Wednesday 5 October 2011

Cleopatra or Perla – ?

Congratulations Perla – yes she is Perla – that Florence Nightingale of a Carer, who today turns 60 ... Happy Birthday!

When a relative goes into a Nursing Centre or Care Home, we never know the ropes, we don’t understand the system and very probably we have no idea what’s ahead – so we are extremely hopeful that we’ll settle happily in and find interested and caring staff.

Perla has been marvellous – but Perla has one outstanding attribute .... she totally understands ... she very sadly nursed her husband when he was ill .... and so her rapport with both patients and relatives comes from that point of view of understanding.

A real Hardwick as he might have looked
in his heyday
To have a carer who cares and who comprehends the stages that we will experience along this journey is a real bonus, and someone who loves people, who is prepared to share in our joy and be compassionate with our pain and struggles ... just makes life so much easier.

We have been here four years now and in the early days my mother just nattered away to Hardwick and to herself ... she was quite happy; when one of us or the carers appeared - back to earth she came – normality of conversation resumed.

Hardwick in festive mood?
She had a twinkle in her eye and a ready wit about her ... we never had to drag a conversation out of her ... and often my mother would initiate ideas.   Hardwick helped enormously ... he had come up from Cornwall and has resided ever since on or near my mother’s bed .. he’s an elderly Wire Fox Terrier and now-a-days is in repose mode.

It’s quite unusual for family to be in the Home as much as I have been – my mother could talk and I wasn’t going to waste those moments of life with her – but then we also had my uncle in the room next door after he’d come out of hospital – he enjoyed company too.

The halo-halo is a dessert
made of  ice, milk, various fruits
and ice-cream.
So here is Perla looking after all of us – because as Carers they do just that ... their role extends out as each hurdle is reached, worked through and got over – depending whether we fall over, jump over, dive through ... we were often diving through ... my mother doesn’t like to hang around.

We also met some other friends across the corridor with Africa connections ... so the internationalism of life extended well beyond the boundaries of square rooms and oblong corridors.  Laughter often emanated, chatter abounded, and stories were relayed ... with giggles in between.

A pot of tamarind Sinigang
The staff often ‘accost’ me and say ‘your mother ......’ and tell me a story – my mother’s imagination is pretty vivid and global ... so we travelled to her castles in Buenos Aires (Argentina), we went to Valparaiso (Chile), we had flats in Sydney, Australia and we holidayed in New Zealand.

We concocted various ways of getting there ... hiring aeroplanes, taking her electric bed, the hoist, and all the paraphernalia of nursing – how many nurses we’d need, who we’d take etc etc ....

... and if we travelled to Cornwall (when she realised she was in Eastbourne ... we’ve sorted of oscillated between the two – no matter - just keep oscillating!) – we would travel in a Purple People Carrier ... and did I remember the way ... ?!

The staff would share these journeys with us and my mother would interact with them all the time ... one day ‘names’ started appearing ... Perla came up with deep brown eyes wide open ... telling me – I’m no longer Perla ‘I’m Cleopatra’!  To this day ... Perla is Cleopatra!

Thick black bob hair cut ... Egyptian features ... could be regal – but she laughs too much!  Perla comes from that nation of gentle folk ... the Filipino – the soft, caring, quiet (sometimes!), hard-working sons or daughters, who leave their homeland to travel here to help us in our times of needs.

I must say – I bless those early travellers who ventured from our European shores ... to find those lands far away, and who ensured that a great many of them through conquering heroes, or quirks of fate – such as New York being swapped by the Spanish for a Nutmeg Tree .... speak English to this day.

I expect in many ways anyone who does speak English as their first or second language by default of colonialism etc for now is probably grateful – as we have this wonderful connective power of the internet.

Ancient Filipinos utilized terrace farming to grow crops
in the steep mountainous regions of northern Philippines. 
The Philippines has always fascinated me as a nation ... to live amongst 7,107 islands (have they counted them recently?!) must be just beautiful – their country always looks gorgeous ... rolling coastlines and rising mountain ranges from the terraced valleys below.

