Tuesday, 25 February 2014

An idyllic weekend

Friday, 4pm: Arrive in handsome market town full of quirky, independent shops. So looking forward to weekend break.

4.06pm: As we're pulling into the car park, the Boy makes a series of unedifying burping noises and then covers himself and his car seat in sick. Clean car seat and Boy as best we can.

4.07pm: Realise we have forgotten the Boy's pushchair.

4.55pm: Arrive back at car. During shopping trip, the Boy attempted to invade the back area of a butcher's shop and began howling on the way back to the car after being made to walk.

5.30: Arrive at log cabin. Pour drinks, start cooking dinner.

6pm: On toilet as everything goes black. While my back was turned, my husband claimed he was tidying up while the Boy broke into the cupboard with the fuse box and somehow turned everything off. After failed attempts to resurrect power, sit in dark while my husband fetches someone from reception to fix electrics. Husband tells man he can't understand what happened and pretends fuse box spontaneously stopped working. I cannot look campsite man in the eye.

6.30pm onwards: Plan was to feed Boy first then have romantic date night. This collapses into farce as, partly because of fuse debacle and partly because we can't work the oven, the only food we have available for the Boy is gingerbread cake. We feed him this in desparation and he is then either on a sugar high or so excited he can't sleep. Evening degenerates into too much wine, eating fish while Boy charges around our legs, and many attempts at putting a hyperactive toddler to bed.

Saturday morning: Go to a child-centric tourist attraction, then onto another handsome town with plenty of shops. Agree that we will go to bookshop and I will look at display of children's books with the Boy while husband browses, then vice versa. Plan collapses when Boy tries to dismantle window display then becomes increasingly truculent at my attempts to stop him. March him to back of shop and hiss at husband that we have a few minutes to get out. Dash around shop picking up a couple of books. Boy has full on meltdown in shop. We hustle him out. Bookshop man looks at me pityingly and tells me it gets better.

Saturday afternoon: Go to holiday camp pool. Boy very well behaved. Have drink in lounge afterwards. Boy, who should be tired after swimming, keeps either trying to chat to men watching rugby or makes energetic escape attempts. He begins to tantrum and, again, is hustled from the room.

Sunday morning: Pool again and then home. Look for homely country inn or tearoom for lunch. Everything shut as it is Sunday. Feed Boy crisps in car for lunch.

Oh, it wasn't quite as bad as all that; we went to a bird of prey centre which was excellent, one of the places we stopped for food went out of their way to bring toys for the Boy, which we massively appreciate.

It's always a learning curve, though; this time we learned that Duplo will nearly always help, to keep sick bags in the car, to immediately block access to the fuse box, to have a list of things we need to take with us, to remove the Boy from shops the moment he starts looking like having a tantrum, and to always have some sort of emergency, vaguely healthy food in stock when we go on any weekend or day trips.

We also learned the Boy can easily demolish half a gingerbread cake; where he puts it we cannot guess.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Boiling point

Both my parents have been more or less ignoring me since the birthday conversation, apart from - since I'm meant to be picking them up from the airport in their car, which broke down on the way to dropping them off and which I've had to arrange to be repaired.

Things had moved on a bit from there too. From speaking to one of my sisters, it turns out some of the stuff in Mum's book is factually inaccurate. Mum'd made out she'd arranged a taxi home for my sister and a letter to my brother's girlfriend to let her know my brother was dead, but it transpired my sister had had a much bigger hand in things than Mum recorded. I genuinely don't understand why she did that; the charitable explanation is that things have gotten muddled in her head.

From speaking to my other sister, there seems to be some doubt that Dad has actually been diagnosed with Huntingdon's or has to be tested for Huntington's.

I had no contact whatsoever from my mother about the book, apart from her thirty second stroppy birthday message. But I have had two or three messages asking about the car, and when I ignored them - largely because I was still upset - today I got another one about the car.

There was a vague plan that my brother in law, who is more diplomatic and less personally involved, would give them a call. But being repeatedly asked for car updates while they ignored the book issue just made me snap.

So, shaking, and worried I'd just burst into tears, I called them up. After a big palaver (they have a different SIM card for that country, an any calling seems to need lots of fannying around with phones) I spoke to my Dad, said the car was fine but I was still angry about Mum's book. so got put on to Mum.

Och, long story, and I won't give you a blow by blow account, lest I sound like Vikki Pollard. But anyway, Mum initially came out with a lot of mad excuses; she had told me it was about my brother dying (no. Just no. She didn't), she didn't realise reading about it all again would upset me, she'd apologised to my sister (???).

