The Game of Life – Final Rounds.

When my mother planned her funeral five years ago she could never have imagined the service at her local church would be streamed live across the world. Covid has changed how we deal with death, before and after. Mum had outlived my father by twenty four years, at 94 she was happy and ready to go. She was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, who are still hale and hearty, but that’s the game of life.

I wrote my first Game of Life blog in November 2018; here is part of what I wrote.

We have to leave Summertown, the days of being recycled teenagers are over. There is a very real possibility that Cyberspouse will be outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh and my mother.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/the-game-of-life/

Cyberspouse outlived my mother by just over a month, he has been outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh. In this Covid world those with terminal illnesses are among the many who have been isolating and shielded at home, not to cheat death, but to have it on their terms. Cyberspouse achieved his aim of never going near a hospital again; happy sleeping a lot and just doing what he felt like doing. For most of those six months we were on our own, though with various medical teams at the other end of the phone. You can read about our life in lockdown here.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/the-game-of-life-covid-19-edition/

 Covid restrictions eased in August and we soon needed to make up our own rules so family could come and help. It was only in the last fortnight that the district nurses and Marie Curie nurses parachuted in; they were marvellous and worthy of their own blog.

There has been plenty of dark humour along the way. Cyberspouse was always adamant he did not want a funeral, very handy as traditional funerals are difficult or impossible with Covid.

Anyone dealing with cancer or illness reading this, don’t let it scare you; every case is different. Friends much older than us, sending sympathy cards, have had cancer and other dices with death years ago… open heart surgeries, body parts removed and they are still here, that’s the game of life.

Colin Campbell Gogerty 24th January 1952 – 2nd September 2020

Coming soon – The Game of Death 2020

Unmasked

After months of indecision and confusion from our leaders we are finally wearing facemasks – a bit. On public transport and for customers in shops it’s official, though without much hope of enforcement. Staying at home as a full time carer, the only shop I have been to is the tiny Boots’ pharmacy attached to our doctors’ surgery. Actually lots of people aren’t going to real shops; busy working couples who have been doing on line shopping for years and the ‘vulnerable’ who have discovered on line shopping and don’t trust anything the government says.

At our little chemist the staff have always worn masks and only let one person in at a time, so it feels safe, with the added benefit of privacy for discussing personal medical stuff. But I miss the jolly days crammed in with bored toddlers and having a joke with bored adults as we all waited and wondered who would hit the jackpot and get their prescription next or at all. And of course listening in to other people’s strange medical problems or listening in to the medical problems of strange people…

In Covid times we wait outside, not too many people, but with plenty of opportunity for confusion. You may think someone is pushing in, but they are making their way to the outer door of the surgery to ring the bell and report to the all powerful receptionist, who tells them to wait outside until summoned on their mobile phone; leaving them with the dilemma of which queue to stand in. The rest of us are either queueing to go in to the pharmacy or have already been in but have to wait for our prescriptions.

On my first visit with official mask wearing I got a tickly cough ( NOT a Covid cough ) as soon as I got inside – what to do? Rip off mask and take a sip out of my water bottle? NO, not allowed to touch mask let alone remove it.

One of the regular staff is always friendly and helpful, but a good while ago he was away and when he came back had lost his voice, reduced to a whisper, that was okay without a mask… I had no idea if he could hear my mask voice properly; I was there to collect new prescriptions, with either no idea what they were called or how to pronounce them and also to explain that as we were having a regular medicine in liquid form could we cancel the repeat prescription for the capsules… He checked the computer screen and the bag of medicines and the forms, but he may as well have been speaking in Martian. I understood only his last whispered words Address, post code – for a moment I thought the mask would make me forget my own address, but I managed that bit and just hoped what was in the heavy bag was all the correct stuff.

As I was leaving I did feel, in my stuffy mask, on a hot day, looking forward to taking it off as soon as I got round the corner…  I did feel at last I was part of the Covid Community.

As I was leaving, another staff member came out to give a lady her prescription and asked her address, the woman instinctively pulled down her mask to say her address…

Friday Flash Fiction – 700 -Two Months To Live

If Sonya had known her ex husband would survive a good deal longer than two months she would never have let him come back. If Sonya had known a pandemic would come along and trap him in isolation with her, two weeks after he moved in, she would never have let him over the front door step.

