Amidst what one might consider inconsequential, there is sometimes deep hurt. Today we received a review notification from Eviivo, an online booking engine for letting B&B rooms. Someone who had stayed in one of our lovely rooms had slated us off good and proper. I will admit that one of the comments he made was true.
We have personal antique furniture given to us by my parents-in-law when we married which we had placed in the guest room as we thought the pieces went well with the rest of the decor and furnishings in the room. When we first moved the chest of drawers and wardrobe into the room, I had asked my mother, who was already suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, to help with lining the drawers and shelves of these two items. My husband had taken our dogs for a walk, and I was alone with mum, who was already rather scatty-brained and losing her co-ordination.
I remember that it was a bright and beautiful evening, with the sun streaming through the huge bay windows into the bedroom. Outside we could hear the evening calls of songbirds and the barking of dogs. Mum was feeling lively – she wanted to know what she could do to help as she could see that I was busy. The trouble was that her Alzheimer’s precluded her from being made responsible for any task. For example, if I were to ask her to help make the bed, she might put a pillowcase on the pillow, and just as quickly remove it in the next instant because she would not remember what she was meant to do.
Meanwhile, I was aware that I should try to stimulate Mum as much as I could as this would help her retain her grip on reality. As I knew that we still had to line the drawers and shelves, I asked Mum to help. Now, when Mum was well, she was very dexterous with her hands. In an effort to encourage Mum, I allowed her to help me in my task, but her hands were now not quite as steady nor her eyes as keen due to her disease. Nonetheless, I did not want to discourage her efforts and wanted to help her feel confident in her abilities, dwindling though they might be.
Call me a sentimental fool, but I could not bring myself to correct the slightly crooked tapes that Mum put on the liners to hold them in place. Tearing away the work she had done would have felt to me like a betrayal of the woman who had loved and encouraged me when I too, as a child, was wobbly in my efforts, trying to achieve what might perhaps have been beyond my abilities at the time. In Mum’s case, of course, it was her mental regression that was affecting her ability to be neat in her handiwork.
I have now had my comeuppance. Someone has written a review denigrating the liners and advised us to remove them from the wardrobe and drawers. One other person had complained about the lining as well over the years since Mum helped me, but I had resisted removing the liners as it was just about one of the last things which Mum had been able to do almost all on her own with moderate supervision, and I treasure the fact that she had been able to do anything at all during the progress of this debilitating illness. Putting all this into perspective of course is that scores of people have stayed in the same room, with many returning guests, and nary a complaint.
Still these two attacks have been vicious, and I suppose I will need to safeguard the business by removing the liners in case they provoke more uncharitable comments. It will hurt me to remove them. My mother does not even recognise me now, and that time together, lining the shelves and drawers, was precious. Tearing out the liners will feel a little like ripping away that tie with Mum when she was still compos mentis despite her early onset Alzheimer’s. I can hardly explain it: but it feels to me that keeping the liners is a physical representation of the time I had with Mum when she still understood what I said, what she and I were doing. Her work on the liners is a reminder of the bittersweet moments of communication through the stillness, love and tenderness we shared on that long ago day when the sun was setting as surely as Mum’s own mental powers were diminishing.
But how does one explain all this to guests who leave without a word and write reviews without first taking the time to tell us their thoughts? Moreover, would I even know how to begin to explain my feelings to unsympathetic guests who possibly feel malicious delight when commenting on such petty matters? I think that unless someone has experienced the misery of seeing a loved one deteriorate before their eyes – to see a parent in especial regress from being the wise and caring mother or father to a helpless parody of a child or infant – then it is almost impossible to expect that same someone to understand why people who have parents suffering from this cruel disease continue to hold unflinchingly and tirelessly to any little tokens that hearken back to those better days that we shared with our loved ones.
Blenheim Lodge is a family B&B and as such, the sentiments of a family, personal and involved as they are, are ingrained and entwined within the fabric of the business. One of the reasons people enjoy visiting us at Blenheim Lodge is because we are a B&B with heart. We care. We go out of our way to help make our guests’ time with us happy and relaxing. This is why we have people returning to stay with us again and again. But unkind reviews can and will destroy any future potential business, and this may well be the motivation for people who write what they do without first talking to us to see if we can improve things for them.
Our guesthouse is not part of a large corporation or hotel/accommodation chain. It is a cosy place with heart. When people target us maliciously we hurt and the wounds smart – unlike large hotels where petty comments are flicked off the skin like so many annoying midges because they do not affect anyone personally within their large staff complements. The owner of the chain is rarely – if at all – the same person who gets up in the morning, cooks breakfast, and cleans the rooms and toilets.
When I finally tear away the liners on the drawers and shelves tomorrow, I know I will feel like weeping. Mum never remembered what she did at the time even right after she had completed the task of taping the liners; and will never remember that simple but special interlude we had together, sharing a piece of handiwork for which I felt justly proud that she had accomplished even whilst her brain was dancing the dance of death. Only I shared that time with her. Only I will remember that time now.
And tomorrow the representation of that time will be ripped away.
‘Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
Visit our website: www.blenheim-lodge.com
Telephone: 00 44 (0)15394 43440