2001 and 2002 were exceptionally difficult years, for work-related reasons as well as my mother’s health. She was in quite a state of agitation and so was I – you know, the tight band round one’s head and all that. I relied on trying to keep it steady – never dared relax because the re-tightening was too hard, but any increased stress was almost unbearable. All the same, somehow I was still seen by outsiders as steady and reliable, someone people could come to for help and some sensible suggestions when asked for. And indeed, I was still able to think straight and I’ve always been good at negotiations.
What I’m not good at is managing when someone negotiates with me, we agree a course of action – and I never believe in forcing through a course of events, an agreed settlement that saves face for the person in the wrong or acknowledges faults or adjustments on both or all sides is far more likely to work and I’m very willing to compromise, even when I don’t need to, as a demonstration of goodwill – and the other person makes no attempt at all to keep their side of the bargain. That is not easy for me to deal with. Now, of course, in a similar situation (work-related, that is), it would all be in writing and there would be reviews, but it was more relaxed then. Anyway, it all ended quite messily, but at least the debris could be cleared away and a fresh start made, and I could see a clear way forward and, with more truth than modesty, I was the best person to lead it. This was for a specific reason, the person who should have done so had dropped dead. Since he and his wife were close personal friends as well as my colleague, this was an awful blow.
My mother’s hip had dislocated spontaneously six times, following the fall when it had originally been damaged, ie seven times in seven years, but the final dislocation was the last straw. I’d said after the third or fourth occasion that I thought she needed to ask for it to be replaced or pinned, but she said she didn’t want another operation – and no one doubted the surgeon’s judgement in saying she didn’t need it, this wasn’t unreasonable. But she finally went back and saw him again and he acknowledged that it was cracked and had been all along. She had a new hip and made a remarkable recovery and at least that improved things for her.
In view of all that was going on at home, it might have been sensible to give up outside things, which were all unpaid. The family would have liked me to, but I didn’t. There were a couple of things I’d have been glad to unload but had no one to take over, another one was a commitment I couldn’t drop, as described above, another was very enjoyable and comprised much of my social life. The other thing was that being at home all the time looking after my mother would have dragged me under. I needed things to engage my brain, to force me to look outwards and I needed to feel valued. I can see that it was selfish of me and I still can’t tell if I was unreasonable, but I was never too good at acknowledging when I needed help.
I think I’ve written before about the time my mother was in hospital and her condition diagnosed, and that she had a surprisingly wonderful final six months when, knowing what was wrong and that her time was limited, we all made the most of the time and were very supportive of each other. I think I’ve touched on the circumstances of her sudden decline and peaceful death and her remarkably complicated funeral. I’ve never told you about how long it took me to get over it. If I’d known it would take more than three years, would I have asked for help? Who knows. I didn’t, anyway. I didn’t even tell anyone until I came through it.