When he had phoned her early in March and told her he only had two months to live, she was shocked. Sonya hadn’t seen him for years, didn’t even know his second wife had booted him out and kept the house. It seemed a Christian, a human thing to do; she imagined the alternative, the father of her children found in two years time, mummified in his dreadful bedsit. To care for him in his last weeks would bring closure to both the good years and the bad. One of her daughters said she was insane and on no account must she let him anywhere near her home. The other daughter said of course she must help him, he was her father after all and she would soon be back from Thailand to help. The kindly daughter was still in Thailand and the sensible daughter still in New York.

At first he did a few DIY jobs, they Facetimed the girls together and he made a good job of settling his few possessions in the back bedroom and making it homely. He assured her various medical teams and charities were on his case and all she would have to do was a bit of cooking.

Then he got his letter from the Prime Minister telling him he was very vulnerable and must not leave his house. Her house Sonya pointed out to him. The letter reminded him how frail he was and he couldn’t even help wash the dishes. His medical support teams could not visit because of Covid 19 and he no longer qualified for help from the charities as he was no longer homeless.

A new routine was soon established, as if they had always been carer and invalid in the midst of a pandemic. Sonya was heartily grateful for her rescue dog, the perfect excuse to get out of the house for exercise and a chance to have socially distanced chats with neighbours and other dog walkers. Vivienne down the road she had hardly known before, but now she and the dog would pause by the front gate when Vivienne was in the garden and discuss on line shopping. The other woman would complain about her divorced son who had moved back in and Sonya would regale her with the latest domestic dramas.

Her ex husband had his good points, well she vaguely recalled he did in the early years of their marriage, sense of humour, carefree attitude to life. That young man was long gone and his most irritating features were enhanced by illness. The husband who had once been glued to the television with football, war movies and endless crime dramas involving noisy car chases and shootings, now complained about the noise if she listened to Jeremy Vine on the radio and griped that the television was doing his head in if she tried to watch Celebrity Chef.

When he received another letter from the Prime Minister saying he could go out and about on the first of August, he showed a rare spark of life and decided it would be good for him to come out with Sonya and the dog. This was how she found herself today, plodding wearily back down their road, trying to hang on to the dog’s lead and being told to mind the bumps as she pushed his wheelchair. She had not seen Vivienne lately, only to be expected as Vivienne’s daughter and family were staying. A large camper van was parked outside her friend’s house and the door suddenly swung open as they passed, just missing the wheelchair. Two children tumbled down the steps and flew through the garden gate to the front door, yelling to be let in.

 ‘Bloody children, bloody camper vans’ said Sonya’s ex husband in a loud voice, just as Vivienne opened her front door and waved to her friend.

Friday Flash Fiction – Health Crisis

I looked at the list of unpronounceable names on the drugs list. They actually trusted people to administer these to their loved ones? Trusted wives, sons, nieces, the next door neighbour to hand out the right tablets in the right number at the right time? The hospital expected me to ‘do the meds’ without a key or a trolley?

Four tonight, next two days four twice a day, the following day three twice a day… take one three times a day… what a collection, what a selection of pretty sweets for Brian’s ghastly grandchildren; pity they won’t be visiting. This corona virus; good excuse for his daughter to get out of helping and Young Brian away in Spain, couldn’t get a flight back. Not so resentful of me now they have a free carer for their father. I certainly didn’t sign up for this.

Better get organised. Take with food… must be taken one hour before eating… swallow with one glass of water… box of 32 paracetamol, that’s handy, in great demand at the moment, I’m sure Brian doesn’t need those with all the other stuff. A quarter tablet, how the hell am I meant to cut up that microscopic tablet. See leaflet for possible side effects, take me all night to read this… must seek medical help immediately if you accidentally take more than the prescribed dose. Wouldn’t that be a shame, could happen easily, especially with the size of the writing on those little brown bottles… oh, I thought it said 12 not 2 tablets. Ah… ONE 3 times a day, not 3, 3 times a day? No wonder, that explains it…

sunshine-blogger

Friday Flash Fiction 300 – Encore

I realised the pain had stopped, I was dreaming, pleasantly drifting, music somewhere. Had it all been a dream?

