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Green Lemons are Limes

The adventure that moving and living in Spain has continually been. Tragic events that have turned everything upside down, house moves and running a bar in the Spanish countryside.

New Kind of Normal
19 July 2019

New Kind of Normal

 

Time moves on, as it has a habit of doing. Life over the coming months was not easy for any of us. It was made harder by some very spiteful behaviour on one person’s part, but that another story. It’s fair to say that sometimes death brings out the worst in people.

We all found a new kind of normal, life goes on and you have to go with it.

Dad seemed to be doing better than I dared to hope, as a recovering alcoholic my biggest fear was that he would find anaesthetic in the bottom of a bottle, he didn’t. He was desperately lonely and we did everything we could to help with that. Family days out and he even had the girls overnight so Barry and I could go to a concert, it was a late birthday/ anniversary treat, Mum had died 2 days before our wedding anniversary and 4 days before my birthday, so not a lot to celebrate then.

Regularly I would meet my Dad in his office and we would go to lunch, one day however he wanted me to meet him in a café and not the office, this worried me.

As it turned out he was much more worried than I was. As we sat drinking our coffee, with him looking nervous, this surprised me as it was the first time I had seen him looking this way, he was an extremely confident person and fazed by nothing.

He asked how I would feel if he had a girlfriend, my answer was that as long as she was older than me I didn’t care, I just wanted him to be happy. I do not know why he thought I may disown him (maybe too many horror stories on the internet) for trying to build a new life for himself but that was his biggest fear. Never would I have stood in the way of him being happy, ever!

He told me that he had started online dating, but on a site for business people, he didn’t want to go out with a woman that he could not hold a decent conversation with. He had had a few disastrous dates, with women that bored him, but now had found a lady he liked very much.

Yes, she was older than me, phew!

She was very successful in a highly specialized field of research, she had been divorced for a large number of years and had three grown-up children, she was clever, funny and beautiful. My next question was when would I meet her, that I was told would not be for a while yet.

Their relationship went from strength to strength and we started feeling that we could put our plans to move to Spain back on track.

Of course, luck wasn’t on our side, the housing market had taken a nosedive and our house was now worth considerably less than it had when we had first looked to market it. We were not going to let a small thing like money stop us, so slowly we started to plan again.

 



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Goodbyes
11 July 2019

Goodbyes

 

The dreaded day arrived. A kind and slightly mad friend was to collect my girls from school. We had decided that it was better they didn't attend the funeral. They were too young to deal with other peoples grief as well as their own. So to keep things as normal as possible off to school they went. My beautiful friend would collect them, in her most outrageous hat and make sure they had someone to talk to if needed and a bit of fun, to help them through the day. Bless her, she came to the church to support me too. 

You find out who your friends are in times like this, I can't even begin to thank all those who were there for me in one way or another. Some looked after my girl, some gave my Mum healing, some were a shoulder to cry on and others, made a huge effort to turn up at the church even though they lived miles away and had job and families of their own. It was two of these very special people that had me in tears as I exited the car outside the front of the church, I just hadn't expected them to be there and I was overcome with emotion and gratitude for them.

The close family had gathered at my parent's house, to follow the hearse either in the funeral cars or in their cars. Mum was leaving home for the last time.

The funeral directors all dressed in the black top hat and tails looking like something from Oliver Twist, one walking in front of the hearse until we got to the main road.

The church was packed over 200 people who had turned up to say goodbye to my Mum. The vicar managed to do a good job and not say anything inappropriate, Mum's friend told those gathered about the beautiful woman my Mum had been, all the fantastic work she had done to help others and all the adventures she had created for her grandchildren. 

I read a poem, tripping on my way up to the lectern, put me at ease, I could almost hear my mum giggling.

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

By Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry, 
I am not there; I did not die.

 

 

I had chosen this poem because as a strange teenager I had loved it so much that it was on the wall next to my bed and I read it every night.

 

The service included Mum's favourite hymn ' Jesus I have promised'.

We had found a list in her Filofax of the songs to play as people left the church, we were relieved that 'Always look on the Bright side of life' by Monty Python had been crossed out. So she left her family for the last time to travel alone to the crematorium and be returned to the ground to 'Smile' by  Barbara Streisand.

 

 



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Father Gerald
05 July 2019

Father Gerald


As the day of the funeral drew closer, family and friends went to meet the vicar. Now that was an experience, I walked into his very cluttered office, a desk in the middle surrounded by boxes and files. When he joined me I was surprised to find a South African version of the character Rowan Atkinson played in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'.  
I was the last person to meet with him, so I was just putting meat on the bones of what others had told him. 

