Goodbye Nana, Hello Peggy…

With my newly singled chicken left to roam on her ownsome I enlisted the help of a friend to house sit for me while I was away. I didn’t like leaving Susan the Chicken on her own but had little choice in the matter. The flights were booked and adding another chicken at this stage could have just upset the balance even more than it’d already been upset.

First I flew to Dallas, Texas to spend time with my sister. We spent the first evening dressed in Poodle skirts helping her mum in her groups ‘Songs of the 50’s’ show. The hall was packed with 800+ people who were very excited to see the group perform and rightly so – it was a fantastic evening. We finished up with a late dinner in ‘Waffle Shop’ in Longview, TX and then stopped on the way home for a look in ‘Graham’s Central Station’ night club. I have to say going from wearing a poodle skirt at a sock hop, to having waffles for dinner and ending up watching cowboys and black guys line dance together was probably the furthest from my expectations of the day but I highly recommend it.

The following day we made the 8 hour drive to Arkansas to visit our dad. We stayed in a hotel akin to ‘The Overlook’ hotel from the movie ‘The Shining’. In its day I imagine the Ramada in Mountain View to be a very smart modern joint to stay in. However, these days the large, long dimly lit burgundy carpeted hallways give way to an air of creepiness in which you can imagine coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the night when a set of partially opaque twin girls float inches above the floor between you and the ice machine.  The indoor swimming pool sat sparkling under the incandescent lights, luxuriously carpeted to the edges and with white plastic deck chairs a plenty as though waiting for a party that no one turned up for. It was like holiday season came and went but everyone forgot this place.

On the last evening of our stay my sister randomly decided to get another tattoo. There was a place across the street so we walked over to have a browse, found a tattoo she liked and ran with it. It was such a pretty tattoo and I hope she remembers it along with the great fun we had on that trip.

Just like good times roll along, they soon disappear and by that weekend I’d received news that my dear Nana, ‘Peggy’ whom had been resident in a care home in the UK for the past year living with Alzheimer’s, had become ill.

I use the term ‘living with’ rather than ‘suffering from’ because Nana never really did ‘suffer’ from illness. She went through skin cancer and lived, bowel cancer and lived and then she became a liability to herself living alone in her own house.  So my mum moved Nana in with her for about a year before Nana’s mobility became too bad to be able to move around my mums little Victorian house with all it’s quirky floorboards and steps. The only downstairs toilet was the original outdoor loo and in the winter it was really too much to drag a wobbly 80 year old lady out to.

After a year mum found Nana a place in a small unit within a care home with 5 other ladies living like housemates but all with varying degrees of dementia. Right up until I’d gone on holiday Nana had been doing fine. She only recognised the people close to her, the ones who regularly visited – me, my mum, my son, my partner, my brother and my friend Neil. She’d beam when I walked in the room and although she wasn’t entirely sure of the relationship between herself, my mum and me she knew who we were and even on my last visit referred to me as ‘Glamour Girl’, something she’d called me as from as young as I have memories.

Mum’s message stated that she’d stopped eating and had taken to bed but seemed quite comfortable.

The next day the message was that the last response anyone got out of her was when they showed her a photo of my son as a baby and she smiled. She always loved that photo.

The 3rd day the doctor had been in and said she didn’t have long.

I had the horrid decision to make of whether to fly back to be with her or not. After careful consideration I decided against it and I made this decision, to quote another blogger – because I’m ‘selfish and honest’.

My mind also works in pictures and smells. I didn’t want to replace the image of that last visit I had with Nana where she’d been sat in her chair next to the window laughing and making fun of my mum, drinking tea and nibbling a biscuit. And the smell of her powdery face as I gave her a kiss goodbye and she smiled and waved at me – I didn’t want to replace that with a vision of her withering away, unresponsive in bed and possibly the haunting sounds of her last breath because it’s not something I would have ever forgotten. And that is also the reason I chose not to attend her funeral today. She would have understood.

Nana passed away the night of my mums 3rd message, peacefully and without pain. She went to sleep and never woke up and I couldn’t have wished anything better for her.

Some other members of my family decided not to attend the funeral for their own reasons and in light of this we had a dinner together.  I booked the table for 8 people at a local restaurant but on the night one person was unable to attend.  The waitress pointed us to our table in the corner of the old oak beamed pub. On one side there was a wooden church style bench and on the other 4 wooden chairs with cushions on the seats. Three chairs were identical but the fourth at the end which no one sat in was a large prominent wooden chair with tall spindles at the back and a wide flat wooden arm rest on either side. It was like a head of the table chair and it remained empty which I thought was befitting of the occasion and decided perhaps Nana had joined us and was sat in that chair.

Jumping back a couple of weeks – I arrived back from the states after spending that week with my sister and another week in the town where I used to live – Aiken, SC. I’d spent that last week catching up with friends and shopping but the latter part of it was dampened by the news of my Nana’s passing. Before I’d gone to the states I’d arranged a  week of holiday in Scotland with Wil since Cam would still be in the states for another few weeks. I arrived back, spent one night at home and then set off for Scotland the next day with Wil.  We had a brilliant time and unlike other times we’ve mountain biked in the highlands, managed to come home intact.

On the last few days I had before returning to work I focussed my attention to the chicken issue. Susan was still wandering around the garden on her lonesome although she seemed less freaked out by this as the last 3 weeks of eating, sleeping and shitting on her own had toughened her up somewhat. I paid a visit to the poultry farmer and chose a Speckledy Hen.  Apparently renown for being good egg layers and good pets, this one was about 4 months old and nearly at point of lay (meaning she hasn’t yet laid her first egg but it won’t be long!) As expected introducing her to Susan was not without some trouble. Susan spent no time at all kicking the new girls ass, pulling beakfuls of feathers and generally cornering her in order to peck the crap out of her head. I monitored this all very closely and before the new girl came to any real stress or harm I split them up and just allowed them to be near each other with some wire fencing in between. It’s a process that chickens need to have to establish the pecking order but I ensured it happened as painlessly as possible for all involved. Including my soft self!

It took about 4 days and suddenly everything was peachy, the girls bonded and began roaming the garden together in harmony.  Susan seems to have stepped up to boss lady status and the new girl ‘Peggy’ just trails her around reacting to subtle chicken notions from Susan that keep her in line with no fuss or feathers spared.

Photos from the USA and Scotland trips can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxsden/

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