Monday, September 26, 2011

DSC_8815 - Going For GoldThink goldfish dead

And that was as far as I got on the 26th [what follows was written later, with many varying degrees of 'much']. It was the PPS on a note left for the SIL. The PS was almost "PS. I love you". The note explained that I'd left, hurriedly, for Notacity, because my father was in hospital and a nurse had spooked my mother. The goldfish had been ailing, and we'd discovered the other two had been eating bits of it while still alive, so have sectioned off part of the tank, where it was now lying, gills still.

The goldfish got left for dead for days. The SIL followed me down, a couple of trains later. My brother fled the activity drenched boys weekend he was on. And so we accreted by the beside, tired, hungry, confused and trying to work out how to calm a puffy and panicking father.

His hands were cold. The skin of his upper arm seemed to have all the strength of a damp paper bag, but at least it had some heat to it. He'd always had great hot hands.

Eventually we were sent out. Talks happened. Long silences followed them, thoughts dwelling, bubbling, expanding, relighting, different, better interpretations sought, except they were there in the words that were said.

We sat round, failing to do the crossword (he'd know which poet; there were always things only he'd get), scared, worn, fatalistic, uncomprehending, glib. Commenting on the absurdity of someone from school and college being "the doctor", the person saving my father. I didn't mention that she'd retaken biology A-Level.

We went back in, two-by-two, different nursing staff deciding to enforce the rules. He's calmer, irritated and mocking the slurping of the mask puckering on his forehead (I thought my brother was there; was that earlier? Time is flitting). We chat, well, weakly, petering out, not sure of what to say, all aware that this situation is perfectly ridiculous, yet is. There's a brain still running in there, and a lot of machines going out of parameter out here.

Once more chivvied out, so "see you in mo". Back to wait, to student sleep, suddenly awoken, but less suddenly than others. They've gone to see him again, but apparently he's not really him, awake, theoretically, but out of it.

Somewhere along the line there's another talk, although this one introduces me to the concept that multiple-organ failure can be a temporary state, things can start working again assuming the cells are still alive; it's just a supply issue.

In hindsight those sodding great boulders of hope were not what I needed.

More updates. I think I got good at napping. I don't really remember. Maybe I didn't get that good at waking.

My uncle, his brother arrives.

They've got his blood pressure stabilised enough now they've sedated him that they're going to put him on dialysis. We can come and see him after that.

This takes a long time. The one from year 8 comes in, shutting the door behind her.

That door has stayed open, even when the other man was held outside, engulfed in tears, the other one in ICU, the grey-haired woman, disappearing before we next passed her.

"Passed away". He is not a parcel before the music stops.

Say "dead".
Say "died".
Is no more.
A Daddy gone.

There's a great gasp from the SIL, the rest of us mute, waiting, listening still.

Turns out it's not just my father and Australians who say "strewth".

Brother crying, mother coping, uncle blank.

Tears, talk, hugging, leaning, tears from her, eventually, gladdening. I fail to remember the line about the audacity of hope, but those three words get seized on.

Hideously banal, and inept, inelegant, and just hideous world, crouching outside the window, a courtyard, looking towards his window, all weeds and skylights and vents and broken chairs and forgotten spares.

Then in to see him. Fidgeting, furious. Wanting to pound him just to make him complain, respond. My brain stuck on "how?". That and swearing. Stupid sod. Sodding idiot. Bugger. Bugger. Shit. How? God. Bugger.

Wanting to rage, smash, tear down this world, in a room built of glass, full of expensive equipment. Do breakages have to be paid for? Including the one in my brain?

I was trying to find something I'd written in an email. I found more:
[These are from various emails; they contain repetition; just cope with it]
** Things that have made me cry recently:
- Walking into the greenhouse.
- Answering "3, no, 4, no, 3".
- The girl from college's hand reaching for the door handle (the doctor on duty was in my year. She liked Shania Twain and retook Biology. She's lost weight though).
- Ears best described as taupe.
- Not being able to find the fifth plate when washing up.
- Not being able to find the right swear word.
- My mother crying.
- My brother crying; cue "Mummy, stop him crying" (it'll be explained in the blog proably).
- The world in general. Cruel, callous, cavalier, capricious. It's like there's a whole continent missing and only a few of us have noticed.
- So many other things I've given up trying to keep track.

