next day. Adjustment to school was always tough for me...for the first 12-15 hours I would stay in my dorm room unpacking, reading my mail and eating from the snacks I'd brought from home. I would not go to the dining hall until the next day.

Enough of the memories for today.

1 comment:

Linds said...

Well, Edith, WOW. This is the most amazingly beautiful post you have EVER written. I felt like I was there on the train with you, out in the garden hanging the washing too, and then baking the cookies. I have so many questions too. Where were you at school? Which city? Write more. Please.

And about your Mum. I have been there, and I know what you are going through, questions, wondering, care issues, the lot. Hang in there, my friend.And never hesitate to make a fuss for your mum. Ask the questions. Demand the answers. Lodge an official complaint re the lateness of diagnosis, because only then will there be an inquiry and changes made. I hate that you are going through this. Hate it. But I am sending a huge hug anyway.
PS. Ask your Dad the questions re how they managed. It sounds like your parents were a team, and he would know. My parents were so similar to yours!