He was very keen to tell me about himself, moving from South Africa and the fact that he had been widowed just two years before. Then he had moved to the UK and not unpacked yet, I could see that!
He then went on to tell me that my Dad would remarry within a year, just as he had done. It was shocking to be told this before the funeral of my Mother had even taken place, I didn't know how to react, it was so inappropriate. Of course, if my Dad did decide to remarry that would be up to him, but now a total stranger deciding for him all I could say was 'REALLY!'
As soon as I walked out of the house I suddenly found the situation funny, giggling to myself as I walked to my car, I thought how The Church of England must be a bit short of vicars to have this man in their ranks. I wondered if he was even capable of doing a service, time would tell.
Everything was now in place hymns and the music was chosen, venue for the wake booked, harpist for the wake booked, crematorium sorted, speeches were written and flowers order. 
All we had to do now was wait for the dreaded day to arrive.



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Keeping Busy
29 June 2019

Keeping Busy

I didn’t know how to react. 
Mum was gone. 
I got busy, which was exactly how my Dad was dealing with the situation too. I know many people thought and even said to me at the time, that we were doing things too soon. Sorting her belongings, but it gave us both a focus, maybe a way to hide, however, I wouldn’t change that, it did help us both, I am sure.

Plans had to be made and I went with Dad to register the death. I saw a leaflet for a Harpist and thought this would be nice at the wake, Dad agreed.

The idea was that we would go through Mum’s belongings together but the reality was that Dad would make an excuse and I did alone. That suited me fine. I laid her belonging in piles, clothes I would keep, I always had the first pick of her old clothes, so it only felt right I did the same now. Charity shop and second-hand designer shop, she had some beautiful things.

I had been handed my Mum’s wedding ring by my Dad in the hospital on that horrible day that our lives changed forever. It needed to be fixed as the nurses had to cut it off her finger. I wanted it back from the jeweller as quickly as possible, so instead of doing the sensible thing and getting it resized to fit me properly, I just had it mended. It was to lead to what now is a funny situation but at the time was devastating.

Mum’s ring was nicely sat on my little finger as I took another load of clothes from my car into the second-hand shop.  As I turned around I heard ‘ping’, the ring had gone! No longer safe on my finger but now somewhere on this cobbled high street. Panic began to set in, how could I have been so stupid? How could I have lost my Mums wedding ring, especial as we hadn’t even had the funeral.  I dropped to my knees and started to search.

The shop assistant came out to see what I was doing, I explained and before I knew what had happened she walked back into the shop, only to return with the four customers, they all started to look for the elusive ring. Just as the six of us were crawling around the High Street, things became even more surreal. Eight hikers complete with walking sticks and backpacks walked past, stopping to ask what was going on. Let's face it, you don’t normally see people scrabbling on the floor in the middle of a rural town! They then joined the search, it was the most bizarre thing. I am sure my Mum was watching having a good laugh at all the bums in the air. Then eureka one of the hikers found the treasured ring, I hugged him tight and then burst into tears the relief was too much for my emotional drained body to take. Through my tears, I thanked everyone for all their help and they hugged me and were gone. 

Next, stop the jewellers to get the ring sized properly, I could not go through that again. I didn’t have the ring on my finger from the funeral but I did know it was safe and I have worn it every day since it came back fitting me correctly. It will stay firmly in its place between my wedding ring and my engagement ring until the day I die. 



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The Sky Crashed In
19 June 2019

The Sky Crashed In

 

I went to show the paramedics the way. What I thought was going to happen, I’m not really sure, but it wasn’t what did happen.

Before I tell you want did happen I just want to say, paramedics and ambulance crews do an amazing job and I would like to thank them, because I know I could not do what they do.

I showed them to my parent’s bedroom and explained on route that Mum was already gone and that she had had an inoperable brain tumour. They told me to wait in the hall, which I did and asked my Dad to leave the room. Then they took the sheets and pulled her off the bed and started to try to resuscitate her, I couldn’t get my head round it, she was dead. (They have to try because an ambulance had been called.)

I followed my Dad downstairs and he stood in the kitchen holding the little cow that girls had been made me promise to give to Nanny. She’s gone hasn’t she? I simply answered yes. 

He let out the most painful sound I have ever heard and we hugged. Within mintues he was back to his practical self, he needed to let my Aunt know, so she could break the news to my grandparents.

All the while the paramedics were still working on my Mum, now they needed to get her to hospital, which meant opening the front door which we never used as a family, it had been years since it had even been opened, but they could not get a stretcher through the two back doors. 

