It has been a quite incredible year. My daughter celebrated her fifth birthday, I had surgery on my knee, and it rained a lot. Oh, and I played some great music in two very different trios, as well as sitting in on a variety of other people's musical projects. I started learning to play the oud, wrote a lot of music and words (although no songs) and even managed to up my chess rating. Of course I also lost my dad, which I haven't fully come to terms with yet. Losing dad, and the process of him getting ill, took a big chunk out of the year. Pretty much from the minute I got back off holiday my (and my family's) time vanished. Picasso said that every act of destruction is an act of creation, which in my clumsy way I interpret to mean even the most awful things can provide you with something positive, if you can see them.
So, in an odd way, this has been a positive year. I've been able to stand back from quite a few parts of my day to day life and re-evaluate. 2013 is going to see plenty going on. This is my last chance to say a special thank you to everyone who helped this year. In one case that meant a message from someone I thought I'd never speak to again, in another it meant inspiring message on Facebook, or help at work, or being understanding about commitments or in my daughter's case, just giving me a hug at the right moment. Friends really are the best.
Enjoy the new year.
My dad had left me a gift.
In his box of important documents there was a small, black book which contained lists of who to contact and what to do once he had died. There was even a draft copy of a letter that needed to be written.
So, I spent the next days working, writing, calling and visiting. I got praise from my mum for being so helpful, but really this was a selfish act, since while she slowly came to terms with what had happened, I could ignore my feelings and get things done.
The feelings did come back, at odd moments. Many years ago I had had a dream that I was standing in his garden and, looking around, I spotted that it was starting to look shabby. In the dream, and on waking I knew this meant he had gone. A few days ago I was in the garden and found myself in the same spot I had been in the dream, seeing the same things. That gave me nowhere to hide.
But... not everything is bleak. My mum has vowed to take on the garden and make it look good again. The house is slowly being cleared of the paraphernalia of the last few months and there is a hesitant sense of being able to move on,
After a full day with the 24 hour carer in place, I was a home getting ready to put the children to bed. I knew from J that all the signs pointed to these being dad's last few days. But my dad had shown himself to be incredibly, stubbornly tough. He had dodged some previous predictions of his demise and so I let myself relax.
Then I got a call from the carer. She told me that, for the first time dad had complained of pain in his throat. He had probably been in pain for weeks but his definition was quite different to mine. This was significant, and when I told J, her face fell. I was looking around for my coat when the phone rang again. This time the carer told me my dad had stopped responding and she had just called to doctor. I heard her call to dad to see if he could hear her.
It takes about 40 minutes to drive from my house to my parents. All the way I was swinging between rehearsing how I would take the bad news, and wondering if dad had managed to cheat death again. For a man so frail he had proved to be surprisingly tough.
When I arrived I was met by the neighbour, the carer and my mum, all in tears. The neighbour told me dad had gone twenty minutes earlier.
After dealing with the strange combination of loss and relief, the carer, my mum and I sat down and talked. We kept talking until one in the morning - grieving with tea and biscuits. I slept on the floor while the others took to their beds. The next morning I lost myself in keeping busy.
Last week the situation with my dad changed again. Because of the nature of his illness it was decided that he either had to be moved to a hospice or have a 24 hour carer. He made it extremely clear that he did not want to be anywhere else and since my mum, despite her best intentions, was unable to do everything he needed, a carer was asked for.
Much to our surprise we were told someone would be with us the next day, so I had to quickly convert the house's extra bedroom into something that didn't resemble a storage bay. Stuff was moved, walls and floors cleaned, a bed and mattress ordered and linens bought. Within a few hours the change was complete.
The next day a cheery Zimbabwean lady arrived. For a short while she was an invader; taking over from some of my mum's roles as well as from one of the more regular three-times-a-day carers. There was a brief and difficult period of friction, then amazingly, it all settled down. Dad enjoyed the new house guest's laugh and began to talk her through one of his photo albums.
For a short while we can all relax, knowing both my mum and dad were in good hands. J and I could spend a bit more time concentrating on our children and possibly even tidy up the mess our own house had become. This may sound trivial, but we needed it.