She did say she is upset generally because I am nasty to her (I do get a bit snappy with her, for reasons outlined in previous posts, but not anything to justify this by a long shot).

I am also the bad one for stressing her out, which stresses my Dad out. Which kind of sounds like she should be given a licence to do whatever she wants just in case it somehow hastens my father to shuffle off the mortal coil.

She did apologise, eventually, after a lot of sticking to guns on my part. I was fucking sellotaped, welded on to the gun.

So, I think I got my point across and didn't let her wriggle out or obsfucate. In return, I will try and be a bit more patient.

It's alright, for the short term. But I think, long term, I'm going to be a lot more discerning about what I accept from her as fact.

Urrgh. I hate this sort of stuff; no matter how truthfully you think you've acted in an argument, just the fact that you've had a fight and blogged about it makes you seem like a candidate for daytime television chatshows.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Shovels and spades

As well as the novelty of staying somewhere with stairs, we've also being adjusting to having a garden. I have never, in my entire life, had an outdoors space I owned. We are both really looking forward to growing things.

The only problem is that the previous owners weren't into gardening, and the biggest usable plot was gravelled over.

About a month ago, I organised for someone who wanted gravel to take most of it away, but - annoyingly - he took the clean stuff on top and left the dirty and hard to dislodge bits underneath.

So for the past few weeks, whenever we have had a dry day at the weekend, we've been using a riddle (ie, a box with criss crossing metal wires at the bottom) to separate the gravel and the soil.

We also had a bizarre day last weekend where we went driving around the coast looking for seaweed but failed to find any. Then spent part of yesterday picking up bits and pieces of kelp before finding an enormous bank of seaweed just along the beach.

So most of this afternoon has been spent finally ridding ourselves of the gravel, digging in the seaweek, and removing random bits of brick and pipe from the bed.

We have potatoes sprouting in the garage, and some peas. We have a big patch of earth, which doesn't look like much, but is the beginnings of a vegetable garden. I'm absolutely exhausted from doing the most physical work I've done in years. But it is all very satisfying.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mean girl

I had a think about what to do about the book. I'd posted my not-mentally-ill sister her copy. I was considering calling my Dad.

And then I thought "Fuck it."

I think one of the reasons I got stuck so badly in the middle of things when I was 14-15 is that no-one stuck up for me then, and I was too frightened to really have it out with my mother. She'd usually send my father in to soften me up and then shout at me when I was on my own.

I think any relationship dynamics can get stuck in an unhappy rut if people fail in the same way all the time. I couldn't force anyone else to say my piece for me but I sure as hell could say it myself.

Given she's abroad, I texted her saying how upset I was that I'd been told it was a book about my mother's childhood but literally half of it was about my brother dying, how I didn't want any of it going online, and that she shouldn't be sending all this stuff to my ill sister. And that I didn't want to be in the book or have anything to do with it, and I thought she needed to see a counsellor.

True to form, I got a reply from my father saying I'd been too hard on her.

Rather than being softened up, I said it had all been bad enough the first time and I couldn't stop myself being dragged into it as a teenager, but it wasn't happening to me as an adult.

Dad then called - the line was terrible so we could hardly speak - and he said they're not publishing it but it will be an "internal family document". I tried to say I wasn't actually happy with this either but he couldn't hear me. He is calling tomorrow.

I found out later that my mother had called both my sisters and told them not to read the book, and that she "hadn't handled things very well". But that I'd been nasty to her.

Both my sisters have said they were glad I'd stood up to her (I think partly because it'd saved them the trouble), and that they were happy the self publication had been knocked on the head. Neither of them have read it; my ill sister deleted it, as I've said, but my other sister was dreading reading it.

I'd actually quite like an apology for her lying to me about the subject of the book. What she'll probably do is try and get me on my own when I'm feeling vulnerable and have a go at me (she once walked in on me when I was leaving the shower), although I hope this will be more daunting than it once was.

Anyway, Mum is upset, and while I wish the choice wasn't between upsetting her and going along with such a batshit and upsetting scheme, it was. And I think she really needs to consider why her behaviour was upsetting everyone else and why she thinks that's alright but her being upset isn't.

Ooh, the dramz! I'm going to have a nice cup of tea. I'm feeling much better about this than I was a couple of days ago.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

More about the fecking book

I was going to reply to comments but thought it might be easier to do a post on the whole book debacle.

