Friday, January 24, 2014

My Dad Has Five Days Left To Live

My sister and I thought Dad was on the mend when he was sent home from hospital a couple of weeks ago, but somebody fucked up. In their desperation to free a bed, they discharged a seriously ill man as barely two days later, he was readmitted via ambulance. The breathlessness he'd been admitted for in the first place returned as he sat in his living room watching TV. Dad began to panic as he choked, and waved frantically at my stepmother as he struggled to take in air.

Dad will never go home again. He has a lung disease that'll finish him. For the last couple of weeks I've found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of the night, then going to work and pretending nothing's wrong. I've also seen more of my sister and nieces than I ever have, and I've seen Dad virtually every night too so that's been lovely, apart from his daily decline.

When my stepmother first called me, tearfully, to say he'd been readmitted, I was petrified. I asked to leave work a little earlier and raced to the hospital where I found him sat up in bed wearing an oxygen mask. He was in good spirits despite the circumstances, through he struggled to speak as he told me about how breathless he'd been. I told him not to talk.
Dad slowly, clumsily pulled the mask up onto his forehead and asked me to hand him the cup of hot chocolate cooling on the table. In slow motion he leaned in with puckered lips and slurped on the drink he then began to choke on. Then he sat the cup back down and dropped back into the pillows, gasping.

'Don't get old,' he said. It's been the closest thing to an acknowledgement of how frail he's got.

I spent the rest of that night with my hand on his bare shoulder, rubbing his skin with my thumb as antibiotics were pumped into his arms. He was panting like a tired dog in the sun. I tried not to cry but I couldn't stop myself, and broke down, sobbing. Dad squeezed my hand and from behind the clear plastic mask, he looked over at me and gave me a cheeky grin.

The next day my sister and I visited him after work. Dad had me calling AmEx's automated service so he could pay off his bill but his other card kept being declined. He insisted on me connecting him to an operator to get it sorted but his speech was slurred and lazy, so I got my card out and paid the £300 myself.

Within a couple of days, he was no longer talking in whole sentences and wound up in a horrible ward with uncaring night nurses. Apparently he asked one of them to hold the pee-bottle for him. She told him to do it himself, but Dad has carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand and has no grip.
'I can't,' he told her, and she simply walked off.
Dad wet himself.

He deteriorated in that ward, and was asleep most times we visited. Occasionally he'd wake up and slur hellos, and even give us toothless grins. But they were trying small doses of oral morphine and it was making him sleepy. Then last week his specialist asked to see us. My stepmum couldn't deal with it so my sister and I went. He told us that Dad has perhaps a few months left.

We continued to see my father every night after that, but the nurses were pissing us off. We'd tried to give them the benefit of the doubt but some gave us an attitude and withering looks if we dared ask for a blanket, or a new bottle for Dad to pee in as they weren't emptying the old ones. Then Dad was moved to an adjacent ward without anyone being notified - including the new ward - and he was found by my sister in a wheelchair shivering with cold next to a chart with another man's name and medical requirements on it. That was when we went medieval  and launched an all-out campaign of complaint that went right to the Chief Executive of the hospital, who is doing all he can to keep us sweet.

I took Tuesday and yesterday off work to see my Dad. I also spent last night with my stepmum going through Dad's papers which I couldn't do as it all felt "too soon." I did discover though that Dad has several bank accounts which are maxed out and hellishly overdrawn, explaining why he couldn't pay his AmEx card a few days earlier. This means I get the pleasure of telling a bunch of banks that they will never get back the money they're owed, although I also discovered that the reason my father worked well into his eightieth year was because he hadn't saved a bean; no life insurance, no will, just a metric fuckton of debt.

Having said that, he did have a pot to piss in. I know because I had to hold the fucking thing three times last week between his legs, scarred and slightly terrified at having seen the paternal penis in all its greying, octogenarian glory. Dad simply looked into my terrified eyes, and smiled.

Yesterday, I found an amazing hospice for him to move in to, although they called me this morning to say Dad didn't make today's admission as they had an emergency case. Hopefully he'll get in tomorrow, particularly as he's now an emergency himself. When I saw Dad tonight, he was almost perpetually asleep. He's been switched to intravenous morphine and when my sister spoke to a nurse a few hours ago to say we've found a hospice for him to see out his last few months, she took her aside to explain that Dad's got more like five days left. She knows what it looks like, she said, to see someone fall into death, and my father was exhibiting everything.

We tried talking to Dad tonight. Occasionally we roused him enough to get him to squeeze our hands. We also managed to get him to open his sleepy eyes to tell him how much we both loved him. My sister did this with surprising calm, but I couldn't suppress the utter devastation in my voice. Dad looked at us both in turn and slowly closed his eyes. The effort was immense.
'Love you,' he sighed.



Edit - Five days turned out to be optimistic. My Daddy died at 7:20am this morning, about ten minutes before I got there. If your parents are around, go say hello to them.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Happy New Year. I Have a Book

Bloody hell, it's been two months since I last wrote something? Sorry.

