Another Swell Party that was.
Nick’s birthday seemed to come around again very quickly after Christmas.
I was still recovering from a second bout of the horrible flu and still not quite right – weak, exhausted, fuzzy headed and feeling utterly thrown by the smallest thing. Hadn’t spent much time with Nick, not wanting to pass on the lurg.
I’d got his presents already – chocolates, a new clock and some Velcro fastening slippers - but the thought of having to organise a celebration just felt absolutely one step beyond.
The trouble was, Nick had been talking about this year’s birthday since around June last year. I’d been pushing him in his Red Cross wheelchair on one of the first days of the glorious heat-wave, celebrating a perfect summer morning, and he’d started talking about January and the birthday party he wanted to have. Nothing like thinking ahead, I quipped. But for a few weeks, while most people were thinking about ice lollies and sunscreen, Nick was inviting anyone he met to his party – six months in advance.
Well, in the end, most of the people from out of town couldn’t make it so early in the new year and so soon after Christmas. But somehow, despite me not having my eye on the ball and then Simon going down with the flu himself, and despite him not using the phone anymore or ever going out unaccompanied, Nick’s invitations had hit the bulls’ eye and LOTS of people turned up.
Another lesson that sometimes I don’t have to it absolutely all. Admittedly, there wouldn’t have been any food without me, and Simon had heroically staggered to the supermarket and bought a load of drinks. And I had been fielding texts all week about the logistics. But a lot of the actual inviting was down to Nick.
And it was such a lovely evening. Another swell party that was. We couldn’t have wished for more.
One friend had made a fabulous chocolate birthday cake with sparklers on top, another had made a quiche at Nick’s request, everybody brought him presents and cards and he spent the evening surrounded by well-wishers and friends – and surprise guests of honour his ex-wife and children, coming all the way from the north east on a school night. Ok, well that was my doing.
But it all reminded me to keep giving Nick more credit for acting independently, and to give us both more breathing space.
It is so easy to flip into permanent emergency mode when there is constantly so much to be done, and Nick can do so little of it himself, or half the time even understands the need. I know realistically that none of those people would have been there the other night without all the back up that Simon and I give, all the time.
But the flu, not being available or hands on, having to ask for more help, has altered my thinking.
First of all, Nick still does have an independent life to a higher degree than I might see, even if it is mostly internalised.
Secondly, I really cannot do it all and the only person who expects me to is me.
I’m still trying to figure out how other people can help, because many friends have said they’re willing, it’s just that I can’t quite summon up the brain power to put it all together.
Maybe send out a weekly or fortnightly list of tasks and social spaces, time-tabled to fit in with existing appointments and the carers coming in? It’s worth a try.
Has anyone else tried this? If you’re a carer yourself, what do you do to get more support when you need it? Please get in touch. I'd really love to know how other people manage. It's not going to get easier. We need to put our heads together and find more breathing space.