Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.childhood awareness photo

It is almost exactly two years since young Daniel began secondary school. All dressed up in his new uniform, white crisp shirt and blazer, so different a look to his usual choice of tracksuit or football kit. He looked so very handsome, and yet still cheeky! Dan only got to wear his uniform for six weeks. Daily he complained of feeling more and more tired, and became less like the Daniel we knew, even falling asleep after a game of football. Eventually he was admitted for tests and very quickly we discovered Dan had leukemia.

September is childhood cancer awareness month.

It is a month in the year when we remember the many children here in Ireland and around the world, this very day, who are fighting with everything they have, to live. It is a month in which we can remember the many families who are missing a little one from their lives, who took family photos of siblings going to school for the first time, while holding up a photo of a missing brother or sister. Families who have lost a much loved child. It is also a month in which we celebrate those children who made it through cancer, who are today running around, playing with friends. Back home after many months of treatment. Cancer free.

Childhood cancer awareness month is  a month in which we can highlight the many different charities out there who support children and families during the darkest days in their lives. These charities are not that well known because thankfully many of us have never had any contact with them.  So tonight I’d like to highlight one of them.

Those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I spoke of this  charity before. It is Aoibheanns Pink Tie, a charity began by a father who lost his eight year old princess, Aoibheann to cancer. I have written about Jimmy Norman and this charity before in this post here. This charity offers aoibheanns pink tie fundraiserpractical help to families who are undergoing chemotherapy in St Johns Ward, Crumlin.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer many parents will not be in a position to return to work. There will be transport costs, accommodation costs, childcare costs and difficulties, as well as medical costs. Imagine the worry of all that on top of  the worry that your little one may die. For these families APT is there. They are also there to help with little things, and it is often these little things that mean so much.

For instance on a young childs birthday APT sends a gift by post, because we all know there is nothing like a parcel arriving in the post to put a smile on a child’s face. They have a wonderful team who travel the country painting the walls of the bedrooms of some of these children with amazing murals. However my favourite thing this charity does is that it provides the children who have Hickman lines with dry suits. This allows children, who may have these lines in place for a couple of years, to play in paddling pools or enjoy splashing in the sea with family and friends on a hot Summers day, instead of looking on from afar and missing out on an essential part of childhood.

Lastly Childhood Cancer Awareness Month allows us to highlight the advances being made in the treatment of Cancer, and the need for us all to consider financially supporting those programes. When Dan was first diagnosed we held tight to the figure that 85% of those with Acute Lymphoid Leukemia survive. Within two weeks we discovered that Daniels leukemia was not as straightforward as it was hoped. A new regime of chemo had to begin, a new drug would be used and hopefully this would work. Fifteen years ago that drug did not exist. The rapid advances in cancer treatment as a result of research meant that Daniel got a chance. A chance we were so very grateful to get so early in his diagnosis.

This month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This month I remember Daniel, and salute those who worked so hard to save his life, and those  amazing people in APT who are there to support families during the worst days in their lives.

For more information on Aoibheanns Pink Tie please check out their facebook page here, and maybe even give them a like.

 

Where does your school rank?

The top 400 schools in Ireland were printed today.

Tonight I am wondering what exactly makes a school a ‘top’ school? Is it really, as these tables tell us, a school with the largest percentage going to University?

Since their inception I have been uncomfortable with the idea of printing these ‘top’ schools. My reasons are many. Among them is the belief we are comparing apples and oranges. Some of these schools have attending them, a majority of pupils who have come from homes where one or both parents went to University. For these pupils, going to University is a given, the only thing to be decided is to which one? These schools are then compared with schools in an area of less prosperity, where the majority of pupils come from homes where it is the exception if a child goes to University. Schools in towns a distance from college where pupils going forward to University will need to live away from home, a cost many families cannot afford. Is this really a fair comparison? Many of the top schools are fee paying? Does that mean we are not doing the best for our children if we cannot afford to pay for their education?photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/noomai/2335073217/">Mai...</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

I also ask the question, do we all want our children to go to University? I remember a number of years ago remarking to my husband that the top school that particular year had 100% of it’s pupils go to University. At the time I was impressed. My husband turned to me and said, ‘Was their not a free thinker among them?’. It made me think. He was right. Surely at least one of them should have wanted to do something a little less mainstream? Was free thinking not encouraged?

