Still in shock: The Next Day

Waking up on that first morning, feeling nervous and uncertain, was like waking up from a nightmare and finding out you were still dreaming.

The house was cold and quiet. It was late for my parents, but early for me. However, my parents were still in bed sleeping. I, on the other hand, could not sleep.

I had to fix things. The electricity. The lack of food.

Without consulting my parents, I rang an electrician. Within two hours, we had power and I was making a hot cup of tea and warming the room to a comfortable level. Already, I felt things changing, improving. Suddenly the world felt better, I was more able to cope.

But that feeling was short lived.

My father was not the man I had known all my life. He was worried. In fact, he was obsessed with the “red machine”. What red machine? you may ask. I had no idea! All I knew was that Dad wanted to put money into the red machine and he wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Eventually, I worked out that the machine was in the shopping centre and the money was needed to pay for parking so that he could bring the car home. But … the car was in the carport, right outside the house.

We didn’t need to pay the red machine.

Dad wouldn’t accept this until I took him outside and showed him the car. Meanwhile, Mum was so confused about everything that she was asking me the same half dozen questions every twenty or so minutes.

I felt exhausted. Terrified. Totally out of my depth.

As terrible as this sounds, I needed a break from them so I went over to my brother’s house. It was about 4pm, I sat and told them everything that had happened. They were shocked and upset. We all cried together.

When I got back, just before dusk, Dad had the car parked at the top of the drive, near the road. He was walking towards it with his toolbox, when I pulled up.

“What’s up, Dad?” I asked.

“The car is broke. It won’t go forward and I need to get petrol.”

I stood staring at him and the car. The car was only two years old. Something in my gut told me the car was not “broke”.

“Let me take a look,” I said. Coming from me this should have alerted Dad, as he knows I know nothing about fixing cars; but he seemed unaware of this.

“All right,” he replied.

I sat in the driver’s seat and noticed the petrol gauge was showing almost full. I turned the key and started the engine and put the gear into Drive. I eased off the brake and the car moved forward.

Dad appeared at the window. “Quick, get out. I have to go and pay the red machine.”

Alarmed, I turned the engine off and got out of the car. “Dad, the car is right here. You don’t have to pay for parking.”

Dad stared at the car. I could see his mind trying to pull everything into place. Slowly he nodded and I talked him into going inside. When he was gone, I parked the car under the carport again.

When I went inside, I hid the car key.

That’s when I discovered that the power was gone again.

“What happened?” I asked, gutted.

“I tried to make it better. I can make your car run better too,” announced Dad.

He’d attempted to make several things “better”. The TV. The kettle. The microwave. The lamp in the main bedroom. It was amazing he hadn’t electrocuted himself.

We spent another night in a cold, dark house.

The Rest of the First Day

I have a blood disorder called Essential Thrombocytosis. I have two injections per week, which, will hopefully stop me from having a stroke. I’ve had two minor strokes to date. The injections need to be refrigerated, so moving in to a house with no power was not ideal.

I took the injections to my brother’s house; and I took my parents with me, so they could sit in the warmth for a while and drink a cup of warm tea. In all honesty, I cannot remember much of the visit. I all ready felt overwhelmed and dazed. And I’d only moved in with my parents a couple of hours beforehand.

All I know for sure is that I sat quietly amongst family, barely speaking, barely functioning. My mind was running a million miles an hour, yet I had no idea what to do. The lack of power was my first job to get fixed, but that wouldn’t happen until Monday morning. In the meantime … I could only worry, about everything.

I didn’t say much, but the look on my face and the lack of colour spoke volumes to my family (except my parents). They were concerned. My brother wanted to help but Dad refused his help, so they attempted to help in other ways; by providing food, a gas cooking stove and support.

We didn’t stay long.

When we arrived home, Dad patted my arm and said, “Thanks for taking us out today. You can go now.”

“Go?” I replied. “Go where?”

“Go home.” He pushed me towards the door.

“I’m not going anywhere, Dad. I live here now.”

He didn’t look pleased, even though he was the one who had asked me to move in. He had been pushing for it for weeks. We stood facing each other, I stared into his eyes, and that’s when I realised the depth of the issue. The cancer had gone to my father’s brain!

The first evening is a total blur. I couldn’t cook a hot meal, because of the lack of power. I did make cups of tea and hot milo on the little gas stove, but apart from the lack of electricity, my parents also had no food in the house. I hadn’t looked in the cupboards before we went out. The food my sister-in-law had given me became a godsend.

We made do. Besides, it was obvious they hadn’t been eating properly, so I knew I would have to build their strength slowly. They both ate like tiny sparrows. But they ate. They drank. They sat with thick blankets and quilts around them to keep warm. We all went to bed early that night.

My bags, unpacked, sat on the floor of my old bedroom. It had been three decades since I had called it my room. My mother used the room as an extension to the bedroom she shared with Dad. Her belongings had overflowed into the wardrobe and drawers of my old room. I sat on the edge of the bed, staring at her belongings, wondering what our futures would hold.

I didn’t, couldn’t, sleep for hours.

