Thursday, 30 April 2015


My very good friend M, who has been a saint the past few months,* asked me today if I thought I'd got closer to acceptance.  She's right, I suppose. 

Dad is home now.  The clot could kill him any time, a new clot could occur and kill him any time and the tumour will kill him eventually.  I don't think he's pursuing any more treatments.  He wants to be comfortable.  I have no idea what that means in terms of time frame.  I suspect the worst. 

M asked me if I was going to open the envelope to share the sex/identity of the baby with Dad.  That's faded to a triviality right now.  I don't think he needs to know who the baby is; he knows he would have loved him or her. It might simply be a reminder of what he won't get to experience. 

He has a wheelchair.  I've just bought the player for his books on CD.  There's a ramp.  Mum will need home help, though their farm is too distant from town to automatically qualify for the usual assistance.  He doesn't feel great today, but was happy to be home.

I'm so glad I'm going to be with them from Saturday.  It can't come soon enough. 

* I couldn't ask for a better friend -- she's helped me process tonnes of shit, all the while quietly undergoing shit of her own, I just learned. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

the best laid plans, awry

It'd been about three weeks since Dad was last admitted to hospital, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise when he was picked up by the ambulance again on Friday night.  The long weekend stretched ahead, unnerving and quiet, watching the phone.  I stayed at home until Sunday, when Mum called to say the blood thinners appeared to have given Dad a stroke.  She was terribly upset and we made the executive decision - I was on a plane within 90 minutes and at the hospital about three hours after her call. 

Again, we went through the cycle of godawful followed by euphoric with improvement followed by comedown on realisation that the new normal appears to be not as good as the normal of three days ago.  I could write details of a possible stroke, recovery of the right hand side of his body, a deep vein thrombosis, swelling, scans, Dad's latest symptoms -- all in the name of charting the progression of the disease that is stealing him from us.  Who knows, maybe in future I'll want to remember this, to be able to individually recall the hospitalisation episodes and what happened when.  But I suspect that all that will be important and remembered are the conversations with Mum which broke my heart (she feels she's lost him already and I'm not going to say she's wrong), the few laughs I elicited from Dad, the tiredness with which he faces the world, the loss of some of the words he was looking for. 

My sister K retreats a little further.  She held off coming, until we knew more about the prognosis.  She's talking about visiting on Queen's Birthday weekend, 1 June, when she has four days off.  That's a month away.  I thought last night about Dad a month ago.  She's probably well aware of this, but the difference between Dad a month ago and Dad today is not insignificant.  There is risk in leaving it another month.  That's not to say that she has to respond in the way that I do -- I hunger for time, I greedily hoard and soak it up, returning to my husband to grieve.  She doesn't process in the same way I do, nor does she share the privilege of having a P to ease the burden and shoulder her grief.  But I find I can't stay quiet when I suspect that she might live to regret her decisions.  I need to find the balance, a way to speak to her. 

A acquaintance's 61 year old father-in-law passed away suddenly over the weekend.  I won't go into detail (it's a public death, due to the circumstances), but she too is pregnant and P knows both her husband and his recently deceased father.  The horror and the grief must be enormous for them.  Selfishly, my heart screamed when I heard, envious and terrified - at least it was fast, at least it was a quiet, gentle death.  There's no way to compare, there just isn't.  I was lucky enough to have six wonderful weeks with Dad, in person and over the phone, between diagnosis and the first real downhill run, knowing that time was finite.  But oh my god, I'm not sure I wouldn't trade it for the knowledge that he doesn't have to suffer this way, that Mum doesn't have to live in this extended, surreal, awful existence wherein she feels he's shut down emotionally and is going through the motions, no longer available to her.   I saw it last weekend, and wondered whether it was the burden of caring for him that was causing her to pull away. But now I know better.

I probably don't mean that I'd prefer a quick loss.  I'll probably look back and be so grateful for the moments that are scorched in my brain - sitting at the kitchen table, watching him scarf a cake I'd baked with chocolate ganache, the late summer sunshine falling on his face.  Sitting outside at the table commenting on the peace, the view, the sunset.  Watching him instruct P in use of the circular saw, holding the pieces of ply in the garage for P to cut.  Sitting on the couch with feet tucked away to one side, holding his toes.  His 'yeah-hear-hears' of excitement, burbling up from his chest.

Dad's eyesight is failing.  Before the hospitalisation, Mum sat on the couch, he on a chair on the opposite side of the coffee table.  She was crying, and he couldn't make out her features to know what was going on.  Christ, that kills me. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

my plan for the next two or so months

Hi, still here. 