When it came to choosing a secondary school for my own children I was fairly sure of where I wanted to send them, but I wanted to be sure. So off we went to various open nights of schools in the area. I remember going to a school relatively near to where I live. This school had a new principle and rumour had it he was very driven to improve his schools ranking in these league tables. As I was a less experienced parent at the time, I thought that sounded perfect.

We sat down to the principles address, having briefly toured the school. My son was listening. The principle began by outlining the choices and opportunities that boys attending the school would have, and then he said, ‘However in this school we do not have the resources to deal with those of you who have boys with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia etc. Even though they are very welcome here, we feel it is only right to let you know’. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was politely saying ‘No thank you, to my dyslexic son’. As I have watched this school climb up the league table chart, I have never forgotten how this man, an educator, had treated my son who was sitting in the audience that night. Is this really what ‘teaching’ is about?

As you can imagine instead of this ‘top’ school we chose the local community school. An all inclusive school, with an all kind of everything, population. Over the past nine years it has provided our children with a wonderful academic education, but more importantly an education for life. My son’s dyslexia was never a problem, and he received so much support. I can honestly say most of his teachers went above and beyond the call of duty in teaching him, and some were very emotional when he got the results he wanted in his Leaving Certificate. This was teaching in it’s purest form. These were ‘real’ teachers, working with every type of pupil, from the very brightest, to those with educational and psychological needs, and those who would rather be anywhere but school.

Today as I looked through this years newly published league tables and noted the place our school was on the list, I was proud to see it’s rank. No it is not in the top ten, nor even is it in the top 100, but what does that matter? For myself and the many more who have the privilege of having our children educated there, it is number 1.

photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

Does a competitive nature ever die?

If you are born competitive, will you always want to win?

I was prompted to ask myself this question after reading a fellow (Irish) bloggers post one day.It was the blog Raising Elves, and in a post she asked, ‘Does winning or losing effect who you are?”Does winning well in childhood make you a more ambitious adult? Does losing in childhood make you give up or not bother?’

These questions really caught my attention. Reading them prompted me to wonder if in fact the opposite might be true. Does a childhood of losing make you determined to succeed as you got older? Or does a childhood of winning mean you no longer feel the need to?  This final question is the one I can relate to the most, for I have changed immeasurably as I have got older,from the very competitive individual I used to be.

When I say I was a very competitive child, I mean very competitive.I would compete over anything and everything. First down the stairs. Fastest eater. First home from school. First finished homework. All very important competitions, to myself. When at the age of nine I took up swimming I had at last an outlet for this competitiveness.

I competed within the pool against myself and those around me. Every second was a competition. In training I’d race someone in the next lane, in and out of the turn, off the dive, fastest to finish. It was exhausting, but the drive to win was not something I could turn off. No one else in my family competed in sport, nor did my Mom or Dad push me in any way. It was what I loved to do.

One of my most memorable competitions was when I was fifteen. I was swimming in the National Championships. At the time Juniors were allowed compete at senior level also. I was small for my age, and underweight, but inside I saw myself as tall and as strong as anyone else. We were lined up for a final. I was not in the fastest three lanes. Waiting for the race I was nervous. I swam it a number of times in my head, and when I reached the third 25m in my imagination, I talked myself through the oxygen debt, the pain, and the doubts I might experience. Each time I swam it I saw myself approach the last 5m. I dug deep, kicked like crazy, held my breath and always won.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/danjc003/1876117737/">Daniel Coomber</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

As I walked over to my lane I can remember thinking ‘yikes this is it’. I looked across at my fellow finalists and for a moment I was intimidated. Putting on my goggles, as the whistle blew, I stepped forward to the blocks. As I stood on the back of the blocks I looked down the pool and as I did so I felt a wave of adrenaline pass over me. I inhaled deeply and in that moment I had no doubt whatsoever that I would beat the other finalists. I felt calm, determined, and ready. I would beat them. My focus was aggressive. Not that I would win, but that I would ‘beat them’. I dived in and for almost 75m of the 100m I felt nothing. No pain, no oxygen debt, no panic. Nothing. I was in ‘The zone’. Coming out of the last turn I took a quick look across the pool, I was about a half a body length ahead. I was now definitely out of the zone, and the pain was beginning to seep in. With only metres to go I put my head down, just as I had in my fantasy race, swam many times before competing, and I managed to just hold on. I had thankfully ‘beaten them’.

