14 October 2016

Saying goodbye from a distance

I talked to my dad a few days ago. I stared at him in the slightly-pixelated video on my phone. He was propped up in his hospital-grade bed, and from the other side of the ocean, it seemed so unnecessary. He looked so young. So like my dad who should live forever. Or at least past retirement age.

My family who is with him now would, of course, tell you a different story - one better grounded in the day-to-day realities of someone who is at the very end stages of a savage manifestation of cancer.

But here is how it looks from my side: I've had my suitcase sitting next to my bed, half packed, for nearly two months. I (or rather, a very helpful L) have changed my plane ticket, pushing it out to a later date. The 'in my experience, probably only two weeks left' from the lovely hospice nurse has long been eclipsed. I find myself at events that I only agreed to because I thought for sure I would be gone when they happened.

And so, even as I jump at every sound my phone makes, deceptive thoughts have started to filter in.

Smalls and I recently had a discussion that I would be going to the US soon for his granddad's funeral.

'Please can I come with you? I really want to come. I need to see how they take the cancer out of him,' Smalls told me.

I explained that this time, sadly, they couldn't take the cancer out.

But as the weeks stretch on, my belief in the inevitable is getting shaken.

Maybe it doesn't have to end this way, the deceptive hopes whisper. Doesn't he look so young in the fuzzy Skype video?

While it is breaking my heart to be so far away, I can see how I am also sheltered at this distance, only able to theoretically imagine the midnight panic attacks, the adult diaper changes, the increasing occurrences of seizures. And so I'm stewing in cocktail of equal parts guilt for not being there to help and hope that perhaps things that I can't see aren't really happening.

So, here I am, spending mornings hanging laundry with a giggling Smallest and relaxed afternoon walks home from preschool with Smalls, with the cat lounging on my lap and drinking a cup of tea with L in the last light of the day, in a bubble of nice normality.

But how to reconcile this with the unseen things happening at my other home with my thoughtful, witty, hardworking, motorcyle-riding, snorting-at-his-own-jokes dad?

Damned if I know.

'And why will you die?' Smalls blurted out during a call with my dad.

'We'll talk about this later,' I said with brisk authority.

However,  I'm really better suited to being the asker rather than the answerer of that question these days.

So, to stick to topics that I am certain about: What I do know is that my dad is very much loved and the world has been a better place with him in it.

And I can't describe how much I wish it didn't have to be this way.