The First Hour: When Reality Hits Like a Brick

I procrastinated when I had to move in with my parents. Not because I didn’t want to help them, because I did. Not because I wasn’t prepared to make changes in my life, because I was. It was because I was scared!

I didn’t know what to expect: where my parents were concerned; where my job was concerned; or, where my life was concerned. It was like stepping through a door and not knowing if my foot would meet solid ground or if I would fall into a gaping hole.

Then I received disturbing news. My parents had no power. I knew there was a problem with the hot water system, but I was told that had been fixed. I didn’t know that the lack of hot water was only the beginning of a much larger issue. An issue that hit me like a brick as soon as I arrived on that cold, Sunday afternoon, with the intention of moving in.

It was 3pm and both my parents wore their night attire. That was alarming in itself, because they NEVER did that. For as long as I can remember they got up early, had breakfast, had showers, got dressed and went to the shops to do their Once-a-Fortnight-Every-Day shopping. Mum always needed to get something and insisted it couldn’t wait until their next shopping day. My dad had resigned himself to this decades ago, but he still couldn’t stop himself from telling everyone he met about it. In reality, it was Mum’s way of “getting out of the house”. They would pick up a few things, have a coffee out and then be home for lunch and a quiet afternoon. It was their routine.

And here they were in their pyjamas. And worse still, Dad was ferreting in the garbage bin and Mum was sitting in the cold house sobbing.

Alarm bells were definitely ringing and I hadn’t even taken my bags into the house yet.

As I walked around the house, I saw the TV had been placed on the floor. Dad said it was broken. He told me the kettle didn’t work or the microwave, for that matter. There was no electricity. No hot water. No heating. This was the immediate cause of the problem, of course, but was not the main reason (as I was soon to find out). My dad was trying to “fix” things but was having trouble. This set more alarm bells ringing, as Dad could fix anything … until now.

I realised then that I had procrastinated too long. My parents had needed me to move in earlier than I had. I finally brought in my bags.

How Quickly Life Changes

On 9 June 2014, I wrote a post saying my father had two months to live due to lung cancer, but I was hoping the doctor’s were wrong. Unfortunately, there were not.

On 29 June 2014, Dad passed away.

I had moved in with my parents on 15 June. I was in the house for less than an hour when I realised things were much worse than I had thought. But even then I had no idea that Dad would be gone two weeks later.

I will attempt to share my experiences. However, I only have use of my iPad for Internet use these days, so I will be typing these experiences using the WordPress app. Being a typist, I imagine using two fingers will be frustrating for me so I cannot see myself typing long posts. But that’s okay. Short and simple will suit me even better these days as time has become precious in my new role.

The next chapter of Grand Central Station, which is what my mother affectionately called my life several years ago, will be posted soon.

Stay tuned.

Going Offline Now

The time has come! I will be moving in with my parents tomorrow and will not have access to the internet for an indefinite period. Please refer to Life is Cruel for an explanation.

Should you leave comments, please be advised I will not be available to respond during this time.

I’ll be back in the future. No idea how long it will be. But when that time comes, I plan to share my experience.

In the meantime, stay strong and be kind to yourself.

My Dad has Lung Cancer

Two months ago I discovered my dad has lung cancer. It was a shock to hear because although Dad was a smoker, he gave up 30 years ago. He didn’t expect this. Neither did I.

The Australian Cancer Research Foundation claim, “Lung cancer, which can be associated with smoking tobacco, is one of the most common causes of cancer death for men and women in Australia.”

They also state, “The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 14.1 per cent.”

That’s a low percentage.

My father has been given two months. We are hoping for longer, but doubt he’ll be here for Christmas.

The meaning of “lung cancer” differs from person to person. There’s “small cell carcinoma”, which is the kind associated with smoking and can stay confined to the place it originated. And then there is “non-small cell carcinoma”, which is more common and tends to slowly spread.

I’m not sure what my father has as he’s keeping most of the details to himself. And I don’t suppose it matters much as the timeframe has been set.

Lung cancer symptoms are a dry cough, spitting up blood, chest pain and chest infections. As far as I’m aware my father had back pain, but never coughed up blood. Since being diagnosed he has developed a cough. The cancer was discovered when Dad had x-rays to determine what was causing the back pain.

Although surgery to remove the tumor is often the best solution, it was too late for my dad. Dad has Stage IV Lung Cancer. He has been told it is inoperable. Radiotherapy did nothing to reduce the tumor. The only treatment left for him is pain management.

So, there you have it. Two months is not long. Unfortunately, we are a month into that time as I type this. I can only hope the doctors are wrong and Dad might have longer than they think.

Life is Cruel

It’s been eight years since my son, Barry, passed away. Eight years! For those just joining the road after losing someone to suicide, I can tell you it will become easier to bear. You will one day remember your loved one for who they were and not, so much, for how they died. You will find yourself laughing and loving, and even feeling happy, again. But you will never forget. Never!

For me, life’s road smoothed out and allowed me to think that I could join the ‘normal’ in their quest for happiness. I purchased a house. I found a good, well-paying job. I have a granddaughter now and another grandchild on the way. Yes, things are looking brighter and then…

BAM!

