Ever since my Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease I’ve felt the impact of living on the other side of the world from her in a deeper magnitude than any time in the past twenty years. Seeing my folks visit us in New Zealand this recent Christmas and New Year was absolutely amazing, but also bitter sweet. I was amazed at my Dad’s bravery in making the journey with my Mum. She gets disorientated so easily and long haul travel from the UK to New Zealand is no easy feat. In addition my Dad was positive we should go ahead with plans to journey around the South Island, which we did amazingly well – all of us taking turns to care for Mum/Grandma and giving Dad/Granddad a momentary change of scene. It was so very wonderful to have them with us, but I knew that it was the last time my Mum would be able to make such a long journey.
Thankfully, my children are old enough to understand the difficulties and are so compassionate and caring, so that when I asked if they’d be okay with me travelling, by myself, to visit my parents, they all agreed, and even my nearly eight year old said, ‘Mummy, you must go and have special time with your Mummy and Daddy,’ which made me well up with tears (for all the right reasons).
Anyway, I had a very special time indeed, celebrating my Birthday with my folks and friends, being met at Heathrow Airport by my sister, Mum and Dad, enjoying the beauty of the English countryside in glorious spring sunshine, all whilst knowing my dear hubby was looking after our three daughters.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand…
I landed at Heathrow on the hottest day in April on record – some 28 degrees! We headed to Wisley Gardens for a stroll in the sunshine and to aid my recovery from the long-haul flight – just the tonic!
A nap afterwards and a curry at the local pub in the evening topped off the day nicely!
My time in England was so brief, but so special all the same – I just wish my dear Mum could remember it (up to me to hold the memories for her now x). It was so lovely to walk around gardens and National Trust Properties with her and Dad, soaking up the beauty of nature and holding her hand from time to time. You wouldn’t know she was unwell from the photographs – only a trained eye would know – the distant gaze, the weight loss – two dress sizes in the past year. Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the cruelest, as on the outside a person can look quite well, but all the time they are slipping away and their frustration grows in trying to hold on to the memories.
I’m so grateful that my Mum’s physical health at least makes Dad’s job, as her primary – and devoted carer – a little easier. They are able to get out every day, rain or shine, to walk in nature (a shared passion that they instilled in my sister and I).
I joined Mum and Dad on one of their U3A Walks – in London, along the canal, taking in Camden Market. Dad ran the hiking group for a number of years, before having to recently hand over the ropes to other willing volunteers. I enjoy meeting up with their fellow walkers when I’m back for a visit and very much appreciate their support and patience with my dear Mum.
I loved having the opportunity to catch up with my Mum’s sister and husband too – they were so important in my childhood. We spent several family holiday with them in England and France, along with our cousins.
We had a lovely walk together, around the grounds of Stourhead, owned by the National Trust, and scrumptious lunch in a pub afterwards.
Inside the house (and I was permitted to play on the piano too!):
And whilst I was loving the history, countryside and time with family, these crazy family members, back in New Zealand, were sending me reassuring messages that all was well and they were having a blast –
Nothing better for a Mum’s heart to know her children are thriving and happy in her absence. It’s so much easier to be completely in the moment with my folks, particularly my Mum, when I visit by myself. I’m so grateful to my hubby for gifting me this time with my folks.
Back in England… we enjoyed a visit to Winchester, a place dear to my heart. Winchester is a place steeped in history and a place where I worked for a year, back in 1998/99. As you can see, from our attire, the temperature had dropped somewhat since my arrival! Good ‘ole spring – never know quite what the weather is going to throw at you! Thankfully I’d packed a versatile wardrobe.
One of my dearest friends from University now lives in Winchester, with her gorgeous family. Winchester is a relatively short drive from my folks home, so it was lovely to stop in, enjoy the history and a gorgeous lunch with my friend.
My friend and I even managed a sneaky glass of vino together, in a classically old pub in Winchester…
The next day I ran the Fleet Half Marathon! The planned race date had been postponed, due to snowfall, so I got lucky and bought a race ticket off someone that couldn’t do the new date! I ran as ‘Meghan’ and did okay, considering my lack of training, finishing in 01:54:20, coming 160th out of 601 women and 38th out of 120 women in my F40 age category. It was nice to run a half marathon on my old stomping ground at any rate!
It really was so precious to have the time with my dear folks and sister. It’s so sad to see Mum slipping away and so hard for my Dad. I wish I was closer in distance and could give my Dad more respite from caring for my dear Mum, but at the moment my children are so settled and happy in New Zealand that it would be so hard to up-route them.
I feel that I’m living parallel lives at times like this. I’m just grateful for any time I have with my dear folks and sister in England, whilst trying to be present and emotionally strong for my three daughters when I’m back in New Zealand.