A Mess of Minor Miseries

It’s what my ex mother-in-law used to say when I phoned her and asked her how she was. ‘I’m a mess of minor miseries.‘ At ninety-seven, having lost her husband of sixty-nine years, she was more than entitled to have the occasional moan, and I like to think I was a good listener.

She was a lovely person, quite my favourite lady, and it was always a joy to talk to her despite her many minor ailments. Losing her three years ago left the world a sadder, emptier place.

I first met her when she was forty – seems impossible now to think of her as younger than my own sons. I was thirteen and smitten with her fifteen-year-old son. Enduring images are of a short, plump Welsh lady with a hairbrush in her hand threating to beat my future husband for his cheek. She was also an inspiring poet, diarist, mother, grandmother, and wife. She looked after her mother, her husband’s elderly siblings, her husband, her five children, and on occasion, her grandchildren.

She also ran the village post office, a job I was to take over from her when she and my father-in-law retired. I ran it from their front room for some years before moving it to my own home. Whilst working from home was convenient at that time, having young children, I did miss being brought a coffee and a huge slab of sponge cake every morning while I worked- it was the highlight of my day! And they were happy days, enclosed in the bosom of family, and we think, when we are young, that things will be like that forever. But nothing stays the same, and we have to treasure the happy moments, the family time, the companionship of those we love and who love us.

But those days are but memories, and as we age, memories become more and more important – there are more miles walked behind us than we can manage before us, however willing the spirit. The trick, with 20/20 hindsight, is to make sure you make good memories. Photographs are a great way of reviving forgotten memories – no, not selfies…

So, having not long celebrated, if you can cause it celebrating in lockdown, another birthday with a higher number than I’m prepared to divulge – you can work it out for yourself, I’m sure – I now understand ‘Mum’s’ ‘mess of minor miseries‘. There’s nothing imminently life-threatening, but boy can it be frustrating. The osteoporosis caused a break in a bone in my sacrum – I was only watering the garden – which gives me gip if I do too much, especially bending. I only planted three plants yesterday and am suffering for it today – I think the break caused some nerve damage which feels as if I’m wearing a corset around my hips – a sort of numb pressure, and sometimes my legs feel as if there are worms crawling around in the veins – a very weird sensation – and of course, I’m afraid of breaking another bone. I also get a sudden pain in one big toe which feels like someone’s sticking a red-hot gardening fork in it. I looked up the symptoms on the internet and decided I didn’t want peripheral neuropathy, so I’m ignoring that. Not easy as it’s jabbing me right now!

What else – the results of breaking a wrist some years ago, slipping on mud while crossing the moor outside the house while dog walking. The hand feels slightly numb, and the wrist swells if I do too much at the laptop – which I do every day. The dry weather is making the roads very dusty, there’s a lot of tree pollen about, and the last few days, my eyes have felt as if a whole tree, or at least the wretched garden fork is underneath my eyelids. Oh, I do moan, don’t I? Well, you see, I don’t have an ex daughter-in-law to moan to, and I hope I never do. I like my daughter-in-law how she is, non-ex and fruitfully employed.

If you’re a reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I lost my other daughter-in-law to Covid in January. No one saw that coming at only forty-nine, and she is greatly missed.

I dare say, but for Covid and the state of the NHS at the moment, I would have approached my doctor with some of these minor ailments, but truly, they have more important things to do. Will someone please take this garden fork out of my toe? It’s excruciating, and gosh it makes me jump. That’s better, thank you.

As a friend of mine one told me – she was in her late eighties – ‘old age doesn’t come alone.‘ Was she wrong? No. It all went to pot when I turned seventy – so if you’re young and healthy, don’t waste what you have, because it won’t last forever, and look after yourselves – this is the only body you have.

Truly, we have to appreciate what we have while we have it. (Especially the coffee and spongecake – the lemon one was my favourite)

Oh Yum, I could just eat that right now.


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