This post has existed in draft for almost a year. It seems fitting to publish it now – in its original guise – with an update at the end.
July 2019 It was easy when I began blogging. I wrote for myself. Slowly a community has built which I value highly, but as it has grown I find myself questioning the content I choose. I begin to ask myself what others may wish to read; I begin comparing what I post against what others post. And that’s not what it’s about. Family stuff has quietly slipped off the table although it was a key part of why I started the blog in the first place. But this is a post that I want here for many reasons. I remind myself that it’s easy enough for people to slide on past if the subject matter is not to their taste.
In June 2019 Mum & Dad spent a week with us here. They have only visited once before – in 2016 when we first arrived. For that visit I travelled over to Kent and brought them back on the train. They managed their own packing and got themselves to London where I met them for the trip across the capital and onward. They managed the return trip entirely themselves. Time has passed since then. Plans for a visit last year were sadly abandoned as Dad’s health deteriorated. This time last year he was not long out of hospital and the remainder of the year was a long round of hospital appointments and procedures and a slow unsteady climb upwards. As the year turned, Dad’s health levelled out and although he and Mum are both frail, each with their own medical conditions to contend with, by April I began wondering if perhaps we might get them here again. We took the plunge. I suggested it in May and I brought them here in June. My lovely sister helped them with the packing this time, something that Mum can no longer deal with unaided. Neither can they comfortably manage public transport. So it required two round trips in the car to bring them and return them home: a tough call for me and a mammoth ask for them especially as on both their journeys we were delayed by several hours. But we made it.
It was a difficult ten days. Patience and vigilance were required in spades; various challenges arose and were overcome. Afterwards I was exhausted physically and emotionally. And I seriously questioned whether it had been worth it.
Time has passed and this morning I settled down to sort through the photographs, partly for this post but also for the photo album I am making to remind Mum & Dad of their visit. It’s now – looking back with a protective cushion of time – that I can see just how worthwhile it was.
Here we are, ready to go…
… and again, a full eight hours later, in Cornwall but still not quite home. We stopped in Looe’s well known Coddy Shack for fish & chips. Mum was very tired and consequently very confused. She thought she was going home again the following day and felt that she couldn’t make the journey again so soon. I don’t think I could have made it either! But she rallied once she understood. A quiet day to recover and she soon picked up.
The weather was not great for their stay. We did have one gorgeous day of sunshine though and in keeping with my intention to stay very local we went into Looe for brunch. One of Dad’s dreams for the trip was to enjoy a nice meal with a view of the sea. He was beside himself when we were shown to a table alongside a picture window opening onto the estuary with boats passing back and forth. Then the deeply apologetic maitre’d told us we had to move – to a much noisier table with no view. Bernie and I remonstrated in vain. A free round of drinks (with brunch?) did not compensate for the disappointment. Ah well, we didn’t let it spoil the occasion and at least Dad got a photograph through the window before we were moved.
Which brings me on to some of the benefits of this trip. Dad had brought himself a new camera – he researched it carefully to find a model he thought he could manage and he took pictures everywhere, very successfully. New places, new sights and sounds, new activities – all good things for an elderly couple who rarely venture far from home these days.
And walking… Neither Mum or Dad are able to walk far but in Looe they made it along the quay, Dad out in front and Mum pleading with him: ‘Don’t go too near the edge, Reg’! (Paul Simon’s lyrics missed that one!)
Looe was busy, Looe was bustling but we were on the quiet side of the river. Plenty to look at, plenty to photograph and plenty of places to sit down.
And this is one he took
Sunday was Father’s Day. It’s been a very long time since I spent Father’s Day with my Dad. A quiet day. But special.
Dad took himself off into the garden with his camera. And among other things, he got shots of Jemima. She is a ninja cat; she resists all attempts to be captured on camera. Perhaps because Dad moves more slowly he was able to get a shot.
Another unexpected benefit from the trip: the cats were sources of great enjoyment.
Monday we were back in Looe, East Looe this time and courtesy of Mum’s blue badge I was able to drive right to the sea front and park where others cannot. That was a novelty! (Carefully negotiating narrow roads bulging with pedestrians more intent on shopping and sightseeing than watching for moving vehicles) Then I left the oldies together on the sea front whilst I nipped back on foot for some obligatory pasties. While I was gone, Mum berated the seagulls and Dad shot a video! Another new skill! I’m not sure whether he intended to do this but he made a very good job of it.
We took a short drive to the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, visited by Prince Charles himself just a few weeks after we were there. What a shame His Royal Highness missed us! We enjoyed his chunky china and delicious tea and cakes and we bought a memento of Cornwall for Mum and Dad’s garden and a rather larger memento of Mum & Dad’s visit for ours – a beautiful silver birch tree.
On our final day we had the worst of the weather: cold and wet. But we made it to Talland where I knew Mum would be charmed by the beach huts at the café. We did a lot of eating and drinking on this visit!
Dad had that camera out again. The weather doesn’t do justice to the beach but the coffee was good!
It was time for a farewell lunch at the delightfully quirky Talland Bay Hotel.
Had the weather been better, Dad would have got his meal with a sea view: the Talland has a marvellous terrace. As it was, the view was a bit … grey. And at times very wet. Luckily by the time we had finished eating, the rain had stopped and we were able to appreciate the gardens and imagine how it must look when the sun shines.
The gardens are as lovely and as quirky as the inside of the hotel.
I’ve long wanted to go here and it lived up to expectations even in the rain.
And then the long drive home. We were doing brilliantly until the final fifty miles. More than two hours stuck on the M25 was not the ideal way to finish the trip but we got home eventually, this time via Mum and Dad’s local chippy rather than the cornish Coddy Shack. A very early night for all and I was back on the road the next day.
With hindsight, was it worth it? Yes of course. Absolutely.
Mum & Dad will receive their album very soon. Something to remind them: a conversation starter. Will we manage it again? Who knows? But it’s very possible. Dad has such a wonderful attitude and such positivity; he bounces back repeatedly from so many setbacks. One day of course, inevitably, that will not happen. But until then I hope they both continue to enjoy their simple pleasures and most especially each other’s company. I know they will do their utmost to make use of whatever opportunities come their way and I hope we can continue to offer them those chances.
Update: Father’s Day 2020
How little we knew then. One year later and Looe is empty. Waiting. How glad I am that we grasped that opportunity when we could.
Mum & Dad have been coping on their own since March. My wonderful sister and brother-in-law shop for them and visit from afar at least twice a week. Dad has become Mum’s carer now. They have both done remarkably well but we have reached a point where one risk must be weighed against another. After a lot of discussion, my sisters and I feel that despite the virus, more support is required and Dad agrees. Staying safe from coronavirus is not protecting him from exhaustion and Mum from repeated falls. My sister has increased her ongoing commitment and once again I will spend Father’s Day with my parents, albeit under rather different circumstances. A socially distanced visit for care purposes rather than for social reasons, minimising infection risks as much as we possibly can. An opportunity to give Dad a brief rest for a few days. This year, perhaps it’s the best gift I can give him.
(If I’ve managed the settings correctly, comments should be off for this post. Hopefully I’ll remember to turn them back on for the next one.)