Thursday, 11 September 2014

O2


A comment left on yesterday's blog by Should Fish More brought back some bittersweet memories for me. He described a neighbour of his who was completing some chores whilst being connected to a cylinder of home oxygen and the picture he painted reminded me of what always seemed to happen on my day off from Ward management  in the early 2000's.
Then my mother was still alive. 
In failing health, she had been admitted to a care home in Prestatyn, where she proved to be a rather  challenging client. A long term chain smoker who suffered from COPD , she spent her days balancing her waking hours between nebuliser oxygen and crafty fag breaks, breaks the home staff or her visitors would have to take her outside for. 
Every week I would drive over from Sheffield to take her out for a couple of hours. And every week I would " borrow" a four foot oxygen tank and a spare wheelchair from work which I would bundle in the back of our tiny Nissan mica  usually with the help of one of the ward staff who I roped in to help with the heavy lifting 
After driving the 100 miles to Wales , I would get my mother parked in the passenger seat ( on a selection of incontinence pads) , plug her up to the oxygen and off we would go for our usual trip out.
Now where do you think we went to...on these little jaunts of ours?
A local botanical gardens?
A tea room perhaps?
Llandudno sea front even?
No.....our weekly outings took the same pattern every time.
Week in....week out

A trip to Sainsbury's 
And a visit to the car park on Prestatyn's Promenade.
It was my mother's choice.
In Sainsbury's , she would dictate to me a list of her wants from the supermarket.
I would then go in to shop whilst she would sit in the car and smoke as many fags as was humanly possible for someone to smoke when their oxygen had been removed!
( For the sake of public safety I would insist the oxygen cylinder would be switched off when the fags were out!)
In between cigarettes, she would spend the time doing crosswords and drinking a double gin and tonic which I had provided in a plastic cup.the gin and most of the cigarettes would be gone by the time I had finished.

(To this day, I still get a little pang when I see any of the following items when Wandering around  
Sainsbury's when out doing the weekly shop)
I loved my mother despite all that happened between us...but I have to be honest, I didn't like her very much

Crossword magazines
Strawberry tarts,
Miniature gin bottles
Small boxes of tissues
Lambet and Butler cigarettes 
Cough sweets 
Individual raspberry trifles

Her shopping list seldom ever changed.
After shopping, we would drive around for a bit, then we would buy fish and chips ( with mushy peas) and we would eat them in the car in the car park by the sea. 
My mother wouldn't eat much of hers and would often cough her peas all around the car  when a breathless coughing fit ensued . (Chris would be finding them all week in the foot wells on his way to work.) but she enjoyed what she ate as long as it was smothered in salt and vinegar .

This routine went on for sometime before her sudden death in 2002
We never had any deep conversations in that car with the massive oxygen tank in it
There was no final sharing of emotion
There was no final last words
There was no major emotional romping
My mother was just not the sort
There was just fish and chips and mushy peas
And a large handful of cigarette butts in a usually pristine and empty ashtray.




74 comments:

  1. You made her so happy John.

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  2. Ouch.
    All too familiar.
    Including your comment that no one made her happy.

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  3. Quality time, doing what she wanted

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  4. John
    First, a top-rate piece of writing, the picture you use words to paint are evocative.
    I knew your mom's kindred in my work: Erma, back at the beginning in the early 70's, I'd start her on 5mg of a bronchodilator in a nebulizer, Q4, O2 at 3lpm to keep her sats above 89....I'd round, have to go find her outside with her husband, hitting on a Camel.
    Sounds like you did exactly what I would have done with your mom.
    You're a good guy.
    Cheers.

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  5. No wonder my kids ignore me, it's that damn o2! Ha
    It never ceases to amaze me that those with COPD still smoke. My sister-in-law's mother was on o2 and smoked and set the house on fire, nearly killing herself and the family too. Sigh.

    Well, your mom was your mom, at least you took care of her. You feel right, if she didn't appreciate - not your problem.

    I Think some type A's can't be happy.

    Hugs.