This archipelago is situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire ... and they experience frequent seismic and volcanic activity ... around 20 earthquakes a day are registered, though most are too weak to be felt.

Typical selection of Filipino foods
Perla, who is the only member who lives in England, and her family came from the southern part of the three islands groups – Mindanao and now live in the northern third group of islands, known as Luzon.

The Filipinos – love their food, you cannot visit their house without having a meal .... they bring their food in to share with others at the Home – they let us try their traditional fare ...  and the one reason they bring their food in – Perla does not cook!!! 

Fish Paksiw
So she needs her topping up of Melk fish, Pinakbat (pork stew with aubergines, beans, tomatoes, onions etc), Sinigang (pork or fish stew), Paksiw (steamed fish in vinegar, onions, garlic and ginger) ... with that all important ingredient – rice!

There's a birthday cake made by one of your special friends who works at nights ... Sue.

We all at the Nursing Centre hope that Perla will in her 61st year take herself off home and see the enormous changes that have been occurring to her homeland and spend time with her family and friends from the days gone by ... we are not going away and I know you will be welcomed back here with open arms .. we want to hear your stories too.

Allotments in the original Quaker village
of Jordans, Bucks
Her life here is not going away ... her allotment with its flowers, pear tree, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, beans allows for a pottering period that we need in our busy schedules ...

My mother, Hardwick and I wish you Perla - Cleopatra the happiest of times today with your English family ... the many of us that you care for ... we are all so grateful for your laughter, your companionship, your understanding and especially for your care of our dear ones. 

Happy Birthday my friend – we treasure you ... enjoy your glass of red wine tonight – you deserve every last drop ... with a few hugs from us.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Unknown said...

Not only have they been great years in the past but it looks like all of you are creating wonderful years and stories to come!

MorningAJ said...

Happy Birthday Perla!

Angela said...

This is such a sweet tribute. Happy Birthday Perla!

Talli Roland said...

Happy birthday to Perla! How blessed your mother is to have such a wonderful carer.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Blonde Duck - many thanks!

@ Clarissa - you've absolutely summed it up correctly .. lots of stories there - we've been very lucky.

@ Morning AJ - thank you so much!

@ Angela .. many thanks .. Perla is worth it!

@ Talli .. you're right we have been very lucky having Perla and the other special carers around us .. it makes such a difference.

Perla will be amazed - and I'll tell her later on .. I'll have to get counting I can see! So grateful for your comments and birthday wishes. Cheers - Hilary

Rosalind Adam said...

She sounds like an amazing lady. I know how close I felt to the carers in Mum's home and sadly Mum was only there for two months before she died. You must feel like they're your blood relatives. I love Hardwick, by the way.

Happy birthday to Perla and say hello to your Mother. Even though she hasn't a clue who I am, I feel I know her.

Karen Lange said...

Happy Birthday to Perla! She sounds like a gem. What a blessing for you and your Mother!

Have a wonderful week! :)

Joanne said...

You are so fortunate to have Perla in your life ... Sending birthday greetings across the pond to Perla, with all best wishes :)

Old Kitty said...

Perla!! What a most beautiful name! Awwww happy happy hapy Perla - precious Perla!! She sounds lovely and am glad she's opening up a whole new part of the world for all around her!! Happy Birthday Perla!! I do love that name!! Take care

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ros .. yes Perla is one amazing lady .. and you're right about how close I have come to them .. they understand and appreciate the ups and the downs. Hardwick is extremely special - thanks for recognising that!

Thanks Ros - Perla will appreciate your thoughts .. and my mother is always grateful to know people care .. a big smile lights her face up.

@ Karen - so right .. Perla is a valuable gem.

@ Joanne - all the carers are so good .. just one reaches 60 today .. and I will pass on your wishes ..