When I first got the diagnosis I had joked with the other players of the string section, cellos always outlive their players. Mine certainly would, she was already three centuries old, how many had played her? Drifting, where was she now, my beautiful instrument?

Doctors give you a sentence, what they don’t say is that only half the sentence will be real living. I gave her back, I didn’t own her anyway; few musicians can afford to own the great instruments. They didn’t rush me, everyone was keeping up the pretence I was going to play again. The only positive to come from my untimely demise would be another player getting the chance to play her.

We’re going on stage, everyone’s tuning up. I can’t see, the others are leading me on. When did I lose my sight? It doesn’t matter, I know the concerto off by heart. I just wish I knew where we were. My arms aren’t working, how can I play without my hands? Am I still fixed to all those tubes and drips, still dreaming… I can’t open my eyes, I can’t wake up…

Everyone’s clapping. I can feel the audience, I’m close to the front of the stage. I can feel the breathing of the other string players…  complete silence, I know I am in good hands. I sing the opening chords… they say the sound of the cello is the closest of any instrument to the human voice. I had a human voice, now I have a cello voice.

They say, who says, did I read it or just know it? They say when you die you become what you loved most.

Paul Jones is a brilliant young cellist; married to Emma Dexter they are the golden couple of the music world, but their lives are about to change forever when Emma finds out the devastating truth of who she really is.

Music, medicine and mystery are the themes of this novel.

Download the first in the trilogy for only 99 pence.

Understanding The Game of Life

Today’s Game of Life reviews a new anthology; Stevie Turner invited writers and bloggers to contribute. She gave them questionaires about significant life events. I slipped in to this at the last moment, thinking our wedding by the elevated section of the M4 motorway without any parents present would not be significant enough! However I was invited to join in. You can read about some  very different weddings in our family. If you want to buy the book all proceeds go to cancer charities. We are all interested in other people’s lives and this is a rare invitation to share some very diffferent lives from your own. Here is the Goodreads review I posted.

A simple idea; ask volunteers to answer a series of questions about a life experience. There are some experiences that most of us have, others that are certainly outside our realm. Even the same sort of experience will be different according to the person, where they live, the other folk in their lives. I loved the honesty of Abbie Johnson Taylor on becoming a carer – would she do it all again?  I enjoyed the positivity of Lucy V. Hay on being a teenage mother. Readers may find comfort in knowing other people have undergone the same. We may face events in the future and remember how others in this book dealt with it. But whether you are facing illness or an addiction, one of the messages that seems to be common is that there are some things you have to want to do yourself, you need to help yourself before others can help you.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44667522-understanding

 

The Game of Life – Two Thousand and Nineteen

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Clear the board and start a new round of the Game of Life for a new year. People are either reviewing their lives with enthusiasm or daily life has come to a halt as they are house bound with ‘flu. Ironically we have caught nothing over Christmas and New Year; luckily, as Cyberspouse is supposed to avoid ‘catching anything’ while he’s on chemotherapy. Having a few plants in your house is supposed to contribute to good health; our home is so full of plants people should be flocking here for plant therapy.

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In the news… when we hear of a public figure who has died unexpectedly followed by the words  ‘he was diagnosed 12 weeks ago with cancer of the…’ we think – How did that happen, only 12 weeks?

Death Jokes   Doctor: ‘I’m afraid you have a malignant tumour.

Patient: ‘Thank goodness, I was worried I had cancer.’

                                      Queen Mary copy

                        One branch of the family does ‘firework events’, sometimes to farewell ocean liners at Southampton. One time they were chatting to a regular dock hand who told them ‘the first thing they bring off after docking is the bodies.’ Two couples we know were surprised to meet each other on a cruise. On their return one husband said to me ‘Don’t go on a cruise, two passengers died.’ The wife of the other couple said to me ‘If you’re going to have a heart attack, make sure you’re on an ocean liner, they had a fantastic medical suite, our friend had a heart attack and he was really well looked after.’

