You can’t pour from an empty cup

It would be good to remember where I first heard this expression – which basically means that if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t really take care of others.  Which, for a long time, I thought made one (me) selfish.  In recent times a few very dear friends have been urging me to take some time out, but I have been loathe to do so without someone in place to look after Dad.  My last holiday, at Easter was possible because my gorgeous Uncle, Dad’s brother, flew out from the UK for a visit.

Caring for someone is exhausting, both emotionally and physically, and time to oneself is important to re-charge the batteries.  I say that, from a very privileged position knowing that for many people this is just not possible.  And yet, as fortunate as I am, I find it hard to do.  I have had a gift voucher for a treatment at one of my favourite spas since my birthday in March and have only just managed to make an appointment for July.

But here I am, writing this at the beach, where I have been for two days and will be for another two, with just my husband for company.  As much as he loves the beach, and we love him, we even left the dog home with our two boys who were staying home to feed the cats.  We had an opportunity to get away for four days so we decided to do it.  Just breaking the news to Dad that I would be going away for a few days was hard, as he becomes quite anxious if I am not around.

Whoever first uttered those words in the title to this post is absolutely correct.  Two days of relaxation, sun and the sea air, and a swim in the ocean each day, feels like a tonic.  No alarm in the morning, no lists to write, things to remember, no washing, cleaning, changing ulcer dressings, cooking for DOD, etc etc etc.

What is has involved is sleeping in (to be fair, a sleep in for me now is 7.30am but that’s a victory), reading the paper in bed and not getting out of bed until 9am (bliss), cups of tea, visits to the beach, experimenting with a stand up paddle board with varied success, swimming falling off the paddle board into the icy ocean, dolphin spotting, meditating, colouring in, watching the TV, more cups of tea, and a few* glasses of wine.  It has been perfect winter weather – warm during the day, cool at night and in the mornings, clear blue skies.

Of course, to get away required the organisation and negotiation skills of a Major General, a spreadsheet, many, many phone calls, meals cooked in advance for DOD, and visitors lined up to check in on him, transport to and from church organised, bins organised to be put out, and two medical appointments made, and all of it typed up in a table for DOD to look at from time to time in case he forgot what had been organised.  But even if DOD really doesn’t like to be ‘managed’ I can rest a little easier knowing I have done all I can to make sure he is safe, fed, and looked after.

I am so grateful to my children, and my eldest son in particular who is doing a lot of the driving this weekend, my cousin and his wife who are dropping in, as well as my sister’s friend who is also dropping in. No doubt DOD will have an ample supply of jam drops and chocolate slice after the weekend.

It really does take a village, and I am very grateful for my village for enabling me to fill my cup this weekend.




When our eldest child finished school in 2010, we decided to torture the children by taking them overseas for a month, live in a little French village for 3 weeks, without internet or McDonalds, and enjoy a foreign culture, and learn about some World War II history.  It had been a rough year with the death of both my mother and my father-in-law in the space of five months, and the trip was welcome.  The anniversary of the Normandy landings is 6 June and since that trip I have been quite fascinated by the planning and execution of this battle, and the liberation of France.

This week is one for anniversaries of two D-Days.

My mother died on 10 June 2010.  Today is the anniversary of her death. The events of that morning are indelibly printed on my mind and it took me many months with some professional help, to stop seeing her dead body every tine I closed my eyes.  Nothing in  life, and especially no number of Law and Order episodes, will ever prepare you for having to identify the body of a loved one, or see them taken out of their home in a body bag.

I long ago stopped being sad about the sudden nature of her death – it was, as Dad said at the time, a good way to die; suddenly and without any warning.  Shocking for those left behind but a blessing for the deceased.  Dad, ever faithful, said he was grateful to God for taking Mum the way he did, as he could not have borne her becoming sick or having a stroke.  He hopes the same will happen to him.

I wonder what Mum would be like if she hadn’t died – how she would be with Dad becoming frail and worrying about him.  But they would have been together, keeping each other company.  She would have adored being a great-grandma, spoiling them in her own way by making pikelets and sprinkling sugar on them, cooking rice puddings, and making sure there were leftover rissoles in case they visited, and keeping her ‘brag book’ of photos up to date to show all the people at church.

That was not to be regrettably, although Dad is keeping his ‘brag books’ of his now two great-granddaughters.   However, I do know she would be so proud of Dad coping with all the changes in his life since she died, and hopefully proud of her children for taking care of him, and loving him the way we do.mum and dad

R.I.P Mum

Things I Do For Dad

There is a certain predictability about some of our days, which I like.  Dad goes to church Wednesdays and Sundays.  He likes to go shopping Tuesdays and Fridays –  it’s important to have fresh bananas every few days.  Once a month he goes to the library to change his library books.   The washing is done on Mondays.  Not Tuesdays, nor Wednesdays. He likes routine. As do I.

These days, I have some help from time to time with some of these activities – for example I have found a local Uber driver who does a lot of the driving to and from church, although when he can’t do this, I step in – either doing the driving myself or booking an Uber.  Dad has only given up driving behind the wheel; he still likes to drive from the passenger seat so it can be a little tedious at times.  I also have some help from a wonderful lady from Five Good Friends for a few hours each week.

There are lots of other things I do for Dad to make his life a little easier, such as:

  • Cook all his meals
  • Collect him for dinner at our house once a week
  • Prepare meals ahead of time if I am going to be away (not so often any more!)
  • Go to a shop in the next suburb to purchase the special cheese he likes and his molasses in a squeeze bottle
  • Change the dressing on his ulcer every two days, including cleaning the wound and moisturising
  • Make appointments for him
  • Take him to the doctor, dentist and other specialists
  • Do his buttons up in winter when his fingers struggle with the cold weather
  • Rub cream on his back when his skin gets dry
  • Order things he needs on-line
  • Take him shopping
  • Play cribbage every day (and lose on average 2-1 because he is frustratingly lucky – and clever)
  • Look phone numbers and other information up for him on my phone (‘that’s not just a phone is it dear?‘)
  • Listen patiently while he discusses Oscar’s eating habits, in specific detail
  • Look for Oscar when Dad thinks he has gone missing (he is always asleep somewhere, ignoring us)
  • Take Oscar to the vet and to his holiday accommodation when Dad goes away
  • Help him cut up Oscar’s chicken breast meat into precise sized pieces and put 25 pieces into individual freezer bags, ready for his evening meals
  • Deal with rodents, geckos and birds in the house (thanks Oscar)
  • Clean up the occasional Oscar vomit (see above), which is always on the carpet never on the tiles or timber floors (cats are awesome)
  • Advocate for him with doctors, government and service providers
  • Negotiate with the Insurers when they increase his insurance 30% every year
  • Take him clothes shopping (which includes helping him get changed)
  • Clean out the refrigerator
  • Put the bins out on Sunday nights (my husband and sons help with this too)
  • Fix Foxtel (his fingers sometimes accidentally change the AV source)
  • Source typewriter ribbon for him
  • Replace the correction tape in his typewriter (I need to look this up on Youtube every single time!)
  • Organise the mowing man and tradespeople
  • Take his ironing  home to be done (not by me!)
  • Make him a ginger cake or orange cake so he has an afternoon tea snack with his cup of tea
  • Act as digital carrier pigeon for correspondence with his brother in the UK
  • Post his letters
  • Take him to visit friends on occasion
  • Put his hearing aids in when I remember (so I don’t have to repeat myself three times)
  • Make lots and lots of phone calls and put together colour coded spread sheets should I get the chance to go away

Most importantly, be ready with a hug when he is feeling down.