Thursday, 3 April 2008

Part 2 - The Catastrophic Effect - A retrospective account

Two years earlier.... 1992.....

Want to read part 3?

“Mob, telephone call for you; says he’s your brother but the connection is kinda bad”, a soft Minnesotan accent informs me as the handset is thrust towards me.

“Hello, who’s that?”, I ask wondering who of my five brothers feels it’s important enough for them to call me in the USA. I wasn’t even aware that they had my office number and am momentarily baffled as to how they found me out here at the research and development centre.

“Hi, it’s me, John”, he says in a voice that is echoing down the line making it difficult to hear as each word repeats several times over another and another and another. A further string of words tumble over each other but I begin to make out that something is wrong and that I should come home.

“Dad’s ill, it’s cancer, lung cancer”, he says sounding very matter of fact.

It takes a moment or two before the news sinks in and I feel completely detached from any kind of emotion or reaction. I sit down on my chair and pull myself towards my desk where I rest my head in one hand, buying time before I respond.

“How is he?”, I stupidly ask, but I’m on autopilot trying to absorb the news. “I mean, how serious is it?; is it terminal?; how long’s he got?”. I babble on not knowing what to say or how to say it without sounding crass or unsympathetic. I’ve never been one to beat about the bush and it was typical of me to be logical and straightforward in my approach and this situation was no different. But, having said that, in the past I’d often wondered how I would feel on hearing the news that a parent was seriously ill or dead; had even played a few scenarios out in my head just so I could be prepared for the worst when it came. But shit, none of that came into play now; so much for wasting time getting all sad and emotional and picturing how I’d cope . I hadn’t prepared myself for feeling nothing, nothing at all, not even a jot of emotion.

I heard John's voice as he enquired as to whether I was alright or not and it brought me back from my reverie. “So, what’s the score then?”, I ask again, needing to get a handle on what we were all about to face.

“The doctors are putting a treatment plan together now and I should get sight of that sometime later today. I’ve called the others and told them the same”, he says referring to my brothers and sisters, “but as you are the furthest away, perhaps you should consider coming home, sooner rather than later”.

“Christ, is it that bad then? “ It’s beginning to dawn on me that that perhaps the old boy’s card really is marked and that his days are numbered. But still I continued to feel nothing, not even relief that my father, with whom I have at best a tumultuous relationship, will be out of my life forever. In extreme moments there had been times in my life I had wished him gone; wished he'd never been my father.

“I’m sorry I had to give you this news”, John says forlornly, sounding very weary. “I’ve been here for two weeks now and we’ve only just been given the diagnosis. Seems he had pleurisy and that was masking the symptoms, but from what I can gather, it’s neither here nor there in terms of the outcome. The doctors don’t hold out any hope and the treatment plan isn’t going to be a cure. You do realise what I’m saying don’t you MOB?”, he asked as though what he had already said hadn’t made an impression; that he hadn’t quite got the severity of the situation across. But he’s right to enquire because in the short few minutes that we have connected I have gone from being surprised that my brother has called me here to having to grasp the fact that my father is dying. No doubt in the space of a few hours he has grown from being a novice bad news teller to a consummate professional narrator because he has had to tell eight of his siblings perhaps the worst news he could ever tell them.

“Jesus John, how the hell are you holding it together”, I ask him because I know that he is dealing with this on his own.

“To be honest MOB, I’m exhausted and he’s been so bloody demanding and yet I feel so deeply sorry for him because he’s scared and frustrated. Mostly all I see is a broken old man who flits between bitterness and confusion and I could do with a break; do with some help to take the strain”

The guilt looms large on my horizon; I know that being the youngest brother this wasn’t supposed to fall to him, it was never meant to be a problem that he was left to resolve on his own. Suddenly I feel like weeping, but not for my father, only for my younger brother who is clearly beginning to bend from the task that he bears heavily upon his shoulders. I’m glad of the sudden need to cry even if it isn’t for the right person or the right reason. At least I feel some kind of emotion and that’s finally normal isn’t it? If I didn’t know better I could swear that my heart is going to burst out of my chest and I feel faint.

“Look sweetie, I know you understand that there is little I can do from here right now. You know what I think of the old man and how he feels about me. But, I’m not sure how I feel about this right now and I need time to come to terms with what you have told me. Well, at least I need time to sort out my workload – get someone else to take over my project”.