I've made the call to be done with work and spend time with Dad.  Last day is Friday next week.  The stress of not keeping up with my job, worry about letting people down and feeling torn that I needed to be with Mum and Dad outweighed the financial need in the end.  Work's been great, so understanding.  After the last episode with Dad, I just couldn't get back into it and work was no longer the distraction I'd appreciated in the early days of all of this.  Still feel like I'm leaving people in the lurch, but I just can't do it anymore.

Dad's back on chemo.  It's not great.  At least he was more himself mentally when I saw him last weekend, even if very physically limited.  The new nagging worry at the back of my brain is that we're all distancing ourselves from him and he from us.  On his part, it's likely just focussing on those things he absolutely needs to, because his mental and physical energy is finite and very, very limited these days.  On our part, is it fear and/or an unhealthy sense of self-preservation?  Self-preservation is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but I don't think that's the right way to go about it.  When we're there next on the 2nd, I'm going to make the effort to touch him more (for me, the distancing has been physical).  I know Mum's been sick, so keeping her distance is wise, but I heard less use of their terms of endearment over the weekend.  She's very tired too. 

I'm 29 weeks today and we've finally sorted out a load of baby stuff.  I've been offered my pick of the nice and barely used things belonging to a daughter-in-law of Mum's friend and we've just got to agree a price and pick up.  Our room is now inhabitable and the baby's room gets demolished this weekend.  Within eight weeks, it should be habitable.  We hope.  Oh god do we hope!  I bought another load of maternity clothing (a second pair of jeans, a top and jersey that double as nursing items and a dress) that I hope will last me through the end of the pregnancy.  I can buy more long singlets, I suppose, if required.  We start ante-natal classes tonight. 

I'll drive down for time with Mum and Dad in May while I still can, in addition to the flights I already have booked.  It's a five and a half hour drive at least, plus stops.  I don't imagine I'm going to be keen on that much longer, given my size and the fact I usually get a sore back when driving for more than a couple of hours at a time. 

2015 is slipping away into a morass of practical arrangements, the fall punctuated by moments of heartbreak. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


Do you know, I've been cheerful today.  I mean, what the fuck is that? I'd forgotten a bit what cheerful was like and I've missed it.  Dad's had two good days in a row which, despite the fact that the third good day may not materialise, is apparently enough for me to relax for two minutes.  Just call me Pollyanna. 

I just really wanted to write that down.  Something positive, hopeful even, for once.  Oh don't get me wrong, my dad is still dying, I've made police complaints recently, my family is a mess, I'm woefully underprepared for impending parenthood, peeing about a dozen times a day, slugging apple cider vinegar as a homemade remedy for heartburn and thoroughly fucked off at my bank but I AM FEELING POSITIVE right here and right now.  Here are some things I can say are genuinely good:
  • My in-laws have helped immensely with painting my freshly re-constructed bedroom.  I love the paint colour we chose (Resene Half Athens Grey, should you care) and the room is lovely.  They've been so wonderful to us. 
  • I listened to the rain on the roof last night and thought fondly of all the extra insulation we installed in the new bedroom as well as the heated towel rail in the bathroom (still not over it.  It's like christmas every time I pick up a towel). 
  • I'm babysitting P's cousin's very cute baby this evening.
  • I had a moment of real excitement about Cletus' arrival in July the other day.  It's looking like I'm going to have a real live baby who is fathered by my favourite person and should be awesome in his or her own right. That's pretty great. 
  • My boss has been so understanding, patient and kind (as have my colleagues). 
  • My husband has been beyond.  I love him. 
  • I made people laugh at yoga the other night, rather than being the quiet sad sack in the corner prone to a wobbly chin.   
  • Tabby cat has been sleeping by my belly.  It's been lovely and soothing. 
  • I baked an excellent apple loaf that is basically butter and brown sugar and makes me fat and happy. 
  • I'm going to see my mum and dad this weekend.
I mean, that's all good stuff.  I'm sure I'll read back on this in a week or two and want to get stabby with a rusty spoon but for now, I need to focus on all of this. 

sometimes, you just can't win

[Edited to say: administrative rants are fucking boring, but extremely therapeutic.  Soz about this one]

Four weeks ago: someone shady attempts to use my credit card details in Belgium.  Bank blocks card, doesn't advise me until I call after getting declined at the supermarket, with a giant line behind me.  Advised new card will be couriered to home address.  Don't do that! I say.  I'm not at home on weekdays to accept courier deliveries.  Give bank my work address. 3-5 working days, I'm told. No charge for the courier fee on that. 

Three weeks ago: Oh, it's been about 7 working days but no card.  Call bank.  That's odd, they say, it's been delivered to your home address.  Well, no, I say, I asked for it to be delivered to work and I certainly haven't received it at home.  They cancel the new card and take my work address again.  That'll be 3 - 5 working days.  Don't worry, they say, no courier fee for that. 

