It's a strange time when the child starts looking after the parent - a role reversal I'm increasingly taking on.
My Mum turns 87 next week. She lives on her own, is fiercely independent, mentally lightning-fast, but physically running out of steam. It's the last thing that scares the hell out of me.
Mum has always been active and the last three or so years she's slowed down a lot. She doesn't get out much, doesn't have the energy. I do the shopping for her these days, although she's about to renew her driver's licence as she wants to be able to drive to the shops herself when she has the energy.
She's had a strange virus this year which has affected her middle ear and given her some giddy spells, but that's just about over.
Or we thought it was.
Last weekend G and I went to Adelaide, and Mum minded our two cats and one dog. She adores having them to stay, it's good company for her and they love her to bits. She doesn't want a full time cat herself any more but enjoys looking after ours from time to time.
Cutting a long story short, Mum bent down to pick up Charley, our boy cat, who weighs the best part of nine kilos. She lifted him up, then overbalanced. Went down on her knees and elbow face first onto her patio. She's bloody lucky she didn't break anything. (Charley, horrified, scarpered into the house and didn't reappear until I arrived later.)
I was in a plane coming back to Sydney. It probably took Mum the best part of that plane journey's time to pull herself back into the house and finally drag herself into a chair. She's fallen before but usually takes a deep breath and hauls herself up on whatever furniture is to hand. She told me it took her an hour and half this time, and oh shite, that scares me.
I feel so guilty every time G suggests we go away somewhere these days. Not just saddling Mum with the animals, as she does love them and they behave for her and give her no trouble. It's the worry that if she falls I'm not in the same city. I can't just drop everything and rush to her place, which is half an hour from mine.
I got to hers yesterday to find her sitting in a kitchen chair with a bruise under one eye, not knowing she'd taken a tumble, and got the whole story out of her. I wanted to stay the night but she said she'd be fine and sent me home to check my house was OK. We live in a far less salubrious part of town and Mum worries that our place will get burgled when we go away. With misgivings I went, and found the house was fine, just bloody cold. Mum and I chatted on the phone when I got home and she sounded much more like herself; her voice had lost that quavery timbre it had earlier in the day when I was at her house.
Anyway she phoned me this morning at breakfast time, as I'd asked her to, and said she found when she undressed the night before that she'd scraped a few inches of skin off her elbow when she fell. It bled like mad when she undressed as her blouse must have been clinging to it when it stopped bleeding initially. She hadn't felt it at the time and didn't feel it later, it wasn't even stiff. It's not even painful today, it just apparently looks awful.
I'm taking her to the doctor tomorrow anyway for a regular checkup; I did suggest I'd drop around this morning and we'd try and get a slot at the doc's but she says it's not that bad and she's not too stiff.
I feel a bad daughter for not staying over, or not simply turning up this morning and dragging her to the doc's. She's stubborn, as I am. She's also honest. If she felt bad enough, she'd ask me to take her or she'd ring up the doc and ask for a house call, both of which she's done in the past.
Now I'm worried because G has booked us a holiday in the UK for almost all of July. He has to go for work and he wants me to join him and we'll wander around for three weeks. It's a present for my 50th. I feel guilty as hell leaving Mum, even though when I'm away - or at home come to that - I phone her every day to check she's OK.
I suggested to her this morning that she talk to the doc about having a carer look in every day while I'm away, or one of the neighbours. It's not something I'd like if I were in Mum's shoes, a stranger checking up on me, and God only knows she didn't like the idea either! But I need to have some sort of plan in place so I'll know she has someone nearby to help her if she gets sick or has another fall. Fat lot of good I'll be 24 hours away.
While I'm excited at the opportunity to get back to the UK again I'm also dreading leaving Mum for so long. I hope I can persuade her to let the doc organise someone for her, just to check she's OK while we're gone. I don't normally have holidays any more; part of it is my workload and the fact my clients don't leave me be, part of it is lack of funds, and most of it is worrying whether Mum will be OK.
Any time she doesn't answer the phone when I call I worry she's lying on the floor with something broken, or dead in her bed. Thankfully she's usually just in the loo. But I still worry. I always will.