Dear friends

Sorry, I couldn’t help that title. Admittedly, I’m not feeling the bitterness I felt when I mocked it those few weeks ago.

So, yes, this is a Lost Soul update.

Following those text messages, communications between us were understandably absent. Until I was told that he had gone in to hospital for major surgery on a long standing condition.

I couldn’t ignore that for lots of reasons. The main one being, the last time he was in hospital for the same thing was when my dad was dying. I visited him a few times when visiting my Dad and he always asked how he was, more concerned with Dad’s health and us than his own.

Later, when Dad had died, he visited straight away, still extremely ill himself and brought a bag of provisions to help. He also came to the funeral, still recovering. I can’t ignore that.

So, I text a few times in the week following his operation, asking how he was and congratulating him when he finally got the all clear and was able to go home. I don’t regret that. My thoughts and feelings were of general care and concern and if he wanted to believe it was for any other reason, well, more fool him. He has been home a week or so and I haven’t text since then.

Then, last night, I called my sister to see if the kids and I could go round to play with her eleven beautiful puppies. We could but then she told me Lost Soul was also on his way round there too.

I won’t lie. I felt a pang. A something indescribable and fleeting. But it was soon gone. We’d messaged, were back to being ‘dear friends’ and what’s more, he wasn’t going to stop me visiting my own sister. We were going to come into contact at some point so I may as well get it over and done with.

We arrived and it was fine. I asked how he was and then ignored him to snuggle puppies. He asked me what my weekend plans were and I told him. He offered me wine and I declined. We chatted and I acted like I should – like he was a friend of my sister’s whom I like. That’s all. Well done me.

My children chatted with him also and my son was particularly enthusiastic as they spoke about video games and the like. Then we left.

I will say it again: it was fine. Not easy, not what I once wanted and not how we once were but I rallied.

So imagine my surprise this evening when, as I was driving home from shopping with my children, the phone rang and my daughter told me it was him. He never rings (anymore, anyway). Before I could snap myself out of my surprise and tell her to not answer, she did. And put it on loud speaker.

I thought at first there must be something wrong, but there wasn’t and he stuttered something about calling back when I wasn’t driving.

My mind raced on the way home. I could tell my daughter was suspicious as we’d had a previous conversation about Lost Soul when she’d overheard a conversation about him so I changed the subject, checking myself if I felt that the tell tale giddiness I get over him started to show. How ridiculous that I could let myself behave that way again anyway!

As I got home, we unloaded the car and she asked me if I’d called back. I said no and carried on unpacking.

My mind was racing. Why would be be ringing? Thoughts whizzed round like a discs in a jukebox, desperately searching for a probable answer.

Maybe he’s thought differently now he’s seen me again. NOOOO! Maybe he needs help with something? Maybe he can’t get hold of my sister? Maybe he wants to come round? NOOOO! I couldn’t let myself fall back in to the same old – and incorrect – thought patterns.

And then it struck me. Whatever this was, it was some kind of olive branch. I’d reached out first after our ‘disagreement’, so why shouldn’t he be able to call me about anything normal? Sure, warning alarm bells were going off in my head but I found an opportunity and called him back.

I will sum up the conversation. Basically, he had called to offer my son some collectable game pieces that he was going to sell. He thought it would be a good way to encourage my son to not play on the xbox so much and he would be able to play the strategy game with him and my brother in law.

What the…? Add any word you want there.

According to him, the collectables are probably worth about £100. Why would he offer them to my son for nothing? Why would he do this? I thanked him, said I would ask my son the next day and let him know.

When I put the phone down, I considered the possibilities. Maybe he is looking for an easy sell, hoping I will offer to buy them from him? Well, I’m not going to. He shouldn’t offer them if he was hoping I would buy them and secondly, I’m not just going to lay out that sort of money on something I don’t even know my son will be interested in. If this ends up with my son enjoying this strategy game thing, then I will offer money at a later date. Not now.

That eventuality satisfied, I thought again.

I won’t allow myself to believe that he has manufactured this whole thing to spend time with me and my son. What I will consider though, is this is a guilty man, a man who knows he has hurt me, trying to prove to me that he’s a good guy. Not for any reason other than to show that he’s not as bad as he has behaved.

But I know that already. I was in love with this man, once considered him my soul mate (which I now feel he has disproved and which I’m trying very hard to convince myself that I’m not on both accounts). He isn’t a bad person, he’s just really messed up when it comes to relationships.

The reality of all of this is that I don’t believe a word of what he says. I can’t trust him with my heart and I can’t allow myself to believe that anything he says and does means that he feels more for me than ‘dear friends’. He had his chance, he didn’t want it. End of.

