19th August 2012 – My stony heart.

It must’ve been the hottest day of the year.

It had been eleven days since our last encounter. I had drawn it out as long as I could. He had tried to convince me to visit sooner but after the previous visit, I had no intention of falling into his emotional snares again. It was too much of a risk and I was barely keeping my head above the water as it was. Perhaps it was too long a break and I should have been there for him. But for those eleven days I had a small sense of normality again, I felt safe without him there and as wrong as it may sound, I felt free.

We left early on the Sunday on purpose. We wanted to avoid the heat of the tube and the crowds of people. The journey to the nursing home took over two hours door to door even though we were still in London; the hassles of not being able to drive. By the time we reached it, the temperature had picked up and I was already fanning myself with my hand.

It looked pretty from the outside, a tall white building decorated with pink flowers. Yet as we entered and followed the directions to his room, I was startled to how different a place could look inside compared to the outside. However, the biggest shock was to come.

My father was sat upright in a chair beside his bed.

I sat opposite and watched in horror as he drifted in and out of sleep and consciousness. He was sat in a t-shirt David had brought him from home the previous week. He had a towel covering his lower body. I looked away, feeling repulsed. How insensitive of me; I berated myself but my father had always made me feel uncomfortable. Even in his suffering I could not forget the painful memories that reflected in everything he did.

Babitago……I need you to go to the house tomorrow and find me some more t-shirts to wear,”

he said quietly, still managing to give me orders.

“Did you hear me?” he questioned, I nodded with no intention of stepping into his house.

“Your sister would do it for me; she has done so much for me but she has a family.”

He was still capable, even at his lowest point, to take a dig at me. I was trying so hard to feel something – sympathy, pain, sadness. I was willing these emotions out. All I could do was look at him.

His body was almost shrivelled. He hadn’t shaved for months and unable to grow a beard, his silver facial hair was dusted like sleet over his chin. His heavy eyes remained closed as I stared straight through him. His fragile arms gripped the chair and the only sound that could be heard was his shallow, stilted breathing.

I was waiting to feel something, anything! Love, hurt, fear. I felt none of those things.

I cannot describe what I felt.

Wednesday 18th July 2012 – The phone call.

My father called me that afternoon as I made my way to meet a friend for dinner. It was two days since we had last spoken and I was wary when answering the phone. We were not back to having regular contact and I was worried that getting in touch on the 16th was the wrong decision.

As I was on the bus, he told me he had been rushed to hospital the previous night. My heart sank. My memories of him being in hospital had never been good. I began to worry of what he may expect from me.

He said it was serious and again my heart dropped. Now I had to deal with the fact that it wasn’t a prostate problem or a torn ligament, my father may actually be seriously ill. It was a lot to take in so quickly. The doctors at the hospital, after numerous tests, had come to the conclusion that his suffering was either Tuberculosis or Lung Cancer. Both sounded horrific and both petrified me. More tests were needed to determine what it actually was. As I took in the magnitude of the situation, I asked him how he got to the hospital. He explained how he had called an ambulance in the night when realising he could not breathe.

I could not believe it. Three years back when I had my Asthma attack, he refused to call me an ambulance! My life was clearly not as important as his.

He began listing orders:

  • I was to come the next day and bring him a set of clothes including underwear
  • He needed all his bank cards
  • I had to bring his mobile phone
  • David or I needed to check the house to make sure it was okay.

Many other things were said but I had stopped listening. I did not want this role he was forcing on me. I had not talked to him for two weeks because he had told me never to speak to him again. He condemned me as a daughter and now he expected me to take care of him and the house, that it all gets forgotten just because he is ill. Is that selfish? Is that evil? Yes, it probably is but I was working so hard to break free, to cut all the emotional ties and feel secure and strong. This was the worst thing that could’ve happened.

I told him it would be impossible to come the next day. He said he would’ve asked my sister but she wouldn’t return from Norfolk until Friday. I had to do it. Of course, I wasn’t surprised she knew his state before me. I barely knew anything about my father any more. I reminded him that I had a job to do and that it was a very important week at work. He muttered angrily down the phone, scolding me for being so insensitive. I told him I would come on Friday too as I was working a half day. It was just about enough to pacify him.