I know it’s a cop out and that I’m bailing out on him but I can’t face this right now; can’t be bothered to dredge up the past and to deal with it all head on. It’s too late, much too late....

“Okay, I wasn’t expecting any more and don’t beat yourself up about this”, he tries to reassure me. “I know what the score is and I’ve got things under control but to answer your point about how long?; a few months, that’s all and that’s more than likely an optimistic figure so don’t go leaving it too long” . He knows what I am like with work and how I bury myself knee deep and loose all track of time. This is his way of making sure I register that time is short, there won’t be any extensions or flexibility on this one because nature doesn’t work like that, it doesn’t do deals and nor will it fit in with my schedule just because I demand that it does.

We bring the call to an end and I promise to call him tomorrow to find out where we stand. He’s relieved to know that at least I love him enough to care about him and I suppose he’s hoping that some of that empathy might just stretch to my dad as he lies fighting for his life while his strength ebbs and flows with natures tides.

25 comments:

Willowtree said...

I've talked to the States once a week for years, fortunately that echo thing is less common these days, but still very annoying.

I can only imaging how you felt being so far away, but I can tell you what it's like to be on the other end of the spectrum. My father died unexpectedly at home, and I'm the son who had to sit with my mother and dead father while the police and coroner did their thing.

Then it was up to me to do all the funeral arrangements etc (same thing when my mum died 4 months later), my two brothers' contribution consisted largely of whining about the food my wife had prepared for the wakes.

So you see, being in another country can be a blessing.

Carolyn said...

Wow. I'm definitely hooked. Your writing has such an ease and natural flow that even when reading a difficult story, it's, well, easy. I'm not looking forward to seeing how this ends (as I know it doesn't end well), but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how you tell it.

Thanks for your second of my nomination. Finally! I'm sure you have nothing better to do in your life than worry about a silly blog nomination for me. I'm also sure you know I'm an acerbic little shit and meant nothing by using your name in the nomination of myself (other than as a muse for my bratty sarcasm).

Thanks also for your support. You have no idea what your positive reinforcement means to me.

Sorry you're "flat out". I hope that means you're busy and not sick?

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...
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menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...
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menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Carolyn I do think that we have a mutual admiration society going on here, Yes I am flat out work wise but had such a laugh at your comment on the best of blogs site, (I set up an automatic feed so got your comment on my email), that it was a good reminder to stick another nomination in there for you.
You are a cracking writer and I love your tone when you write. Long may you scribe away!

Sweet Irene said...

I am glad that your feelings for your younger brother were so clear and true. Love for a parent can be a real emotional burden that is hard to define. Our siblings reflect our truer feelings. I don't blame you for not rushing off and jumping on an airplane. I wouldn't have done the same thing.

aims said...

I heaved a sigh of relief when a continuation of the story came up.

Getting those calls and giving them is the horror in everyone's life.

And the memory of them stays forever.

Well done MOB!

The Lehners in France said...

It was so hard for your brother to have to call you with the news. So sad and yet so final. Lung cancer, an awful death to watch. Never again I hope, maybe I'll post my experience may 13th. MOB you have the ability of leaving me laughing or crying, great writing me thinks. Bon Courage and lots of love MOB Debs x

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Oh Blimey, all sorts of stuff going on here. OK Mob, it was obviously a dreadfully difficult time for you. Will tune in later for the next instalment. M xx

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

WT - oh my God you poor chap. As my story unfolds I think that you will find that I too had a situation not unlike yours when it came to family members, funeral arrangements and food! Jeeze, family can be a real selfish pain in the arse situation.

As for your mum dying 4 months later – shocking and I totally empathise with you dear man.

I Think this might have been the longest comment I have ever seen from you and I appreciate it given how your gorgeous wee Belle is in dire straits right now.

Always look on the bright side of life.......c’mon sing along dear boy!

04 April 2008 01:44

softinthehead said...

Well that's an experience all of us will have to go through in some form or other in our lives. Not one too look forward too, but one I have thought about over the years as parents and relatives age and of course we live far away. Beautifully written as ever.

softinthehead said...

PS - like the new look - that woke me up as I was flicking around! :)

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Sweet Irene - My brother who called is a lovely guy and such a nice caring person. He had a tough time of it all.

Aims - yup those calls are a nightmare and no matter how much I prepared myself over the years it was never going to be enough for what was to come.

Debs - oh thanks nice person. I hope you can write about yours too but there can be some emotional fallout to be aware of. I'm fine with this story as it took a long time to get over it but I am now so I can talk about it now. I did think long and hard though before I decided to write about it.