nd this sodding keyboard is nearly driving me to them as well.
It's just the endless assumptions that one keeps finding that are only apparent as assumptions when they're proved wrong.
There's so much to be done, yet I don't know where to start on any of it; I can't even quite throw away the Guardian from Friday because I was trying to do the crossword while my father was dying (and of course there's at least one clue I think only he'd know—there always was at least one—and which I still can't get. /British poet d.1965 (5)/ Middle letter probably 'i', assuming 'opium' is a narcotic [I think the fact we couldn't get more than half the quick crossword probably says a lot about our state at 2 in the morning, but I saw the clue and wanted to wander down the corridor to ask him]).
PS. Quote of the day, from a neighbour to my mother "Eys mos'ly use [name a local firm of funeral directors]".

Fortunately I was indoors, out of sight, when he said it. It was just idea that one can be a loyal customer of funeral directors (do you get reward points?) delivered in a Hampshire accent. Life is a little absurd.

As my mother said, while berating me for not being witty, I "have a very dry sense of humour".

PPS. And then it sweeps back in, like another tiresome nosebleed, the pain of remembering, the cold hollow behind me to the right. The kernels of tears form, dry, deluge already spent. Weariness again, frustration and impatience. Knowing one day it'll all... not be ok.
There is no escape, no end to the dream sequence, no waking up to normal.

Then there's the whole mechanics of death, brain running as organs tumbled, aware of possibility, but not certainty, assuming, expecting, the amusement at the predicament, the blitheness of goodbye, because it was "see you in a mo".

And then a series of too-long waits, and knowing, and going in to cooling, mottled, puffy, ashen, gormless—you'd shout at me if I were breathing like that... but of course you're not, I thought you were just then, but I was just swaying... then wanting to scream, beat and shake, anything to get him to complain, to react, to be...


I felt broken and hollow before all this.

Still at least the economy's screwed so the death duties will be less; he didn't even have a will; he wasn't expecting; we weren't; another twenty at least; promised my mother until she was a hundred.

Sudden is too long a word. My mother complained she didn't even need to have paid 24-hour's parking at the hospital.

Sorry for the outpouring. Typing is a displacement activity.
Sharing memories? But I can never make them come; they arrive unbidden. I've got add my tuppenny-worth to the tribute (no idea which of us will read it, presumably whoever can at the time), but don't know where to begin. How does one quantify abiding warmth, which is only noticed in its absence?

It's all so terribly odd and utterly arbitrary; nothing else in the world works like it. What was constant just isn't (much like c? Though best guess on that at the moment after user error is a shortcut through another dimension).

As for favourites, well, it's weird. Going home I found they'd switched to using Pear's soap, which to me is [Kitchenville]—the loo under the stairs, the 70s hand-towel that matched the soap, the two types of loo paper, the disconcerting way the bowl filled and then suddenly siphoned out, climbing through the window onto the wooden box covering the drain and going back in again before anyone came to tell you off, and all this isn't [my father], it's his parents—from Imperial Leather, which is [TheSaltyKnoll], and the other grandparents. I can't think what is [him] alone; I can think of [Tweeton] soap as it used to be—Boot's oatmeal—but that's [Tweeton], that's both, though mainly [my mother]. Him alone is anything available, Original Source after [my brother] and I started using it, as with many other things, the boys learn about, get, do and he followed.

Am I meant to think of sweets instead? Glacier Mints mean [my brother] to me, Opal Fruits [my mother's mother]; [he] is uneaten chocolate, last year's Easter egg next to this year's still wrapped chocolate orange, dusty bars of Green and Black's, all on the bookshelf next to bed, along with the toy cars, dud pens, tissues, change, receipts, pen-knives, flyers, unused fittings, dead torches, and stray anything-elses. But then he's also the tangled tie drawer that still smells faintly of smoke decades after he gave up, with its mix of the valuable, important, inconsequential and the deeply sentimental (the letters to his parents on the birth of his "brosis", including one starting with the immortal line "I am just to say..."—sehr Peter—or the small blue shoe of an older brother, complete with very blond hair inside).

