Tag Archives: life stuff

The unbearable shiteness of being (a grown up)

There are many times in life that I give thanks for being over my irresponsible teens and twenties. Being in charge of my time (minus the inevitable child-centred interruptions), being able to drive myself places, not having to explain why I’m wearing that – all peachy. Sometimes, though, I just want someone, a proper grown up, to come along and tell me what to do.

My boy cat is 13. He has always been loud, active, boisterous, annoying, greedy and fun. He was a pretty magnificent looking animal in his prime, if I do say so myself:

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Over the last six months or so, he has developed pancreatitis as well as possible kidney dysfunction. He’s been back and forth to the vet, is on special food, has lots of medications that he has been mostly willing to take if I crush them up in some tasty meat or fish. His back legs have wasted away somewhat and are quite weak, sometimes to the point where he can’t even bounce himself up onto the toilet lid or our bed. He is gaunt, with a big head, and his fur looks greasy.

This week he had to spend two nights in kitty hospital being rehydrated as, due to a flare-up of pancreatitis, he had stopped eating or drinking. Came home on Tuesday with another bagful of medicine. Once at home he ate a little, drank a little, mostly refused the food with medicine in it. He was sick on Thursday morning, despite the medication that is meant to suppress the sickness.

But mostly I get the feeling that he has just given up. He’s been getting in bed with me every night (like, literally under the covers with his head on the pillow), hiding the rest of the time. He’s listless. He doesn’t seem to be washing. And he keeps giving me a look:

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How do I know what the right thing to do is? When I got the cats in my feckless youth, I just assumed that they would either be killed in accidents before their time or end up so undeniably ill that there would be no other choice but to PTS, like all my childhood cats. I don’t know if it’s kinder to keep forcing treatment and medication on the old boy just to prolong a tedious existence or if he’ll pick up to the point where he starts to enjoy life again.

It has also cost us a fortune. He’s insured and this is an ongoing condition so we’ll get some of the money back (eventually), but this week’s stay in hospital cost me nearly £500 that we don’t have spare right now. I can’t afford for him to go back in again, we simply don’t have the cash. I feel like a shit having to consider the financial burden alongside everything else, but it’s an unignorable part of the overall cost. If I knew that that £500 would result in him returning to a reasonable state of springy-pawed health I wouldn’t be thinking about it at all, but so far that has not been the case.

For comparison, we also have his sister who is as lively, glossy, hungry and curious as ever she was.

Meanwhile my son has become unusually attentive to boycat and insists on stroking him gently, giving him food, encouraging him to come inside ‘so he can be comfy’. Son is 4.5 and has accompanied us on most of our veterinary trips. I’m sure he’s old enough to read between the carefully phrased lines about next steps.

Never mind. I’m sure any minute now a kind grown up will be along to provide me an answer…

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An open letter to Low

Dear Low,

I was talking to my husband about you a while back and he suggested that I write down what I’d said, that you might want to read it. So here it is.

We were talking about favourite Low songs (so hard to choose, you guys spoil us so) and I mentioned Shots and Ladders. He was surprised that it meant so much to me. But when we first started listening to your music, around the time Trust came out, my brother was seriously ill. He had been diagnosed with an incredibly rare sarcoma and had undergone some serious treatment, given by wonderful NHS staff with serious faces. Their faces told me as much as I wanted to know about what our future looked like. I spent a lot of time travelling to and from the town where I lived to London, hanging out in hospitals with my brother or keeping him company at home while he recovered from spinal surgery and underwent chemo that made him sick in every way. And travelling time is always good headphones time, so there was a lot of listening done.

Trust seemed like such a mysterious thing to me. All that space, all that power, that wonderful echoey production. The many references to illness intrigued and comforted me. It was like having a knowing friend along for the journey, one who didn’t bullshit me with upbeat smiles but didn’t look away in fear either. Your voices wrapped me up and offered succour and salvation without any annoying platitudes on the side.

I made my brother a copy, compelled to share the music I loved as we had both always been with each other. I don’t know if he ever listened to it. The cancer was eating his future and after a while he stopped wanting to think about new things.

