I am trying desperately to find the positive in our current situation. Having always been a bit of a dreamer – a girl with her nose in a book, carried along through life trusting in fate and goodness – I am now wracking my brain to try and decipher what positive I can take from it.
And, to be honest, I’m struggling.
My dad is dying. Stage 4, advanced stomach cancer.
I tried to save him. I bought book after book and whizzed up fresh ginger and green smoothies. I fed him almonds and nuts and reduced his sugar intake. I invested in expensive essential oils and clung on to the tiniest glimmer of hope that I could save him. After all, if you want something hard enough, you can achieve it. Isn’t that what we’re taught? That if you fight with enough determination and grit, you’ll win?
I didn’t win.
Despite the books, the recipes, the vegan sausages (yuk!), the avocados and kale, the cancer has spread and there is no hope.
There is only time.
How much, we don’t know. But it’s not years.
Tick tick tick……
I have cried so much over the past few days that I feel like a dried up old prune. I have raged and I have wailed. I have spent hours in the middle of the night paralysed with fear over what lies ahead. I am angry at the hand my father has been dealt in one moment and am collapsed in a heap trying to breath through ugly, wracking sobs the next.
Mostly though it is just simple, quiet sadness.
I am sad about the years my father has been robbed of. And not just a future cut short, but the past five years of living through the trauma of my mother’s dementia. A life in limbo. Waiting to feel ready to live again.
And he was getting there. He was ready to start travelling and living again.
But through both the quiet and the storm, I am trying hard to cling to the fact that we have been given the luxury of time. Probably not a lot of time – no where near enough time – but more than many families are given. So we must not waste it.
Tick tick tick….
It is strange to be in a situation where I am in the process of losing both parents. My mother’s decline was initially so rapid and so destructive, that there just was never any time to ask her questions, to have meaningful conversations about life and death and love. We’ve had time – so far five long years of it – but, there has been no quality time.
So this time it is different. Instead of being passive spectators, we have the opportunity to get busy and make this time count. To write words we want to write. To say the things we need to say. To share memories and regrets. To spend our time wisely and not waste it. To make sure there is nothing left unsaid; that all well deserved thank yous are expressed fully and without restraint. That my dad understands just how much he is loved and how much he has taught us. That he realises what a wonderful legacy his love, guidance, strength and quiet goodness will leave behind.
Tick tick tick…..
I am sure this outpouring of love will make my father quite uncomfortable. This is the man who expresses his love for his grandchildren with the buying of educational books and pats on the top of the head. A man who feels awkward with hugs and kisses. Who expresses his love through actions of kindness and huge generosity rather than sentiment.
His actions have always spoken louder than his words:-
The tree house he built for us as kids from scraps of wood.
The countless dens he built in the garden for us as children.
How he’d come into school at lunchtimes to administer our medicine – our education didn’t stop for a piddly illness!
The garden shed he destroyed by turning it into a stable in my garden for my rocking horse.
The 10 mile round trip he would walk with my pony to the nearest blacksmith, whilst I was at school.
The hundreds of stories he has read to his 8 grandchildren – them perched, enchanted on his knee.
The extra Christmas present he’d always hide and leave until last for my mum, surprising her every year with more than she was expecting.
The books that arrive from Amazon that you know came from Papa, because he’d read a review that inspired him.
How he always cleans his plate before putting it in the dishwasher!
The decked area in his garden that he dug out on a hired digger – working days on end to make Mum’s garden beautiful.
His patients’ lives he improved or saved over the years as a dedicated family doctor.
The families he supported through grief and loss with home visits, going above and beyond the call of duty.
The friends he made laugh when they came for tea with his funny antics, silly games and kindness.
The vegetables he encouraged said friends to eat with silly games – always laughter never tears.
The TV we were not allowed to watch (Grange Hill and Eastenders!)
The way he looked after my mum for so long at home, despite us all telling him it was too much – how he didn’t give in, until physically he was forced into a decision.
The tears he has shed over my mother.
The clothes that still hang in her wardrobe.
Her face creams and perfumes that still sit on their dressing table.
The words he has written about my mother.
His sweet tooth and unfathomable love of a half pound biscuit.
The way he used to let me always win our running races along our road.
How nothing is impossible – need to make a boat in the garden? Let’s do it! Making a den? No problem!
The way I used to make him lie down on the carpet so I could measure him.
How he used to let us listen to his heart beat with his stethoscope.
Playing Trumps (the card game) with him as kids and hooting with laughter as he claimed not to know what we were laughing at!
How I was always so proud of his “doctor” status at school and would go on and on and on about things he’d imparted – like why your veins look blue.
The fact I always thought he looked like Clark Kent.
The fact all my school friends would tell me he was their favourite doctor.
How he made everyone laugh!
The fact that he’s worried about his little dogs and what will happen to them.
The fact he apologised for having cancer and upsetting us all.
I could go on.
Tick tick tick…..
But I haven’t got time to waste.
I love you, Dad x