That race took place a long time ago, and perfectly illustrates the person I was then. However it is a world away from the person I am now. I am still somewhat competitive in that I enjoy competition, and will try my best, but winning is now ‘nice’, not essential. I still do not like to be beaten, but I do not overly mind not winning.

I wonder sometimes is it that I have mellowed as I grew older? Has the need to win lessened, or am I just lazy now, not prepared to push myself or to hurt as much as I used to? Has my competitive nature died?

I play golf now, and recently someone commented that they thought I should be a much lower handicap than I am. They had managed the team I played on in mixed doubles. He said watching me he thought I was highly competitive and focused. As I listened to him I realised that he was right. In a team event I am that old person. I want to win for my team mate. I want to beat the others. I care. However individually I know I have lost the killer instinct, and you know what? I miss it.

I am not sure why I have lost it, or when. I know that last year as young Daniel was sick, and after he died, that I hadn’t the stomach to compete. Who cares who won or lost? It was only a game. Now I am back competing, and I can feel myself enjoying competition once more. However when it comes to that extra push, that moment when I must dig deep because I want to ‘beat them’ and win,  I back off. I make a mistake and winning is over. And do I care, I mean really care? No. In my head I am disappointed, but deep down I just don’t care. It was only a game.

Writing this I realise that I miss caring. I miss the joy of ‘beating them’. I miss winning. I miss that determined lady I used to be. Maybe that lady has gone for good, but I hope I’m wrong. I really hope that some day I’ll find her again, and if I do I’ll let you know, and I wonder if I’ll still like her.

photo credit: Daniel Coomber via photopin cc
photo credit: jdlasica via photopin cc

Sometimes it is hard being a Mom.

Today many of you will say a fond farewell to the baby you knew. Your little one will leave the safety of your arms and walk in the classroom door to a new world. No longer will you be the main influence on their lives. An unfamiliar phrase will soon become common, ‘Teacher says’. A new era in their little lives will have begun. You will be no less their mother, but they will be a little less your baby.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/martinb/220957011/">Martin Burns</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Here in my home my youngest begins sixth class. I can remember the tears of her first day, and they were not hers! Now seven years later I am relieved, knowing that she has another year in this school. It has been a wonderfully happy experience for her. Next year she will leave this lovely place which has introduced her to new friends, given her a love of Irish, and encouraged her to be the best she can be. Next year another phase in our lives will begin. Thankfully not until next year.

As I brought her to school today, this tall twelve year old, a senior, we both ‘Awwed’ over the many little ones we saw, hand in hand with their parents. Some skipped, some strolled and some fell at the last hurdle and needed to be carried. I said goodbye to my ‘little one’ at the gates, and as she walked away, carefully groomed ponytail bouncing from side to side, the years fell away, and with a physical pain in my heart I wondered, ‘Where did my five year old go?’

On arriving home I pulled out my old writing case. I was looking for a card. A card sent to me eight years ago when this girl was that five year old. I sat on my bed and looked at it. On the cover was a black and white drawing of two teddy bears, sitting on a bench backs facing me, arms around each other. It said ‘Thinking of you’. Inside, was a now yellowed cut out from a newspaper, below which my Mom had written,

‘Tric, I have this from your 1st day at school. Love from Mum.

First Day At School.

Tomorrow
She will take him by the hand
And lead him through the portals
Of a strange unknown land,
The youngest of her brood
The fledgling leaves the nest_
She will pretend and jest
To hide the rising tears
And grasp his little fingers tighter
As if to cling a little longer
To remembered years.
But she is a mother
And her unquiet fears
She must conceal and smile
Upon his shining face
Upturned for that embrace
Of parting
Her tears will flow
As homewards-alone-she will go.

(Mai O’Higgins).

This morning reading that poem I indulged myself and let tears fall. I cried for my babies who were babies no longer. I cried for the mothers facing this moment today. I also cried for the mothers who were missing their babies, and for Daniel and Ben who were not putting on school uniforms today.

First day at school is a big day in all our lives. I hope where ever you are that your little one was happy and that you managed to wait until they were settled before any tears were shed.

photo credit: Martin Burns via photopin cc

Talk to me.