Thanks so much Ros, Karen and Joanne - very grateful .. cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Happy birthday, Perla. It's a pleasure to meet you. A friend of Hilary's is no doubt a special and wonderful person.

Rubye Jack said...

I love the way she changed her name from Perla to Cleopatra! Happy Birthday to Perla!

Linda said...

Happy Birthday to your friend. Such nurturing ability is a gift, and you and your mother are treasured recipients. Best wishes to your mom as well.

Patsy said...

Happy Birthday, Perla - you sound like a lovely person.

Arlee Bird said...

Happy birthday to Perla. She's about the same age as I am. To be a good carer is a real talent that requires a ton of patience. I have to admire anyone who can do that.

I don't know much about the Philippines and I've only eaten a few dishes of that cuisine, but enjoyed what I've had very much. My next door neighbors are Filipino. Sometimes they cook something that smells so foul that it sickens me. I don't know what that is but I don't think I want to try that dish.

Tossing It Out

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene .. thank you .. she's certainly special and such a caring person .. her party is in full swing now!

@ Rubye .. yes my mother always has had her wits about her which has made for some interesting repartee since she's been ill! Birthday wishes I shall pass on ..

@ Linda .. you said it right (not very good English is it?!) .. but we are treasured recipients - those are the right words.

@ Patsy .. she's amazing, as are the other carers - we're lucky ..

@ Lee .. patience is a virtue here - and for that we're very lucky .. especially in these challenging times.

Food - you should have seen the food on offer at the party .. way too good to miss out on - and I went to a film society film - so did miss out!!

I'm sure (I'm being diplomatic here Lee!!) that the end result will taste delicious .. it's probably sour fish .. that's a delicacy .... perhaps you should ask your neighbours?!

Cheers Joylene, Rubye, Linda, Patsy and Lee .. Perla is having fun tonight with many friends .. thanks for your thoughts - I think she'll return to earth in a few days!! Hilary

N. R. Williams said...

Happy Birthday Perla.

Hilary, you are such a caring friend. Perla is blessed to know you.
N. R. Williams, Fantasy Author

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nancy .. thank you ... she had a lovely time or looked as though she was going to! The Filipinos seem to organise themselves so well .. and always have fun together ..

Cheers - Hilary

Friko said...

What a totally unusual nursing home, where patients, carers, staff and family all 'muck in' together . It sound the sort of place I wouldn't mind ending my days in, full of laughter, stimulation and goodwill.

Very rare.

Happy Birthday to Perla. Have you told her that you've made a post around her?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Friko - there's a lot more of that happening now - especially with the new manager. Having been there 4 years just about every day .. they really are my family .. and the Activity side of things is opening up a lot more -

Thanks so much for your comment - yes Perla does know and the Home have a copy - as too Perla .. but she was so excited with her party yesterday - I think that was understandably uppermost in her mind!

I think she's sleeping in today!! Cheers - Hilary

quilthexle said...

Belated Happy Birthday to Cleopatra !! ;-)) A good care-giver is something extremely wonderful, so no wonder you treasure her!

jabblog said...

Perla-Cleopatra will be so touched by your lovely post, Hilary. The home sounds perfect for your mother - and you, since you spend so much time there. I'm sure she appreciates it as much as you do. It's not always the case, sadly.
(. . . and of course, I love Hardwick.)


Rosaria Williams said...

Ah, a beautiful tribute to a generous person! Your caring attitude, I'm sure, is most appreciated and reciprocated.

Anonymous said...

Perla sounds like a fantastic person. A rare find in these days. You are truly blessed.

God bless you Hilary and have a Great Day! :-)

BTW, thanks for your recent comment on my "Don't Mess With Old People!" post. ~Ron

Patricia said...

What a wonderful post - a great birthday card indeed. Thank you for sharing this story and introducing us to Perla..

