As I sit here at my computer and start to type, I am really am not quite sure how to begin. I just know that something needs to come out because otherwise it will sit inside and fester. And then later it will pour out, like blood and pus from a septic wound, like it did last night onto my husband and children.
So. To begin.
My father has been diagnosed with a chronic disease.
At this stage we don’t yet know the form that his motor neuron disease is taking, just that it is the label and the explanation for the speech impediment that manifested some months ago, followed by the incredibly sore back and rapidly shrinking body. It has been very hard to watch – my father has always been a very precise man in his speech, and physically active his entire life. Is mortality now staring our family in the face? Please, God, no – it’s too soon.
At this stage of my life I know that I have been incredibly fortunate. I have a loving husband and two wonderful young boys, and parents who have played an active role in their grandchildren’s lives from the moment they were born. My mom and dad are seriously good, kind people.
In comparison, my husband doesn’t speak to his father, whom I’ve never met in all the many years I’ve been with Frank. Like a spectre at the feast, ‘Francois senior’ – otherwise known to his now-anaesthetised family as ‘Old FAF’ – used to pop up in our lives with a certain notorious regularity in the early days of our relationship. It started two weeks after we’d started dating, when Frank casually mentioned that his father had disinherited him, and then pulled out the letter to prove it. But that’s another story, however interesting to the non-involved.
Other friends of mine have already lost a parent. Ed has been unlucky enough to lose both mother and father. Anne and Mike are currently sharing the journey of mortality with Frank and I, as their mother recovers from heart surgery that became life threatening in its aftermath (this after she had already recovered from a brush with cancer).
Having known some of my friends’ now departed parents, having spent time in their homes and shared meals and laughter and conversation with them, I have shared a small part of the sorrowful journeys’ ends. Now, I fear that it will shortly be my turn.
Or perhaps we will be lucky and the time frame won’t be too short. My dad is still in the testing phase. It is a frustration in some ways and a relief in others. Nothing is yet completely finalised in the labelling.
The thought that I would one day lose both my parents has whispered its way across my mind from time to time – it is an inevitability of life that it must end in death – but I have always brushed it away and refused to allow the thought to linger, let alone be dissected. Now it is harder to brush away.
Frank, who says my dad has been more of a father to him than his own biological father, has chosen to embrace the diagnosis by doing as much research as possible. He has armed himself with knowledge, and discussed it with my parents.
In contrast, I found my parents to be relatively unforthcoming with me at first in sharing information, so tried instead to arm myself with hope. I’m still trying but the specific knowledge that I am absorbing – reluctantly – by osmosis is a creature with teeth. It bites you in the heart.
I think that is where the wound came from whose aftermath overflowed onto my family members last night.
Playing judge and jury now, I think my beloved does have some fault to bear in last night’s shouting match but I do need to admit to over-reacting. I hope that under the circumstances I might be forgiven.
Meantime, drugs here I come. There is some or other tranquilliser out there with my name on it for a little while, and I’m going to get my GP to find it. With no shame and no apologies.
Some crosses just need a bit more help than others.
And while we play the waiting game, please send your positive thoughts, prayers and good wishes. As Anne and Mike will testify from their own recent ordeal, it does seem to help.