I don’t know why, it’s totally irrational, but I couldn’t let her go in the ambulance alone. I knew she wasn’t there, it was just her shell, her body, but I had to go with her. Not knowing how these things work, I’d never been in an ambulance before, I was told to get in the front, so they could carry on working. 

Sadly for the driver, now was when I started behaving like a mad women and continued to ask ‘why are they doing that, she’s dead’ not just once but I repeated it for the whole 15 mile journey. He really did have the patience’s of a Saint.

Remarkably my Dad in the car behind managed to keep up all the way. Which I was very grateful for when we finally arrived at the hospital.

My only point of reference was the television show ‘Casualty’, so you can imagine my surprise to find it’s nothing like that. I was told to wait as they wheeled my Mum in, I just stood there not knowing what to do, then my Dad appeared and I just followed his lead.

We sat in the relative’s room, my Dad phoned my brother. I saw a leaflet about organ donation and told him that Mum had wanted to be one. He had no Idea, but she had a card in her purse, we had discussed it but clearly my parents had not. 

The door opened and a nurse walked in and sat on the table in front of us. She told us what we already knew, Mum had gone. I told the nurse about her wanting to be a donor, but was told it was too late, because she had been dead for too long, they couldn’t use anything, what a waste. She also said, that although she was dead there was some air in her lungs that would soon be realised and would we like to be with her for what in affect would be her final breath. God no, I’ve watched my mum die once today, do I really want to do it again. Of course I did, my Dad wanted to, so I held both my parents hands, as the air escaped and the sky crashed in. 

For the second time that day, my Dad let out the sound of sheer pain, then cried ‘What do I do now?’ This was the first day I had ever seen my dad cry. Now it was time for me to be the strong one, hold it together for my Dad and my girls.

 



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The Truth
18 June 2019

Like everyone’s life, my story contains times of difficulty. 

Today's blog was difficult to write and for some may be difficult to read. 

I promise you that my story does contain happier and funnier times. 

Thank you for reading.

The Truth

 

The girls went back to school and Mum started her treatment.

 

I went to the hospital with Mum and Dad on the Friday, I was due to take Mum on the Monday to free Dad up for a business meeting.

By now Mum was unable to walk from the car, she had to be helped into a wheelchair and pushed to the various places she had to go. The three of us sat in a consulting room waiting for the doctor, Mum now unrecognizable to me, a blank look now fixed to her face, where once there had been so much love and light just pouring out of it. The smile she always found for everyone even those just passing by had gone.

 

The doctor asked a series of questions each, to the doctor’s frustration answered by my Dad. Did she think she was getting worse? ‘no’ was the answer given. He then asked again but this he told Mum that it was her answer he wanted to hear, she just looked at my Dad and shock her head, speaking was almost impossible for her. 

 

The doctor left the room and I confronted my father, did he really think she was no worse? Yes, was the reply. I knew I couldn’t push him, they would stop treatment if they thought she was not at least the same as before. The truth was he was doing whatever he could to keep her alive for as long as possible. It was also true that since treatment had started she was now being physically sick and the pain crossed her face like a mask. 

 

How was I going to be able to lie to the doctors, I knew I wouldn’t, treatment would stop as soon as I was asked any questions about how Mum was doing.

 

Saturday morning and I had been shopping for a few bits that Mum needed, she had not got out bed. More and more she was staying in bed, only able to navigate the stairs if my Dad carried her. There was no way I could do it, earlier that week whilst I had been caring for her, she had somehow fallen out of the bed and it took me three hours to get her up. The Health visitor really told me off for not calling an ambulance, but I had been brought up to only call in a life and death situation. She told me that mum being on the floor counted as an emergency and if it happened again, just to call.

 

As I sat on the bed saying goodbye and explaining I wouldn’t be there the next day, Mum started to try an communicate to me, first shaking her head. Do you need something I asked, she nodded, I ran through all the things it could be, bathroom, drink, she rolled her eyes and shock her head. I told her to give me a minute to think. Do you want me to come tomorrow? YES she spat out with all her might. Then I will be here, I promised.

 

Downstairs Dad begged me to bring the girls with me the following day, I very reluctantly agreed, understanding he needed to see them, but I really didn’t want them seeing their Nan so poorly.

 

When I arrived home, I told Barry what had happened and that I thought Mum wanted me there tomorrow because she didn’t want Dad to be on his own. We came to an agreement that if I told him to go, he would ask no questions and just take the girls.

 

Then we sat my two beautiful babies down and told them that Nanny was worse and was going to die. They were heart broken but we had to prepare them, because this was going to happen, sooner rather than later.

 

The car was unusually quiet as we made the journey over to my parent’s house. As we drove up the road, a figure began to come into sight in the drive way, it was my Dad, he was on the phone.

