Life has a way, does it not Dear Reader, of throwing you a curve ball when you least expect it.
I have had a very stressful few weeks for various reasons – some of it good stress and some of it of the sort that wears you right down. I find the actions of others at times so astonishing and I wonder sometimes how they sleep at night safe in their misguided knowledge that they have behaved well.
So it was on Friday afternoon that I was looking forward to a weekend of good weather and gardening and lie ins. However, late on Friday afternoon I received the news that my Dad had had a most devastating stroke. His partner who called me was beside herself and it was only on Saturday that I learned the full extent of this most cruel of blows. He is completely paralysed down his left side, cannot speak coherently and cannot swallow.
My brothers and I made the journey up to Sheffield to see him yesterday and nothing could have prepared us for what we found. My lovely Dad is half the man he was in so many different ways – thin and pale and unable to really move. His right working hand is encased in a huge mitten of sorts to prevent him from pulling out the tube that is feeding him through his nose. His arms are bruised from needles and from bashing himself about. His breathing is ragged and harsh and he has a cough which is clearly giving him discomfort. Any dignity that he might have had is long gone. It was beyond upsetting for all of us.
Dad opened his eyes when we spoke to him and he seemed to focus on our faces. He tried so very hard to speak to us but all that came out was mumbling and indistinct and during the time that we were there he drifted in and out of a fitful sleep. But he was there, I know he was. I could see it in his eyes and I could also see the fear in them.
This is my Dad who organised the most brilliant birthday party entertainment when I was little and always turned up in my favourite pale blue suit, who sang us silly songs in the car and who came to see every show I was ever in until he got ill about 5 years ago. He wasn’t perfect – far from it, but I knew when times were tough that I could pick the phone up and he would always be there for me with words of wisdom.
He is trapped in a useless body from which there is no real hope of recovery. His cough could turn into pneumonia which would probably be fatal and he cannot tell us what or how he feels. For a man such as my Dad – an intelligent, articulate man this is the cruellest blow that life has dealt him. Part of me wants to hang onto him forever in whatever state he may be in – the selfish part of me and part of me wants a release for him if this is to be his existence – and it is only that – an existence.
For anybody reading this and I know you do from time to time Dear Reader, this is not a sympathy seek. This is an encouragement to appreciate your loved ones and tell them so – frequently. It is saying make that phonecall, make that visit, laugh together and have hugs, and plenty of them. I last saw my Dad 5 weeks ago and thank God I did. He was looking well and we had a huge catch up with photos of the great grandchildren and news of what everyone was up to. He did say that he felt as though he was living on borrowed time and I dismissed it at the time and told him not to be so ridiculous – but maybe he wasn’t being. Perhaps some sixth sense told him that he was. We will never know.
At the moment he is stable and not in pain as such but I hate to think that he is feeling scared and alone and trapped. There is nothing that we can do for him and he is receiving the best of care. We will know in the next few days how he is doing and what prospects of any kind of recovery there might be but we do know that he will never be able to live independently again. A devastating weekend for everybody.