Hello lovely people
There has been a lot going on with The Zach Project, meetings, phone calls, emails and texts but I have no news and I don’t know if that is good news or bad news, I am a glass half full person usually but I am going to reserve judgement on whether our glass is half full or half empty. Okay enough of the old wives (why is it old wives rather than old husbands?) sayings! This is what I would like to share with you today…..
When I was in my early twenties I was unsure about what to do with my future, I knew I wanted to work with people and help in some capacity. I had a job working in a home for the elderly that I did for a couple of years and I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved all the characters there, some more than others. My absolute favourite being Winnie. She had such a twinkle in her eye and was really good fun, but there were many who I remember clearly and I really enjoyed my time working there, listening to stories and tales of their lives before they became elderly.
The lady I have often thought about since was a very little lady called Mrs Forest. She lived in Bungalow 4 and she was tiny. She was in her late 80’s when I was there, she never said much and always wanted to sit at the dining room table. She never took part in any of the social activities and kept herself to herself. She was difficult to help because she was totally rigid, so trying to assist her to stand was difficult, as were all other activities of daily life. She wore a wedding ring and would often repeatedly bang it on the dining room table, it was to say the least rather annoying and if you asked her to stop she would look defiantly at you with her beady eyes and bang all the more.
Sometimes if she caught you smiling she would ask in her shrill voice ‘what do you think you are smiling at’ it was always something pretty innocuous! I remember once she mistook a marshmallow for a sugar lump and put it in her cup of tea and gave it a good stir. The marshmallow fizzed a lot and wasn’t dissolving no matter how much she stirred and I couldn’t help giggling! she was furious and probably decided to make me pay for laughing by banging on the table for an extra few hours that week.
At the moment Mrs Forest possibly doesn’t sound all that remarkable (she had a shot of whisky at 8 am in the morning on her birthday one year which was pretty remarkable) but I am going to let you know why I have thought of her.
She had a daughter called Clara who had learning disabilities, she was in her sixties. Before the home I worked in was opened Mrs Forest had lived in Western House, previously known as Ware Union Workhouse with Clara. Ware Union Workhouse was opened in 1839 and finally shut it’s doors in 1982. Of course by the time it closed it was not the terrible place it had been in previous years but it was still an institution and, at the home I worked at, I can think of at least three other residents who had lived there all their lives before then moving onto and finishing their lives in what I guess was another institution.
Clara and her mother were separated when Western House closed as due to ‘progress’ Mrs Forest’s needs were considered to be different to Clara’s.
About twice a month Mrs Forest was taken to visit Clara, in the days before the visit she would sit at the table and repeat Clara over and over in her tiny croaky voice and she would smile and look at you with her dark beady eyes saying her daughters name. Unless she was speaking sternly to you for laughing or smiling it was the only time she spoke.
Clara was I am sure, why Mrs Forest got up in the morning. She had fought all her life for her daughter, even gone to live in the workhouse with her and the strength of her love was incredible.
And so I hope that one day I will be that elderly lady, irritating people by banging my ring on the table and being as rigid and difficult to move as possible. But I don’t want to be elderly to do those things (though they may be fun!) I want to be around for Zach for as long as I can be, making sure that people are looking after him and that I know he is happy and content.
Often Mother’s who have a child with a disability are referred to as ‘Warrior Mum’s’ for obvious reasons, we fight on an almost daily basis and we often feel as though we are living in a battle zone. I am sure Mrs Forest wasn’t the first but she certainly was a wonderful warrior mum 🙂