In April 1985 I was at a friends house after playing darts at the Boot, a country pub complete with fungus growing out of the walls. The phone rang with a half expected summons to the hospital.
Half an hour later I stood by my father's bedside. He said "look after your mother", a request I could hardly refuse. Since then, except for a 5 year break when my mother moved back to live near my sister, I have done my best to live up to my last promise to my father.
Over the last 2 years the task has got bigger and bigger. Mother is 90 this month and has been blind since an accident in 1956. We have had to be there for every meal time, every day for months. She is no longer able to even get herself a hot drink.
One Sunday in early June I went next door to her home to do breakfast. The door was open and mum was missing. Eventually we tracked her down. She had waved down a car and been given a lift to the local community centre. She was hoping to get home to see her own, long dead, mother.
Later in June my wife had a knock on the front door. A passerby asked my wife if she knew the old lady out on the street. Mother was loose again.
After the first incident social services were called in and the mental health unit eventually sent out a doctor to see mother. The diagnosis is Alzheimer's with a strong recommendation to get mother into a home for her own safety. Of course this makes sense but not the something I have the power to do without her consent. She has always been adamant that she would not go into a home.
However with the support of social services and the psychiatrist I have today delivered mother to a home for a 2 week "holiday". So for 2 weeks I am a free man.
The practicality of long term care is another matter. At £700 per week I need to look very carefully at the options and legal issues such as the Coughlan case. But for now I am free.