Thursday, 17 August 2017

On this day

Time for another very personal post....   What can I say, I've got my reflective head on this week lol x

Tomorrow is my least favourite day of the year.  On that day, 15 years ago (how it's 15 years - my goodness, the time does fly!) we lost my Pa.  My dear, too young, Dad.  And my life changed overnight. 

I was very close to my Dad.  We were the same.  He was big, strong, with a laugh that filled more than the room.  It seemed to fill the world.  He wasn't afraid to cry.  He wasn't afraid to admit he was afraid. But he got on and did things anyway. 

He accepted people - all people, from all walks of life.  He placed no expectations or demands on anyone.  You were welcome at his table.  That's just how it was.  And it really is how it was.

Our house was full of a constant stream of people.  There was laughter.  There were friends who had fallen on hard times.  Even our milkman would come for drinks on Christmas Day!  My Dad showed love to everyone.  And he kept people, he forgave and accepted and there was always a place for you.

I miss his laugh.  I miss his presence.  I miss the one person I could talk to about any and everything.  I miss the bigness of his hugs - he was 6 foot 6!  It's impossible not to feel like a little girl when your Dad is a giant πŸ˜ƒ

He had a quick temper (ho hum - I wonder who inherited that 😁😁) but was also incredibly quick to forgive.  He apologized.  He was humble when he got it wrong.  I hope I inherited those qualities from him also.

He was very practical.  He taught me to climb trees, wade in streams, stand against the current.  To hold my head high, shoulders back and face the world. 

He taught me to use a screw driver, wire a plug, build flat pack furniture, use a spirit level, put up a shelf.

He loved the garden and was so proud of everything he grew.  Fond memories of shelling peas in the afternoon sun.  Nothing tastes as good as food you have grown yourself, especially when you eat it at a full table full of chatter, laughter and love.

And when there was chaos he was calm.  He stood in the gap in so many situations others couldn't.  He did things people would never wish to do, because they needed doing and his shoulders were the broadest and could bear the weight.  Though he had been on his own since the age of 15 I think, he carried his load and everyone else's along with it, without judgement or recourse.

He was wise.  Though he rarely gave advice unsolicited.  But now & then he would call me, or drop round with a bunch of sweetpeas and something that was on his mind.  Or just to check, or say hello. And I will always recall our conversation on my wedding day.  He was right.  With all the love and kindness and pain it took him to say it, he was right and I was wrong.  But he smiled & loved me and walked me down the aisle anyway.  We live and learn.

He asked for nothing in life, and he gave with all his heart.  Until his heart gave out on him.  And the hole tore open in our lives and never has really been filled. 

So the world changed, in that moment, in that phone call.  In the unbearable silence and pain that followed.  But we find we do bear it, because we have to. If not for ourselves then for them.  Because it is the very last thing we can do for them, to live on as they would have wanted us to.

And that is my first August 18th.  But there is also a second.

The following year, returning from a holiday abroad that we had taken my Mum on (as she had wanted to be away in the run up to the anniversary) I knew something was terribly wrong.  I woke up in pain like I have never felt, I couldn't stand, I couldn't think, I was losing so much blood but all I wanted was to be home, to get back to England and sort it out there.  I made it on to the ferry home before I'd lost so much blood that there was no more I could do but collapse, quite literally, and let others take over.  A friend was with me, thank God, and I have hazy memories of the Captain and a doctor who had happened to be on board.  I remember ambulances - they sent a bike, to get to me on board before I could be stabilized enough to be moved into the ambulance.  I can't remember how much blood they had to give me, I only remember that it hurt and I was ready to go. 

So I was rushed to the nearest hospital - spent the night in intensive care with them attempting to stabilize me enough to operate, which they did the following day.  August 18th.  I don't remember the night but I remember the morning, I remember being lucid enough to sign the consent forms.  Them explaining to me what it meant and what I would lose.  And having no choice but to agree.   I remember I was alone.  My friend had taken my Mother home the previous day, and my then-husband was nowhere to be seen.  So I waited, terrified and alone and so, so, so broken.  And then a peace came over me, that this was the 18th.  I couldn't be so unlucky as to die on this day I felt.  It would be too much.  So it must be that I would be ok.  Or at least that was what I felt.  I had a sureness of it, as they came to wheel me down to theatre, still alone.

I'd love to say it was all ok.  It wasn't.  I remember being in resus.  I remember coming in and out of consciousness and I remember people (nurses or doctors) buzzing around me saying "Stay with me" and using my name.  But I couldn't seem to lift out of the mud.  Only afterwards they told me they kept losing me, and I couldn't come round.

And it was two days before they came and told me the extent of the surgery. Of course they came and saw me, many, many doctors.  And checked on the awful bloody great cut from one side of me to the other, and the drains and just everything awful, awful, awful. But I wasn't stable enough yet for the news they had.

And I can't remember how long I was there.  It's all a haze. I begged and begged and begged to go home but I had to get stronger.  More transfusions, morphine, blah, blah. blah.

Eventually I came home, what a dreadful journey that was.  No muscles so I couldn't sit up, lying helpless and in pain for every bump and pothole, feeling like I was actually having to hold myself together to stop splitting in two.  Turns out I was 😟  That night it ruptured and my whole abdomen burst open.  More blood, more ambulances, more panic, more pain.

Straight back to theatre.  Turns out they had nicked my bowel during the procedure, so I had subsequent infection.  More transfusions, antibiotics, morphine, horrific bruising and just horrendousness.   A day or two later, once I was stabilized again, they wanted to take me back in to theatre a third time but I refused.  They had struggled to bring me back the first time, I was too tired, too ill, too terrified to go under again.  They agreed the risk was probably too high. 

So instead it was an unbelievably slow process for my body to mend itself.  I couldn't sit up unaided for probably nearly 6 months, and even then not for long.  I lay and a District Nurse came every day, to clean out the hideous gaping wound. She had a hook she would use to measure the depth - you felt it hit the bottom as it went inside you.  She was good humoured, and we laughed together.  I knitted stuff for her baby, as I could do that lying down 😁

In the November of that same year, still unable to do anything for myself, I got a call early one morning. Very early.  The time of day you only get a call if it is that type of call.

It was my sister.  My Gramps (my Dad's Dad) had leukemia.  This I already knew.  But it was the end.  Come now, she said, if you are able to come at all it has to be now. 

It's a haze again of how we got there.  Lots of pain killers, literally holding an open abdomen together, lying down in a car, bump, bump, panic, panic.   We were in time.  Just.  We said our goodbyes, held his hand as he relinquished his life.  I have never seen anything so desperate.  My Gramps was a navy man, fought in the war, served on The Victory.  He can't have weighed much over 5 stone when he died, just over a year after losing his only child. 

I just remember the numbness that followed.  The blur of endless days until my body healed, and heal it did - all be it differently from before. 

And life went on, as it does, normality returns and you put away in their boxes the pains you don't want to carry every day, along with all the others you have stored and continue to store over the course of your life. 

And you smile and you live and you love and you try.  And you carry on, with what you have been given, and make the best of what is left.

And this I do, each and every day, to the best of my ability.  In all ways I am my Father's daughter.  I know this, I shall rise.  But on this day, these few days, every year, I am not strong.  I will stand and I will try but I am a little more broken on these days than the others.  For they are the days that changed me, more than any other.  And on these days the boxes rattle, they clamor to be opened, to be free.  And so I thought perhaps if I free them they will find their peace, and maybe I will find mine also.


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