We’ve had a tough week here. My parents have both had the flu and haven’t been able to help out as much as usual for the past couple of weeks. My brother-in-law, Scott, has been struck down too. Paul and I helped where we could. Louie was off school last week for half-term, so he spent some time at ours, playing with Joseph. They bicker like brothers but I love overhearing little snippets of their conversations, like this one. ‘Would you like to try a cherry, Joe?’ ‘No thanks, I’m not keen on cherries.’ On Sunday, we took our nephews and our two to Twinlakes, a local theme park. Some friends who have three boys of their own offered to come along too, and it was manic but fun. Afterwards, I felt exhausted. The whole thing really brought home the fact that our setup here only works as long as everyone is around and functioning in their given roles.
When I was having chemo and Rach had just had her stroke, every day was a logistical nightmare. There were two newborns, two energetic boys and two mums who were very ill in different ways. But we muddled through. Scott wasn’t working for a long time, and the babies were very portable. You could strap them into their carseats and visit Rachel while they slept.
When Scott went back to work, things changed. We have a system in place and it works well, but everyone has their part to play. I now visit Rach on the same day each week, for example, rather than whenever I fancy, because that’s the day that Scott doesn’t go in. My parents come over for three days a week and they spend time with Rach when Scott’s at work and then look after the boys while Scott visits in the evenings. Paul spends the same three days working in London each week. Everyone’s accounted for.
So when something goes wrong, things are quick to unravel. I was walking with Elodie the other day, half writing this blog post in my head, and I knew that various friends would tell me I should have asked for help. So that’s why I’m doing just that, despite finding it excruciatingly hard. It might be six months before we have another tough week, or there might be one on the horizon, so I’d love to put something in place, to be ready for it.
I’d like to set up a What’s App group of local friends who may be able to visit Rach when we can’t make it or take one of the children for an hour or two when we’re stretched thin. If you’d like to be in it, please let me know. But please know that it’s fine if you don’t want to, too. Family life is tough enough without taking on more. I understand that completely.
I hope those who know me know that I will repay this help whenever and however I can. I talked about this to my friend Claire, who is wise and whose take on things is always interesting. We talked about community and friendship and how people used to be very close to their neighbours and help each other out by watching the children and bringing meals to the sick. She thinks this is the modern-day equivalent of that. So I’m hoping that my call for help will prompt others to ask for help when they need it, too.
For now, things are back on an even keel. Louie is back at school, and everyone’s (very) gradually getting better. Yesterday was just a normal Monday. Elodie learned to take all her clothes off, including her nappy, and stood naked in the kitchen, very proud of her new trick. Joseph spent some time perfecting his tiger roar and then built a stage from cushions so he could perform ‘all the clever things I can do’. At one point, he was struggling to find something to use to join the cushions together, and I said that if he was the performer, he didn’t have to construct the stage too. That he couldn’t do everything. He looked a bit baffled and said, ‘yes I can’.
So, at four, Joseph believes he can do everything. And at thirty-seven, I know I can’t. And that’s ok.