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Cancer Conversations  Just after we got the first ‘news’ I was sitting on the decking of a sea front cafe, when two chaps came and sat at the next table so I was unavoidably eavesdropping. One was visiting and they were catching up, but the news wasn’t good, the visitor had only three months to live –  ‘it had gone to his brain’. He didn’t look ill. Though he knew his wife was trying to do her best, he had been overcome with irrational anger and taken the car he was no longer allowed to drive to his cancer drop in centre. His furious son had to come and pick him up. The medical team told him it was the cancer causing his behaviour.

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The Games of Life It is the time of year for enjoying indoor games. A friend brought round some jigsaws, only they were sawjigs. The picture on the box was not the picture of the puzzle, you have to work that out, it could be what the people in the picture can see, or what happens next. A trivial pursuit, but fun, like Trivial Pursuit, a favourite Christmas game. Outdoors the weather has been grey and dreary except for New Year’s Day when blue sky brought everyone out to play; first move in the game of 2019.

The Game of Life – Last Posting Date

Today is the last posting day for second class in the United Kingdom. After our early Xmas I thought there would be a long relaxing period of sending out a few cards and posting a couple of parcels. I put off working out who to send cards and whose cards to include THE NEWS in; I have written a few messages, but it has reminded me of a friend’s Christmas card story. They got a card from a friend in their previous town; it read something like

Happy Christmas from Christine (mother) and Joe (son ) 

    ps Pete ( husband ) was killed in a car accident.

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Cancer Conversations

In a previous incarnation I had a friend who was the practice manager at our doctor’s surgery in a Victorian Villa. The doctor had ambitions to build up a care home, it never got beyond three residents upstairs with windows in the sitting room overlooking the church – and the graveyard. Occasionally my friend would rope some of us in to cover a shift, usually a cosy evening watching telly and knitting with two old ladies ( luckily nothing ever went wrong as I had no medical training ). One time there was a chap as well, ninety two years old with bowel cancer. He complained that he had led a good life and did not deserve to be punished. We wondered why he was not grateful for a long life and had he never noticed illness can strike the good and the bad, young and old…

 

gray snake on black rock formation

Reasons to be Fearful

With family from nought to ninety two years on three continents there is no catastrophe I haven’t imagined happening – except the bizarre accident that killed my cousin recently, I had never imagined that one. Having one fear realised does not mean the rest of the family are now magically protected, the rules of the game of life don’t work like that. But most of us, most of the time, are still comforted by the thought that major disasters and cruel twists of fate happen to other people.

The Game of Life

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Round One: No word from Dagenham yet.

Game Rules:

Everyone’s life is a story and every story has an ending.

It is generally agreed that life is not fair, at least from our earth bound perspective.

Life is a game without rules, or if there are any we don’t understand them.

The further round the board you get, the less you should complain when you’re OUT.

Tragedy is when children or young parents die, by the hand of nature or by the hand of man.

When they say everybody is living longer, they don’t actually mean every person.

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We have to leave Summertown, the days of being recycled teenagers are over.There is a very real possibility that Cyberspouse will be outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh and my mother.

His attitude? These things happen, don’t get upset.

None of us REALLY thinks they will happen to us.

How is the game of life playing out in our families?

We heard only third hand via Facebook that someone in Cyberspouse’s large family had lost their only daughter, who leaves behind two young children. We know little about her life or death.

My mother is the only one left of her generation in the immediate family.

I am the first grandchild on both sides, the next one down, my bachelor cousin in Australia, had already cheated death after a massive stroke and just as our bad news was sinking in we heard he had died in an horrific accident. He had become the first one OUT in my generation of the family, Cyberspouse moved on an extra space.

You get the prognosis and you have to start telling people. Cyberspouse, as is the modern way, e-mailed one of his best friends, who was recently widowed, with the up date. He replied with suitably sympathetic words ( modern men do talk ) but without pause added ‘no word from Dagenham yet’. When Cyberspouse read it out from his phone we both burst out laughing. This was a reference to the annual ‘boy’s outing’ to collect friend’s new car. He loves cars and when his wife was in hospital he had said ‘we might not get to Dagenham this week’.

Today we went to the group workshop on understanding treatment, patients could take one ‘friend’. It was like being back in the classroom, but quite jolly. Next week it all starts. In the meantime he says we should carry on as normal, although he has now got a good excuse for getting out of my writers’ group Christmas dinner and splashing out on Sky sport.