What are you thinking?
I am sure many women have asked this question and sat patiently waiting for the answer,  and many men have heard it and thought, ‘Oh no, not again!’. It would appear that both sexes in general like to communicate in different ways, and this can lead to all manner of difficulties.small__9482453594

I can remember a day, when my marriage was still young and fresh, hearing a morning radio show host deliver his words of wisdom on the topic.
He described a scenario relevant to every couple who have ever been in a long term relationship.

A woman asks her partner if he would like a cup of tea? He doesn’t hear her and so he doesn’t answer. She flips out and he is left perplexed as to her over reaction.
The show host then says ‘The fool , the fool! Does he not know its got nothing to do with the cup of tea?  Its to do with something he did or didn’t do weeks or months earlier’.‘It’s never about the cup of tea!’.

At the time I laughed and thought of my parents.
Now 22 years and many cups of tea later I think of myself and my own husband!

Isn’t it incredible that even to those we are closest to we cannot always communicate?
Isn’t it strange that we can undress and reveal all to someone, and yet not be able to show them how we really feel. Tell them what is really bothering us?.

Sometimes I wonder is it all a test?

Are we deliberately not telling in order to see if our partners;
1.Notice that something is up?
2. Care enough to try to figure it out
3. Love us!

We all have the ability to communicate, and do so in many different ways. We use language, laughter, tears, hand gestures (not two fingers, I mean waving and pointing!). We even communicate using silence.

With so many ways to communicate, you would think it should be easy to understand each other fully.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/changeist/5977598837/">changeist</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

However we communicate in riddles.
We smile….at someone we dislike.
We say “I’m fine…..when we are definitely not fine.
We say ” I want to be alone”….when we are oh so lonely.
We say “it’s not you, its me… when it is very definitely you.
We cry sometimes.. but they are tears of joy.
We say ” you look lovely… when they do not.
We say “see you again soon… when we mean never.

Over thousands of years our communication skills have evolved and developed. However, we still would seem to have a way to go. In many relationships there are moments when, perhaps a woman, is unimpressed/upset/annoyed/lonely/or sad about something and perhaps a man, is wondering what on earth is wrong with her. She communicates her upset non verbally, and he can never solve the puzzle.

Thankfully it would appear that at last this generation have come up with a solution. It is not a mind reading device, nor is it a warning bell, or list of possible answers. No, it is a simple modern day solution to an age old problem.

Today’s generation can sit down beside each other in the worst of moods, turn on netflix, open a bottle of wine, and unlike in the olden days, they can actually be upfront with each other and ask straight out what is wrong?
Well they don’t actually ask that, instead he can pull out a phone and text “Wots up wit you?“. She can then text back “You”.
And so the conversation can begin.

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin <a
photo credit: changeist via photopin cc

photo credit: jcbonbon via photopin cc

Thank you my blogging friends.

Today is a good day! Take a look to your right and you will see my shiny new badge. I have been shortlisted for the Irish Blog awards in the Best Personal Blog category. It says ‘short’list but actually it’s still quite a long list if you ask me. blog awards ireland

Late last night as I was up watching a load of rubbish on the television, I saw on facebook that the shortlist was live. I tried to stay non caring and casually went to the link, yes very casually if you must know. I went down the ridiculously long list of shortlists and to my horror I was not there. In that moment many emotions flooded through me. Disappointment being the number one. I also felt cross, on behalf of my blog. Why did they not like it? I love it. Then I realised I was looking at the wrong list. I was not nominated in Best Lifestyle but in Best Personal category. Glad that no one had heard my cries of dismay, I casually raced over to Best Personal shortlist, and there I was. Phew.

It is a good few hours now since I learned the news and I am delighted. However that moment of disappointment has made me think. Regardless of how many times we hear ourselves say, ‘What does it matter, I blog for myself’, it does in fact matter. I cared last night. I cared, that  as the writer on this blog, I was not shortlisted, and I cared that someone did not like my blog.

Last year I made it to the finals. I can see now that that was a great achievement, but as I was a very new blogger at the time, I had no appreciation of that. This year is different. I am not exactly an experienced blogger, but I am no longer new. I have grown to love my blog. It is in fact, in many ways, a part of me. As the title says it is, “My thoughts on a page”. This year these awards mean more to me. I care that I am being judged. I care that someone might not think I am up to the mark. I care what you think of me.