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  6. You were such a good son. This doesn't surprise me at all.
    My biggest wish is that my dear brother would quit smoking before he ends up on oxygen.

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  7. FIL died in 2005 from COPD; he smoked from age 13, passed at 70 tied to an oxygen tank. and it's not a pretty way to die either.

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  8. You were/are a compassionate and caring person. Too bad she did not appreciate it. There are so many folks in nursing homes whose kids are the unappreciative ones; they would love to have a son like you.

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  9. Sorry for your mum that her addictions were stronger than anything else. Sad for you and your siblings also.

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  10. My favorite aunt died of colon cancer around age 85. She had an oxygen tank the last few months, and would simple abandon it and go to another part of the house to smoke. All her life. Lucky Strikes.
    Another aunt, her younger sister, died of congestive heart failure close to age ninety. Another life long smoker, except her youngest daughter cut her off the last several years. My poor aunt would pace and pace and beg me for a cigarette. I would give her a pack to go home with, and felt awful they would not last until I saw her again. I never felt I shortened her life, only made it easier, such as it was. We say smoking is a personal choice, but sometimes it's not a choice, and depriving an old and dying person is as awful as knowing they did themselves no favors.

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  11. My Mom is 89 with COPD and in a nursing home on oxygen. I never thought she would quit smoking but she finally did about 10 years ago. I guess the doctors were finally able to put the fear of god into her and she broke through the denial that otherwise lasted a lifetime.

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  12. Funny how we remember them isn't it?
    My mom dies of renal cell carcinoma at 56. She would sneak cigarettes after chemo or when she knew no one was around. Aggravating as all hell, but at that point, who was I to tell her to knock it off?
    My fave thing she did was she had the manicurist come to her house to do her nails. She may have lost her hair and was fighting cancer, but damn if her hands would not look fabulous!

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  13. Ah, Jennifer and Clarissa -- two of my favorites!

    So sorry you lost your mum, John.

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  14. Hmm it ate my comment.

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  15. I shan't rant about those who smoke, but I never cease to be amazed by those who combine their habit with a racking cough. I've known several, and used to see others regularly (I suppose they're all gone now).

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  16. a very good piece of writing John. Sometimes we want to be loved so badly, that we are willing to endure someone elses selfmade hell, just hoping that things will change somehow. I am so glad you have Chris in your life to love you the way you deserve to be loved...and winnie and the gang. winnie and the gang loves you too the way you need to be loved deservedly in their own special way...you lucky bastard you ! ;)

    xox

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  17. This is a nice post John. x

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  18. All the things that were bad for her, but which made for a little bit of "just right" at the end. You provided that for her at the end. Mum and Son, Son and Mum. There is no other relationship like it, believe me it doesn't need to be a fanfare. It just is. You were there, it is ALL :)

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  19. Lost mum seven years ago to pancreatic cancer.
    Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer early this year (not surprising having been a life-long smoker) and underwent radiotherapy. He's recently been given the all-clear and now he's back on the fags. I don't get it. How can it possibly be worth it?

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  20. This reminds me of my life at the moment. Dh on O2 concentrator & then outside having a smoke. He knows how I feel about it but he says the damage is done so he may as well enjoy what life he has left.

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  21. Mums can sometimes be the hardest to please, if ever achieved!

    I've heard said that Nicotine is more addictive than Heroin and harder to quit. Never smoked myself apart from in a drunken state demanding to try a puff to see what it's all about. Needless to say, I was as sick as a pig! Ever after that episode, always felt sick in the presence of tobacco smoke, still do!

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  22. Those Hollywood endings where everything is said, the past is understood, and everyone is wise and enlightened before saying "good-bye" don't have much to do with reality. You are an incredibly good, tolerant, and realistic son — and a brilliant nurse.

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  23. Just you and your Mum and a day together, what could be better. I bet you made her last months so much more tolerable with this outing.

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    1. You couldn't be more wrong sue

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  24. you write in pictures x

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  25. Oh I miss Jennifer and Clarrisa. My Mom is 90 and I'm still trying my best to connect with her.