To try and put this in context, it's probably worth giving a bit more detail on my Mother's "quest for the truth". I wasn't involved in any decision making over this, and it's obviously from the book that she didn't keep me entirely informed (things like my brother's friends writing to the family to offer condolences - I didn't see any of that). But then I'd come back from school and - for example - find my brother's autopsy report on the kitchen table.

I also remember a particularly miserable family holiday in which I had to accompany Mum and Dad to see the lawyers they'd hired, amongst other things, and the whole thing was discussed endlessly.

Mum could also something end up in a horrible competitive grieving mode. Once, after a few drinks at a family gathering, several months after my brother died, she started talking about all her work to uncover what had happened, which somehow ended up with her telling everyone that no-one cared about my brother dying apart from her. It was hideous and resulted in a massive row.

I know that sounds really awful and clearly the whole thing was very traumatic for her, but it was also horrible for everyone else. Everyone grieves differently but my mother's method was very difficult to live with. For the most part I just let her get on with it, as I had no choice.

I did become irrationally convinced I was going to die too, and began drinking quite heavily and did a lot of other stupid things because of this, and fell out badly with my old friends. I mean, some of this would have happened anyway - I was 15 - but I don't think I'd have been so nihilstic if I wasn't trying to cope with what was going on at home.

Anyway, I moved out and moved on. Our relationship got better, although she knows I don't like discussing my brother's death.

So, the book...

My mother has been writing this book for years. I read the start of an earlier draft about five years ago, but then got myself into her bad books by pointing out it was never going to be published unless she sorted out the spelling and grammatical errors. The earlier draft also made even less sense than the current version as she'd used a flashback device that made it virtually impossible to follow.

She did send it off to a publisher but this didn't worry me as, to be frank, it was absolutely no surprise when it got rejected.

A couple of years ago, when I was doing IVF, she said she'd rewritten it, and tried to get me to read the document. I just couldn't face her dragging it all up again so didn't touch the the folder it was in, which sat in our living room for a couple of weeks until she asked me if I'd read it. I said I han't had time and she looked annoyed but took it away.

She seems to have redrafted it again recently after going to a writing group. Since my Dad has been ill she has had a bee in her bonnet about being about to die (my granny had this also, for about the last 20 years of her life!). Then she discovered a cousin had been self publishing books on Kindle and that seems to have spurred her into action. Some of this is definitely about her wanting to be an author rather than it simply being about publicising my brother's death.

She told me the book was about her childhood before I read it, as presumably she knew if she'd said it was about my brother dying I'd have told her straight out I thought it was a bad idea. And that she's publishing it when she gets back, in about a fortnight.

I am actually quite upset I've been more or less forced to read it (I seemed to have a choice between ignoring her and it going online or reading it and being able to object, and reading it seemed the least bad option). Apart from dragging up a whole load of bad memories, which I don't want to relive, her book also implies there was some sort of foul play with my brother's death. There wasn't, but she just seems determined to blame someone, and I find that disturbing.

Anyway,  I don't want her to publish it because:

  • I think having details published of how my sisters and I found out our brother had died is massively intrusive. I wouldn't even be happy for my mum to show this to her writing group or for relatives to see it.
  • Ditto for my brother's partner, although the poor woman doesn't even know what Mum is planning. She might be ok with it, although I suspect she'd also find it upsetting
  • My sister has mental health problems (which I think are related to my brother's death). She's deleted the book without reading it but the nature of putting it online is that it will be out there, presumably forever, and I think she's highly likely to find out eventually, or read it after it is published
  • The book has elements of my Mum's competitive grieving; it says there can never be any closure for her, and she's written all this and made us read it because she loves my brother so much (the fact that her actions have damaged her relationships with her surviving children seems not to have occurred to her)
  • The conspiracy theory stuff is really awful
  • In other bits of the book she sounds borderline rascist and it just makes me cringe
  • It's really morbid; people and animals dying all over the shop
  • When I'm mentioned in the book outwith the context of my brother dying, which I am two or three times, it is as the subject of incredibly lame attempts at humour. This is fairly small beer in the grand scheme of things, but again, it makes my toes curl
Thank you all for your suggestions on the last post about where to go next.

I think there RE two problems. One is the immediate need to stop her publishing it. The less immediate, but in some ways more important issue, is to tackle why she thinks this is an appropriate way to behave.

I have considered letting myself into my parents' house and attempting to find and destroy all electronic and paper copies. However, I think this would make me a bad person, and anyway she has been working on it for years and I think I'd be unlikely to wipe out everything.

I will raise the points about legalities, stalking and putting too much identifying information online.