Today I know a number of bloggers who are disappointed. I know it sounds trite but I actually am gutted for them. Some in particular are really good bloggers, and I question their omission. Having felt disappointed last night, if only for a short while, I can imagine how they feel, and wonder is entering these awards and having your blog ‘judged’ a good thing?

However for myself it has all worked out well. I am at this moment delighted. I will probably be writing you a ‘Help I want to delete my blog because I didn’t make the finals’ post in a few weeks, but tonight all is good in my world.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/foxtongue/3152635763/">Foxtongue</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Regardless of whether I make the finals I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who read, like and comment on my posts, and especially those of you who took the time to nominate me. What a year it has been. So many of you have stuck there right beside me. You were there to celebrate with me when the young warrior was well, you comforted me when Dan was sick, and so many of you reached out to me when we lost him. Since then you have continued to comfort and support me when needed. It has not been all misery here and we have also shared some great laughs, often at my husbands expense, and discussed a huge variety of issues. I have enjoyed enormously writing every post, but it is your interaction with me that has made the whole experience one which I can never adequately describe to a non blogger.
I am proud to number so many of you among my ‘friends’.

Thanks a million all of you, my friends.

photo credit: RodrigoFavera via photopin cc

A lifetime of mothering has taught me what?

I have been a parent now for over twenty years. In that time I have become a very different mother to the anxious, overly protective, young Mom I was to my first baby. Tonight as I reflect on that journey I thought I might share the many fails and successes I have experienced along the way.

Epic fails.

Believing, even for a moment that my babies would love their beautifully decorated bedroom as much as I did.
They first entered that bedroom around the age of four months, only to exit it for the first time approximately two hours later.

Never imagining for a second, that a baby would be born without the knowledge of night and day.
Watching them sleep like nocturnal animals by day, while feeding, crying or gurgling all night is something even years later I have not forgotten.

Thinking a weeks potty training would be an end to nappies.
In order to continue progress I learned that even young children know how to manipulate a situation in order to maximise bribes.photo credit: Alain Bachellier via photopin cc

Forgetting that two year old children are quick.
On one occasion I lost two two year olds. Having searched high and low, and even ran down the road looking for them, I discovered they had learned the game of hide and seek. Both were in the newly delivered dresser in the kitchen, hiding in the cupboards.

Believing my dyslexic sons inability to recite the alphabet or nursery rhymes was because he was a boy!
Whenever anxious family members wondered, I was not concerned. Did they not know that boys were not as quick as girls?

Having no doubt that no daughter of mine would ever wear a skirt that short.
I did a full turn on this one. It did not mean my girls were destined for a life walking the pavements or were soon to become teenage Moms. It was just a moment in time, which thankfully passed quickly.

Thinking that only bad parents don’t know where their children are at all times.
Children throughout time have mastered many methods of duping parents. My own little darlings were no exceptions, although it didn’t stop me using counter intelligence to try to thwart their plans!

Thinking that an eighteen year old is an adult.

How wrong can a person be? An eighteen year old is still on many occasions a lost soul looking for direction. Parenting, it would seem to me, is a job for a lifetime.

Successes.

Learning that ‘spoiling’ a baby leads to a contented baby.
Having struggled with bedtime routines and rules with three children, I threw away the rule book on my fourth child. I fed her when she wanted, I picked her up when she cried, and I stopped watching the clock to ensure she went to bed at the right time. The result was a contented baby, who upset our days and nights so much less than any of my other children.

Understanding that all babies progress at a different rate, and all get there in the end.
After my first I stopped trying to fast forward their lives. By the time it got to my fourth child I found myself wondering ‘Wow when did she learn to do that?’. I also noted that they all caught up in the end.

Not being concerned by convention.

I allowed my daughter to go to school with three pony tails in her short hair, because she thought it was lovely. It most certainly wasn’t. I was also happy to buy boys school shoes for another daughter as she disliked girls shoes, and I was very relaxed watching my son wheel a doll in a pretty pink pram to the shops.

Trusting my own instinct as to what was best for my child.
Not all my children were outgoing. Many people thought that I should pull back, send them to school early and push them more. I did the opposite, believing my children needed a bit more time to become the confident children they would eventually become. Looking back I wouldn’t change a moment.small__47789465

Discovering that ‘Good night time’ is very important.
Five minutes spent lying beside a child before they go to sleep often begins a conversation that might never have happened. Small worries may be shared, or happy moments enjoyed.