It's also odd what one finds out (despite the great awareness of what one never will). Turns out [my brother] and I are both replacements. I knew there was [another child] between the two of us—died after a few days as he had a hole in his heart, the type of thing they fix with Gautex now—for whom I was the replacement, but it turns out there was a miscarriage pre-[my brother]; [my mother] told him about it, presumably in the context of inappropriate replies (apparently the head of the school she was teaching at responded to the news "I'm not pregnant" with "Oh good", whereupon his wife hit him. This was in context of the private banking people responding to my mother informing him of my father's death with "You're joking me", which did not go down wholly well. But then apparently that office also managed to reply to a customer telling them "I've just lost my son" with "Well, where did you last see him?").

When he first died the world seemed callous; now I wonder if I am.

Though while spreading news of the funeral (did you know the Guardian operate several days in advance, the Telegraph about 8-hours? My father is currently opposite some War of Peace guy, the person behind rap and the inventor of Doritos; he is not the youngest in his section, but about 25 years off most) my mother discovered that one of the people she intended to invite—a friend from before they were married—had died from the cancer she no longer had, and her funeral will be in the same room as my father's, twenty-five hours before.

Perhaps it's not me.

And we're hoping the goldfish was the third (though that wasn't another pneumonia related one, more ailing and part cannibalised [and then left presumed dead in a separated part of the tank for days because all the humans had vanished]).
Funeral was on Thursday. Song, if not dance, and each of us got a little laughter as we spoke.

Oh hell, while trying to find a song a choir sung at the funeral I managed to find my father—standing directly behind someone, so there's only the very outline of him, but it's him—singing on Youtube.

And there's another, with one of the funeral songs in it, and once more my father is behind someone.
[link gone bye-bye]

But imagine this being sung by half a crematorium (after we'd sorted out the feedback; the microphone was on the lectern behind them, and we couldn't switch it off. Turns out dials next to microphones in crematoria aren't volume controls. They are however curtain controls. It's fine, no one noticed, except the hired vicar—my godfather vicar was doing four other funerals, and the proper one had a bishop descend upon him—and as he'd just called my female cousin "[Masculine unconnected name]"—can't-read-his-own-handwriting much?—he probably wasn't in a position to criticise); it's better live.

And now I'm trawling through things (their version of Summertime made me cry when I first heard it, but that was a couple of days after his death, listening to what was to have been in my stocking, and it's one of the most menacing versions I've heard) finding occasional glimpses of him.

And then to the Morris video. And struggling not to laugh. I'm not linking it because Morris might not be quite your thing (and also my parents are being themselves, by which I mean one of them forgot to bring the handkerchiefs and it doesn't really get better from there).

All of which is probably a bit too much insight into this family.
Morris: [...] Anything beyond 1:15 is irrelevant (but by that stage I've already hidden behind my hands. But to be fair the shoved guy is a bit forgetful. And dancing on sloping cobbles probably isn't that easy. And they had many different tunes drowning each other out. The emperor's new hankies on the other hand...).

Which reminds me that I really ought unleash on the world the one I recorded the weekend before last (except of course it won't have him in, just my mother and people dancing out of the frame because I was holding the camera at waist height to keep it stable), at [Ruratopia] Apple Day (bring apples, get cider, wonder about the shifting exchange rate, wander round, decide there are only so many uses for an apple, end up being asked to deploy my gaydar on a couple of "flatmates" by my mother [firstly, my gaydar usually consists of "oh, he's cute... pretty wife too", secondly, I do not believe in using crude stereotypes to help assert arbitrary conclusions, although one of them did have manicured nails]).

I also wish what there was left behind of him was the better him. I struggle to hear his voice, and then found the recordings on his phone, except they're mostly him listing the faults in a cottage they rented in Skye. Peevishness is not quite what I want to remember him by, however accurate it may be.
[Not related, but in the same series of emails]

(it's something from a very odd, and silly, film I faintly remembered from my childhood—one of those bank holiday lying-alone-on-your-parents'-bed things, flicking through sport until there's something with singing in it**—and which I've only recently rediscovered (having seen a bit, and thus been able to say "oh, that's what that was", while wondering how I managed to miss the bizarre fixation with Julie Andrews's 'fronts')).

