On what was once, but not now …
Today l am sluggish, my shoulder is painful and l am drained after yesterday ….
….we drove into the valley of death, we found the fierce lion’s den and walking carefully through the tunnels we chanced upon a wounded and confused tiger.
Yesterday l was in a right state, there is no other way to describe it, l was hyper-ventilating and stressed to the hilt, so much so, l genuinely thought l was going to throw up. Memories from what seemed like a thousands years ago had broken the seals on my deepest vaults and were now ransacking my brain and making a mockery of my skull! It had taken me years and years to quiet down these hidden darkly menacing monsters otherwise known as the childhood years that l rarely touch upon even today. Oh l don’t mean the secret journal musings or the funny stories, no l mean the really dark times that occasionally floats about in a literay sense in my poetry.
I was suddenly yesterday terrified once more, it had all begun with knowing l was going to see my Father that day, yesterday, Sunday 26th August but why should that be beholden to such a reaction? Because the mind is a funny thing, it creates a flight or fight mode when certain situations arise through stress and l simply couldn’t subdue them. My neck and shoulder were absolutely caning, l had to get the medication right for that journey, as when the car makes a sweeping turn, or brakes suddenly, hits a bump or a lump or even a hump every muscle from C5 -7 all the way down to my fingertips feels it in the same way that an erotic feather creates a stimulus down your back, whereas the latter is pleasing, the former is not! it is painful, juttering and jarring.
Making matters worse, is that these days since the switch in tablets l now go to bed in more pain than when l was just on one tablet type, and wake up in more agony. The tablets are not right and after yesterday’s journey, the Doctors have got to stop buggering around and just give me a much stronger pain killer. Suze was telling me to calm down – to not panic, but her words were bouncing off me like rubber bullets on a steel cased tank!
The journey to Dad’s took about 2 hours, despite it being a Bank Holiday weekend, and yes the traffic was awful [it always is], there were roadworks aplenty [there always are] and both of us were tired anyway because of the last few days of high stress. We left Scrappy with our next door neighbours, it was fairer on her leg, and fairer on my shoulder and Suze’s back as it meant we didn’t have to lift her in and out of the car several times.
Despite everything, we hit my Father’s at around 11.30, so that was good timing considering a 9.00am departure, the retun journey admittedly did take longer [sadly it always does], due to car crashes and horrible weather [it was pissing down ], but generally poorer driving from other drivers.
But we got to our destination, and we were as prepared as we could be …
….. we knocked on the door, to be met with a ‘Yes ok, just push the door please’, and discovered for ease that Dad had simply left it on the latch. Walked in, and found ‘what was once Dad’ sitting in one of the armchairs. We both greeted him and sat down in front of him, and even though l greeted him as Dad, gave him a kiss of the head and a hug, there was no warmth there. If anything, l had to say to myself ‘Is he snubbing me?’
Sitting in a chair l took all of him in, he was in a terribly bad way since the last time l saw him May 12 [to give you an example think May 12th a pumpkin to August 26th think grapefruit] and how much weight he had lost. Dad has never been an overly large man, he wasn’t fit per say, but he was never overly large, so the difference was instant. In addition to that he was covered from head to foot in scabs and not small ones, large ones, some fresh circular wounds, bruises and the overall effect of the man not healthy – he was gaunt and frail, not well nourished, fatigued and overall exhausted.
He bade to Suze and l to sit down which we did, and then started talking to us in a very lucid manner or l should say to be more exacting, ‘professional business like approach’.
“Right, am l dying, has the chemo done this to me, how long do l have left, who are you and what can you do for me?’
I was a little confused admittedly, was he himself confused, was he lucid, was he being sarcastic, caustic, was this humorous, what on earth was going on?
In fact for the next fifteen minutes we were faced with a barrage of questions, that whilst l could answer some l did, such as l am in touch with all the family, and everyone now knows the whole picture, we know everything concerning your health. But each time l said something or made notes to his requests l always acknowledged him as Dad. He moaned about not seeing anyone, and apparently his Son was supposed to be seeing him, but the way he described my Sister and myself, was somewhat derrogatory. In truth having always been a ladies man, he hardly addressed me with anything, he spoke to Suze and then after 15 minutes he asked her this one question?
“You are very kind thankyou, what was your name again and what did you do?”
Suze answered with l am Suzanne, Rory’s partner and l drove him up to see you today.
Dad looked a little weird for a moment until he answered, “You brought my Son up to see me today, where is he?”
To which point l answered, “Dad l am six feet in front of you.”
“Rory, is that you?” He looked quite crestfallen, and then appologised profusely and was incredibly hurt, “I am so sorry Rory. I had been asleep when you arrived. I get a bit confused when l first wake up.”
What could l say except that it was alright, it’s not a problem.
That was the answer then, he had been asleep, and so didn’t recognise either Suze or myself because of it.
From that point on and for the rest of our visit, he was remakably lucid. His friend John rang during our visit, and Dad referred to his children, as ‘thems’, in so far as saying ‘one of them had turned up, but no word from the other one. I can’t deny that it didn’t affect me, as it did, but l simply let it go. This man was dying, and who was l to say or not say whether the cancer was eating away at his brain. I don’t believe he has dementia, but he is not taking his medications correctly, nor administering his insulin when it should be done.
He is simply a man who has no real enthusiam for life anymore, he doesn’t watch TV, or listen to his music, he doesn’t read anymore except maybe the newspaper, he is no longer writing anything. He is purely existing with not just one, but two feet in his grave.
However, we did discuss many things, we discussed the will, we discussed his family, his wishes, and even more pressing matters concerning his cat, his burial and funeral. he was more than capable of talking in depth about these things.
It saddened me to see the blood on his carpets from the numerous falls, it saddened me that he was not taking his medication properly, but his wish is to die at home, and in order to allow him that to occur l had to stress upon him, that he would have to let the care workers do their jobs, and that meant he was going to have to start allowing people to clean him, bathe him, wet wipe him, attend to his needs. “Because sadly Dad, in order for you to die at home you have to be healthier than this, otherwise you will end up in a hospice where upon they will medicate you and prolong the life you do not wish to live.”
I talked to the district nurse, and we have an understanding now, my Sister is organising things behind the scenes and l am handling the family side, we are doing what we are good at, even if we don’t like it, we are good at what we don’t like. It doesn’t matter now about the anger at Dad, nothing matters, now we have to work together to make his last days as comfortable as we can. How long has he really got left? Well if he took his medication on a regular basis, perhaps four months, but otherwise, well then l would be surprised if he was still alive by the end of September.
I left Dad yesterday alone in his house with his District nurse taking count on his sugar levels. The twilight shift would be in later in the day to check on him. My Sister will be with him about now l should imagine for a few hours, his own Sister is staying with him for a few days this week, the new hospice care team starts tomorrow, and my Sister managed to organise an additional helper to assist him one day a week.
It has only just begun, a journey that is probably going to take a couple of months at max, but there is so much to do. Suze and l agreed that we would travel down to him next week, and every week after that within the possibility of commitments of our own till the end of days begins.
But at least the honest pathway has now been laid …