Learning to never react to any news.
As my children grew older I became an Oscar winning actress. No matter what secret or news they divulged I remained calm, head nodding, and bit my lip to ensure the “WHAT?” that was on the tip of my tongue, stayed there.

Organising ‘girls night’.
As my family expanded it became harder to spend time alone with them. We organised girls night so they knew that once a week we’d have time together. It was a simple night, usually involving a treat and a half hour viewing of ‘friends’ DVD, but it was a special time.

Remembering that even on the darkest of parenting days that ‘This too will pass’.

Sometimes our children hate us, and sometimes it is hard to like our children. These days are difficult but they are part of our children growing up. Thankfully in time just like so many other phases in their lives this too passes.

There are so many more lessons I’ve learned as I’m sure some of you reading have also. However if I were to share two things I learned above all else it would be these.
That parenting is a difficult job which we learn over time, and which involves a lot of trial and error.
My second nugget of advice is for those of you who have survived the many trying days of early motherhood and are now faced with the new challenge that is a teenager. To you I would say, ‘Pick your battles carefully’.

Parenting is not an easy job. As I look back on the past twenty years I remember that day I first discovered I was pregnant and how I imagined our future. I laugh now thinking back to those early days and first experiences as a mother. It has been a difficult road, but one I will always be happy I undertook. Would I go back again? Yes most definitely.

**********************

As a side note today I did the ice bucket challenge in memory of my Dad. If you would like to see it I reluctantly posted it on my facebook page here. It is not my finest hour.

And just in case you hear my comment at the end, Eejit can also be an affectionate term of endearment!

photo credit: Alain Bachellier via photopin cc
photo credit: RodrigoFavera via photopin cc

What is the point of the ice bucket challenge?

When I see the ice bucket challenge videos on line I sigh. For when I read #icebucket, I read MND. I read Dad. I read dying slowly. I read loss.  This is my reality. This is what the Ice bucket challenge means to me.

It was almost thirty years ago when my Dad first noticed his legs and arms becoming weak. At nearly fifty, and a fit man he was puzzled. It was some time later before we noticed my Dad stumbling, slurring his words and having difficulty with everyday tasks. Tests were carried out and eventually we were told he had Motor Neurone Disease. A relatively unknown disease at the time.

There was no cure and no treatment. Thirty years later nothing has changed. There is still no cure and no treatment. Is there any other disease in the world we can say that about?small__14927191426

So every day as I watch those videos I am glad. Maybe at last some money will be put into research, and there will be in our future some hope offered to those who are told they have this awful disease.

However mixed with this delight that MND is at last being spoken about, my thoughts quickly turn to memories of Dad. Take this morning for example. I was online briefly waiting to bring my daughter to gym, when I saw a number of ice bucket challenge videos posted. Moments later I was in the car with my daughter  listening to her and her friends as they chatted together.

It was a beautiful bright sunny morning. As it was early the roads were almost empty. The ice bucket challenge had cranked up the old memory reel in my head, and as I drove I continued to watch it in my minds eye. Today’s viewing was of  a Sunday morning drive, almost thirty years ago. I was just learning to drive and accompanying me at the wheel was my Dad. I was a competitive swimmer at the time and rose each morning at 4.50am. Except on a Sunday, that was my day off.  As early mornings meant nothing to me, we had decided that each Sunday my Dad and I would get up early, when Dublin traffic was almost non existent, and go for a practice drive for a couple of hours.

As I drove my daughter this morning I smiled inwardly remembering those very precious hours I spent with my Dad. In a family of five children it was never easy to have time alone with a parent, especially a working parent. Each Sunday we would head to the relatively newly built dual carriageway, which felt like an open road. There was very little need for instruction there, allowing us both to talk. And how we talked. Sometimes we spoke of serious topics, or one of my favourites, his past. We also spoke of my future, my hopes and dreams. But despite these many hours of chat, my most vivid memories of those days are of the many times we laughed together.

Those Sunday morning drives were enormously enjoyable. Never for a moment did I think that in years to come I would remember them for so much more than learning to drive. As we headed off each Sunday, neither of us could ever have imagined what lay in store. We didn’t know that for my Dad the clock was ticking. Motor Neurone Disease was waiting to rob us of his future. Slowly over time my young, fit. patient, active, loving Dad would find himself in a wheelchair, unable to feed himself, and in time unable to swallow. Yet looking back we could have coped with those losses, regardless of how hard they were, but the cruelest of all was to come. In photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/werkman/2046135197/">Peter Werkman (www.peterwerkman.nl)</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>time my Dad lost his ability to speak. Long before he died we would no longer hear his wit at the table, or enjoy his mellow Co Donegal accent spoken in his quiet tone. He was silenced.

