It’s 4.40 am, and I’m sitting in the living room at my parents’ home. Insomnia? Far from it. As I write, my Mum is curled up on the other couch, sleeping under a lovely soft fleecy blanket. My Dad? At the other side of the room to me, in his ‘hospital’ bed … a shadow of the man he was just a few short weeks ago. Around a year ago, Dad had surgery for bowel cancer. He’s been champing at the bit for months, wanting to get back to normal, back to the days when he could do a hard day’s work in the garden or around the house and still have the energy for a five mile walk … sadly, despite the all clear a couple of months ago after several scans, he developed jaundice and further tests revealed secondaries in three sites. So, I’m sitting here, 120 miles away from my own home, waiting and listening.
Seeing a loved one go through this kind of living hell puts things into perspective, it really does. Watching this proud and private man that I’m privileged to call my Dad deteriorate alarmingly is bloody hard. The last few weeks have been full of remembering, memories that were long forgotten have resurfaced, and I’ve come to realise just how much I’m like this man who we affectionately call a miserable old bastard. Facing the inevitability of what is happening is so difficult … never before in my life have I wished I could change things more than I do now. Dad’s deterioration has been swift … he’s so weak he can’t get out of bed without help … this lovely proud man is reliant on us to feed him (not that he’s eating anything of any substance, despite gentle coaxing), provide pain relief, copious amounts of water, and attend to his toilet needs. So here I sit, watching and waiting, for the inevitable event that we fear will happen soon.
It’s all about perspective. I wonder why I get so stressed about things in my life that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter. I wonder why I let stuff from the past kick me in the teeth still in the present. The truth is, none of it matters at all. What really matters is recognising those people who are the most important in your life, and making sure that they know how important they are. One thing the last few weeks have shown me is just what a remarkably strong woman my Mum is, whether she thinks she is or not, and how much like Dad I and my siblings are. For him, I believe he’s in no doubt that he’s very well loved by those in the family circle, and how highly regarded he is outside the family circle.
Finally, I’ve realised that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and I’m going to stop fretting about nonsense and start living life to the full. But not just yet … for now I’ll sit up all night for as long as it takes, because my parents deserve every little care that I and my brothers and sisters can give.
I couldn’t do this without the support of my own family unit, 120 miles away but here with me in spirit.
Life, my friends, is a funny and fragile thing.