jeudi 16 août 2012

My dad

I returned to Britain on the 23rd June leaving Berlin at the beginning of an amazing summer's day. My friend H. told me that Berlin had put on it's best colours for me. I cried when we took off and flew over the city skyline where I picked out the places I loved best in miniature. Yet somehow I felt ready to leave and my head was buzzing with plans for the summer. Trips to castles, great houses, ruins and gardens all together when we'd pack a hamper, watching sports events in the living room with my dad, spending my birthday at Castle Howard where they filmed Brideshead Revisited and then Venice where we had found the loveliest apartment a stone's throw from the Rialto and we could take a boat trip down the Canal Grande and my dad could do some sketching. Almost all these things have come to nothing though because he died ten days ago. Even though we know our parents are mortal, we like to imagine that  somehow our love will stop them from ever leaving us but on that morning before he died I knew that I was completely powerless to prevent him slipping away. There's something terrible about dying in hospital with monitors, tubes everywhere, machines, doctors and nurses taking blood and arranging scans. All these numbers which show a person's condition but can never express what they mean to you. Most of all I feel bad about the way it happened, the way he had to suffer for weeks because the local doctors failed to diagnose the problem, the way he couldn't eat or drink much at all that last week, the emergency abdominal operation he needed which turned out to be bigger than anyone had expected, the way the infections took over his whole body. Just a couple of days before he died, he seemed to rally and told us that he felt better for the first time and could get over this. We talked of stopping at McDonald's on the way home for his favourite strawberry milkshake and I promised to make a chocolate cake to welcome him home. But life decided differently.

He was one the kindest people who never complained, even when he must have been in pain, someone whose voice and hearty laugh filled the room. Everyone loved him and he loved us. He was my rock, the one who held everything together and would know what to do.

Grief is a strange process. The intensity of the pain scared me at first but now I understand that it's because he meant so much to me. The shock made me shiver with cold and unable to enjoy eating anything at all. I ate because I had to eat, because you can't give up on life. There is anger but also a whole pile of regret for the things I said or didn't say, guilt for the moments when I seem to keep going and don't grieve enough and guilt for the times when I break down completely and can't keep it together. I find it hard to know what to say when people ask me how I am and find June Carter's response best, "I'm surviving". Only the Olympics have provided a little distraction. Nights are a relief because the fatigue of grief overwhelms me and I fall asleep without thinking of much at all but then the mornings come too soon and I awake knowing that he isn't here. In his room his watercolour painting things remain undisturbed and I often go to sit there and be alone with all that is left of his presence. I miss so many things about him but most of all the solid warmth whenever he hugged me because I felt protected and loved.  If I can take any comfort in all of this, it's from the fact that he didn't suffer too long and that my mum and I managed to say our goodbyes just before they sedated him and attached him to the life support. I told him about Bradley Wiggins winning gold, that Murray had played and beaten Baghdatis again. He simply smiled and told us how kind we were for coming. I like to think that he didn't know how close the end was.

The funeral is tomorrow, a day I'm dreading but a day I need to get through somehow.  The trip for September to Venice is still on. There will be many tears and moments of heartbreak thinking about what could have been and feeling his absence. It helps me more than I can say to know that all of you are there for me, even if I haven't written for months. I'm not sure when the next post will be but please know that I haven't forgotten you.