Regardless of my Dad’s condition we continued to love spending time with him. Engaging in one way conversations, where we tried to read his mind by looking into his eyes. Sadly time eventually ran out for us, and Motor Neurone Disease stole another life.  A rare and wonderful man, who was and continues to be my Dad.

So the next time you see one of those ice bucket challenges in your feed, or perhaps in time you become irritated by them, remember the reality that is MND/ALS. Remember even after all these years, there is no treatment, no cure, and perhaps remember my Dad and the many more wonderful lives it has taken.

photo credit: Peter Werkman (www.peterwerkman.nl) via photopin cc
photo credit: slgckgc via photopin cc

small_2794421370 (1)

Would you go back?

What were you like when you were 20? What were your hopes and dreams? Was life good for you, and would you go back?

Tonight I was challenged by Lorna who blogs at Irish farmerette  to reflect on when I was 20, and from the moment I read the prompt I could not shake those memories. Life at 20 for me was one of contrasts.

At twenty I was a student nurse living in the nurses home, hugely enjoying life on the wards and the many friendships I had made. I had bought my own car and was relishing my independence. My social life was busy to say the least, as I discovered that nurses really did know how to party.

At twenty I had a stalker, who was making my life very difficult. A man who followed my every move. A man I told no one about. A man who I feared, and hated in equal measure.

At twenty I had just returned from holidays. There I had met someone unlike anyone I had ever met before. Certainly someone who was not my usual ‘type’. Little did I know that that young fella was going to stick around. He and I would stand the many tests of time. His quiet strength was to make all the difference in my life, at a time when I needed it most.

At twenty my father was unwell. Within months my mom and I would walk into a consultants office on the ward, who would tell us that they had at last diagnosed what was wrong with him. Listening to him, our world would stop. He would tell us that Dad had Motor Neurone disease. There was no treatment, no cure. He would die.

Yes my life at twenty was certainly a life of contrasts. Despite the obvious difficulties I was experiencing, over all I was enjoying some of the greatest days of my life. Young love was blossoming, parties were a plenty, friendships were forged, and my life as a nurse was hugely rewarding.photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbushnell/2794421370/">jbushnell</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Other than to have more time with my Dad I would never wish to be twenty again. But all the ups and downs of that year have helped to make me the person I am today. Those many happy days in the midst of sadness, have given me the love of fun, the desire to be happy and the ability to laugh on the darkest of days. Watching my mom, whose world was falling down around her, keep herself going and continue to make our house a fun and happy place to come home to is something I have never forgotten.  Living through those sad, lonely, difficult days made me strong and surviving them has given me the knowledge that regardless of how hard life may seem, I can.

So there you have it Lorna, my reflections on when I was twenty.
Tonight as I type this I am reminded of a famous quote from A tale of two cities. I think it just about sums up my twentieth year perfectly.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

And other than writing this, I am glad to never have to go back there.

photo credit: jbushnell via photopin cc

Remembering you.

You have been gone now for over half my life,
and yet there is rarely a day goes by without me thinking of you.

Sometimes it is to remember something you said,photo credit: Jocey K via photopin cc
or to imagine what you would think of a situation.

Sometimes it is to remember days gone by,
when as a child you were all a Dad should be.

Sometimes it is when I advise my own children,
and I remember it was you who first gave me that advice, many moons ago.

Sometimes it is when I find myself singing ‘The green glens of Antrim’,
and in my minds eye I hear your voice.

Sometimes it is when I look at my children with their Dad,
and I envy them his love.

Sometimes it is for no particular reason,
just the girl in me missing her Dad.

But today I remember you on your birthday.
Happy Birthday Dad, where ever you are.
xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

My Dad died twenty six years ago of motor neurone disease. Before he became ill he regularly bought me freesia for no particular reason, except that  I loved them. Today my mom put some freesia on his grave from me and here I get to give him another little bunch, and a virtual kiss and a hug. xo

photo credit: Jocey K via photopin cc