So cheesed off. It’s the longest day of the year and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the gold-to-tailings ratio of events chez Chrome in the first six months of 2019 has been notably poor.
Between Christmas and Easter, Grenouille had two bouts of gastro problems that put every other system in G’s body out of kilter, and resulted in a fortnight of bed rest each time. Bed rest for G means next to no rest for me; as the only adult in the house, Monday to Friday, I get to do 24-hour lone-pilot duty. For a whole month. Yippee.
The run-up to the Brexit-that-didn’t in February and March was hideous. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Britons, G’s continued existence relies on European-manufactured medicines whose supply could not be 100% guaranteed in the event of a no-withdrawal-agreement crash-out. One of the most discouraging things about it, was Brexiters among the people I’ve thought of for decades as friends, telling me to stop drama-queening and whinging on, it would all be ‘fine’. It didn’t seem to matter to them that I had done the research on current stocks, usage and likely blocks to replenishment, and was genuinely frightened for G’s life if there were to be chaos at customs and gaps on pharmacy shelves.
In the last week before 29 March, I felt physically ill with apprehension. The news lurched from the one million march, via a failed Chequers summit, cliffhangers of indicative votes, to desperate resignation-for-a-deal offers from the Prime Minister, before a last-gasp third meaningless ‘meaningful’ vote – on (non-)Brexit day itself – put leaving off for another month or two. I lurched from feeling sick with fear, to feeling sickened with relief, knowing that it would all come round again in May, or June, or October.
G is expected to have some major surgery in the nearish future. It was supposed to happen last year, and didn’t, and then it was supposed to happen in the early part of this year, and hasn’t, and at the rate we are going, it may not happen by Christmas either. However, its alleged imminence has meant that we haven’t been able to plan anything. Holidays, work trips, visits to friends and family, have all been put on hold or organised in a last minute scramble. It’s an unpleasantly stuck-in-limbo way to live.
E came home in April, for the week before Palm Sunday. I drove him back to university and returned home feeling cramped and numb after the long round trip. The next day, I could not feel my right leg at all from the waist downwards and my left leg was without sensation down the back. I could still walk, but my proprioception was badly off. My legs felt like your face does after the dentist gives you an injection for a filling – movable but dead. The GP told me not to drive any more and referred me to the hospital for an MRI and ultrasound scans. I spent the whole of Maundy Thursday as a day-patient on the orthopaedic ward, feeling somewhere between prematurely aged and ridiculously juvenile, as all the other women in my bay were in their 80s and 90s. After enduring a lot of poking and prodding, two claustrophobic passes through the scanner (being maddened by the beat of reggae played through the headphones clashing with the unsynchonised ‘Whum-whum-whum’ of the machine) and a remote consultation with the regional neurocentre, I was diagnosed as having half a dozen ‘dehydrated’ and bulging discs in my neck and lower back pressing on various nerves.
I asked about physio. You have to self-refer these days, a complicated process involving a massive online form and random appointment times. I can’t do random; events have to fit into G’s timetable, or they don’t happen, so I spent a couple of weeks’ Carer’s Allowance on three 20-minute visits to a private physio instead. Two months and a lot of exercises later, I just have numb soles to my feet, a very sore right knee and a healthy aversion to carrying heavy shopping.
During the Easter holidays, the transition social worker and a commissioner from the CCG came and did an initial assessment of G’s future care needs. They decided that a full assessment for continuing health care was needed, and came back in the May half-term, with another nurse, to do a full assessment. Three and a half hours of trying to explain all G’s healthcare needs, and it barely scratched the surface. The outcome arrived ten days ago: a resounding ‘No’.
Unfortunately there are some things that G needs help with, on a daily basis, that Local Authority social care workers simply will not be permitted to do. Even the medical respite Health Care Assistants are not allowed to do them, only registered healthcare professionals (i.e. nurses or doctors…) and, of course, good ol’ Mum and Dad. So the decision needs to be appealed, and guess who has to do it? Not the transition social worker, who, you would think, would have a far better idea of these processes than I. Nope, the whole shebang has been dumped in my lap, while the social worker, jammy besom, has swanned off on holiday.
I put out a slightly panicked appeal on Twitter and got some very useful feedback (thank you, peeps). I contacted a disabled people’s support charity and a solicitor. I compiled a list of relevant legislation, statutory guidance and case-law, tracked it all down on the Web and read grimly through it. It was like being hurled back fifteen years to when I was desperately researching Statements of Special Educational Needs, up against the deadline of G starting school, except this time my deadlines are a lot shorter. I got a snakes-and-ladders feeling that I’d slid right down the massive python that spans the board from 99 to about 8.
And today, on the longest day of the year, the first properly sunny day we’ve seen for well over a week, I sat down in front of the computer, with about 23 tabs open in the browser, and piles of paperwork all over the desk, and spent the best part of eight bloody hours composing a long appeal email. Finally, it was finished. I went to make myself a hard-earned cup of tea before G came home, and in the ten minutes I was gone, Windows decided to do a software update and restarted the computer. Without saving my as-yet-unsent email. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I rummaged in the ‘Draft’ and ‘Deleted’ folders, but I had been working on the email offline. It was gone forever.
A key rattled in the door and G came in from College.
I burst into tears, big gasping sobs and howls. G was, not unnaturally, highly alarmed, and did not find my explanatory wails in the least reassuring. I babbled apologies, but I could not stop crying. G presented me with the phone: “You need to call Daddy.” I keened down the line at P for a bit, but he was struggling to make sense of the bawled and mangled syllables that assaulted his ears, and in the end I told him I wasn’t fit to be talked to and hung up. G propped the iPad in front of me, a favourite song already open in YouTube. “Music might help, Mum, it calms me down when I’m sad. Would you like a hug?” I accepted the hug, and listened to the songs, and after a while felt the misery and fury begin to recede. I still couldn’t remember a single thing that I had written. I knew there were six heads of argument, but what they were I had no idea. Every single one of them had vanished. My head felt as empty as a blown egg.
Slowly and methodically, I began saving the URLS on the open tabs and closing them down. Couldn’t face trying to reconstruct a whole day’s work until I’d had some time off. I stacked the paperwork and put it to one side. I looked out of the window at the sunshine on the garden and thought of cooking and the various other chores awaiting my attention, and then I thought, what the hell, and opened up the Spider Solitaire. I am, I thought, sick to bloody death of adulting, I’m going to be mindless and irresponsible for a bit.
I was halfway through the second game when G came in and plonked a pink post-it note on my desk. I deciphered the lopsided writing and thought, whatever anyone may want to say about G’s academic accomplishments, there’s no denying that my Froglet has Mensa-level emotional intelligence. G’s 18th birthday is still a few months off, but the adulting thing?
(Mum (k)now how feeling but never give up it is hard).