My Mother phoned me last night.
My Father is ill. He’s 78, just this week. And he isn’t hale and hearty, far from it.
My Father led a raucous youth -and looking back as a little girl, I can only remember him with cigarette in hand or a pint of something. That was the 60s for you.
By the time he reached early 50s – he was having a triple heart by-pass.
Over the years there have been a few set backs, medical interventions, but he has lead a good retirement – played golf & bowls and learned Tai Chi. Spent time with Mum in the their garden and generally enjoyed a relaxed and happy retirement.
Lately, he hasn’t been well.
Initially given 15 years with the by pass – he has done very well – he is 20 years post op.
But his heart is failing him. He knows it, we know it and more importantly his medical team know it.
He has been passed around from one set of docs to another over the last 6 months and in that time, there has been noise, talk, tests but nothing has been done – and he has steadily deteriorated. They are now all but admitting out right there is very little to be done for him
I’m not even convinced he has the physical strength to undergo any difficult surgery even if they felt something could be done – and they aren’t!
I have thought a lot about how I personally might face my own death, but in my thinking, it is always a long way off in the future, something I can ponder academically. But for my Father, the reality of his death is by his side – he is beset with issues every day, dizziness, pain, indigestion, palpitations – the effects of a defective heart are making themselves so known to him – he can’t escape the ‘in your faceness’ of what everyone now feels is his imminent demise.
And I can feel the panic – not just in him but my mother too. She isn’t a flakey sort of woman, but even she is feeling the strain of the constant worry – would it be today? tonight?
Just last night, trying to arrange a not so future family event, I could feel her real prevarication – what if? hung in the air.
Speaking the truth – being up front and not speaking in euphemism – always my preferred way to deal with matters, suddenly feels way way too blunt, too harsh, too uncaring. They are already panicked witless.
But where is the peace and acceptance – the going lightly to your good night? There is none of that. And I find myself googling the ways in which people might expire from heart failure, so better able to help my Mum in the event. And some of the stores are frightening.
I think I imagined peaceful sleep and then gone.
But instead, I am confronting a frantic and painful struggle to the end.
And at 78 I would like for them something altogether more calm.
I wish they were more spiritual people, that they might glean real comfort from a belief in something, but in being salt of the earth types – their understanding of life and death is altogether more salty – and frightening. And for once, I can find nothing comforting or useful to say to either of them.