Tag Archives: The Teenager

Could Someone Rewind This Year Please?

tiredWell.

It’s almost May and it might as well be February, as I’ve been in an MS-imposed hibernation since then. All my Grand Plans for 2017 have come to zilch.

This latest relapse has been tough and it’s taken all my diminished strength to get through it.

As always, life shrinks to the absolute bare minimum. It’s a case of getting through the day. The pain has been crippling, the fatigue all-encompassing.

As I emerge from my MS cocoon, it seems the world has moved on. I’m still wearing my Nordic sweaters and ordering ready-made hearty soups from Tesco. I’m watching dark Swedish dramas on telly and wondering where to introduce dramatic black paint into my house. In short, I’m still in Winter-mode when everyone else has dusted off their shorts and barbecues. S’not fair.

If I had the energy, I’d host a pity-party for one, just like I did way back when I was first diagnosed. It’s been an incredibly long relapse compared to the usual three-weekers.

Anyway, enough whingeing. The Teenager and The Cat have been getting on with their lives in the meantime and handily for them both, I’m pretty much always available to speak to as I loll on my sofa trying to maintain a semblance of normality. I’m a captive audience:

  • The cat enjoyed her course of steroids (it cracks me up that she was on the exact same ones as I’ve taken for relapses in the past) and her fur is growing back. Mind you, her tail looks a bit weird as it’s still fairly bald at the bottom.
  • She’s being bullied by a new cat on the block, resulting in sudden scamperings into the house, nearly giving me a heart attack.
  • Two mice have been left right outside the back door. I stepped on one of them.

As for The Teenager:

  • He pushed his way through the 1000-strong crowd on the Common outside my house to get a selfie with Jeremy Corbyn when he spoke here last Friday. Random, but true. Jeremy looks slightly bemused.
  • He has finally worked out how to use the oven; luckily the house didn’t blow up when he left the gas on overnight after cooking a couple of chicken breasts. But at least he got his protein.
  • I attended an overnight MS Society Council meeting at the weekend and said to him in a misplaced spirit of generosity, ‘why not have a couple of friends round?’ And, ‘feed the cat’. Long story short, ten hulking teenagers were squeezed into my house, my recycling bags are filled to the brim with beer cans and I’m still finding bottle tops down the sofa. The cat is alive.

Hopefully, I’m turning a relapse corner and I can start playing catch-up on the year which is passing me by in a blur of supreme inactivity. Or maybe I should throw the towel in and start writing my Christmas list …

p.s. I know there’s a spelling mistake on the picture – just too tired to correct it …

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Write Of Passage …

signatureWith one signature, that was it. Done.

I had met The Teenager in our local building society after school finished the other day.

At, 17, it was time for him to take control of his savings book, still tucked inside his ‘Children Saver’ folder, complete with a smiling dragon. Previously, he needed both our signatures to access his Christmas and Birthday money, much to his annoyance. And mine, especially when I had to meet him after work to withdraw a fiver for a gaming magazine he absolutely had to have.

We approached the counter, and after much convincing that this 6′ 4” Teenager was in fact 17, we signed the forms, transferred ownership into his name alone and left, leaving behind the smiley dragon folder.

And that was that. I recalled the day we opened the account together – the temper tantrum when he was offered a red dragon money-bank and not the shiny gold one. The negotiations, the store-room rummagings and the crying-hiccups until they found the last gold one. He clasped it in his tiny hands and stopped crying long enough to peer over the counter and rasp a tearful, ‘thank you’.

And there we go – The Teenager now has his own bank account, building society account, National Insurance Number and numerous other bits and bobs. From the Red Book he had as a baby, where percentiles were jotted down and compared with the average, to his GCSE results, he has a trail of paperwork and all the complications that go with it.

I clearly remember my very young son hitching up his dungaree strap and asking me (in nursery!) why his name was so long and why he always ran out of paint when he had to write it across the top of his painting. Simple – Christopher might be his full name, but he could choose what he wanted to be called. He chose Chris (natch) and for a time wanted to be known as ‘Kit’. At that point, he luckily had no idea just how complicated and long his surnames were.

Anyway, today has been a milestone. I’ve started a file for The Teenager, with all his info that I usually file under Family Stuff. It’s a weird separation, but forward-looking. He can take it to University with him, and have everything in one place, until he loses it and I tell him I’ve copied everything, just in case.

So as he inches towards adulthood, I take more and more of a back seat. It’s another stage, successfully navigated. When I was first diagnosed with MS, my only wish was to remain well enough to see him through his teenage years and out into the big wide world.

We’re almost there.

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Going Round In Circles

circles When I’m experiencing them, I’m never quite sure if a sudden surge in MS symptoms is a relapse or not.

I only get the definitive answer when I wake up one morning (days, weeks, months after) and I just know it’s over – it’s kind of a retrospective thing.

Today, hallelujah, is one of those days. The murky fog has cleared, my energy is restored to its usual low level and the world seems a much brighter place. I look back over the last couple of weeks and realise just how awful things were.

To begin with, I ignored the numbness down my right side, the dodgy tingling hand, the weak arm. Then came the beyond-out-of-proportion tiredness and jelly-brain. As is usual with a relapse, my world shrank. I did the bare minimum and I did it badly. Work was a nightmare (Boss not happy) and when I got home I slept (Teenager not happy), woke up and barely moved from my sofa.

After that came the symptom that left me stunned – my body seemed to want to pull to the right, so walking in a straight line was a bit tricky. I ended up turning right an awful lot, so much so that I might as well have been walking in circles. I slammed into walls, fell with a thud into my washing machine and tripped down five stairs, ending up lying dazed on the floor, squished between the bottom stair and my bureau, finding a long-lost catnip ball in the process.