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  26. What a perceptive piece of writing John. The good dutiful son, still trying to do his best under the most difficult of circumstances. Mums never change,do they? Loved reading this and it just endorsed whatI think about you.

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    1. Pat, my mother was a difficult character, bullying, bitter, witty, sharp, demanding and selfish. She was also unwell and a drinker who was supported by my sisters for many many years when I was safer ( emotionally and physically) away in Yorkshire .
      They did the leg work.... I only reaped some of the benefits towards the end

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  27. Non-judgemental - one of your many qualities.

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  28. Wow...I wish I could be as good as you.

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  29. You must have really broad shoulders.

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  30. Ugh, the peas...you must have earned at least one angel wing for those years of being the dutiful son. Now I realize nurses must have even more steady patience than teachers.

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  31. My mum is a smoker. Babysitters started my sister smoking when she was 9 and she suffers from asthma. My father in law died from lung cancer and was always a heavy smoker. It's so addictive. My husband was a heavy smoker when I met him but on our first date he lit up a cigarette and I told him sorry, I can't bear the smell of it. He threw the packet of cigarettes in the bin and I've never seem him smoke since - that was 25 years ago. Must be love!

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  32. your honesty is somthing that we do not find any more.And the talent to express it is immense.

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    1. Yes John, you really are a talented writer. It is often we love people but don't particular like them. Elnett hairspray, a bottle of scotch and about 80 B&H a day, that was my nan and she wore curlers to bed every night of her life. I did love and like her though. God bless them xxx

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  33. This reminds me of my mothers last 3 years. Her in the nursing home and myself as the bad child who had to have her go there. Taking her to the library as she insisted only to have to get out a quickly as possible when there were accidents. Going to look as cars because "she was going to buy a car and be on her own again." Writing to a guy she dated eons ago before dad and 9 kids. It was like a reversal of roles. But then I start to remember when I was small and a dress being made for me for my 2nd grade program at elementary school. Sometimes it balances and sometimes it's way too heavy on the sour end. Makes me try extra hard with kids and grands. You are a lovely man and good son. I think many of us would be proud to have you as a son!

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  34. This all sounds so familiar, John. Why is it I wonder some people get so very selfish ....grabbing at all the 'life' they can get their hands on, with no consequence for anyone around them.
    You appear to have all this drama under control, where it belongs.

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  35. To those that think I was and am a " nice person" for doing what I did...I am not.
    The balance needs addressing here......my weekly visits WERE duty bound, I cannot deny that fact, but I knew my mother was not for this world and I wanted in no small way to make some sort of peace with her before it happened.
    I achieved this.
    And subsequently didn't have any of the guilt I could have experienced if I had remained out of the way in Sheffield.
    You see.. I am not as altruistic as I often make out.
    I was just making up , just a little for all those years that I did nothing
    Years my sisters took the flack.
    So
    No more "you are a nice person" ok xxx

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    1. You ARE a nice person, ok? You do heaps for other people and have a heart of gold! xx

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    2. A huge salute to your sisters, too, then :)

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    3. YOU? A nice person? No friggin way! you are 'ready for battle' at any time!
      I do 'get' what you have said John. There comes a point when we are no longer responsible in a psychological sense for parents who have made choices that have adversely affected their lives.

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    4. It's the last part of growing up isn't it? When you realize that parents are just people who make good/bad choices and are not necessarily nice people. John, you did well in the circumstances, and that's all you can do.

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  36. Some of these comments from people have really made me laugh today. I remember so well how lovely a day in Wales would be and what sort of mood you'd be in when you got back. Steel Magnolias it certainly was not! But I do seem to recall we'd then have a good laugh about it over a few drinks. Those were the days hey? Still miss them a lot - and it's not often I admit to anything quite so sentimental!

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    1. I remember those days well old friend.... Will be coming over soon to see you ..it's been too long..far too long

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    2. Don't forget 'Allo 'Allo Oct 22-25, possibly the only time you'll get to see me play a very camp Nazi...

