The Teenager Turns 18 (At Last …)

18On August 11th 1999, there was a total solar eclipse.

It’s seared into my memory as I was heading for my final scan, heavily pregnant.

I was standing outside Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in London, mesmerised by the encroaching darkness.

And then, it was light. The sun shone through and everyone blinked at each other, as if to say, ‘did that just happen?’  It was eerie and exhilarating at the same time.

Ten days later, I gave birth. I’d like to say I breathed along to whale music and had my back massaged with essential oils. However, it was perhaps a portent of things to come when the baby refused to budge – they burst the waters, they used an epidural, they pleaded, they prodded around, they used forceps, then finally Ventouse. I was surrounded by medical students. And my baby was born a Cone-Head.

In the post-birth ward later that day, battered and bruised by the whole experience, he wailed the loudest, keeping every single other baby awake. I put his first nappy on backwards. He lay in his Perspex box, peering at me. I fell in love, Cone-Head and all. He was adorable.

And tomorrow he turns 18. A legal adult, ready to leave home in three weeks.

He’s always felt the injustice of being by far the youngest in his school year, so tomorrow cannot come quick enough for him. As a parent, I think it’s no bad thing. It can be hard to be the first at everything. His so-called disadvantage has given him a little breathing space.

Anyway, looking back over the last 18 years, my first thought is, ‘Blimey, I’m old, about to become an empty-nester and probably middle-aged’. The Teenager asked me the other day if I would be ok living on my own, when he goes to University:

‘Oh, absolutely. I’m going to join a yoga class, perhaps pottery and maybe go on one of those little coach trips to the seaside. I’ll be fine.’

Is The Teenager ready to be an adult? Am I ready to don a waterproof jacket and take a coach and flask of tea to Weston-Super-Mare?

I think this will be a whole new adventure, for both of us.

But for now, especially for you guys who have followed us from the beginning of this blog, way back in October 2012, The Teenager will officially be an adult in just over 8 hours. The Teenager has a countdown going and I’m reminded every half hour or so …

Tagged , , ,

The Teenager Is Off To University!

awesomeNever have I been more proud of The Teenager than I am today.

He got his exam results and has secured his place at University.

When MS first raised its ugly head, he had just started out on his high school journey. When I think back to what he had to endure, I could cry.

He witnessed my first proper relapse in all its frightening, bewildering intensity. He saw me lying on the sofa, hour after hour, unable to carry out the most basic tasks. He asked around his friends for lifts to rugby, to football. My friend went in my place to Parent’s Evening.

He knew about the vicious bullying I was experiencing in work, culminating in my dismissal for MS. He heard about the legal proceedings, in amongst worsening relapses. And all the while he was trying to forge his own identity as a Teenager. A hefty burden at the best of times.

It’s always been just me and him, since he was a baby, and I’ve always tried to be independent, fearless and positive. MS changed all that. We both took a huge dip. It knocked us sideways. It took a while (years), but we got through it and we came out stronger.

Regular readers will know him really well – you’ll have heard about our fair share of ups and downs, run-ins and tantrums. I hope you’ve seen though, as I have, how he has grown in to quite an incredible young adult.

I know most parents boast, but if there’s ever a blog post for me to do that, it’s this one. He’s a totally amazing individual, with a real sense of who he is. He’s considerate yet determined. All fears I had that he would internalise the emotions he was experiencing with the MS have been laid to rest. I can only watch in wonder at how he goes out and grabs the world with both hands.

We had many quick text and phone chats this morning about his impending move to Bristol (according to The Teenager, ‘far enough away to be an adult, close enough to be handy’). I’ve been issued strict instructions for Drop-Off Day:

‘Mum, right, you can take me there with all my stuff and help sort my room out. You’ll make it nice?’

‘Of course, dear.’

‘Then I’ll have to say goodbye. You won’t cry, will you?’

‘If I do, I’ll do it in the car, don’t worry’.

‘Good. ‘Cause then I have to go to the kitchen and meet everyone else’.

‘I know. Do you think you’ll need an egg timer?’

‘Muuuuuuuum?! I’ve got a list of stuff to get, like don’t worry’.

‘Ok. How many shower gels do you reckon you’ll need?’

‘Muuuuuuuuuum’.

Today is beautiful – we made it. He made it. And in a way, The Teenager had a far bigger mountain to climb than me. I’d lived my life before MS came. He had it flung at him far too young. But he took it, dealt with it and succeeded despite it.

Tagged , , , , ,

The One Where I (Might) Dress Up As A Christmas Tree …

treeHere’s the thing.

I really, really want to fund-raise for MS.

But I don’t want to skydive, fire-walk, be silent for a day, climb a mountain or zip-wire. I’m not brave enough (or quiet enough).

So instead, I’ve decided to dress up as a wobbly Christmas tree and record a song.