The most worrying episode was when I was in the shower the other day. Again, my body wanted to jerk to the right. Unfortunately this meant I fell out of the shower and cracked my head against the toilet. As I was lying there, I was ever so grateful I hadn’t knocked myself out as the thought of paramedics finding me naked on the floor, crying and trying to cover up with a single flannel was unbearable.

After counting the cobwebs on the ceiling and noting the gaps in the silicone seal around the shower screen, I staggered to my feet, put my dressing gown on and sulked on the sofa for the rest of the day. Again.

So it’s over, for now; I’m back to the baseline, which seems to rise with every relapse. Whereas before I fretted about every tiny symptom, diligently jotting them down in my ‘MS Symptom’ book (one from 2013 – ‘my nose seems to itch more and swallowing is a bit of an issue’), I now have a much more ‘yeah, yeah’ attitude. It’s about accepting it and living day to day.

I can say that now. If you’d asked me last week however, I’d have given you a withering look and sighed.

Progress?

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Letting Go Of The Reins …

mumWhen The Teenager was a toddler, I had one of those Maclaren buggies.

Lightweight and foldable, it was easy to navigate.

Especially for The Toddler, who quickly learned how to propel himself forwards with a sudden thrust, hoist the pram onto his back and toddle away as fast as his little legs could carry him.

We moved on to reins. He ran rings around me, literally, and they were quickly discarded. I was left to dash in all directions, grasping hold of a chubby wrist before he could come to harm or raid a nearby fruit and veg stall.

Now he is approaching 18, I am going through an accelerated crash-course in letting go of the bonded reins. I have taught myself not to grab his hand when we are crossing the road, remind him to brush his teeth or check he has his house-key.

Which is a shame for my spare-key-holder as The Teenager discovered one evening. Having left his key at home and unable to rouse me by fishing an array of plastic bottles from our recycling bags and chucking them at my window – I sleep spectacularly soundly – he called my friend who cursed the entire 40 mile round trip to let The Teenager into our house at 11pm.

This week, The Teenager went to a concert in Bristol, technically a whole other country away. I asked if he had the tickets for him and his friends. I queried his departure time. Asked if he had bus fare. Did he need a snack for the journey? A blankie? A teddy?

I joke, but when The Teenager sat me down for a gentle word, I listened. He is effectively a grown-up, although the youngest in his school year (I don’t hear the end of this – why he couldn’t have been born a couple of days later – to make him the oldest – or a few months earlier).

I explained to him that after almost 18 years of caring for someone, ensuring their very survival (a bit of drama – tick), it would inevitably be difficult to surrender the care role as quickly as he was assuming independence.

We bantered back and forwards, working out new ways of talking to each other. He agreed not to laugh at my new glasses (for reading only, not because I’m old – or maybe a tiny bit old) and I agreed to relax about his movements. I realised I didn’t need to know everything any more. I wasn’t arranging play dates, he was arranging days/evenings out for him and his mates. He could handle it. And so could I.

It’s a joy to witness a child you have nurtured blossom into adulthood and I’m in awe of The Teenager’s drive, passions and go-getting attitude. Despite everything we have been through these last few years, he is turning into an incredible person (I am of course biased).

His teddy (it’s actually a yellow duck, called ‘Ducky’) is now safely tucked away, his job done.

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Bored Now …

palletsThere’s a dissertation-sized hole in my life.

After an initial frenetic and unseemly hedonistic flurry of trash telly, food, books and gossip magazines, I’m very, very bored and can’t face another jumbo-bag of Bombay Mix.

It’s time to Take Up A Hobby, especially as I will also become an Empty-Nester this year.

I want to reassure The Teenager that I have a fulfilling hobby/social life and won’t be eaten by a pack of wild dogs, at home alone, surrounded by piles of old newspapers and junk mail while he’s away at Uni.

I have many options, some more promising than others. Inspired by The Great British Pottery Throw Down on telly, I investigated clay. Sadly, I don’t have an outhouse where I can build a kiln or a pottery wheel. Undeterred, I looked into air-drying clay, but you can’t really do that much with it beyond napkin rings and small plant pots, so another idea came to a dead-end.

I looked into jewellery-making and bought a magazine all about it. I know how to use pliers and a blowtorch, a pretty good start. I just don’t know how I’d cope with fiddly beads and delicate bits what with my dodgy MS hands. So that was that.

I gave up knitting just after my diagnosis and I gifted my guitar a couple of weeks ago. My sewing machine was donated to a friend years back and crochet confuses me. However, I can make mini ghosts from toilet paper, a bit of thread and a black Sharpie but that’s seasonal.

Upcycling pallets was my next great idea. I see a lot of pallets in my line of work. What if I were to take one apart and put it back together to make seedling racks, coffee tables or outdoor sofas? After having a look on Pinterest, I realised it had already been done to death. The other thing I see a lot of at work are sewer pipes but I can’t see anyone wanting to buy a table made from the stuff, even with the ewwwww/exclusivity factor.

So I’m back to what I know a teeny-tiny bit about – writing. I shall write. I will suffer for my art, drink black coffee and pace the length of my house, anguished and deep in thought. I will produce the Next Great British/Brexit/Scottish novel.

I do have an idea in mind. It’s gathering pace and I think it could just work. So I’m going to put up all my failed-hobby bits and pieces on Gumtree and invest in some hand-ground extra-strong coffee. I’ll tell The Teenager I’ve taken up ballroom dancing, but between you and me, I’ll be writing. Watch this space …

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