Two weeks ago: Oh, it's been about 5 working days but no card.  Call bank.  That's odd, they say, can we deliver it to a branch instead for you to pick up?  Fine, I say.  I work by a branch, please send it there.  They say they've cancelled the new card, so if it does arrive, please cut it up.  And don't worry, we won't charge a courier fee on that. 

One and a half weeks ago: I attempt to use my other credit card (from a personal as opposed to joint account) over the phone and am told it's been declined.  I call the bank.  There's a block on both my credit cards, they advise.  I ask if there's been any fraud on credit card #2.  No, they say.  They say they've removed the block on credit card #2.  Should be fine to use it now.

Three working days ago: notice courier fee on credit card #1 account. 

Two working days ago: text from the bank: your new card has arrived at the branch, please bring ID to pick it up.  Courier arrives at work with a new credit card #1.  Per instructions, I cut it up. 

Today: go to branch.  That's odd, they say, there's no card waiting here for your name.  Let me check under your husband's name.  Oh, that's odd, they say, nothing there either.  They finally check under my address.  That's odd, it's here under your maiden name.  Well great, says I, I need the card because I need to be able to pay for things, you know.  They pull the card out of the envelope.  That's odd, they say, it's a new card for credit card #2, not credit card #1.  And what do you know, it's already been blocked.  Oh, and we'd attempt to order you another one now but our system is broken - we would normally suggest you call the call centre.

I have passed annoyance and have reached bemusement (also, probably because I can rely on P to pick up the purchases in the interim - if this was a sole account, I'd be beyond ropable because I wouldn't have been able to make any purchases in the last month).  I didn't go spare at the branch today but the poor guy behind the counter was beyond embarrassed and has taken it upon himself to sort out a new card for me once their system is back up and running.  He's refunded the courier fee and apologised profusely. 

Do you think I'll get a new card this week? 

Sunday, 12 April 2015


The cloud of gloom has lifted a little bit.  Dad's back at home and is a bit more himself, though still reasonably subdued.  He was asking questions about our renovation on the phone, and while not proffering pearls of wisdom on the point as he would normally, the interest itself is incredibly satisfying to hear. 

We're taking it as 'today is a good day, we'll see about tomorrow' every day at the moment, because inevitably the peaks and troughs will continue. 

On Thursday I was on the point of abandoning everything again and jumping on a plane (the evident misery in Mum's voice and the pain Dad was in being too much to be so far away), but as things improved and my aunt confirmed she was going for a visit, I left it be.  It was really nice to spend the entire weekend (aside from a grocery trip) in our house, snuggling the cats, baking, preparing meals for the kind volunteers helping with painting and digging kukuyu grass from the lawn (bizarre therapy, I know, but therapy nonetheless).  P's been a saint.  He gently suggested catching up with friends, but left it alone when I didn't display any enthusiasm.  I sense he's chafing a bit from the confinement and the unrelenting renovation work but he's being so understanding and patient.  I'm back with Mum and Dad Saturday morning at the latest. 

Autumn set in yesterday, though we still managed to eat lunch outside.  Grey cloud, a little later drizzle, rain overnight.  Someone lit a fire nearby and the smoke smelled appropriate, even though it was all through my clean laundry fresh off the line.  Our bedroom is very close to complete and will be lovely and warm once we move in following the wardrobe installation this Friday.  We'll start the second bedroom immediately after, to prepare for the colder months to come. 


Wednesday, 8 April 2015


I am a bit waddly after a long day or sitting for extended periods.  Rolling over at night is getting harder.  Bending over occasions a grunt or two. 

The baby likes to party pre- and post-meal times (and meals better be punctual), as well as at assorted times during the night.  When Cocoa or Tabby sits next to me or on my belly (Cokes' preferred position) the baby goes crazy.  I can't decide whether it's pleasure or displeasure causing the commotion - I mean, it must be a little like having your house vibrated by a low-level flyover, when a cat purrs on my uterus. 

P regularly feels the kicking, now. Dad's tried a couple of times, but still nothing. He needs to be more cat-like to elicit a reaction.

I walk slowly up the hill to work.

At Mum's, I deadheaded agapanthus for a couple of hours between hospital visits.  The exercise was on the borderline of overdoing it, but it was mentally soothing to be outside, doing a repetitive physical task, with the visual satisfaction of seeing the improvement to each plant in a long row up the driveway.  At home, I mow the lawn steadily.  I tried to dig up kukuyu grass, but the bending was too much. 

I baked muffins, twice.  It was satisfying and truly weird as baking is most definitely not my thing and I've never felt the urge or a sense of satisfaction from it before. 

