Saturday, 22 November 2014

Sleep tight Mum, may angels guide you to your rest

On Wednesday I received a text message from my sister, "Ring Dad now", while I was at work.
I've had a number of "Have you rung/spoken to Dad" text messages recently but this one was a first.

Immediately finding an empty office I dialed my parents number. Dad answered and I asked what was up.

"Your Mum is worse, the nurses have said that she's not got more than two weeks to go but it could be days. They've said if anyone wants to see her then they should do it sooner rather than later."

Coming off the phone I spoke with my immediate line managers and told them I wouldn't be in on Thursday and let my wife and son know that at least I would be going to Wales to see Mum, in the end the three of us were able to go.

Speaking with my sister she told me she'd be down on Friday.

The trip up on Thursday was uneventful, the weather was nice for a change and by lunchtime we were pulling up in front of my parents house.

Dad greeted us and told us that he'd seen Mum (well he would since he lives there and is looking after her), but that it was up to us if we wanted to. Turning to my son he said "You're not seeing her".

Mum was lying face down in bed, her breath was laboured but she did look like she was just sleeping normally. After getting some more details about her condition from Dad we went back downstairs.

Dad nipped out just after that in order to take all of the drugs Mum had been having orally to the chemist as she no longer needed them. While he was out we told my son that it he wanted to see Nanny then he could, we'd just not tell Grampy.

A couple of minutes after Dad has gone out the community nurses arrived to do their thing, minutes later one of Mum's cousins also arrived. While the nurses were busy with Mum I chatted with her cousin. At one point I had to point out who I was as she had a bit of a puzzled look to her. When Dad returned we called in Mum's cousin's grandson who was waiting in the car for her.

While Dad talked to her I ended up having a conversation about computer games and games consoles, including a discussion about Commodore 64 and BBC Micros and the joys of playing games that needed to be loaded from cassette tape. The noise of a computer game being loaded from cassette is one that you never forget.

At one point Mum's cousin turned to me and said "You look just like you Mum." I'm still not sure which of us I feel sorry for. Probably Mum for looking like me :-)

Eventually she was able to pop up and see Mum, when she returned it was with the comment "that's not your Mum" and she was right. Mum wasn't there, only a shell really remained. The personality, the life force, that was Mum was gone. There would be no more conversations with her. No more sharing things, no more advice from her, no more silly little comments about my transition that only a parent that doesn't fully understand but is trying so hard to be there for you will make.

We made sure that Dad had a proper meal before heading back, as much as I would have liked to have stayed up overnight I knew that I'd have to make arrangements with work and tie up a few loose ends before taking some time off.

Friday morning and I was awake at 6am. As I was about to get out of bed I said to my wife "At least we got through the night", no phone calls in the early hours thank goodness. Then the phone rang.
As soon as I picked up the handset I knew what I'd hear. The display showed the call was from my parents. Dad told me that Mum had gone, she'd stopped breathing at about 5am. Mum was finally at peace.

I spoke with Dad for a few minutes before putting the phone down, only to have it ring again as my sister rang to check if I'd heard from Dad.

It was hard talking to her, knowing that she had been heading down to see Mum before she passed away but that she'd not be able to do that now was too much and I cried. I know she wanted to see her but I'm actually glad that she didn't. Last weekend when we were all there Mum was in a better state than she was on Thursday. With various doctors and nurses going in by the time my sister would get there Mum should be looking peaceful.

I popped into work and spoke with HR and one of my bosses and told them what had happened, they were surprised that I'd actually come in but I needed the distraction for a while. I actually had some interesting conversations with people yesterday morning about some things, but that's for another time.

Mum was still at the house when my sister got there. She told me that she looked peaceful but that her tongue was just peeking out of her mouth. Even in death Mum is still poking fun at the world around her and poking her tongue out at us all. She wanted her funeral to be a celebration and not something sad and she made sure that she was going to remind us of that even at the end.

Sleep tight Mum, sweet dreams, I know your with your Mam and Dad now. Just don't give your brother too much of a hard time will you because I know that you've got a few strong words to have with him after all this time.

Love you xx

Monday, 3 November 2014

Pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard

For someone who loves to write I've found it really difficult to do that recently.

I've managed to do just one of the weekly writing prompts from Laura's Writers Roadmap over the last few months. I've struggled to write any posts for this blog and after agreeing to put together a webpage for our companies intranet site that will be used during our Diversity and Inclusion Awareness week I've really struggled to come up with a suitable introduction to the subject of Transgender.

I've got to get that done today or tomorrow as they are putting together the webpages for that week soon. I have managed to pull together something which I've uploaded to my own website. Hopefully I can get something together that I'm happy with. With it being such a wide subject area its hard to do it the justice that it deserves. (If anyone wants to take a look at the Transgender section and give me some feedback that would be most welcome as the website is a work in progress and I want to expand on a lot of it anyway.)

So why am I struggling with writing?

This year has been a difficult one for my family. My son has been in and out of hospital with the tumour operations and radiotherapy. He's had quite a bit of stomach pains as well, although that seems to have eased since I put the sign of the cross on his forehead about two weeks ago, using Holy water that one of the sweetest old ladies from church brought back from Lourdes.

Over the summer my partners Dad passed away and we've had to deal with that.

And then to top it all my Mum hasn't been well and we've been told that she has cancer and that its spread throughout her body so there is nothing that the doctors are able to do. We don't know how long she has got left, could be anything from weeks upwards.

We saw her about a fortnight ago and she wasn't too bad. Yesterday we went up to see my parents again as my sister was down to visit. Mum looks worse, she's so weak because she's picked up a chest infection. She's got antibiotics so hopefully they will sort that out and she'll be able to regain some strength.

Yesterday was hard, I managed to spend some time with her on my own. She asked me if I was happy now, I am I told her. She told me to be me, never mind what others want or think and then she says that she wants it to be a celebration. I wasn't sure what she meant until she said that she doesn't want black. I knew then that she was talking about her funeral.

It was hard trying to keep things together. My sister was almost in tears at one point. My partner was in tears. My son has been around death all his life and saw his grandfather in his last hours during the summer but being like me he doesn't show his emotions as openly. I spent so much time yesterday wanting to let the tears come but I held them back because everyone else is going to need to get through the days, weeks and months ahead. Someone has to be the source of strength that gets them through it all. As the eldest that will be me.

I sent my sister the following the other day when we were talking via email
"If it sometimes seems that I'm not upset by Mum's illness and what we're facing that isn't the case. I might not cry when I'm around people but that's because I'm so used to dealing with Rhys' illness and being a source of strength for everyone else to get them through the tough times. I might not openly grieve in front of people but that's because I need to do that my way and at the times and places I feel I can do that."

Once we've dealt with Mum we will have to rally round Dad because he is going to need so much support. Mum says he's stronger than we think but even so I don't know how he's going to cope with losing the person that has been part of his life for half a century. The time ahead is going to be one where I will have to dig so deep into the strength that has sustained me through everything that life has thrown at me. In a way I think being transsexual and dealing with all that entails has been training for everything that life seems to chuck my way.

So I'll apologise in advance if some of my posts seem to be a bit depressing over the months to come, or if they seem infrequent. There are going to be bright spots, I know that. For starters I've got to find something suitable to wear to Mum's funeral, something that is not black and it classy because when she was looking at some of the pictures from the photoshoot we had done earlier this year she said "don't wear so much makeup, go for the classical look." So classy and bright for my Mum when we say our final goodbyes it is.