She has asked with help with formatting before, which I've said I can't do. While it is tempting to sabotage the project, it would make her think that I'm okay with the book and encourage her to carry on like this.

I think I will speak to my father and my sister (not the ill one, we've agreed not to mention any of this to her in case it makes her worse). I know if I speak to my mother directly she will be unreasonable, so I think either getting my Dad to speak to her or sending her a written communication may have a better chance of stopping publication.

Which kind of brings me to the issue of her behaviour generally. I've been greatly upset by this carry on; I haven't been sleeping, have had nightmares and just really feel I've been dragged back into a phase of my life I thought I'd escaped.

I really think that, given the way she acted during my teens, that she shouldn't be asking any more of me. I can understand her finding it therapeutic to write it but having to read it has the opposite effect on me. I think she does understand that it is upsetting for everyone else and must have realised none of her kids were very keen on her writings, but she seems determined to go ahead with it anyway. Either she genuinely can't grasp that it is upsetting or she thinks the gain she'll get from publishing trumps everyone elses feelings.

Anyway, I am not replying to her texts, and I just really can't face talking to her at the moment. She is bound to realise something is up in the next few days.

 I think she should either go to a counsellor or do something positive in my brother's memory (set up a memorial fund or similar), but I think we need to sort out the book thing first.

I had actually been wondering if she was developing or had some sort of age-related illness, both because of the otter business and because this book thing is such a staggeringly weird thing to do (I mean, this isn't normal, right?). But then, my granny didn't have any particular illness like Alzheimers but just got more stubborn and difficult as she got older; although she'd have been appalled about the book too.

Sorry this is such a long post and thanks for bearing with me, and for everyone's comments. It is really helping to try and pick my way through this.

It is quite therapeutic to write this out so maybe I should share it with my Mum (only joking!).

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The book

I didn't really want to read my Mum's book. But the prospect of her self publishing it without it being checked out seemed worse, so I forced myself to look at it. More in a way of trying to start trying to deal with the mountain of shit that seems to have come my way recently than anything else.

The first half is about my parents' early life, travelling around, but building up to "the tragedy of our family", and lots of references to children dying, and death generally. This is the best bit.

We then get to my bit when my brother dies in a car accident, after he emigrated - the plan was that he was going to start a new life and his longterm partner was going to follow later. About a third of the book deals with the immediate aftermath - incluing how some of us found out. I'm not terribly happy that I've been included in this.

There's also, over the course of the next few chapters, at least two or three viewpoints - I was finding this fairly hard to read - about exactly what happened when my brother died during the accident, from people my mother spoke to afterwards. None of them differ much.

Worse, she goes into a blow by blow account of how my brother's partner found out, references various discussions she had with the partner afterwards, and also includes the entire eulogy that my brother's partner wrote. I liked my brother's partner very much, but we lost touch with her after the funeral, I think for understandable reasons. I very much doubt that Mum has sought her out to get her permission, and the thought that she might stumble across the ebook turns my stomach.

There's a big section which is basically on the people who wronged her after my brother died, including people only tangentially connected with the whole sorry affair. It's just really boring, overly personal, and nobody - including my mother - comes out very well.

This bit finishes up with how she wanted justice and people held to account, and was going to go to the papers but "gave up for the sake of her family".

I'm actually pretty fucked off with all this. As a teenager, we had months and months of waiting on tenterhooks as part of my Mum's crusade to find the truth. I remember being deeply unhappy about it all but bottling it all up, until at least a year after my brother died, when she started talking about going to the papers and I objected. Shortly afterwards, I then found a "to do" list that she'd left on the kitchen table which included "going to the papers". I remember being upset and then her shouting at me for being upset and looking at stuff she'd left in one of the public areas of the house. I really got to the end of my tether with her and was very relieved when I left home.

Reading it all again, apart from bringing up some very unpleasant memories, I don't think that any of it is particularly newsworthy. I don't really understand what she's seeking to gain. Regrettably, people die abroad all the time.

Then there is a lengthy section about my parents travelling to where my brother died, which is mostly quite dull and goes into great detail about the guesthouses they stayed at and what they ate. Then the book goes into how the other holidaymakers at one of the places they stayed were uncomfortable when Mum started telling them about my brother dying, and how this made her feel bad, but she'd done it anyway even although my father told her it might not be the best idea in the world.

The book is also really badly written. The first section is the most interesting, but even then people randomly appear with no introduction. One of my siblings appears on a family holiday but is only born two chapters later. A close relative pops up in one of the final chapters but the reported excitement in seeing him is undermined in that he's never been mentioned before. I know what country they're staying in at various points in the narrative, but only because I'm related to them. The punctuation and spelling are pretty ropey.

