I just read Ann Rogers' blog. It was wonderful to meet up with Ann after the years of chatting to her here and on Facebook. As soon as we saw each other it was as if we had each found a sister, closer even than that relationship perhaps. We of the stroke community are all family because of the experiences we have shared in our journeys, we know it, Ann and I have proved it. We could have used a week of catching up but it was just a couple of days as I had other plans to follow but I am so glad we did it. Ann's son's wedding was a very special time too so I am glad I was there for that as well. All women love weddings, or most of us do and a wedding in England in a rural setting on a summer's day is one experience that is hard to beat.
I had six weeks in England, spending a lot of it in the homes of cousins. I am not one for sightseeing and don't need to do something expensive, just being with people is my joy. When I visit I just do whatever the family is doing, going to school to watch their grandchildren at a sports day, going for a walk along a riverbank and trying to identify wild flowers ( I knew them all when I was seven) sitting under a tree with a picnic lunch and a cup of tea and talking, talking, talking. For me as a widow the talking is so important as I learn so much when sharing views, contrasting my life with theirs, looking at how the wisdom shared will fit in to my life the way I see it now. Of course the reflection comes later and I can see a few changes I can make without changing the integrity of my life.
I was lucky as I went to one wedding and two wedding receptions as another cousin took me to the reception of one of their relatives, the young couple had got married overseas and gathered friends for a loud and noisy party afterwards, back in their home town. It was awkward for me (that Australian woman) to try and talk to someone about where their niece lived in Australia with a band playing loud African music and young people whooping and stomping as they danced. But ah! I was once like that too so I could smile indulgently. It is good to have happy memories and I have a few more to add to my collection now.
One of the sadnesses of the visit was realising a much loved cousin now has dementia. He is the one with stories about my Dad as he is almost ten years older than me so remembers him before I was born. When people develop dementia it is sad as you realise all those precious memories will no longer be accessible to them and so will be lost forever. I could see his wife got annoyed when he "forgot" something she had asked him to do or came home without half the items on the shopping list so maybe she is in denial about what is happening to him. I hope when she does realise she will be able to put processes in place to make living easier for both of them.
I did a little trip up to Scotland and back and one day in the Scottish Highlands it was 11 degrees Celsius and much colder in their summer's day than it was reported to be on the same wintry day in Sydney. Oh the winds blew and we all, dressed in our summer gear, went various shades of blue too. Everyone was happy to snap a picture and hurry back onto the bus. What a difference weather makes to a holiday. By contrast, the first week I was in England we had a day of 37 degrees Celsius, the hottest day they had had for decades. Mind you that was the day we should probably have gone swimming because although I packed a swim suit it never got wet.
A holiday is also about the people that you meet, the cousins, the people at the wedding, the people on the bus tour. My room mate was a widow from New Zealand, we had both lost our husbands about the same time and had had a lot of experiences in common. We also have the same sense of humour so it was enjoyable getting to know her too. It is good to have someone to go around with for a while. We had lunch together most days, we didn't sit with the same people on the bus as the bus host put us together with other people so we would get to know the other singles on board of which there were seven including us, the rest being couples, the families with children or sisters travelling together. The driver was a patient man so didn't go off at us when we forgot the time or , like I did, waited at the wrong bus stop.
We did taste test "haggis" and of course some Scotch Whiskey too. I am used to the soft wines of Australia so the full spirit taste of Scotch whiskey is not to my liking at all so the first and last taste of it. There were other tastes like ginger bread slices in Grassmere, the burial place of the poet Wentworth, and the local various cheeses none of which I could eat being lactose intolerant. And as on many tours we had English, particularly Tudor, history all around us, also Roman history in Bath and pre-history in some of the burial sites we saw. Our host was good at showing us sites steeped in history and we understood that on standing on one site we are dealing with all levels of history. England has preserved her historical sites well and gets better at it all the time. So I learned a lot of new things every day.
But what I loved most was meeting Ann. Life is about what makes you strong and what makes me strong is the encouragement of others who say to me: "Go on, you can do it, I know you can." And that is what Ann has done for me for ten years and so have so many of you on this wonderful site. And so I give thanks, for all of my good friends and well-wishers and the joy of the new experiences of every day living.