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    3. I doubt that very much lol

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  37. Your mom and mine were just alike...and had mostly the same routine, right down to the pads on the seat (lesson learned the hard way) and the oxygen tank and smokes. Loved, not liked too much also, which made for sweet/sour visits with little enlightening conversation. Only difference is that I, too, am a self-loathing, weak tit smoker. Lucky you don't! I still harbor hopes of quitting so not to inherit my mother's gasping, tethered life.

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  38. And yet you turned out to be a wonderful human being. So maybe good parenting isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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  39. Those of us who had difficult parents growing up and difficult childhoods have to sort it out the best way we can. I wouldn't beat myself up about having less than pure, noble motives for the weekly visits. You're only human, and were doing what you could at the time.

    It seems that the older I get, and the further removed from my childhood I become, the easier it is to see my parents and their faults and mistakes with a more objective and understanding eye. Forgiving their mistakes and realizing that they, too, were just flawed humans has done a lot for my peace of mind.

    One good thing to come of having mothers like yours (mine was very similar in some ways) is your empathy, your kindness, and your peaceful way of living. It seems that some people, having grown up in the midst of turmoil, make sure their adult life is the opposite. And what a beautiful life you have now!





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  40. Did your heart break every time? My mom did the sneaking of fags which resulted with her passing out and having disastrous falls, three of them. The last one sent her to nursing care, with her death 6 months later.
    My heart breaks every time when I think about it.

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    1. No susan it didn't
      I think if you lived in an unhappy childhood home...your heart would have been broken a great deal earlier

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  41. I sympathise with your efforts to make some sort of peace with a very difficult and demanding mother. I have a similar situation with my own mother, who is wrapped up in her own needs and emotions and quite oblivious to my own life. I don't think I would have been as patient as you if my mother had such problems. Fortunately she has never smoked and has never over-indulged in alcohol.

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    1. What is the alternative to coping and getting on with it?
      Guilt?

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  42. You loved her but you didn't like her .....such a great way of describing your relationship ! If she wasn't related but lived in the village, do you think you may have liked her then ?

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    1. I would have enjoyed her storytelling jason
      How was your first week?

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    2. Been good , early morning walks with the dogs at 6 am has a funny way of stimulating the senses !

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    3. Excellent welcome to my world!
      What do you think of Jack the Ripper? Btw

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    4. It's nonsense ....

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    5. Bugger! I thought it was finally solved

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    6. It may well be john but seems a tad bollocks to me ......there is a book to sell .....always causes the ' bullshit detector ' to go off

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  43. That was kind of you. I didn't like my mother, either. I was grateful I lived too far away to be involved in her life.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Some mothers can just be intolerable! And no fault of ours.

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    2. No fault all round

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    3. God knows I'm not the perfect parent, but I hope I was better than my mother. I know I'm not as nosy and pushy.

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  44. My younger sister has just been diagnosed with COPD. She's taking it awfully hard but still smoking though not so much and won't tolerate any lectures about it either. I'm terribly worried about her. You were a good son. x

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    1. You sound like a good sister x

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  45. I am speechless.

    You were a good son even if she didn't notice.

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    1. Gail
      U made the best comment x

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  46. It's hard being a mum.
    I think (hope) my kids like/love me.
    Time will tell when I get older (I mean really older like, you know, 80ish).
    My mum did the best she could with our difficult family situation....but her mother was a cow, violent too, and was too selfish to help my mum with her disabled daughter, two boys, eczema daughter (me) and also had a stroke when I was only 3m old. She then came to live with us when she was elderly and nearly broke my mum then. Neither of my grandmothers were cuddly lavender scented ones to any of us. I wonder what sort of grandmother I will be. My mum tried her best but was too ill and died too soon to have much of an impact on my children (a non smoker btw).
    Susan x
    PS Soon have to make difficult decision re daughter's health.

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    1. You learn from your mother's/grandmother's mistakes. I think you'll be an excellent Grandmother. Being a mother is an absolute breeze compared with being a 'mother-in-law'!!!

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  47. that was poignant, beautiful and funny. And I'm sorry your mother didn't appreciate you. I had one of those too.

    You could write an amazing memoir about your relationship with her, I think.

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