Today is Saturday 19th October and I’m going to start this entry with a text from Miles which reads:
“We are on the train. Sorry we didn’t see lots of grandma. Lovely to see grandad and hold his hand. I am so grateful for you all being there to look after him and let him know he is loved. Lots of love and kisses”. I read this to my mum and we both became weepy, she said how is it we have such lovely people in our lives. I think you get what you give.
Dad survived the night and was made comfortable by the Marie Curee nurse when he woke up and was breathless. The carer came in and helped mum at 9am. Andrew and Teresa got up and walked their dog, Bonnie the three miles to mum and dad’s flat. Nick made a great FBB this morning. FBB in our house stands for FAT BOYS BREAKFAST and included baked beans, bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast. Phoebe stayed behind to clear up and then we brought Miles and Corey up to the flat. I knew this was going to be hard as it is horrid to see your children upset. They stood and held hands with grandad whilst Nick and I made mum walk up to the shops with us. After the deluge yesterday and all the flooding the sun was shining. The leaves are turning and falling, beech nuts crunch underfoot and it is cooler. Autumn is here and padded jackets the dress code of the day. Where mum and dad live it is on the site of the former Royal Navy Engineering College, Manadon. There are lots of trees, green space and the estate is made of different styles of housing it is pleasant with wide pavements. We have an additional connection in that when Marcus, Phoebe and Miles were little I would bring them here to the RN Playgroup “Thunderchicks” as the site was HMS Thunderer.
Mum is 5 weeks post new hip. She has been fairly diligent in doing her physio, despite trying circumstances, and is walking further. We plodded up Bladder Lane, past St Boniface College and Church, under the underpass and into Crownhill. Here the Co-op, just as in Stoke Village, is the mainstay of the row of shops. We didn’t have much shopping to do only milk, biscuits and money. I suggested we stop at the Tamar for a coffee, went in to order it and had to weave through people drinking pints as they were watching the rugby. The Tamar couldn’t accommodate with coffee as they didn’t have any milk…. there is a Co-op 50m up the road! It didn’t matter – it gave Miles and Corey time with grandad/Sandbag and time with Andrew and Teresa who hadn’t met Corey before. During this time the team leader District Nurse, visited dad. She topped up the syringe driver with the comfort drugs and increased the dose of two of them again to keep him comfortable. Before she left she asked to speak to us. Out of earshot of dad she explained that we should start to listen out for changes in dad’s breathing. We are in the final stages but there is no time line for this. Dad can still say the odd phrase and word, such as lovely, wonderful and send the boys in… mainly he is sleeping and his breathing is better than it was. We were told that the raspy breathing sounds worse for us than him. He has been coughing and I don’t think he will be having more liquids as they make him cough too much.
We have all told him he is much loved, he can hear us, when we speak to him we stand and hold his hand, his eyes don’t open much or at all now. The consultant at Derriford was right when she said on 30th September “a good week -ten days” then the decline. The decline started in earnest a week ago when the hospital bed was delivered, for us it was a terrible ordeal as it made the end somehow more palpable but dad was hugely relieved when it arrived. He wants to die at home. We can only sit by and watch and try and keep him as comfortable as possible.
We have been in a limbo land of grief for the last week, grief for the husband, father, grandad we knew, grief for the knowledge of what is coming and the void that will be left, grief as we have watched dad’s decline and seen him get weaker, grief at not really knowing what to do or what to expect. There has been lots of love towards dad and between each of us in the family, no need to put on a show but be really honest with each other about our memories – good and bad, from the “stand by your beds” room inspection as kids to the fun we’ve had. There has been real affection from the nurses and gratitude from us for all their care.
We are lucky as a family to have each other and it doesn’t matter how far away we are from each other. In our kitchen we have a daft sign which says our family is held together by heart strings – these strings have been pulled to almost breaking point this week.