I still have an innie.  It's shallow and strained but it's tidy.  When I sit up in the bath, my belly goes to an odd point and I can see the abdominal muscles don't really reach over the top any more.  When I suck in, I can't hide the belly really at all anymore.

All facets of my boobs are still expanding.  I don't think I've gained much weight elsewhere than belly and breasts at this stage, but I've no idea exactly how much I've gained and I can't use my usual clothes as a guide, so it's hard to say.   

If I talk too long (say, instructions on a file to a junior solicitor) I get a little bit breathless. 

I have 1 onesie, 2 toys and a couple of instructional books, all gifted. We have a list, but haven't purchased a single other thing at this stage.  Our room is nearly complete, but the baby's room hasn't yet been started.  That's a worry, given it is now three months and one day until my due date.  We'll get there, we tell ourselves. 

I need to do the diabetes screening test tomorrow.  I'm not sure whether I'll be in Auckland or Hawke's Bay to do it.  I don't know if I'll be in Auckland for my next midwife appointment on Monday. 

I think I may have had a Braxton-Hicks contraction last night, but I'm not sure.  I was getting up from the toilet and my lower abdomen and belly was suddenly tight and constrained. 

It was P's last birthday pre-fatherhood, yesterday.  He turned 32.  I left his present sitting on my desk at work, unwrapped.  We picked it up and then ate takeaways together, getting text updates from the hospital and feeling the baby flip.  It wasn't what we'd expected 32 to look like, but then, expectations are often fruitless, aren't they?  His gift was a magnum of a 2013 vintage of a wine he very much enjoys.  We talked about drinking it on his 50th birthday, when the baby will be nearly 18.  I know now not to take the prospect of sharing that future for granted.

I am well.  The baby is well.  I am so, so glad that he or she is coming soon.  

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

please come back

So, the fasting test did not end well for Dad.  I received a phone call from Mum on Tuesday morning, the day after the test.  It's not good, she said.  He's unconscious and a doctor has told me he's not going to wake up.  We got on a plane, fast.  My sister and I arrived by lunchtime, just in time to see him unresponsive and being wheeled to ICU. 

It was awful.  The one ray of hope was that the doctor who'd spoken to Mum initially had been wrong; he wasn't bleeding from the tumour in his brain.  They worked out over the course of the day that he was in a sodium level crash of some kind.  We went to bed that night in a weird repetition of the night at the end of January when we didn't know if he'd still be alive in the morning.  This time, I refused to think about it.  We spent the evening looking at pictures of our family trip to Stewart Island for Christmas in 2013.  Dad was alive, vibrant, happy.  I used audio aids to get to sleep and to stay asleep, refusing to lie awake leaking tears as I'd done in January, when we didn't know what the next day would bring.

When we arrived at the ICU the next day, he was awake.  The euphoria was massive.  He was tired, he was groggy, he was a bit emotional (waking up to find you've been out for over 24 hours is a trifle disconcerting, I imagine) but he was alive.  We flew through the Wednesday in the thrill of improvement and the move back to the wards.  It seemed there'd been a problem with the thirst centre in his brain which had overridden the usual signals and caused him to drink so much his sodium had bottomed out.  He seemed slow on Thursday which was completely understandable.  He came home on Friday, weak, but home.  We were so lucky, again, that he hadn't died. 

On Saturday, the crash started and it bottomed on Sunday.  We realised that there was something missing.  I don't know if we'll ever get it back.  He's himself, no doubt, but he's dulled the whole time.  He admits to 'going into space' a lot - like a catatonic state, where his brain doesn't have to do anything.  He's not participating in conversation even to the limited degree he was previously able to do so.  Dad's emotional responses seem to have gone.  He was perplexed as to why we were upset; he couldn't see a problem, he felt physically better than before the sodium episode.  But before he'd wanted more than to sit on the couch, staring into space.  Lie on his bed, staring into space. 

Christ, I hope he comes back.  I miss him so very much. 

I keep thinking about the last time I saw him in hospital the Sunday previous.  We were watching the cricket final, moaning about the dismal Black Cap performance.  He was laughing, initiating conversation and jokes.  I thought then that the whole situation was grim.  But at least then his vitality, his Dad-ness, was there.  I keep replaying my departure - what did we say?  Did I tell him I loved him as I left? 

My heart is breaking, particularly for Mum.  It's one thing to know your husband is going to die.  It turns out it is entirely another to watch it happen and to feel like you're losing him or have lost him before it even happens.  Her world has narrowed to day to day with Dad, largely inside the house or hospital.  I am going to leave work soon, I think, because he needs two people to care for him without the central caretaker going stir crazy from cycling through grief, boredom, terror. 

I want him back.