17th July 2015
I am packing to go to Thailand for two weeks with my family. It is a holiday we have spent a long time planning. A long time looking forward to. It was dreamt up last summer, in the time before cancer. Summer 2014, BC.
I wish I could cut myself in two. I need a holiday. I need to be with my husband and my children. I need to be with my daughter before she goes into Sixth Form and pulls away from me. I need to spend time with my son who has already started pulling away since turning fourteen. I need to be with my husband. Just be with him. I need to sit at a table and look at his face and share experiences with him that are just for us. I have had enough of spending every moment with him recounting the phone calls and letters and hospital visits and trips up and down the M4.
But I also need to be with Dad. I need to spend every last available minute with him. I need to hug him and kiss him and tell him I love him and share jokes and stories and watch TV with him and laugh and cry and drink him in, every last drop.
What if he deteriorates ? What if when I get back, he is not able to speak to me? What if he dies while I am away?
For the past three months I have turned this last question over and over in my mind.
‘We can cancel the trip,’ my husband says. ‘But we need to decide soon.’
I talk it over with the Macmillan nurse, with my sister. With Dad, too.
They all say the same thing: ‘You must go.’
I am told I need the break, I need to rest, I am no good to Dad or my family if I am worn out. There is a subtext in my conversations with the Macmillan nurse: ‘You will need all your reserves of energy for what the future holds.’
I call Dad and check he has everything he needs. By now he has accepted that he has to have help getting dressed and washed and preparing food. He is tired. Moving around the house is tiring. Everything was done for him in hospital. Now even getting to the loo is a marathon task.
Marina, a nurse and carer my sister originally found to help with Mother, is going round every day to help Dad. She is capable, reliable, matter-of-fact and also loving. She and Dad are getting along very well. She is, in many ways, being the wife that Mother cannot be. She is also doing a good job of mothering me and my sister, offering advice and sympathy when we most need it.
‘So you see, I shall be all right,’ Dad says. ‘You go. I will see you when you get back.’
He is reassuring me, when it should be the other way around. But I have been given permission. And so we go.