I don’t know if I’m going to mention anything to my son. I need to think about it. But if I do, it will be because I will believe that Lost Soul is doing something kind for my son, and nothing else. I’ve got some thinking to do.

Advertisement

Dad’s absence is a great-gaping hole in my heart, my life, my home. I feel like all my senses are on high alert, awaiting his return. My heartache is a yearning for any familiar sounds, anything that can disprove this inevitable truth.

I wonder where this yearning-not-believing comes from. With Dad being in and out of hospital for the past nine months, I suppose it could have come from there: those feelings of anticipation for his safe homecoming have perhaps taken lodge in my heart.

I’ve already spoken about my disbelief and self-preservation, an apparently natural part of grief.

But then there’s the other, third explanation.

I sat with my Dad every evening. The TV would be on, and sometimes we would watch something together. We would talk about my children, my sisters, my neice and nephew. Sometimes, when he was particularly sad and thoughtful, he’d question me about my mum leaving us and her bipolar disorder. I loved hear him talk about his past, perhaps more because my grandparents had died long before Dad had married mum and had us. Sometimes, Dad and I spoke about our belief in an afterlife. These conversations were more frequent in his last months.

Dad and I are not religious. Not really. We were both Christened and attended church schools. We rarely attended church. Dad, because he was always working and me because that was not what I was brought up with, except those years when I was with the Guides. But, we do have faith.

We believed in the beauty and magic of the world; too awe-inspiring to be anything other than crafted by God. We believed in miracles. We believed that life was too wondrous to end in nothing, that the special energy that makes each human being an individual must go somewhere. Dad said recently that “it must be nice to believe so whole-heartedly in heaven” because then you would feel comfort when someone died and you would not fear death as much as someone who didn’t believe. I don’t know if that’s true.

I think about how my sisters and I have the same genetics, how we were raised the same way by the same people. And yet our personalities are so different. I think about my Dad in that coffin and how, although he looked like he was peacefully sleeping, the essence of him was not there. Where did it go?

I believe that I will see my Dad again. My heart aches in anticipation of it. Is that what grief is then? Missing, yearning, loving – yes – but a cold, long anticipation too? Is my grief different then to those who don’t believe? Is that why we don’t get over someone dying?

I realised yesterday that if I’m lucky, I may get to live my whole life again before I die. I’m 38 now – Dad died at 78. I could have another 40 years without my Dad. I can’t believe that. I can’t believe it. How will I live without him there?

Sentinel

It’s nearly midnight. I’ve just come to bed to find that my 11 year old son has been on his Xbox when I thought he was asleep. He doesn’t cope very well with being caught out or being in the wrong. Quickly, he tries to push the blame on me. I have no energy or inclination to argue. Instead, I remove one of the wires and tell him that th is will now happen every night. The fact that it frustrates him says it all. I have been very naive and over trusting. Tomorrow I am going have the problem of trying to get him up in the morning so we are not late. He will be grumpy towards everyone which will then set off a row between him and his siblings.

For a fleeting moment I wonder how I am going to manage. After work I’ve been a mum and a carer to Dad. I did some urgent school work until 10.30pm, tidied a little then went to sit with Dad.

We talked about tomorrow’s visit from the respiratory nurse. Dad can’t understand why he is visiting. I tried to explain but it is pretty obvious that Dad does not realise the situation he is in. When he does seem to have an inkling, it produces a further low mood. He said that he wasn’t any good to anyone. I, of course, explained how that was not the case. I’m not sure he bought into it.

I had every intention of waiting for him to go to bed so I could accompany him. Tonight is our first night with out my sisters. However, for the last 30 minutes he has repeatedly told me to go to bed. He said I am making him feel bad. He reassured me that he can manage on his own.

I have come upstairs but, as you can see, have no intention of going to sleep yet. Writing this post is killing some time but also draining me of the little energy I have left.

How will I manage? I know things are only going to get worse. Can I really manage a full time job, three children and a sick father alone? Sure, my sisters are fantastic and are helping as much as they can but the strain and the cracks are beginning to show. They’ve bickered today: at the moment, one is grumpy and irritable the other is tearful and sensitive. Not a good mix.

I’ve just helped Dad to bed. I heard the door and came to the stairs to help. He just kept apologising over and over.

“I’m, so so sorry, love.”

He’s got nothing to be sorry about but he doesn’t believe me.

Valuing time

Not long after the ambulance had pulled away, my other sister (my youngest sibling was supporting Dad in the ambulance) arrived. I quickly went over the evening’s events again. Looking at her, I could see the worry and grief of a month of Dad’s illness in her face, her eyes, her posture. I know she can see it in me too- I can see it well enough in myself.