I too was indebted to the wonderful caregivers who assisted with my mother. In hospital they were Filipino too, but most of the home hospice workers were not and then there was the 24/7 me...I am still tired. It is an amazing job, not much appreciated these days here

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Frauke - she loves being called Cleopatra .. just laughs and whirls around. Care-givers and nurses are so essential to our well being and that trust in leaving our near and dear in their hands.

@ Janice - I hope Perla will enjoy having the post and knowing her care has stretched far and wide.

Yes - I've been lucky the staff have been there for me .. and we've had lots of laughs and giggles both with my mother and in and out of the corridors. Hardwick is a mighty "good boy" .. and comes with us all over the place - in our minds.

@ Rosaria - we all get on well and that is the most important thing, while they all love my mother .. which is a treat to know.

@ Ron - lovely to see you here .. we are truly blessed with our carers - exactly so.

Pleasure - you express some wonderful thoughts on your blog .. and get a lot of comments! So I'm really appreciative that you've taken time out - to come across here ...

You and Mrs G have a very good rest of the week .. with blessings -

@ Patricia .. yes, you've been through a similar experience .. and it just makes the care of our loved ones near their end so much more precious to be done with love and interest in each and everyone of them ... not always the case.

Our hospice workers are probably mainly English .. I'm just trying to think back - I guess so that communication is simpler .. and there can be no misunderstanding - at that time in someone's life absolutely essential.

I'm not surprised you're tired you've got a lot going on .. and until one is in the position of having to do the care, and being the person most relied on by the family ... it's often not appreciated by other family .. it's very sad really as there is so much they miss out on ..

Thanks Frauke, Janice, Rosaria, Ron and Patricia .. lovely seeing you all here .. it's a caring world! Cheers Hilary

Sara said...


What a nice tribute to Perla. I imagine you do get very close to people in the nursing home. I've always admired caregivers, like Perla. They are the ones who share their wisdom, compassion and understanding.

Perla sounds like a very special person and I also wish her a happy birthday.

Thanks for sharing this tribute with us:~)

Anonymous said...

Many Happy Returns Cleopatra!!

You sound like an angel flying close to the ground!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara .. lovely to see you here - Perla and other carers have to pick up so many pieces and as you rightly say they have their knowledge on tap and are always ready to help.

Thanks so much for your birthday wishes for her ..

@ Scarlett - love your description of an angel flying close to the ground .. and you know in both senses .. your son with his illness and those beautiful creations you bring to life for us on your blog.

Thanks Sara and Scarlett .. enjoy the weekend - Hilary

Chase March said...

Happy Birthday Perla!

Keep the adventure alive :)

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday, Perla!

What a wonderful post, Hilary. Perla sounds a lovely person. Isn't it a comfort to know that our loved ones are in such kind, caring hands.

I love Hardwick too. :)

Have a great weekend!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Chase .. thanks very much .. she had an excellent party by the sound of it .. tomorrow I shall find out more when she returns to work!

@ Shirley - thanks so much and it is as you say a great comfort to know our loved ones are safe in Perla and her colleagues' hands ..

Yes - Hardwick is rather special .. I guess Autumn has arrived?!

Thanks Chase and Shirley have lovely weekends too .. cheers Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

Happy belated Birthday to Perla! :)

Jannie Funster said...

Perla / Cleopatra sounds like a true pearl in the oyster of the care home. Some people are just born special, as she seems to have been.

Happy birthday to her!!

xoxoxo ro all

Susan Scheid said...

How right you are to sing the praises of the Carer,both generally and specifically as to Perla. "To have a carer who cares and who comprehends the stages that we will experience along this journey is a real bonus, and someone who loves people, who is prepared to share in our joy and be compassionate with our pain and struggles ... just makes life so much easier." You've stated it exactly right. I can only agree.

Manzanita said...

Such a loving tribute to one who gives so much love to others. A very Happy Birthday Perla/Cleopatra. So happy you are surrounded by your family-away-from-home. Hilary, when it comes to history and geography, you always fill in my blanks. Thank you dear friend.


nutschell said...

