Juggling life through a bi-polar lens. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Mostly trying to tread water in the middle. Creating a likeness to a normal life. Whatever "normal" is...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Shivery stuff

My Dad was in the Royal Navy for over 20 years, spending much of that time as Head Chef on board ship. In the 1970s he was exposed to asbestos, as he had to remain on board when his ship was docked- whilst the old asbestos lagging was stripped out and replaced with something else. When he talks about it, he says that when he walked through the ship his boots looked like they'd been covered in snow.

The dangers of asbestos weren't much known then, but since the 1990s Dad has had regular chest scans. Several of the men he worked with have died from asbestosis. Last June, at a reunion, a friend of his said that he'd been diagnosed in April. In June he looked OK, but he died in October.

Last Autumn, Dad started to sound different over the phone. I couldn't put my finger on it, just a difference. Then, at the end of a phone call, he said, "Love you!", something he has never said.

We went to visit him before Christmas to exchange presents. Sure enough, he told me that this time the scan had showed asbestosis. Much more than that, he wouldnt' say. He didn't want to talk about it much.
Dad and me, last month.

Now, Dad has exaggerated about things before, so I'm a bit confused. If it is asbestosis then I need to be prepared as it could progress really quickly. If that sounds harsh of me, or self-centred, let me explain that Dad has alwayd been a every headache is a migraine, every migraine is a brain tumor type of person! Do you know anyone like that? He has always exagerated health problems. Maybe it is his way of being prepared for the worst. I don't know.

So I don't know how to take it. One half of me says I should prepare to say goodbye, and gather my strength up for when he needs it. The other half of me just says, don't worry, he's got years yet, you just wait and see.

Somehow my gut feeling though, is that he isn't exagerrating this time. The difference, this time, is that he seems scared.

All I can do is make sure that this year isn't one of those years when I hardly see him. I need to be in touch more. Keep an eye on him. I will definitely be there for him.

What I'm not sure I can do is prepare myself to lose him.

I was very close to him as a child. The times when he came home on leave were little breathing spaces for me; no one hit me when he was home. As soon as he left, they turned on me again. I felt like Cinderella; fine when Dad was home, beaten when he wasn't.

As a wee girl, I would see him off at the gate when he left to go back on ship, standing at the gate a good half an hour till he disappeared on the bend of the road in the distance. Nowadays, my siblings aren't in touch with him much at all. In my mind I imagine a funeral where again, I'm alone looking after him, the rest of the family nowhere to be seen, untouched by his departure.

*** *** *** *** ***

It's Dad's birthday this Sunday. He likes nautical pictures and I usually send him a card with boats on (!) but this year I'm making one with a lighthouse:

OoooOOooooO- looks like a spaceship from Star Trek is coming in to land.... it's just the reflection of the light fitting, don't worry, it's not the Romulans!

I bought some acetate and drew the lighthouse with the type of outliner you use in glass painting. I've coloured it with Sakura Stardust pens. I plan to back the lighthouse with white tissue, put it in a frame, then set it onto some blue paper with torn edges to describe waves. I hope I manage to make something nice for him. If not, Tesco is open 24 hours!!!!!!


Julie said...

Oh Helena, what an awful thing to happen. I'm not surprised you're feeling confused. If your Dad doesn't feel able to tell you the details maybe a talk to your doctor would help you have more of an idea of the likely course of events? I think you are right to prepare yourself and to see him as much as you want to or are able too. You need to look after yourself too. I'm sending you a big hug {{hug}} xx

BumbleVee said...

As Julie mentioned... do educate yourself fully on the disease and the general course of things.. after that just carry on normally. See him more if you can...but, take it from me... there is no way you can "prepare" yourself for the inevitable. The death of a loved one sucks. That's the truth and that's all there is to it. Whatever happens... happens.. it is horrible,..I think I cried every day for months after she died. But, as she herself used to say..we just have to do the best we know how at the time.... and in my mind I always say.."thanks for that Mom". Because there were sure times neither of us knew what to do at all...

When my Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer they told her to go home and finalize things...get her life in order. That it could be a few weeks or months... I was afraid to let her out of my sight ...waiting for her to go at any moment... by the end of the first few months.. we looked at each other and laughed our heads off...then we got busy doing things. And, we didn't stop til she was unable to walk or be carried anymore... She lived a pretty full life for almost a full year .... I spent more time at her house a thousand miles away than I did with my husband...at his suggestion... I don't regret it one bit..nor does he... it was a pretty amazing year....

Rach said...

I agree with julie and bumblevee, they have pretty much said it all sweetie...just to say really that i'm thinking of you.
your light house that you have done for your dad looks brilliant. the wave idea sounds like a awesome idea, will look fabulous when it is finished. sending you big hugs rachxx

CherryPie said...

I am sorry to hear that. Sending you some *hugs*

Helena said...

)))))thanks all((((((

Lynda (Granny K) said...

So sorry to hear this. I can only echo what has been said already. Follow your heart, i'm sure you will.
Big hugs and much caring, Lynda

Shirley said...

Helena, I agree with what everyone has said, especially follow your heart. My mom had a long 6 month intense fight and then her body let her know when it was time. I also have to say I learned a great deal about her and me and life. I know he loved your lighthouse. And he will talk with you when he feels okay to do it. I am thinking of you and yours.

LazyKay said...

People can live a long time with asbestosis.

It is the mesothelioma (the cancer caused by asbestos exposure) which can lead to a rapid deterioration in health - that said, they are finding more and more treatments for this disease so be hopeful and enjoy your time together - that's always good advice whether someone's nearest and dearest is ill or not - we never know what tomorrow will bring.



freebird said...

If only our dads would live forever! Even if it isn't soon, you will lose him someday and to be reminded of the preciousness of your relationship is a good thing either way. I grew up close to my dad too and still miss him 10 years after his death. Visit all you can even if it isn't his time and re-enjoy your friendship of when you were little.

i beati said...

yes stay close - daughters go through passages with their dads.My grandaughter does..sandy