Ten years ago this summer, Mum was ill and getting weaker, the end result of an initial stroke at the age of 70 and a series of TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks or mini strokes) in recent years. I spent a lot of that year driving up and down the motorways most weekends between Liverpool, where I was then living, and Bristol and then I stayed for nearly all of the school summer holiday to help out with her care. By then, she was almost bedridden and eventually was moved downstairs where she could be more 'in the loop' and it was easier to look after her.
So memories of that summer are a mixture - hours doing record keeping and planning for the following term, as I usually did during the summer holidays, interspersed with caring for Mum, doing housework, cooking and shopping. I remember the weather being hot and humid and fans were essential.
The carers, when they began to come, were excellent; kind, caring women who did their job well and treated Mum as a person, rather than a patient. Some of them attended her funeral later in the year.
Kathy and Hugh had holidays which they took to spend time there too and Claire and James came when they could. Inevitably, those weeks were a time of difficult emotions and stress but there are good memories too; Kathy and I decorating the bathroom, the care and sensitivity of Hugh when he lifted Mum in and out of bed, the sense that we were all pulling together and working as a team, and I look back at that summer as probably the last chance I had to spend any lengthy amount of time with Kathy and Hugh. Once your children are adults, they live their own lives, of course, but you value the time spent together all the more for that.
In a couple of weeks, Keith and I will be meeting up with Kathy and Claire to go and see Paul performing in his drama group - and that will be another moment for future memories.