Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Dad has gone into hospice for a couple of days so that someone professional can observe his partial seizures and episodes of what we call the spins and adjust his medication accordingly. He's been in a better head space (ha, for want of a better term) than he was when I last posted 9 days ago, but this business of dying is awful.

Monday night was really scary. For hours there was something wrong - he was struggling to master control over the words and thoughts in his head, slurring out "you know I love you very much" and hitting the reset button every 5-10 minutes, following which we'd have to go through another round of explaining what we thought was happening, what we were doing about it, what he'd taken. It scared us so much that when the hospice visit was suggested yesterday, Dad could see Mum and I were eager.  The transfer yesterday was rough, and he spun for most of the afternoon, the doctor there to observe and confirm what we'd been seeing (and asking for help with).

I'm back at Mum and Dad's kitchen table, watching the cat sniff a dead mouse it killed earlier out the window. I have a plane ticket to Auckland this afternoon and another back for the weekend on Saturday. The two days in Auckland are for me to attend antenatal class and keep up with a little personal admin (my husband, my home, my preparation for baby).  The scan last week went well; my placenta has moved and is in a good position and the measurements suggest we'll have a good sized newborn on our hands (90th percentile head circumference, oh dear god). That's one less worry but I've been having terrible stress dreams about broken babies, losing babies and so on. My back is starting to really ache by the end of the day and the reflux is getting worse.

I've said it before but it's killing me to want to be in two places at once. I told Mum yesterday how it feels everytime someone asks her or comments that her daughters live in Auckland. It's not my fault and it's not my parents' fault that we live this far apart, but it's fucking killing me to hear how Mum needs more practical help and is (reading between the lines) scared about what happens when the pregnancy or birth prevents me from travelling any more.

Monday, 11 May 2015


The tui is back. He's been gone for a little while, but just now I heard his liquid song for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm glad he's here.

Prince Harry is touring New Zealand, watching rugby and visiting Stewart Island, the site of our last whole family holiday at Christmas 2013. I'm so glad we went on that trip. I enjoyed it at the time (my god, the number of tui we saw there!) and I'm even happier we went now. There's a new poignance to the memory of the walk just Dad and I took to the far edge of Half Moon Bay, where we climbed up a rock and watched the waves of Foveaux Straight demolish themselves over and over and over again. 

I went home on Thursday afternoon and returned again this morning. The trip home was nice (I love my husband & my cats, of course) but I was on edge the whole time. We were at a christening yesterday and there was discussion of the death of an elderly relative of the baby -- I couldn't bear the platitudes, even though I know that for her relatives in those circumstances all the platitudes were helpful and probably based in truth.   I thought of my father, sitting in his room, articulating as best he could to the doctor that he wouldn't let his cattle be treated this way.

P spoke to his mother last night for Mother's Day. She lives in the northern hemisphere, so hasn't necessarily been privy to the detail of what's happening with my family. She asked after Dad and as I heard P underplay the situation a little I filled with rage. Absolutely impotent -- there's no benefit in being as bald as I would like about it (he's dying, it's shit, there's fuck all we can do would hurt P's mother unnecessarily when we can just say that it's not looking good) and P had no idea how I felt. I've stopped wanting people to ask how I am because I cry and I don't want to. I've stopped wanting people to ask how he is because I find I can only spill the unvarnished truth or else risk feeling like a fraud, I suppose. 

More backwards and forwards over the next two weeks. I'm going to need a travel dispensation from my midwife when I see her on Thursday as I'm starting to get looked at with raised eyebrows on the plane. My back aches from time to time and the baby is very active now.  I have woken with leaks from both breasts. Eight and a half weeks until my due date, less than six until term.  I'm struggling to picture life beyond next week and I'm tamping down (ha, tightly compressing more like) worries about what happens when the baby arrives.  

In the interim, I take pleasure from the tui's song.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

wednesday morning, may

I am sitting at my parents' kitchen table. The sun is out and the leaves are still turning.  While the cherry is almost bare, the wisteria is still quite green and the poplars yellow. It is crisp in the shade but much of the farm is in direct morning sun, verdant.

Dad is down the hall in bed. He doesn't leave the bed now, though this morning he was well enough to sit up for breakfast (a change from the hideousness of previous days). I have been here for 5 days now and I am witnessing the end of life. It is a terrible suspension. Dad is not generally in pain, but he's fighting the progression of the disease inside his head, the foggiest and the swirliness (as he describes it) a challenge he feels he ought to be able to face (I mean, he's always been able to figure it all out, right?)  He's terribly tired all the time. He's ready to leave.

Why couldn't I type 'ready to die' just then?

If we had known what the end would look like, I think we might have all been paralysed by fear in the early days of this (ha, early days. It's not even been five months since his diagnosis).  I don't mean to scaremonger, while cancer and end of life have their general commonalities, your experience will differ, I'm sure. Mum and I are petrified about what the next days and weeks hold though, now.  All this advancement, civilisation, and end of life can still be a ghastly, drawn out process.

It's generally calm.  Dad rests or sleeps, we prepare the next meal, tidy up, make necessary phone calls to hospice, occupational therapists, home caring agencies. Occasionally there are moments of difficulty. We cry from time to time. The baby kicks restlessly while I am in bed or on the couch.

I go home for four days from tomorrow. I have an antenatal class, a scan appointment I shouldn't miss. I'm rescheduling the midwife on Monday to return. I feel terribly conflicted about it. My aunt and then my sister will be visiting over those four days so I'm not leaving them alone, but what if? I'm looking forward to the respite too, which is even more awful.

P joined us from Saturday to Monday afternoon and was very helpful. Dad cried when he left, and I know why. P told Dad he loved him.