A mothers place - It was a bizarre time and a unique one too. If it were fiction you would not believe it.

The Lehners in France said...

Oh MOB you are so right about the emotional fallout, I cried most of the night after reading your blog. Maybe I'll try to put it in writing, it helped during my divorce I wrote funny poems. There's nothing funny about cancer.

Stinking Billy said...

wee mob, I'm with Carolyn on your writing. Like aims, for example, you keep your reader's attention. I will be back for the rest of it.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Debs - so sorry that you were upset for so long. I suppose many of us bloggers have something to say and it is somewhat therapuetic to do so on here.

I was deeply upset when I wrote about my partner leaving me in older posts and it hit me like a brick wall that I hadn't completely dealt with it all at the time. I couldn't come near my blog for a while but now I am glad that I wrote about it all as I can say that it helped.

You sound like you have a very supportive husband so as long as you are up to it and he can be there for you then perhaps in time you will feel strong enough to have a go. Good luck with that. I'll be around if you need some support.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

My sister was in a similar position, the only difference was that dad had already passed. She had to come home from Ireland and even to this day, I don't know how she dealt with it.

CJ xx

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

SB - from you that is quite a compliment as you know how much I revere you writing. Thank you for being so kind.

Crystal - your poor sister but I guess someone has to do it. I do believe in the phrase that God doesn't give you more than you can handle but there are times you wonder if he knows what he is doing. I certainly did when things became overwhelming.

Hope the lambing is coming along okay.

ciara said...

i already know it will be me who has to deal w everything when my parents pass. as close as my brother and i once were, we don't talk to each other anymore. haven't in about 2 years. i can't stand the way they treat (or he lets his family) my nephew who got encephalitis when he was 5. it all starts w my sil and then her two boys follow along...my brother doesn't do a damn thing.

ok, i guess that has nothing to do w the post at hand LOL i can't wait to see the next installment. honestly, i can't even imagine what it will be like when my parents pass : /

the mother of this lot said...

My dad dies very suddenly one morning. I'm an only child, so I had to do everything. Amidst the shock, sorrow and every other emotion you can think of, this sentence:

'...No doubt in the space of a few hours he has grown from being a novice bad news teller to a consummate professional narrator...'

captures perfectly what happened to me during that day.

I really just came to say thanks for visiting, but I think you've go yourself another regular!

Suzy said...

Gorgeous writing...

I certianly identify with those emotions. Feelings you should be experiencing and you're not.

Parent stuff is tough. I don't know what's worse, losing a parent you got along with and adored or losing a parent you had no connection with but longed for one.

Lovely writing. Thank you for sharing and stopping my my blog.

Love
Suzy

merry weather said...

This is painful stuff, written beautifully - we can empathise so well with your feelings as we read. But it's disquieting - this kind of news is yet to come for me and I dread it.

Yet your ebullience and humour are always evident. Compelling MOB.

Mean Mom said...

My parents are in their 80s and I'm an only child. I know what you mean about trying to rehearse. I do, sometimes, try to prepare myself for their deaths, but I know that I fail horribly. I am glad that you had siblings, at least.

On a lighter note, please come to a tea party at my place, to pick up an award. Hope you can make it!

Carolyn said...

Hope you had a nice weekend! There's an award over at my place for you...

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Ciara - I think what you said has everythig to do with this post. Families can behave very badly when they are grieving but to behave poorly beforehand - there is no excuse. You can at least hold your head high if you are the one to sort things out.

TMOTL - my heart goes out to you having to face that alone. The pain and sadness must have been excriciating. Especially when all you want to do is to curl up in a ball and die until you get over the shock of it all.

Suzy - thank you and I know from reading yopur blog that you can certaily identify with what I am saying here. Your writing is spectacularly good so I am honoured by you comments.

Merry Weather - treasure the one's you have no matter how frustrating and annoing they can be at times! Then, when the time comes your grief will be eased knowing that you did all you could while they were alive. Thanks for such nice comments.

Mean Mom - It's a survival mechanism I think to at least visualize how you might feel and react but nothing really prepares you - or me at least. Thanks fore the award - I enjoyed the party! Glad you sound so 'up' these days.

Carolyn - hah went straight over and grabbed that award with my sticky lttle mitts before you came to your senses and wihdredw it to give it to a real writer! Thank you, I am chuffed.