Thursday, 20 June 2013

Thinking of Fathers and Grandfathers

Three fathers, two grandfathers
It was Father's Day on Sunday, the day we all celebrate having our fathers and for fathers, a celebration of being a father. Sadly for some of us, our fathers are not with us any longer or even more sadly, for some fathers, they may have lost a child. Our thoughts about those we have lost become much more poignant on a special day like this. Rob and I have both lost our fathers, so inevitably many of our thoughts were about both our fathers this Sunday.  

I have always celebrated having my dad, a dad whom I was very close to, whom I could always depend on when things didn't go my way, I was always a real daddy's girl. When I married Rob and moved to Hertfordshire from Lancashire, I was a long way from my own father, but I was lucky enough to gain a father in law through my marriage. I always saw my father in law as father number two, so for a long time in my life, I had two wonderful fathers.

Rob's father was like a real father to me and treated me as such: he would always introduce me as his daughter rather than his daughter in law and he was another person I could always turn to without any hesitation if I needed advice. He helped us through the ups and downs in life, was the perfect grandfather to our girls, having a close involvement in their lives, accompanying us on holidays and always being around at weekends and any other time we needed him. It is just over nine years since we lost him and we still miss him dearly. He was always with us on Sunday nights when we all got together as a family for dinner and there is always an empty seat there on a Sunday now he isn't with us anymore.

This Father's Day felt very emotional for me as it was the first Father's Day since I lost my dad back in November. My dad's death hadn't been an easy one, he had battled with emphysema and had suffered terribly in the last few years, on 24 hour oxygen, unable to breathe properly even at rest and confined to a downstairs room, which had had to be converted to a bedroom. He was in and out of hospital with one thing after another and he and my mother had to live in a constant state of alert for fear of him not being able to get his breath. He passed away at home and we were relieved that he had been released from all the suffering and grateful he had been at home.

I think the relief after all that suffering, possibly enveloped and suppressed the grief I felt and although I think of him often, on Father's day, I found myself suddenly realising just how much I had lost and found myself missing him intensely.

One of the hardest parts of my illness was having to tell my mum and dad about it when they were dealing with so much themselves already. At first we shielded them from the worst and played my illness down a little and then when we had a roller coaster year after my diagnosis, we were forced to explain more as it looked as if I was going downhill fast and we felt they needed to be prepared rather than shocked should I not make it through. After much deliberation, we decided to tell dad when it came to me going on the transplant list purely because we felt he needed to be prepared.

He hadn't really taken on the seriousness of it all until then, probably because we played it down where we could and he was shocked outright when we came to tell him about the transplant and there was no easy way to do it. Selfishly I needed my dad's support more than any other time in my life at that moment, but he was really over and beyond it in his own anguish to be able to cope with it well and I was just sorry I'd had to burden him even more. I was also sorry that I couldn't step in and help and support my dad more during his illness, but the worst part of his illness coincided with mine unfortunately and living over two hundred miles away exacerbated the situation for us all. He couldn't come and see me when I was really ill and at times I couldn't get to him when he was really ill.

It always surprises me how much we come to expect of our parents and how much we need them, whatever the age we are.

Fortunately during the last year of his illness, I managed to become a bit more stable in my illness and I managed to get back to Lancashire to visit when I was able and well enough. The last time I saw my dad, he pressed a little box into my hand. It contained a silver cross and disc on a silver chain. The disc is engraved with The Lord's Prayer and and the Soldier's Doxology. My dad explained it had belonged to my grandfather, who had worn it all through his time in the army and during the Battle of the Somme, which he managed to survive. My grandfather, although not a deeply religious man had worn it in faith to keep him safe and see him through the war. My dad was not a religious man at all, but wanted me to have it, both because of its sentimental value and in the hope if I keep it with me, it may keep me safe too.

It was my dad's way of saying his goodbyes to me, he knew he may not see me again and he died a few weeks later. It was his quiet, unspoken way of acknowledging my illness without having to say anything and giving me some small token where I could hold on to hope when he was gone. So he had been there with me all along, just unable to express himself in his despair at my situation; it is probably the worst situation in life to be confronted with losing a child or actually losing a child, whatever the age your child is. It is my greatest regret that my dad didn't live to see me get my transplant and get better again.

I have packed the cross and its prayer and all the hope that comes with it into my transplant bag, the bag that I have to have ready and waiting should I get my transplant call; I reckon if it got my grandfather through the Battle of the Somme, then it will be a good thing to have with me when I have to go through transplant.

The Soldier's Doxology

Praise God from who all blessings flow,
Praise him and all creatures here below,
Praise him above ye heavenaly hosts,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. 

(First sung by starving, union blue soldiers during the American Civil war when help at last arrived at their prison in Richmond, Virginia))

Father's Day was celebrated in our house on Sunday evening with a lovely family get together with our two girls and Sarah's partner Oli plus a roast beef dinner mainly cooked by Rob. We had insisted we do all the cooking and he have a rest, because of Father's Day, but he was adamant he wanted to cook as he loves cooking. We weren't so sure whether it's because he doesn't trust our cooking or whether he just loves us all so much he wants to look after us! We prefer to believe the latter! 
y was celebrated 
Fatherly moment

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