I’m Janis Griffiths, I live in Barry in South Wales and I am 68. I am married and I am a carer for our adult autistic son who has moved into independent living after eighteen months with us.
I have so many identities that even now I am unsure which is the key one. You’d know that to be true for sixteen-year olds, but for a woman of my age? To look at me, I’m a boring and mostly invisible woman, late middle-aged and mostly middle class, a bit fat and unexceptional, but aren’t we all a bit surprising when you peel back the skin?
Three things I see out my window
I can see the weather coming. Little in life is predictable, but the weather comes up the Bristol Channel with the prevailing winds and I can see the rain or the sunshine on its way. It’s always there, blowing up from the Irish Sea towards us, so the storms and the rain are predictable. In my life, if I relax too much, then I will be side swiped by another disaster or crisis, but the weather just keeps on coming towards me.
I can see the crows in the treetops across the road. They build enormous straggling platforms on the tiny branches at the tops of the trees. Every winter more than half of their nests fall apart in the high winds, but come the Spring, they just start all over again, building their lives in the most precarious position possible and rearing their babies, fighting with each other and just getting on with things. It’s all a bit of a mess but life goes on.
It’s not quite from my window, but those lovely Victorian houses are on my regular walk. They all look the same, but each house is subtly different and completely individual when you look carefully. It’s a reminder to take pleasure in the small things and the little oddities around us.
What makes me get up in the morning
I need to pee, mostly. That’s age for you.
Opening the phone to see the overnight pictures and chat from New Zealand. I reach for my phone and WhatsApp first of all,
Hot flushes – menopause is lasting longer than puberty
The kinds of things people say about me
Professional people when in meetings talking to us about our son, refer to us as Mum and Dad. It’s adding a whole level of distance between them and us. They wish to be called by their titles such as Dr or by their given names and we are completely stripped of our expertise and identity.
Things I would change if I had miraculous powers
Instantaneous travel would be rather nice – my elder son and his family live so far away and it’s never less than thirty hours. I’d love to just be able to pop across the world for an afternoon or an evening. Can you imagine, ‘Hey folks, just over to babysit and home tomorrow’. We could spend a day on the local beach – see below.
A ritual I can’t do
My husband makes me tea in the morning. He’s not otherwise romantic but I know he loves me then.
Chatting to our sons daily, thank goodness for technology, but there’s nothing replaces a cwtch.
Sorting out our son’s guinea pigs; their poo is not offensive but they produce enough to make a cow proud.
Three objects I’d rescue in a fire
The picture of my granddaughter reading her soft book. It’s perfect really.
Driving licence, credit cards and money – I’m not stupid, paperwork matters. That safe key, we’ve been very poor, and I have a healthy fear of poverty for me and mine that is quite a motivator.
That jewellery box, it’s been there all along and it’s been some interesting places too.
Three things I’ve overheard
‘… and that was when their rottweiler ate the corgi.’ – I wish I had heard the lead up to that story! Or maybe not.
‘… and where you going to now then?’ ‘I’ll be there now, in a minute’ – I love the Welsh way of mangling the order of prepositions
‘… there’s nothing sadder than an empty crisp packet …’
Three things on or near my sideboard
My jewellery box, bought when I passed my eleven plus. We were living in Tobruk and these were made as souvenirs for people to buy so my parents bought it for me. Someone once had pride in my achievements. I haven’t even explained to anyone why it is significant and I’m not sure anyone now much understands, but it was a big thing for a girl of my background to do then.
A safe key, as a reminder that actually I can’t make my child safe, no matter what I do because truthfully, I can’t protect him from the world and the nastiness in it. I know his life is not valuable to others and can’t avoid the reminders of it.
Mop and bucket – not that I use it much, but when I do, I think of all those generations of women leading up to me, and who will follow me, who just got on with it, because that’s what they do. It’s not an option, so there we are. It’s a symbol for life as a carer too. It’s drudgery lots of the time, and there’s not much nobility attached either. I’m not a saint, just a woman like all the others long forgotten who just got on with it.
Who I was before I became a parent and who I am now
I was hopeful then and more optimistic about the world and how it works but I’m angry now and struggling to deal with that. Each let down, each disappointment and each injustice makes me more furious even as we lose resilience and strength. Something awful happens now with some official agency or other and I think, ‘Oh goodness, here we go again’. I used to feel surprised and shocked.
Three things you are waiting for
A vaccination to protect my baby boy. He’s on the left in this picture, walking with his Dad.
A change of government to one that has some grown ups in it. I’d feel safer then.
Flights, we need to see our other boy and his family
My younger son, probably. He has to deal with a world he can’t process or understand, and which has treated him very cruelly, but he gets on with it and remains polite (mostly), cheerful and enthusiastic. He makes himself well-loved. He’s a terrific role model for anyone. He gets things done.
Three pieces of music that get me through
Reminds me of my family in New Zealand and is a total ear worm as well.
Endlessly sad and sentimental and my Dad loved the song, dragging out the chorus into song of yearning, he’d hum it endlessly alongside Republican songs, despite not being especially sympathetic to the IRA or republicanism.