 

As we pulled in front of the house, he shouted ‘Sam in’ ‘Barry go, now’. We both knew what was happening.

 

As Dad continued on the phone to the emergency services I ran up the stairs to find my Mum, lying on the bed and struggling to breath. I found out later that Dad had been giving her a bath, when she started to fit. 

 

Dad came in still on the phone and then instructed me to take it, they wanted me to do get ready to do mouth to mouth, I couldn’t, I just couldn’t. I handed the phone back to my Dad and he threw it on the bed. 

 

Then the moment arrived the moment that my heart smashed. Almost twelve years on as I write this the tears are running down my face, my life really has never been the same.

 

With me one side and my Dad the other, both holding her, she ascended from her body and her pain was no more. It is the excruciating and most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. It was like all the colours of the rainbow appeared and rose up. 

 

Then the peace, the moment was over with the arrival of the ambulance.

 



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Vanishing
05 June 2019


Vanishing

The biopsy confirmed that the tumour was the most aggressive kind. The only treatment was radiotherapy and chemotherapy together. This would not cure Mum, at best it would give her another two years. Her speech and mobility would not improve.
Since the biopsy, she was going downhill daily. She could not be left alone, so I spent the days, while dad was at work caring for her. It broke my heart. I had to stay strong for my parents and my kids. The only time I had to grieve for the wonderful person who was now, vanishing by the minute was the car ride home.
The only professional who helped was the occupational therapist, she gave us practical advice and aids to help with the mobility issues. She was a huge support. MacMillian nurses were unable to help because when the treatment started no-one knew when Mum would be home. Friends and family were wonderful, even with the misinformation my Dad had told them. It wasn’t that he was lying, it was more he couldn’t accept the situation himself and telling people would somehow make it real.


 

The school holidays started so now the girls had to come with me, I was determined to make it fun. Shopping trips, the beach but as time went on it became impossible. Mum’s mobility was getting so bad that she couldn’t walk more than a few meters and I could no longer take her out. So we did what we always did and made games at home. Turning the stairs into a plane, picnics in the family room. The girls were amazing, I had told them that Nanny was very poorly, she had something growing in her head. I also told them she might die. It felt the right thing to do, prepare them for what would happen. I believe that if you don’t tell children the truth, the stories they make up are far scarier. Although how anything could be scarier than this truth, I don’t know. 



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Weather
01 June 2019

Weather

 

The biopsy took place the following week in St Georges Hospital Tooting. I was to collect my Grandparents (Mum’s Mum and Dad) and take them to visit her the following day. Dad had been very clear they were not to know how bad things were, they were lent to believe she would make a full recovery. 
As I started the journey to collect my Grandparents, the rain started, getting worse and worse. By the time I got to their town the water was laying on the road, I had to drive super slowly to avoid slipping and be able to see.


As I saw it, I had no choice but to carry on, I had to get my grandparents to my Mum. 
We got to the hospital safe and sound, as the sky cleared and the sun put in an appearance.
Mum was in a side room and looked forlorn, with her head bandaged and a little bit more light missing from her beautiful eyes. She begged me to take her home and I so wanted to, but how could I. 
I called my Dad and begged him to let me take her home, but he wasn’t having any of it. My taking her home then wouldn’t have changed a thing, as it turns out I’m glad I didn’t.
Having worked and lived in Tooting a few years before, I knew the area well and when I was faced with not being able to turn left out of the car park, I wasn’t fazed. The traffic was backed up, it often was, it was an enormously busy and difficult junction. 
As I turned right, there was as much traffic this way too, what was going on? I am in a car with two people of senior years, one of whom is diabetic and after two hours we could still see the hospital. Oh and the radio didn’t work in my car, so I had no idea what the problem was. As the time ticked by, my mind on how I was going to feed my diabetic grandmother, as I knew there was no shops or restaurants on route. It also dawned on me that there was no way I would get back to collect the girls from school. I phoned my friend and she came to my rescue. The plan had been that she would be coming to dinner that evening. The new plan, she would collect the girls and take them to her house until Barry was home from work. She also ended up cooking dinner for all of us, because it was past 8 pm by the time I arrived home. 
The traffic, once we got to the main road, was at a standstill, with no turn off in sight. People started to get out of their cars, so I took my chance to find out what was going on. 


Just after we had travelled along the A3 that morning, they had closed it. The underpass had filled with water and they were trying to pump it out. Not great news when I didn’t know any other way to get to my grandparent's house. 
Six hours it had taken me to drive a forty-five-minute journey. I was tired, emotionally drained and hungry. 
Although I would have rather not been in a car for such a long time, it did give me some valuable time with my fantastic grandparents and they both made it home alive and well, thanks to a pub we found on the route which served food.



