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Used to work for AVIVA offshoring IT to India.  Now retired through ill health, writing my life story as a series of blogs chronologically from birth to current time.  At www.jw-alifeofsurprises.blogspot.com

Monday, 11 June 2012

Left to our own devices

Santa Barbara is a beautiful City, Ronald Regan had a ranch there and numerous film stars and celebrities had homes in and around the hills overlooking the town and the Pacific Ocean.  Santa Barbara sits nestled against the Santa Ynez Mountains, in between the Pacific and Wine Country. The first inhabitants of the land that was to become Santa Barbara were Chumash Indians.  Fleeting visits by Portuguese and Spanish explorers resulted eventually in the arrival of a group of Spanish Missionaries and soldiers, led by Felipe De Neve, and Padre Junipero Serra who had visited in 1769 and now returned to convert the locals to Christianity in 1782.

Mission Santa Barbara was built by local Indians under the instruction of the newcomers.  Apparently, they needed God and western religion so much so, that most had died of Smallpox and other diseases, to which they had no immunity, within a few decades.

God works in mysterious ways!

Mum’s hospital bed offered a fair view of the City across the rooftops toward the ocean and she was making good progress, whilst undergoing various tests to measure the capacity of her heart.  My brother Mark and I, whilst enjoying the scenery and various attractions in and around Santa Barbara, were slowly convincing ourselves that Mum was improving and Doctor Braniff concurred, going as far to say, after mum had been in hospital for 4 days that another 4 days would see her released to the outside world again.  We decided we had best prepare the town for the invasion that was Cynthia Joan Weaver.

As Mums eldest child, Mark took care of anything Mum worried about back home, followed by my sister Helen.  When our father passed away, Mark organised all the papers, the banking and filing of documents and as our dad had been pretty much on the ball with everything, even had to show Mum how to write a cheque, much as it is hard to believe.  As the reliable oldest, he was the soothing appearance of family Mum needed, and had brought an aura of calm along with him.

I struggled to find a picture of the three of us together but eventually settled on this picture, but as usual, I was all about the joke I suppose, as illustrated by rabbit ears behind mums head, the picture being taken 15 odd years ago.  I am the fat boy on the left and Mark is the one with the hairy bogey on his top lip.

We decided that the hotel was fine for her needs, but decided to move into a cabana that had parking outside to allow her easier transition between the car, wheelchair, room and vice versa. The hotel had a pool, just a short walk away across the carpark, through a gate and onto a lawned area.  Disappointingly for Mark, Mum was due out the day after he was due to fly back to the UK, so extra time was spent with her at hospital, Mark entertaining her with stories of our trips, her grandchildren, Michelle, Jason and Ben, his wife Monica and his career, which had transitioned through and apprenticeship in engineering and into sales.

I have written of Mark in earlier blogs, most notably in blog 1970 to 1979, Growing up is a Family Affair.  Mark is ten years older than I and whilst I was still growing up at aged fifteen, he was married with children.  My last two years at home before leaving school and joining the Army, hold memories of Mark and Monica seeing Mum at weekends, usually Saturday mornings, or for the occasional Sunday Lunch.  Most Christmases and Easter holidays included a visit to either his house or ours, or my sister Helen’s for a meal and catch up.

Monica had been married previously to Mark and had two children, Michelle and Jason.  They would go onto have Benjamin (Ben) who was born almost a year after our Father had passed away.  Being that much younger than Mark it was obvious that we would have little in common (or so we thought).  Finding ourselves forced upon one another in such extreme circumstances as we found ourselves, we cemented a loving relationship, dispelled a few myths and created a bond that has lasted to this day.

Mark was focusing his attention on Mum during those last 3 days in Santa Barbara.  He wanted everything to be set right for her release from hospital and to know she and I would manage well enough. I suppose it was a quiet a difficult time for him, as he had to leave Mum with me.  A brother, who despite being exceedingly good looking (ha), had pretty much little else going for him at that time.  So it was obvious that he would try and ensure every little detail was set for her discharge.

Everything from making sure she had access to her bank, that the insurers knew our contact details, that we would only have to pick up the phone to access expenses from them, through to extending the car hire and buying mum all new toiletries, nightdresses and a dressing gown.  The irony was that mum liked her hospital issue nightdress so much that she kept it for years afterwards.

One often reads of the impact of others upon our lives and whilst I have become somewhat more mature over the years, back then, I was always about me, myself and I.  Mark had to go home and it stands to his confidence that I would manage, that he did fly back to England.  For my part, I was being relied upon to do the most trusted job anyone had ever asked of me.  My reliance on Mark had grown and whilst we had enjoyed a superb week together, I was so set up by the time he left, I had little to do but collect Mum from the St Francis and ferry her about for two more weeks in the sun.

No one had ever relied upon me like Mark had to do then.  The trust shown and the support and love he gave have never been forgotten.  And whilst I may joke and pull his leg (all the time), I love and respect my Big Bro more than words could possibly say.  His support, love, respect, strength and organisation of everything, saw Mum and I manage superbly after he left.  I took him to Santa Barbara Airport, hugged him goodbye and armed with Baseball Mitts, Cigars, T-shirts, all type of mementoes and a mix of emotions, he climbed into the plane and away north to San Francisco and England.

Mum for her part was happy to be out and in the sunshine only the day after Mark had left for home.  Of course, me being me, I had plans to take her everywhere, but had to temper my enthusiasm, as it was very apparent that she needed lots of rest.  Once settled into her room, I went to the Supermarket and got her favourite magazines, National Enquirer and the other tabloid papers, propped her up in bed, made her coffee and we relaxed.

Mum had to attend the Cardio clinic at Dr Braniff’s surgery for a treadmill test in 5 days time.  Until then we decided that each day we would venture further afield, have a nice dinner out each evening and stick to the regimen prescribed by the doctors, plenty of rest when needed, but try and exercise every day.  We had been provided with a wheelchair for mum to use until her treadmill test and despite leaving her in that chair, on the steepest of hills, she resolutely refused to take off the brakes!

So I was stuck with wheeling her around town. Our first trip was to the Marina in Santa Barbara.  The pictures here show that day and as you can see, Mum ensured she always struck a cool pose.

Nothing too taxing, but as Mum was proud and courageous, she refused to be pictured in that chair, so any pictures we took had her out and about, leaning against a rail, or seated on stairs or a bench for support.

The next few blogs will cover this period in Santa Barbara and the two weeks spent back in San Francisco, sorry it’s been a while since I last “blogged”, poor show and all that, but back on track again.  Bon Chance’.

1 comment:

  1. Another good tale Johnny. Poor old Mum, look at her hair. You can tell she's been through the mill, so to speak. xx