“Take that,” says life.

On 27 March 2014, my father told me he has lung cancer. Less than a month later, he told me (accidentally, mind you) that he has two months to live. And, to top it off, he tells me my mother has early dementia and will need ongoing care when he’s gone.

I love my parents, and I’ll do whatever I can to ensure their lives are happy, safe and comfortable. I’ll sell everything and will relocate to care for them. I’ll do whatever it takes, because they are my parents and they deserve my help. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not scared of what the future holds.

Because I’m TERRIFIED.

The one thing I keep telling myself is, “if you can survive the death of Barry, you can survive this”. And it’s true. Losing Barry was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I survived that. It was difficult and I didn’t think I’d get through it, but I did. And I know I’ll survive this too.

Now, I’ve gone from my son’s death by suicide to my father’s fight with terminal cancer, and later to my mother’s torment from dementia.

I suspect this website will document the journey. However, as the primary carer, I will be moving in with my parents in coming weeks and that will mean I’ll have no internet access until important decisions can be made. That will be two or three months down the track.

In the meantime, over the next couple of weeks at least, you can expect to see posts relating to caring for cancer patients to start appearing on this website.

The Passing Years

purple flowersOver seven years have passed since that tragic day when I heard the words, “Barry is dead.”

How the years have flown by, yet at the same time dragged its weary feet. At times, I believed we wouldn’t make it through the turbulence. That was when the evil face of suicide tempted my elder son to join his brother; and later, it tried to seduce me. Yet, although the fight was sometimes hard, we stayed to live our lives.

Then there were the times when life almost felt normal — or as close as it was going to get to it, anyway. Smiles were easy to find, laughter was a second away. For those looking on, they would never guess our hearts were not quite as full as the smiles on our faces. But that’s okay. We have learned to carry on regardless. Only sharing our pain with each other.

And the pain is still there — buried beneath the surface.

As is the guilt!

For me, the only person who can relieve me of this burden is Barry. And Barry is not here to give me the answers I require.

Having said this, I do not dwell on it as often or as long as I once did. I have accepted that Barry is gone and no amount of wishing will bring him back. I also accept that we will never know, for sure, why he chose this path when other options did exist for him. To dwell on these things will only torture me further and will turn me into a bitter, old woman. I don’t want that.

Instead, I look at the photos I have of Barry and feel thankful that I knew him and loved him. Although I yearn to see him, to hear him, to hug him; I am grateful that our last words were “I love you”. And I cherish the memories we created together.

On bad days I will wonder what Barry would be doing right now, if he were still alive? Would he have a wife or children? Would he have joined the Army and made a career of it while seeing the world? But it is best not to dwell on these things for too long either. It only upsets me more. So I turn my thoughts to my older son who is a man in his own right now. He has a one-year-old daughter. She is a (good) reason why we must move onwards.

Time heals all wounds. And it does. There may be a scar, which will be a permanent reminder, but eventually the pain softens and the heart and mind allows us to live a life that is somewhat normal. And when the scar throbs more than usual, I find myself going back to the one thing that has always helped me through the grief — nature. I take long walks in parks, botanical gardens, animal parks, by the sea, in the mountains, beside rivers. Anywhere where I can see the sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel relaxed.

I believe the worst is behind us. We cannot know what the future holds, but we intend to make it as good as we can … for us and for the new addition to the family.

Grieving Silently

by Author Unknown

Why must I grieve silently,
When my heart is so loudly screaming?
The emptiness I feel is consuming me,
Oh God, how I wish I were dreaming.

The silence around me is deafening,
For nobody knows what to say,
To comfort this agony I’m feeling,
Since my son went away.

And each day the sun continues to rise,
And the earth is still turning,
Though my world has come to a screeching halt,
No one can ease my yearning.

For a part of me has vanished,
And a part of my heart has died,
And no one can hear my heartache,
Or feel the turmoil I carry inside.

And I’ll go on grieving silently,
And exist on a different plane,
And I’ll keep my love for him deep in my heart,
Until we see each other again.

Time

by Sue White

I thought that time was healing
All the hurt you left behind
That empty spaces could be filled
My arms, my heart, my mind
And though my body looks the same
As it did when you were here
The emptiness is growing
Even bigger with each year

I thought that time was healing
All the agonising pain
That as the tears were fading
Soon I wouldn’t feel the same
And though I can be smiling
And you think that I’ll survive
The pain is in my blood now
I have nowhere else to hide

I thought that time was healing
All the loss a mother feels
That now you live within my heart
I had you near me still
But I need so much to touch you
To see you smile again
And those memories I’m told are mine
Can never feel the same

I thought that time was healing
All the while the mask was worn
That underneath a new me
Was waiting to be born
But now I find I am the mask
It helps to keep me safe
And though my heart is breaking
You won’t see it in my face

I thought that time was healing
All those tears my eyes have seen
That aching arms that miss you
Could be satisfied with dreams
But here I am, in pain again
And healing stands alone
And mother weeps, the world can see
For a son who can’t come home