April is the cruellest month


I don’t like roast chicken.

I love it.

But I hate it.

It’s not a taste thing.

It’s because there’s a wishbone involved.

My gran would cook the most amazing roast chicken and we’d sit and do that wishbone thing. Little fingers prising a piece of bone apart and the words would always be the same.

‘Did you make your wish?’

‘Yes nanny.’

Every time the wish would be the same.

We left the hospital today, after visiting mum. We explained things.

‘Mum, you’re going to have to fill some forms in. People will have to make decisions for you. Do things for you. Things you can no longer do. Things you don’t need to do. It’s called Power of Attorney. Do you understand?’


Her eye moved so she looked beyond my shoulder. Behind me.

She disengages, the nurse said.

I was tempted to say that she’s always been like that. The disengagement isn’t because of the stroke she’s had. The stroke that means she’ll never be able to swallow again, eat again, move independently, use to the toilet or do anything without the assistance of two nursing staff and equipment.

The disengagement isn’t new.

She’s always been like that.

Which is why she’s like this now. Unable to swallow, eat, move independently, use the toilet or do anything without the assistance of two nursing staff and equipment.

She disengaged.

She’s always does this.

Did this.

She didn’t go to hospital appointments. She said she did, and covered up the fact that she didn’t by hiding letters saying that she’d been discharged because she didn’t turn up. She stopped taking her medication. She stopped eating. She pushed people away. This meant she had another stroke and the police had to break the door down to get an ambulance to take her to hospital. So she didn’t die.

It sounds harsh but I wish she had died.

Seeing her today, upset at the fact her incontinence pad had to be changed, hearing her cry while the curtains were closed and the staff cleaned her and addressed her sore on her spine, made me think that this is no life for her.

We explained. Over years. You do this and this could happen. You don’t do this and this WILL happen. You drink a lot and you’ll get ill. You have another stroke and you’ll need nursing care for the rest of your life.


I fucking hate being right.

We left the hospital and my aunt cried. Again. She hates seeing mum like this and her upset is unbearable to see. Sudden sobbing. Tears and questions. Questions which we will never be able to answer.

I sat in the car at a stop, and read mum’s Health Needs Assessment form. In traffic. Turning off of Brixton Road I noticed the front of my shirt had turned a different colour when I looked down. It was wet. And this water kept pouring from my eyes. I was crying and numb.

I thought about what we can do. Mum could, with time and patience, speak again. Surely.

The assessment says she’s beyond that. This is not a possibility. This is not an option. Don’t get your hopes up Spencer.

She’s not able to eat, and everything has to go into this tube in her stomach.

I wished for mum to stop drinking when prising those wishbones apart. I didn’t want this.

I sat in the car and it hit me for the first time. Thinking about what to do next, who to chase up regarding forms, visiting care homes, trying to understand what happened and if she’ll ever recover, be able to regain anything. After all the stuff I’ve found out quickly I know this is it. Nothing will change. I had to be strong. Give Mary a hug. Tell her, with all the best wishes and love I have that she doesn’t need to feel guilty. She didn’t do anything wrong. Mum did this and we’re sorting it. As best we can.

I’m good at that bit. But I know she didn’t buy it. I can’t suddenly take all this away from her. I can’t change things. I’m good. I can chop onions without crying, but I’m not that good.

I thought back to looking over the river, the view from the window of the ward while mum was being changed today, and the car started moving.

I saw mum’s face in my head.

It doesn’t take words to express just how upset you are. Sometimes you can see it in someone’s eyes, without any words or utterances.

She can’t see it in ours. She’s disengaged.

But I can see it in hers.

And it fucking broke me.



21 responses to “April is the cruellest month

  1. Jeez, that’s the most stark, honest, heart-rending thing I’ve probably ever read. No words can help, I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry you’re going through this. You’re brave and strong and you will get through this somehow xx

  2. Spence you made me cry. This is one of the most amazing heartfelt pieces I’ve read. I feel for you and wish I could do something to help you get through this – but I hope knowing that people are thinking of you, rooting for you, and care about you does make it all a little more bearable than it is. Take really good care of yourself xxx

  3. I want to comment but I don’t know what to say. Just-we are all listening. We can’t help. But we are here, listening. And wishing we could help. Sorry.

  4. Spencer, its not the same, as my Nan (I consider her my parent and always will) had a stroke caused by old age, stubbornness and cocking up her medication regularly forgetting it.
    When we visited her in that hospital she wasalive but dead. I loved her, and wanted her back so much. But seeing her there, unable to move except twitches, I felt she was no longer inside and I wished her to die.
    t was awful, the internal conflict saying “wake up nan, come back” and “please die, you’ve already gone”. I hear you Spencer. Twitter me if you need to yeah? X

  5. Reads like a passage from a fiction novel, I just wish it was.
    Best wishes through this tough time.

  6. Spencer, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.
    It’s heart-rending enough to read let alone experience it. I was spared the mental stuff with my parents but I remember how it felt to watch my Dad lose control of his bodily functions and his dignity to cancer. Despite me being 26 – it was hard to see. I saw my Dad cry because he’d soiled himself. I really feel for you. It’s tough. No, more than that, it’s a bastard. Life can be a bastard.
    You write so beautifully. This could be a work of fiction but I know it isn’t. It’s real.
    I know that you will find the strength that you need to get through this. You have so much spirit in you – a fighter. I’ve seen you fight for others and now you have to do it for your Mum – for yourself.
    So many people are here for you.
    If you need to vent – you know where to find me. x

  7. Bloody hell this was hard to read so I can only imagine what it’s like to live it! My friend is currently going through similar with her mum who has dementure and now her dad is ill in hospital!

    Thinking of you and all those with similar stuff happening in the their lives x

  8. Heartbreaking Spencer. Your loyalty and love for your mum shines through. Only wish I could help you and say something that will help but sending all my best wishes x

  9. Spencer. Wow. You’re right, it’s hard being right. you tried so hard so many times to help her. I listened, I read, YOU know you did it. I’m so sorry it’s come to this. The pain is hard, the basics of cleaning up, exhausting. You have my love, support and admiration from across the pond. You are a blessing

  10. It’s hard to know what to say here. This is written beautifully and honestly. I am sorry that this is happening for you right now, it definitely does not sound easy at all. But for what it’s worth, I think you’re wonderful xxx

  11. What an incredibly honest, brilliantly written piece. Heart-wrenching that its not fiction. Well done for being so open and honest – its the most imp thing to do at times like this. You can’t carry stuff like this all on your own….(PS I loved the title. Was just thinking about that line from T S Eliot’s poem today….)

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