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The Best Laid Plans
23 May 2019

The Best Laid Plans

 

We arrived home and set about planning our next big adventure, moving to Spain.

We told our families and got our house valued by local estate agents. We wanted to leave before our eldest daughter had to sit her SAT exams, we knew they would put her under even more pressure and not be a positive experience for her. We had just under a year to get everything in place.

My Mum had started to become distant, less and less phone calls, normally we spoke at least every other day and saw each other at least once a week. I brushed it off as she was just getting used to the idea of us moving abroad.

Then Christmas came, a special time, we would always take the girls up to London to see the lights.

 

I met her in the normal place Waterloo station, but to my horror she had two black eyes. I had spoken to her the night before and she had not warned me. She was behaving very out of character. She had tripped and hit her face on the door step with such force that her glasses had given her the terrible bruises.

She promised me that everything was ok, but I had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Things went from bad to worse, her friends were now worried too and my Dad was beside himself. Mum’s speech was strained, her mobility decreasing, the light in her eyes was present less and less.

Her doctor told her she had depression and offered her drugs which she refused. My Dad thought she had had a stroke. I knew it wasn’t depression, but had no clue what it was. After a normal family visit my Dad took me to one side. Mum had a doctors appointment the next morning, could I just turn up pretend not to know about the appointment and go with her.

I drove a little too fast to their house after dropping off the girls at school, knowing if I didn’t she would have left home before I got there. I made it just as she was reversing out of the drive. She was surprised to see me, explained she was going to the doctors, then asked if I wanted to go with her. Mum had always been a brilliant driver but not any more, the five minute drive was terrifying.

As we walked to the surgery I asked her if she thought she was depressed, she said she didn’t know. I went in with her, I didn’t give her a choice, I had my instructions to follow. The doctor asked her question implied she had a problem with alcohol or was depressed at which point I stepped in. Did one glass of wine a week mean a drink problem? No. Did depression normally affect speech and mobility? No, but it could. I explaining that I didn’t think that was the problem and that my dad thought she had had a stroke and wanted her to have a scan.

I was told the waiting list for scan was six months. What about if we went private ? Oh yes, that could be arranged at reception within the week!

The scan was carried out and the results given straight away. On their way to a close friends funeral, my Dad phoned me to break the news that was to change everything. Mum had an inoperable brain tumour. The doctor advised my Dad to go through the NHS now as the treatment would be the same, first a biopsy which would take place the following week.

I only had a few minutes to get my head round the shocking news. Our youngest daughter was in a ballet show at the local theatre. I had to just get on with things, I had volunteed to be one of the parents putting all the girls hair up in tight ballet buns, I could not let everyone down. 

I did not need any time to know that one thing was clear, our Spanish dream would have to wait, no way could I leave my parents now.



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Exploring
19 May 2019

Exploring

 

We spent a week renting a basic apartment in the most beautiful of setting. An old barn made into an apartment, across the court yard was the main house, the original cortijo, with all it’s country charm. We spent time in the swimming pool, exploring the local area, the fresh vegetable market, the main square, the church and the castle. 

We also ventured down to Mojacar. It was unrecognisable as the place of my childhood. It had roads, shops, more than one hotel, it had bars and restaurants, it even had a promenade. In the 1980’s there was nothing really. 

The road to the airport in Almeria had been a single lane, little more than a dirt track hanging to the mountain side. We would sit in the coach looking down at the sheer drop, to the abundance of car remains below. At times it felt that the wheels of the coach were hanging over the edge and that the only reason we did not join the car grave yard was luck.

Now twenty years later it is a two lane proper road, in places you can see where the old road was, how narrow, twisty and close to the edge it used to be.

 

Mojacar village still held onto it’s old fashioned magic even with the all the tourists and the shops that had arrived to cater for them, it was still wonderful and with every step I was transported back to my childhood.

It made me realize how much I wanted to live here in Spain, this trip had proved it, it was like coming home.

We decided we didn’t want to be in Mojacar, it was now too touristy to be our everyday, forever home. A village inland where it was to some degree like going back in time, but with modern luxuries like electric and water (some of the time at least !).

Now all we needed was to work out how we would get jobs without speaking Spanish. As we were weighing up our options, the answers we were looking for appeared. Barry had a friend who had just brought an old mill, locally to where we had been staying, and guess what, he offered Barry a job. He was to run it as an outdoor activity centre, when the building work was finished. In the mean time when planning permission had come through, Barry was to help the builder. It was like all the stars had aligned, we now had a way we could make it happen. Little did we know, what was to come.



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