It was the usual family teatime: the baby sitting in her highchair and happily availing herself of anything edible within her not inconsiderable reach and the boy making the usual fuss about eating. For no reason I could fathom, he didn’t want the pasta I’d made. Okay, no problem; I’d do him a quick scrambled egg. There are days when I’m willing to battle, cajole and/or bribe at the dinner table and others when I can’t be bothered. This was the latter.
Having spent the whole of his short life looking horrified at the mere suggestion of a plate of scrambled egg heading his way, this summer the boy decided to actually taste it. And to my delight, it turns out that he really likes it. It’s become my standard fallback dish in the event that anything else I’ve lovingly made (or heated up) is rejected by him in the harsh and unforgiving manner of the X Factor judging panel.
So that day like many others, I cracked open a couple of eggs and in the work of minutes, presented his lordship with a lovely dish made just as he likes them. He took a mouthful and spat it out, proclaiming loudly ‘I don’t like it’. What? Either he was just having another one of his Elton John moments or I’d done something wrong. I thought for a moment and then realised I’d left out the grated cheese. So I pulled the cheese out of the fridge and grated a little pile of cheddar that I thought would solve the problem. ‘There you go, some cheese’, I told him, stirring it into the eggs and hoping that the lovely saltiness would satisfy him. He took a mouthful and swallowed. I watched as his face slowly creased up and tears pricked at his eyes: ‘I liked it how it was before!’, he wailed. I knew how he felt.
This summer has been a tricky one. In fact I feel in many ways that I’ve missed summer entirely; I’m a summer down. We all are. Since we had mum’s diagnosis back in June, life has been very different. She came storming through an incredibly tricky operation and embarked on her subsequent treatment programme with the sort of courage and grace that I could only dream of having myself. She travelled back and forwards to the hospital – over an hour away – for treatment for weeks without complaining. At one point she even seemed to be enjoying it; there was a sense of camaraderie between the patients that I hadn’t predicted but in hindsight makes perfect sense. But mum didn’t linger to chat on the day that she ticked off the final treatment from her schedule. She gave a few well-chosen gifts to the staff she’d got on well with, gave love and luck to the patients she’d got to know and left the hospital with a sense of disbelief that it was over.
We’ve learnt a lot since all this started: that the NHS is wonderful, frustrating and incompetent in equal measure; that you have to fight your own corner even when you’re lying in a hospital bed with staples in your head; that illness changes how people look at you and how you look at yourself; that it’s really difficult to concentrate on anything when your thoughts are consumed by the fact that one of the people you love most is unwell, and that little children don’t become less demanding or more helpful just because mummy is worried about her mummy.
Mum finished her treatment a month or so ago, and now we’ve all had time to settle down to what passes as a normal routine nowadays. We moved house a couple of months ago and although we’ve had a go at making it homely when we’ve had the time, there are still boxes to unpack, shelves to put up and things to find that seem to have disappeared entirely. When we’re not doing that, the daily chores that life with two small children bring with it keeps me occupied. And then there’s the time I spend with mum, just hanging out at home or doing lovely things together like having breakfast together in our favourite tearoom. That’s why I haven’t blogged for a bit (for so long in fact that I’d totally forgotten my WordPress login details). As much as I stamp my feet and shout that I liked life as it was before, nothing will change the last few months. This is the new normal and we’ve got to get used to it.