A Missing Piece

It is a strange thing, the ups and downs of a long-distance carer’s life. When your visits or phone calls are frequent, or the paperwork overwhelming, you’d give anything for a break. But every so often there is a lull, a moment of calm when the care agency’s input is all that’s needed and the crisis alerts have gone quiet and, for a while, you can be ‘off duty’.

At the moment I am in a lull period and I am finding being ‘off duty’ surprisingly difficult. For once there are no emergencies or looming medical appointments. There isn’t even a planned visit for the next eight weeks. My sister is visiting next month which gives me a break and even allows me to go away on holiday with my friends.

But I sort of miss dad. Although I phone him every other day, he is not present in the same way as when you see him. On the phone it is hard to get any sense of how he is, or to find something meaningful to talk about. I know his diary well (we plan it and set everything in it up for him), but if I ask him what he did at the Probus Club that morning he will remember he went simply because I prompted him. He won’t remember what the speaker talked about or where they had lunch or any of the names of who was there. Now, I simply ask if he enjoyed it. Even subjects like the weather are risky because sometimes he seems unsure whether it has rained or been sunny. He sounds vague and slightly sad. The only safe topic is his little dog. ‘Guess who’s beside me?’ he’ll ask, with a big smile in his voice.

When I am with dad it is intense. Even when I am doing nice things with him like a mini break by the sea I am constantly on duty. I find the responsibility of arranging and overseeing every little thing very difficult. Dad may have a zizz (his afternoon sleep!) or a quiet cup of tea, but I will be washing the toilet mats, or shopping, or cooking, or sorting out a problem at the bank. But dad, himself, is there. His quirky sense of humour and his willingness to break into song as we travel: ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ we sing loudly as we head to the coast in the car. Even the difficult bits – his stubbornness and inflexibility – highlight his presence and determination to engage full-on with life.

So now I am back at home, trying to progress my writing and to reinstate a routine following two intensive visits to dad. My life feels kind of empty despite my multiple friends and activities. I am more inclined to focus on the agents’ rejection letters for my second novel than the positive feedback I have had about this blog.

On the plus side are the moments of joy such as meeting Mary the Beekeeper. Mary agreed to help me with the research for my novel and we spent a wonderful morning talking bees and allotments and gardening. I ate wonderful homemade oat and honey cookies (and of course got the recipe) and came away with a jar of honey and a sprig of the beautifully scented Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ which I smell every time I pass the windowsill where I have placed it.

I still feel sad, though, and a little empty – as if part of my life is missing.

Philadelphus Belle Etoile


Daft antics at the pub following the concert mentioned below! Feeling mad and mentally 22 again.


Singing with my wonderful community choir, Beeston Voices. Our summer concert for family and friends was so uplifting. Singing is definitely the best pick-me-up ever!

© Anne de Gruchy


On Being a Blog Virgin

This is my first ever blog post!

In general I dislike most things digital or powered by electricity – drills, computers, self-imploding phone apps – but love anything manual and messy. Give me a garden to dig or wall to build over social media networks and widgets anyday. Cooking, gardening, doing my art, walking, badminton and singing keep me happy. Writing alternately drives me bananas and keeps me awake at night with ideas that just HAVE to be written down at three in the morning (my memory is definitely not what it was…).

Putting my writing out into the public domain is something I desperately want to do, but getting ‘out there’ into social-media land freaks me out – so this blog is a not-so-minor miracle. It’s like hitting the digital age on one of my dad’s steam trains – full on hiss and heat but many years too late. I got there in the end, but now I need to let the firebox get up to speed.

So what do I want to blog about? How do I make it useful and interesting for me, and hopefully for you lot out there, too?

Here is a list of the things that engage me and that I hope to share with you:

  • The amazing place I’m at in giving up a job to focus on caring for my dad and my writing and artwork.
  • Mental health: the highs and lows and what I’ve learnt during years of tackling my own and working in this field.
  • Theology/spirituality: what I’m reading, what I’m experiencing, what inspires me, what I’ve learn from others.
  • Me, my dad and his dementia. Our journey together. The logistics of caring at a distance. (Including the funny bits….)
  • A ‘Mad’ and ‘Marvel’ moment in my life since my last blog post.


  •  I don’t promise that the odd garden or cookery reference won’t pop up sometimes!
Mad Moment…

Continuing to dig foundations and moving hardcore for my paving when my old shoulder injury was definitely telling me ‘no’!

Marvel Moment…

Finding three amazing and inspiring women to form a ‘Companions on the (Writing) Journey’ group.