I think she's written it as therapy, which is fair enough. But I think putting it online is deeply self centered, and is telling her surviving children its basically up to us to read it before she publically uploads it. One of my sisters is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the moment and, between the book and the HD, I don't really think this is fair on her. I don't think its fair on anyone.

I'm not sure what to do; I think I can reasonably insist that all references to me are deleted unless its rewritten. I think she needs to heavily edit sections dealing with my brother's partner; she's got an unusual name and I'm sure I've found her online, but it looks as if she's moved on with her life and is raising a family with someone else. Fuck knows what she'd make of my mother getting in touch and raking all this up again.

All the way through the narrative, there's a constant moaning about how my mother doesn't want to live in the country the family now reside in.

Still, at least there are no otters in the book.

What would you do?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Car crash

Valery pointed out I'd published and then unpublished a blog, bizarrely about otters. I think I may not be able to explain the context of the otters in what might be a fairly complicated post, but basically I kept wanting to blog and then something else would happen and, well, this is what's been happening.

Firstly, my father finally got a diagnosis - Huntingdon's Disease. This is a degenerative brain condition, and it is genetic.

Dad is in his late 70s and I'm old enough to know that everyone has to die sometimes. All the same, it feels awful to read about the longterm prospects of someone with Huntingdon's, which usually involves full personal care and death by a secondary cause like pneumonia.

Then there's the more complicated genetic aspect. I might or might not have the gene. My family are quite long lived - we suspect my granny had Huntingdon's also and she lived to be 80something - so I don't know if there's any point in being tested now, as it'd just give me something to worry about (although apparently late onset in one generation doesn't neccessarily pass down).

But then, we'd been talking about doing another IVF cycle, possibly as an egg share. This throws up all sorts of ethical issues about screening and disclosure. To be honest I haven't even started reading about this as I'm too miserable about my Dad to start.

And then, secondly, there's the rest of my family's general bonkersness.

One of my sisters, who I don't generally speak to very much as I find her quite hard going, keeps calling up to rant at me about genetic diseases, and how inconsiderate my parents are (we'll come to that in a second). She stays at home, and to be honest I find myself so weary with work and trying to sort my own head out I'm just not in the right space to listen.

Then there's my Mum. Again, each of these could be a blog post in themselves. Mum has written a book which is partly about my brother dying. She has left this with my and my siblings to read when her and Dad go on holiday, after which she wants to self publish it. I really can't face reading it right now and, to be brutally honest, wish she'd drop the whole bereavement aspect of the book.

Oh yes, the holiday. Halfway through the diagnosis process, my parents booked a holiday which is something like a 24 hour journey, involving flight changes and much hanging around at airports. It is a self drive holiday in a country famed for violent crime, and they have picked three bases. I did have words before they booked it about the wisdom of doing this and insurance, but they did it anyway - and booked the cheapest and therefore least direct routes on offer.

They found out about the Huntingdon's less than 24 hours before they left, so while it's kind of nice they're having a holiday, I think they've been really fucking pigheaded to book something so ambitious when it turns out - for a start - that Dad can't do any driving. And, as my sister has pointed out, they've left without really making much effort to explain what the consultant said to anyone else.

And, well, the otters. Part of the reason I'm so worried about the pair of them going away is that, despite the fact that Dad has the degenerative brain condition, my Mum is the one that appears to have lost any semblance of common sense.

Among other probability defying beliefs, she is insisting an otter - and bear in mind this is unheard of in the town I grew up in - got into their fish pond and ate 18 big ornamental goldfish in one go, with the only trace being a dead fish left ten meters away. When quizzed on the unlikeliness of she becomes vague or dissembles; the otter must have hidden bits of the dead fish at the bottom of the pond (?), they were away for a few days and didn't know what happened, they were there and while someone might have stolen the (valuable) fish, she still thinks it was an otter. Because believing that a fat bastard of an otter did it is a lot less worrying and less immediate than someone breaking into their garden.

I don't know. Sorry this has been such a disjointed post, but my Dad being physically fragile and getting into what seems like an endgame, my Mum becoming so completely unreliable, my sister being a pain in the arse, and then having to start finding out about the likelihood of having Huntingdon's myself, testing, IVF, yadayada...

I'm usually a big believer in life being what you make of it and trying to find solutions, but I all of this seems so completely out of my control that I can't quite see a route out. Apart from maybe pretending that everything is the fault of the Otter of Doom.