And Happy New Year. I spent it with my Large Northern (former) flatmate as we wandered aimlessly from pub to pub until we found a great one round the back of Holborn that was perfect; dark, busy but not crowded, and full of women and dance. This however meant Pete hated it and we didn't last longer than a drink, even though it was now 11:32pm and a good place to see out 2013.

We ended up walking down a deserted High Holborn in panic until we found a soulless, vast Wetherspoons that was practically empty, and saw in the New Year with a handful of middle-aged tourists, an attractive teenage girl with large breasts (the kind I now have to start acknowledging could be old enough to be my daughter), and Gary fucking Barlow on a large-screen TV. Then I realised I could force my way through the crowd of zombie revellers filling up Kingsway and get the 1:20am train home.

So yeah, happy 2014. If it wasn't for Pete, this could've been my first year staying in to celebrate it alone, as it no longer bothers me. I'm going to be forty, bloody 40 this year, and I'm struggling to make sense of how. After all, I remain single unless you include my cat, and I'm beginning to think that nothing happens in life unless we make it so. I've wasted nearly all my years waiting for something good to come along without realising that, law of averages aside, that's not how this thing works.

The only ray of sunshine has been my book, though not been without cost. I can now say with some confidence that this back-breaking bastard is almost at an end, though I've regained all the weight I lost during my 2011-2012 Greatest Diet Ever, due to spending the last year sat typing at my desk and crying.

I'm nearly three quarters into draft 3 and had hoped to complete it in two weeks, except my day job restarted again and brought my writing to a complete halt. Then my Dad was taken seriously ill and was admitted to hospital. I saw him on Monday night. He looked terrible with his thinning grey hair standing erect on the top of his head as if shocked into fear, while he slurred back at me with no teeth in. I keep forgetting Dad doesn't have any real ones anymore. As I wiped the tears from my eyes I started to consider this may be his final year.

I visited him in hospital again just now, finding out the hard way that he'd been sent home.
I've been back at work for two days this year, and am ready to quit. I'll have been there nine years this summer. I can no longer deal with the general public which is problematic, as I'm basically interrupted into being in Customer Service at a moment's notice. I'm just waiting to finish my book, then it's Operation New Job alongside Mission: Diet, and that has to start soon. So I asked for a day off for today. I still had holiday left over from last year (didn't go on vacation, 'cos Book), and got home last night shattered. I was hoping for an early night, and even wrote a timetable for the next day which was a first:
  • 8am, wake up, feed cat, do sit-ups, feed me.
  • 8:30-9:30am walk for an hour to get some fresh air and exercise.
  • Then til 12pm I intended to write for a couple of hours before seeing Dad in hospital and getting back to write all day.

Except when I got to bed at 10:40pm last night, I had about 10 minutes peace when my neighbours returned home and had a party.
On a Tuesday.
Til 1:30am.

I can't tell you what torture that is unless you've lived it, trying to sleep when repetitive muffled beats are riding up the wall to your ears to the accompaniment of braying, selfish laughter. It was approaching 1am when, having not slept a wink, I phoned the council (closed), followed by the police. The police see this as a civil matter and don't get involved, even though I last called them about the neighbours when they had a party two weeks earlier. Granted, it was the Christmas weekend and they told me to suck it up, but last night was absurd. After two hours of no sleep, I left my flat and went for a walk. I found the offending apartment - the din coming from behind the door was so loud I wondered why their neighbours put up with it - and sat on an upper floor to look out of the window waiting for the police.

No-one turned up so I went to bed and fell asleep at 1:30am - until 3am when they once again whacked the music up. I called the police a second time, and left once more to wait for them by the window. I gave up after half an hour as no-one appeared, and managed to sleep until 11am though it totally fucked up my day off. And by the time I fed the cat, fed me, did my sit-ups and wrote a strongly-worded letter to post to my neighbours barring the subhuman scum making all the noise, I drove to the hospital where a nurse told me Dad been sent home that morning. He's fortunately on antibiotics, and the mend.

And now I'm losing sunlight, and haven't written an iota of the book yet which is a shame, as it's okay. As I've mentioned a lot, I'm just writing up this blog in chronological order, and fleshed out with greater narrative and a character arc n' shit because I can't do fiction. This, therefore, is the best I've got but in the year that's passed I've realised with each draft that it isn't that bad, and if I'm going to publish this with my (pen) name all over it, I should at least make it worthwhile. There are some genuinely interesting moments too - all true, - plus two vast travelogues from when I lost my mind and fled the country. I like to think it could be interesting enough to be a page-turner.

But as I say, I'm still working on it. I'm hoping to finish draft three by the end of this month. Then I'll give myself a couple of weeks, or perhaps 'February' for a last read-through/ final draft, so expect to see Autobiography of an Idiot (working title, likely to change) in March and World Book Day.

So Happy New Year. May all our dreams come true, such as our neighbours dying violently and slowly in a stereo-malfunctioning fireball as we quit our jobs to become columnists who force our vapid opinions onto everyone when they're not wanted.

Here's to 2014