I thought a lot about him dying, during the two years he was ill. It was pretty obvious that that was what was going to happen. Sarcoma is rare and not much understood, and the kind he had was particularly difficult to treat. I watched it strip away his life a bit at a time – his ability to work, his ability to walk, his interest in the world that would no longer be his – and wondered what the final scene would look like. Shots and Ladders came into my mind a lot. I loved the feeling it evoked of being funnelled up into a massive twister of sound, the essence of a person dissipating as kind voices said soothing things. I wondered if it would be that way for him, or if it would be a horror film kind of ending. I was very frightened.

My brother died in a hospital bed on the top floor of UCLH in London. The top floor is really high up, you can see all across the city from there. He slipped away over the course of five days or so, surrounded by people he loved. It wasn’t scary in the end, as I had feared – I mean, it was, it was awful, but it wasn’t like being in a horror film. It was peaceful for him. The last thing we talked about was Jimi Hendrix. I was there as his last breath hushed out and no more breath went in, and afterwards I went into the corridor and leant my face against the plate glass window, looking out at the clouds, thinking of Shots and Ladders, imagining him streaming into the sky.

When I listen to it now, I think of him, of that moment and how it wasn’t the nightmare I had feared but a horrible honour. Your music helped get me through that. You gave me a way to reframe a dreadful experience before it had happened.

That’s not the only thing your music has given me, obviously. But today is the 6th anniversary of his death and it was on my mind, so I hope you don’t mind me writing it down.

Looking forward to the Barbican gig on Tuesday!

Parenting the toddlergeist

My 20 month old daughter wants a big girl bed. I know this because a couple of nights ago, following several nights of unusual bedtime hysterics, she ran into the bedroom she and Boy Bones share and demanded to get up on his bed. Once on the bed she wriggled under his duvet, sat up against his pillows and beamed at me.

So we cuddled together just like I do when reading the boy’s bedtime stories and when we’d finished she lay down and got comfy on his pillows. Thinking she might want some company, as he often does, I laid down next to her. This triggered a flood of angry noises and emphatic pushing of me away from her. No, she did not want me in the big bed. She wanted herself, alone, in a big bed. She gave me a meaningful look, one which said ‘I hope we understand each other.’

Some months ago, as he was getting ready for bed, my son complained as I cleared away the tiles from a game we’d been playing: “But they’re my lots of eggs, mum!” I asked what they were going to hatch into. “Ten baby Girl Bones!” he yelled with glee. A grinding shudder ran down my left arm, the extra achy one, the arm whose shoulder grinds a bit whenever I pick up my one baby Girl Bones. Ten of her…what would life be like? She is an elemental force, a mischievous imp, a toddlergeist. She is the reason my boots are full of blueberries and there is play food down our toilet. If I were to rename the kids based on what they’re like, she would definitely be Loki.

She is the most direct and unwavering personality I’ve ever known. Even my pregnancy with her was direct. With my son, I had no clue. It took five days of lateness for me to half-arsedly mumble something about doing a test and then a further five minutes of slack-jawed shock to absorb the second line. With her, five days before my period was even due I was smelling the ghost of food long after it had decamped to the outside bin. After two consecutive nights of dreaming about going downstairs to take a positive pregnancy test, I got the message, went downstairs and took a positive pregnancy test. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the words I AM HERE stencilled across my uterus at the twelve week scan.

Before I had children, I thought that people who said babies come with their own personalities were probably on drugs. I mean, a baby is a sack of needs with a mouth, isn’t it? But both of my spawn have made me eat that half formed opinion many a time, and Girl Bones’ blunt and direct ability to communicate is just another illustration of my own stupidity on that score. From her refusal to sleep anywhere but next to me in our bed (until the day she decided she preferred her cot, at which point she refused to sleep anywhere else), to her early mastery of the point-and-meaningful-look combo, to her love of the tactical facepalm during particularly expressive tantrums, she’s a girl with a lot to say and small tolerance for repetition, hesitation or deviation. She knows what she wants and she wants you to act upon it now, while she’s busy growing up enough to do it herself.

Despite the fact that this makes parenting her bloody hard work, I do hope she carries these attributes along into adult life. Because the thing that makes the shouting, the bossiness, the stubbornness okay, more than okay, is the spark in her eye that says life is so fucking wonderful. Life to her is a wonderful game, a game that she can win. I want her to feel like that every day of her life. When she crosses paths with haters and abusers and ignorami and loudmouths and tailgaters and twats, I want her to look them in the eye, laugh her head off and carry on winning. Which is why, when I’m listening to her cackle with joy as I chase her down the street for the twentieth time, I’m laughing too.