Oh the banawe rice terraces are even more stunning when you see them in real life! so glad you found a good picture of it here.

happy weekend!


J.D. Meier said...

I heard of a purple people eater, but never a Purple People Carrier. Now I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

God Bless Perla! She's a remarkable lady. I can tell by the post you attributed to her.

I have met many Filipinos while living in the melting pot of Southern California and I can truly say they are a wonderful culture and a soft yet passionate spirit.

Yes, Perla. Enjoy that glass of wine. You deserve it, and to be shared among those close to you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Golden Eagle - thank you - you know what birthdays are about this week - with your mother's own celebrations!

@ Jannie - you're right there .. some people are born special and she's a natural carer .. a real pearl. Thank you.

@ Susan - thanks Susan - we all experience so many emotions through these journeys and you've picked up the important sentence. Until we're put in a position of a Nursing Centre/Care Home ... we have no idea of what's ahead of us - so the Perlas of this world are like gold dust and we're so lucky if we fall under their care.

@ Manzanita - thank you so much .. yes being amongst loving and understanding friends is a joy for us. Glad you appreciate the educative snippets .. my mother loved hearing about these too.

@ Nutschell - excellent that you spotted the Banawe Rice Terraces - I'm sure they are beautiful .. one day I hope to visit and see them.

@ JD - my mother's imaginative mind .. I'd never heard of one either - but Purple People Carrier is her desired mode of travel! We had a good laugh over it .. when it first came up - what on earth is a purple people eater? Now that has me curious!!

@ Stephen - thank you .. you've summed up the Filipinos perfectly .. they are very generous spirited peoples.

Perla is a pearl .. and we are very lucky - and I'll find out how much she enjoyed her wine today, when she comes back to work!

Thanks so much Golden Eagle, Jannie, Susan, Manzanita, Nutschell, JD and Stephen ... Perla will be delighted to have heard from you - have wonderful weekends .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Great post. That pudding looks amazing! Happy birthday Perla.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Madeleine .. thank you - the halo-halo pudding I just had to put in .. it looks so delicious - perhaps not now as it's a little chilly! Have a good weekend .. and hope you're feeling better - Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

Hilary, I'm so happy you and your mother have Perla. She must be blown away by this thoughtful post (and a visual comparison to Elizabeth Taylor). Happy birthday, Perla!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. Perla is so happy to have everyone's comments and yours will definitely add to them.

She was a queen at her party .. and deserves her comparison to Cleopatra c/o Elizabeth Taylor - she'll understand!

Thanks so much .. she's having a lovely time - and we are lucky .. so good to see you here .. Hilary

Betsy Brock said...

Happy Birthday to Perla! And best wishes to her little old pup, too! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thanks Betsy .. Perla had a lovely time and really enjoyed herself .. she's so happy with everything.

Hardwick is my mother's "special boy" .. he's been a huge blessing ..

Cheers Hilary

Barbara Swafford said...

What a sweet post Hilary,

Happy Birthday to Perla, aka Cleopatra. From the sounds of it, she's become like family not only to you, but to your Mum and the others she cares for. How blessed you are to have her in your life.

This post is a beautiful tribute to her. Thank you for sharing this celebration.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. many thanks - just good to be able to do something for all the carers (via Perla)- and as you say we are lucky to have her in our lives.

Perla's enjoying the post too! Cheers and lovely seeing you here .. Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

Happy Belated Birthday To Perla! I don't know how I missed this post earlier. Perla sounds like a wonderful woman, and your mother is very fortunate to have both of you looking after her! Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. she will be delighted to have belated birthday wishes .. she's still enjoying herself! She brought the cake in and everyone's enjoying that!

The staff are caring and interested .. and that is the most important - Perla just has a magic touch .. so we're lucky all round.

Thanks so much - Hilary