My partner-in-crime is Dan, a fellow MS Society Council member. Every time we get together, we rework Christmas lyrics into songs about MS as, handily, the letters M and S both appear in ‘Christmas’. Bear with.

All we have to work out is where to record the song, who can record us for a short accompanying video and how we can unleash this on the public.

The filming part should be easy – I’ll be a Christmas tree and Dan can be a reindeer and we can lob snowballs and tinsel at each other (from the comfort of chairs, natch). Or we can be really cheesy and wear matching knitted Christmas sweaters and sit by a roaring log fire, toasting marshmallows and drinking eggnog. Sort of Val Doonican-esque.

And now it’s over to you guys. What do you think? Should I embarrass myself (and The Teenager) for life?

Can we raise vital funds and still keep our dignity intact?

Tagged , , ,

A Shadow Of My Former Self

mirrorI had an illuminating conversation with a fellow person with MS today and it made me think.

We were talking about what our ‘other’ selves would be doing at this point, without MS in our lives.

Number one on my list is the death of courage.

I was in a beautiful hotel in mid-Wales for a meeting but getting there had been a carefully-crafted expedition. On my own. For someone who has had The Boss pick me up every day for work since January with a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant,  this was, well, big. Huge.

I drove there for a meeting all on my own, with only my nagging sat-nav and a can of Red Bull for company. I was utterly petrified. To put this in perspective, I used to think nothing of finishing work in Austria and driving to Prague for dinner.

As I wended my way around the winding roads, I reflected upon my Other Life. I would have gone to work, no need for day off to prepare. I’d hop in the car with tousled wet hair fresh from a shower, perhaps wearing a jaunty striped t-shirt with a scarf knotted just so. I would toss a few essentials in a canvas bag and leave.

In my other life, the one that I forked away from back in 2011, I would be a fully-qualified social worker. I would be helping people. I would also have matching cushions and dinner parties with interesting people, where I would serve kitchen suppers involving pomegranate seeds and an Indonesian paste.

My shadow self stalks me. Yet, isn’t that the same for everyone, MS or not? Don’t we all wonder what we could/should/would have done; it’s merely that MS throws this in to sharp relief?

Maybe I should concentrate on that other fork in the road, the one that led me here? Ok, so I may not have matching cushions and a satisfying career, but would I have grown as a person? Probably not.

Without MS, I would not have that job where I could be here every single day that The Teenager got back from school. I would not have been witness to the tiniest moments that are the biggest in a Teenager’s life.

Without MS, I would not have pursued a childhood dream of writing. It seemed silly, something unimportant and indulgent. MS forced my hand.

Without MS, I would not have experienced the fragility of life until I was a lot older, and perhaps it would have been too late? And the regrets would have been more powerful?

Me and my alternate shadow co-exist. We have to. As someone once said to me:

The darker the shadow, the stronger the light shining nearby.

Just The One Candle, Ta …

ancientYep, it’s that time of the year again when I’m staring down a Saga Holiday (see the world! make new friends! we have doctors and defibrillators on board!).

Obviously, I’m not quite there yet, but it’s getting ever closer.

However, the issue of my age was put into startling perspective when The Teenager, whilst hanging off the fridge one day, asked me how old I was when I had him.

’26’.

‘Wow! Like, that’s …  like, wow … old, yeah?’.

‘Well, ok, but if you’d behaved yourself and arrived on time, I would have been 25, so ner’.

He was due the day after my birthday but hung around for another week, dozing off every time the midwife wanted a poke around.

‘Hmm, he’s big, isn’t he? You look a little uncomfortable?’

‘Yeah’.

Almost 18 years later, The Teenager was aghast. ‘So, in, like 26 years time, you’ll be, like, 70? If we count your next birthday, which is like, a couple of weeks away? Or 69 if we don’t. To be fair. But, like, wow‘.

When you’re pregnant, they tell you kids will keep you young.

They were wrong.

As The Teenager loves music, I have to play along to ‘Guess The Year’. I’m always a decade or so out. Same for films. And major news stories. Is this what happens in your 40’s?

It’s strange because I seem to exist in a time warp. The Teenager plays almost exactly the same music I did at his age – Oasis, The Verve, The Beatles. He watches the same films. He wears the same clothes as my old boyfriends. And me, apart from the mirrored skirts and stripy tights with Doc Martins.

In fairness, I will grow old disgracefully and fully intend to embrace my hastening years and wear lots of black flowing garments accessorised with large beads and silver bracelets. I envisage giving readings of my eighth bestselling book to hoards of said Teenagers who will be rapt as they listen to me espouse words of wisdom.

In real life? I will no doubt reach 69/70 in the blink of an eye, much like my first 26 years, so I will do my utmost to cram every experience possible into such a slim window.

MS-willing …

Tagged , , , ,