I wrote a post earlier this year about the way we live now and it is probably time to revisit. The days have settled into a new pattern, around work and visiting times and waiting for news of weekend leave. I have now referred to the unit as ‘home’ when talking about L, several times, e.g. “when she is back at home” or that she will need certain items at home, such as cereal bars or towels. I ask permission to do things with her, from people who eight weeks ago had no idea who she was. They suggest ways in which I should feed my daughter, deal with her difficult behaviour and I feel a real loss of confidence in my parenting. The unit has a daily routine and rhythm, there are in jokes and the usual myths and legends that typify any home or workplace.
Mornings start as usual here at 6.30. There is only K to wake and she wakes herself always. She comes into our room, fully dressed in her school uniform and tells us that it is like, erm, kind of, twenty to seven. This is her usual manner of speech and address, the same one that she used when she told us that the microwave was sort of on fire. I wonder how much longer I can lie in my comfortable safe bed before the day starts. Never for long enough though. I am always heavy with fatigue and conscious that the patchy sleep I had always ends too soon. C is retired, but is still the person who makes sandwiches, sorts out bus passes and drops at the bus stop. I leave at a reasonable time but the traffic is hell and I curse having taken the car. It takes 90 minutes to drive to my office 50 miles away. I wonder if I can escape for a few minutes to find good coffee.
The day starts well, my secretary has a large pile of application forms for jobs that I need to shortlist. A work meeting about restructuring goes well and some ambitious plans of mine for change are well received. I get out to buy lunch and chat to colleagues while eating it. After lunch, things take a downturn when some members of staff bring me the latest letters in a hatemail campaign against me and other women managers. There was a time when these letters made me furious and sickened and now I glance at them, and note that the latest insult appears to be aimed at my hair colour (rather than the size of my breasts, which I see as progress). The twisted hatred and bizarre attacks make me wonder if the author or authors are mentally ill and if so, should I feel sympathy? But I don’t; these are vile misogynists who deeply resent women in a senior position doing the job she gets paid to do and my sympathy is better used elsewhere. My daughter is seriously ill in her seventh week in hospital and I have no time for Beavis and Butthead tactics.
My day continues, I shortlist for vacancies, discuss our assessment centre with colleagues and have a one to one with one of my managers. Then I hear a voicemail message from one of the nurses, L’s weekend leave will be shortened this week as they are not happy with her weight progress. I am so disappointed, and plan to challenge them the next day.
I get home; C plans to cook steak for dinner. But that must wait as I leave straight away to see L. She is low and quiet. Much of the visit consists of her leaning against me with my arms wrapped around her, on the uncomfortable chairs in the family therapy room, with the curtains drawn discreetly over the two way mirror. We don’t speak much, we are just happy to lean. I tell her that this morning I cried in the car when listening to Pink’s “F***ing Perfect” and it reminded me of her. When she goes to get her snack, I look at her newly emerging shape. She has changed from a skeleton to a slender young woman. I tell her how beautiful and she says thank you. I wonder if she learnt to accept compliments in one of her therapy groups.
I go home, the steak is great. I write this blog post and look at my work bag, bulging with work I brought home and will take back tomorrow. K makes me tea and disappears. I forgot to get her the things she asked me to get earlier today. She sighs in a resigned way at my apologies. She will read this later and I hope realise why I let her down.