July 18th 2015
I am on my way to the airport, knowing that Dad has been taken into his local general hospital because his breathing has become laboured. My sister and I have been commenting for a few days now on the fact that Dad sounds hoarse on the phone and keeps trying to clear his throat. It turns out that his lungs are filling up with fluid.
‘It’s all right,’ my sister reassures me. ‘They are going to drain the fluid. You must still go on holiday. It will be all right,’ she repeats.
This is what the hospital staff are telling my sister, so I believe it. Who wouldn’t? We cling to anything that looks like hope as drowning women clinging to a life raft. Hope comes from seeing how much happier Dad has been since returning home. It comes from knowing that he has had enough energy to socialise with friends, that he has been going out for drinks, showing off his wheelchair skills. I have a photo of him from that time, smiling as though the life raft has already done its job for him; as though he has escaped his predicted fate. As though, now he is home, on dry land, he can do anything.
He still carries the pump, which is attached to the wound on his thigh stump, the strap slung across his shoulder. ‘My man-bag,’ he once called it, laughing. His smile is a little forced, the pain he has grown used to now in evidence around the corners of his mouth. But he is happy. Happy to be out. Out of hospital, in normal clothes, with the friends who have supported him through the past few difficult months.
Dad always knew how to make the most of things. He loved a party and he was not going to let the irritating fact of a missing leg and a spot of cancer get in the way of a drink with friends.
So this is the way we remember him now, as we look back and know, with a deep sadness that has not ebbed over the past twelve months, that when this photo was taken, Dad had barely two weeks left to live.