She left soon after to get to the hospital so she could see Dad before work. I lay on the couch, exhaustion making me drowsy whilst I simultaneously waited for news and a more reasonable hour to wake my children’s dad to ask he could come over and watch them whilst I went to the hospital.

I was in the hospital by 8.30am. Compared to the other three times Dad has been taken by ambulance this month, he looked reasonably well. Before long he was taken to an assessment ward while we waited for repeated bloodtests to show whether he had had another heart attack.

Dad was very grateful and apologetic for us staying with him, and for all our support. We kept telling him that we wouldn’t have it any other way: Dad is there for us no matter what the problem.

My sister and I told Dad about the various friends we had who had said how much they love our Dad. One friend of my once said:

“I’ve never really had a Dad. But if I could picture what I’d want in a Dad, it would be yours.” Praise indeed and well deserved.

He’s stubborn and a little old fashioned. He’s stuck in his ways. He still treats me like a teenager if I come home later than he thinks I should. He gives me advice whether I want it or not. He is usually right.

He shows me love every single day. He makes me feel special and loved and worthy. He makes me feel proud of my life because he is proud of me.

I honestly don’t know how long I have with Dad. Part of me is fighting desperately to make the final stage of his life a happy one, but I don’t know how. Other than to show him and tell him I love him every single day… It just doesn’t seem enough.

Morning light

The sky was crystal clear last night: dense, blue, endless. As I gazed up at its depths, stars seemed to appear one by one. The world was a blanket of blues and black, the awakening sun just beginning to turn the horizon into a golden pale azure, striking against the houses and trees in silhouette. In front of me, light spilled out of the open curtains and in the garden; corrupting the dark, yet, showing the life hidden by its blackness.

How strange that a scene, a moment, like that can feel like a gift. As I breathed in deeply, a calmness started to descend. Perhaps it was numbness, exhaustion. But at that moment, the beauty of the world at 5am on a Spring morning helped me cope, calm.

A short time later, as I watched the ambulance slowly pull away from my house until it disappeared round the bend in the road, the same scene was aglow with sunlight. The orchestra of birdsong filled the air and my heart, reminding me of the beauty of life. At that moment, it was hard not to feel small and hopeless.

If my heart wasn’t breaking, this past week would be farcical.

Dad was discharged a week ago from the respiratory ward. We had been told that his Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) had advanced but that they had managed to stabilise him sufficiently for discharge. He still looked ill to us but we were ecstatic that he was actually coming home – something we hadn’t be able to hope for a week earlier.

By 4am on Saturday morning we had called an ambulance as Dad had chest pains.

Dad returned to the respiratory ward where we were told a succession of different information… “it could be a heart attack or angina… He may need to be transfered…. It’s not his heart it’s his lungs….” Fear rippled through us as we watched him seemingly black-out only to come to moments later, oblivious to what had happened.

Once again, Dad stabilised and he was sent home again on Monday. This time, although tired, he looked brighter. We dared to hope again. But 2am on Tuesday we called an ambulance again. Dad was distressed, grunting with the pain in his chest. They gave him morphine and he went back to hospital in the ambulance.

This time he went on the cardiac ward. After x rays, scans and multiple blood tests they confirmed that he had had a small heart attack. We were told that the scarring was minimal but that Dad would not be able to have a bypass or surgery as his condition was too poor. For the second time he was stabilised, the pharmacy bag groaning with the boxes of tablets and inhalers he came home with.

Thursday he was home again. He looked the best he had in probably a month. Wobbly on his feet, Dad insisted in getting up once in a while. Putting aside the knowledge that we’d been told that Dad could leave us at any time, that we would have months if we were lucky, we focused on enjoying every precious moment that his survival gave us: a gift.

Thursday night Dad slept through for the first time in weeks. He ate his meals, and spent a little time outside to enjoy the Spring sunshine that had finally arrived. But he was anxious, fearful that he wouldn’t sleep or that he would feel pain again.

Last night, Friday night, Dad’s second night home, he once again woke with chest pains. We administered the new angina spray in the hope that this would end his pain. After giving the second dose as instructed, Dad reported his pain had eased but not gone. Hopeful but still concerned, we called the out of hours GP number. Was this normal? How long did you wait for the spray to work? We had been told so little. Cautious of his recent heart attack, they decided to send the ambulance anyway, just to be sure. It was a longer wait this time, not an emergency as such due to the relative success of the angina spray, and that’s how I found myself outside staring out in the dark and waiting for the artificial glow of the ambulance lights.