Two scientists are racing
For the good of all mankind
Both of them side-by-side
Race for the Prize, Flaming Lips.
Dad would have loved to have gone into politics but his speech impediment stopped him. Or more to the point the lack of confidence it caused. He was much happier writing. And writing he did. To Members of Parliament, local councillors and his favourite pastime for many years, the local newspaper. He would pick a topic (pre social media) and write about it in a letter to the editor. This would usually result in someone writing a reply with a contrary opinion and dad would write back. This would go on week after week until the editor would comment to close the subject.
He had his time helping local politicians and councillors generally choosing independents of one type or another, never the two dominant parties. Those on the right would call him a lefty and those on the left a right winger. Although I never told him I admired his stance and his speaking out on matters that he considered to be wrong.
Dad was always fit, cycling and walking a lot. The walking was a pastime he had with his partner of over 25 years following mum and dads divorce. His mind was always sharp and he was incredibly reliable. A typical trait was once a persons birthday was in his diary they would recieve a card every year. This amused me as ex-partners would continue to receive birthday and Christmas cards.
When on the 4th of May a card did not arrive in the post that should have flagged up a warning that all was not well. However as one arrived a few days later I didn’t give it too much thought.
I would try and visit a couple of times a year and we would often go to Wakefield or Doncaster for Coffee. It was during one of these visits when it became obvious that something was not right. He said he was going to buy a newspaper and he would meet us in the cafe. After almost an hour, now a little concerned, he walked through the door, coffee now very cold. “where have you been” I asked “I don’t know” he replied, looking a little worried, “Have I been gone long”.
Doctors appointments were made and before long a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease was given.
Dad appeared to go downhill rapidly from this point, eventually moving into his partners home so she could look after him They had always maintained their own homes during their long relationship, both very independent people.
There were to be a number of hospital stays over the next couple of years each seeing a deterioration in his health and quality of life.
The call came on the 22nd of April 2015 saying that if I wanted to say goodbye I needed to get to Pinderfields Hospital now!
On arrival the doctor explained to me, as next of Kin, that in his opinion and given his condition the kindest thing to do was to remove life support and allow nature to take its course. His partner and her daughter were there and after a short discussion we all agreed.
He was quite agitated in a disoriented kind of way before they decided to drip feed him painkillers. I am pleased though that my eldest daughter managed to visit during this period. He was soon to lapse into unconsciousness.
A private room was found and I guess I thought it would be a matter of hours. That night the wonderful staff appeared with a mattress and blanket and made it clear I was welcome to sleep on the floor of his room, tea, toast and conversation was also provided.
After the first night I took to nipping out in the mornings for the short walk into Wakefield and having coffee and toast at Costa. the same cafe I had first realised that something wasn’t quite right. Food would would arrive later in the day with partner and her daughter and they would stay for a few hours. Their presence was a great comfort to me. They had shared dad’s later life while I was a distant son.
I was in the cafe one morning when two ladies came through the door and found seats at the table next to mine, I assumed they were mother and daughter. The mother clearly upset and the other lady asked me if i would chat to her whilst she went to get them both a drink. It turned out that they were not related. The younger lady had noticed the older lady looking lost and confused and approached her. She explained that she had arranged to meet her daughter but she had not turned up and was worried.
On chatting with the lady it became clear that she didn’t know her daughters or indeed her own name. She was not sure where they lived. Together after asking permission we checked her handbag and on a card was name and phone number of Carol – Daughter, with a short note explaining that the lady had dementia.
I went outside and called the number, spoke to the daughter who asked if we could put her in a taxi and gave us the address of her workplace. We were happy to help, quickly briefed the taxi driver on the details and waved her goodbye.
I went back to the cafe to get another coffee and as I sat down my phone rang. “hello this is Pinderfield’s hospital, are you anywhere near to us, I am afraid your dad’s circumstances have changed”
Dad had passed away alone that morning. It had been seven days since removing life support with no water or food.
The death certificate stated ‘Parkinson’s related complications’ but I cannot help but wonder if he simply starved to death. On my watch. If he was strong enough to last seven days without food and water maybe he would have been strong enough to deal with surgery and treatment. I will never know. It has certainly formed my opinions on assistant dying.
He only ever gained consciousness on two occasions, both in the middle of the night. The first occasion I clearly heard him shout “get the Fuck off me” it went very quiet and whilst I waited for more words of wisdom I realised that I had never in my life heard dad swear before. He had great difficult with the letters F, P, S and Q in particular although this announcement was clear and without a trace of a stammer. It made me smile.
On the second occasion a couple of nights later I woke to hear him whisper “help me” a few times over. I got up and stood by his bed but there was no sign of consciousness by then.
His favourite times were spent in Scarborough with J, and one afternoon later that year we scattered his ashes on the cliffs by the castle.
Today marks 8 weeks since I had an alcoholic drink and tonight following the HoneyBox at the Archer I will be having a red wine with the team.
My thoughts have been with anyone, no matter what their ailment that has gives them chronic pain.
I am blessed that never before in my life have I been kept awake at night in pain, until this week. I think I have done well so far.
I had a CT scan and blood tests this week and I have a meeting with the consultant on Tuesday. I will be discussing pain relief.
May see you soon, take care, be kind…