The wanderer has returned!! I’ve survived my annual holiday with my mum with everything but my sanity intact!!
Before I regale you with a few tales of our exploits, I should point out that although I may appear to be rather mean to my dear old mum, we both tease each other something rotten and she loves to read my (somewhat embellished!) stories about her. So please, don’t feel too sorry for her as she most definitely gives as good as she gets!!
Our trip began, as ever, with ‘Operation Tardis’.......also known as ‘see if you can get all your mother’s mobility equipment into a family saloon car along with the dog and two people’! An hour or so later with my meagre holdall stuffed into the rear foot well, the boot bursting with my mum’s stuff and the dog wedged between other ‘essential items’, we were off!! So far so good. We hadn’t quite reached the A1(M) before it became apparent that this could turn out to be an ‘interesting’ journey. The Satnav was doing its best to send us in the right direction but was struggling to compete with my mother’s delight at having a captive audience. After two solid hours of the Satnav yelling in my right ear and my mother waffling in my left, we arrived, my ears pleading for mercy!!!
My friend Tracy and her physically challenged mum, Wendy, met us there with a similar look of ‘oh my goodness, did we really book a whole week’ on her face. But we needn’t have worried - wheelchairs side by side, my mum and Wendy found in each other a willing listener as they repeated the previous two hours of conversation verbatim!! Tracy and I found the wine!! We drank a lot of wine that week!
We had a wonderful week, the weather was fabulous and we were staying in a beautiful barn conversion. Our days were a mixture of lazy starts and breakfasts on the patio, trips to beaches and fabulous flowering displays at stately homes, a boat trip on the broads and leisurely dinners back at the barn. Tracy and I loved being able to spend some quality time with our mums....so much so that we forgot to set them up with one of our usual pranks!!
For those of you who have read about our annual ritual of ‘mum-baiting’ in previous editions of PAX and are now feeling a sense of disappointment, fear not, because the holiday wasn’t without its ‘entertainment’!! The boat trip on the Broads provided us with some mileage - it’s amazing just how close to the water you can get a wheelchair containing a non-swimmer when you pretend to have lost control going down a ramp!!! I heard my mum utter words I had never imagined she even knew.....plus a few that were new, even to me!!!
But the pièce de résistance had to be our trip to Hoveton Hall and the incident in the disabled loo!! Hoveton Hall is a beautiful place with a combination of magnificent giant rhododendrons, amazing water gardens and delicately arranged.
formal gardens....truly stunning. They also have a lovely café where you can sit outside and enjoy some home cooked food. It was here that we managed to lower the tone in a somewhat spectacular way!
I won’t go into details as to how many times we had visited the disabled loo adjoining the café during our visit, suffice to say that it had probably quadrupled our walking distance and that I knew my mum was able to negotiate it on her mobility scooter without my help! So there we were, sat in the sunshine, freshly baked cheese scones and a pot of tea on the table, surrounded by genteel conversations from other diners about how well their begonias were doing, etc., when my mum needed to ‘pay a little visit’.
Off she trundled, narrowly missing wiping out a small dog as he inadvertently crossed her path. The three of us continued sipping our tea, talking quietly amongst ourselves, when suddenly there was a loud kerfuffle coming from the direction of the loo! A loud crashing sound followed by a few muffled expletives, broke the tranquillity, followed by an even louder bellow of ‘EXCUSE ME....I say, EXCUSE ME’ in what I recognised to be my mother’s dulcet tones. This was immediately followed by a middle-aged man exiting the building looking flustered and another bellow from my mother....‘GINNI’!!! Fearing the worst, I dashed in to help, only to find my mum sitting on her mobility scooter in the open door of the disabled loo with a look of indignant rage on her face! ‘Mum, what’s happened’, I asked in my best ‘concerned daughter’ voice, ‘are you ok?’ ‘No I am not’ she replied.....‘I can’t shut the loo door so I asked that man as he came out of the gents and he ran away’!! It took some convincing to get her to see that ‘asking’ isn’t the same as ‘bellowing’ and that the poor man was clearly terrified at being accosted and shouted at by a woman on her own in a ladies toilet!! We left soon after!!
So what have I learned from my holidays with my mum? I’ve learned that life is busy and time is precious and we should make the most of the time we have with people we love; that many older people live isolated lives and the greatest gift you can give them is the chance of a conversation; that it is the simple things that make the most difference; that able-bodied people don’t always realise the challenges that face those with a disability nor the effort that is required by their carers for the most basic of tasks; that laughter and humour is good for the soul!
So I thank God for my mum, for her love and her ability to laugh at herself and for the precious times we share together. And I thank God for the millions of people out there who give selflessly of their time to care for others with patience, humility and forbearance. I can make light of the times I care for my mum because I am able to choose when I do it, but for those of you who don’t have that choice, I take my hat off to you......you are amazing and I pray God’s blessing on you for the love and care you show to others. Amen.
With love - Ginni