** My family clearly aren't good with hints. And I'm definitely related to them.
Though the head of the choir organised a memorial session for my father in [Notacity] yesterday, so equal parts casually talented musicians bemusing a pub, multi-part harmonies being sung throughout it, and then morris dancing beside the [Endoftheline] Road, confusing quite a few people (one couple walked up to the pedestrian crossing, reached out to press the button, then stood watching while waiting for the light to change. Two minutes later someone else came along and pressed it for them).

Unfortunately my brother made some comment along the lines of hoping he gets as much response when he dies, which made it fairly apparent neither of us currently would and I don't really want to think about yet more death right now (quite honesty I'm struggling enough with thinking of life).

And I've just been going through the videos . Firstly, I am not a cameraman. Secondly, see the first one and so do not attempt to adjust the zoom or focus, or really even the position and angle, while filming; this does not good video make. I'm beginning to understand why camera crews have someone whose sole responsibility is adjusting the focus (and I need to get my lens realigned so it doesn't slip out of focus when the zoom shifts).

And thirdly, don't speak while filming. My voice is really weird.

I also seem to be exceptionally good at missing the first line or verse of songs (including an unexpected and slightly brain popping version of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, done to the melody of Barwick Green, otherwise known as The Archers theme tune. Presumably those who know about time signatures would say it's obvious, but to me it requires being incomprehensibly talented).
It occurred me yesterday, shortly after talking to a woman who has "reason for absence: family bereavement" on the screen in front of her and yet who managed to drop in a bit about how she wanted to find a rich relative so they could die and she inherit because the rich husband plan wasn't working—I thought it best not to mention having to investigate deeds of variation so my brother and I wouldn't inherit our parents' money while one of them was still alive—that if I live to the same age as my father, as I might reasonably expect to do so (well, I'd assumed at least a couple of decades more, but it doesn't always work like that), then he will have been dead for more than half my life.

Merry thought, huh? I shall try to remember what a small fleck of a hurtling universe we are so I have a better reason for feeling quite so scared.
Think over the constant tearing bewilderment and pain now; instead blips of it and faint expectation that he'll be back on Sunday evening. Though my sister-in-law suggesting that he ought to be wearing a t-shirt I designed for him for his last birthday when incinerated made me crumple (firstly, it's not him, it's his remains, secondly, it's still almost new, that's a complete waste, thirdly, he was delighted with it and you want to burn it, fourthly, no, no, no, no, no. I can understand how she got there, but it's one of the few things where I can be reasonably certain I didn't get anything wrong—I did something that made him happy—and to destroy the only remaining evidence of it would just be heaping more arbitrary destruction on what has already passed. A use where it makes someone else happy is
fine, but torching it for the sake of—what? Aptness?—seems absurd and cruel).

And yet no cruelty was intended and if we had not selfish and self-indulgent sentimentality then it would not be absurd. Unfortunately I'm not really an automaton, despite the recent numb blankness, where mostly I reach the edge of tears, sigh dramatically to stave them off, devoid of the enthusiasm to cry again, bored with the tedium and nuisance already, like a bout of nosebleeds.

Sorry, seem to have been fixating slightly, but not sure what else to write about; laughing in the funeral directors perhaps (who had a rainbow sticker in the window, which makes one [ok, both my brother and I] wonder if the other one in town isn't). That and having to laugh silently and out of sight when a neighbour recommended the funeral directors with the words "Eys mos'ly use [Brand X]" (was it the Hampshire accent or the idea that one can be a discerning and loyal consumer of funerals?). Or simply the off-topic conversation about Celosia because we'd never seen one before (possibly plants that represent body-parts aren't quite the thing to have on top of a coffin).
I'm not really sure what I should put. I doubt once [sic] can ever quite prepare for the death of anyone so close, but I was wantonly unprepared. I assumed he'd be around for another twenty years before I'd even need to consider it. But then I assumed so much—absence makes the heart grow aware—probably inevitably.

When it first happened and we emerged into that beautiful morning, sun burning off the mist, it seemed as though America had gone missing and we were the only people who knew; there was whole continent missing and the smug, conceited, callous world didn't deign to notice or care.

Now I seem to have run out of the energy and enthusiasm needed to cry. I occasionally strike the edge of tears, but nothing further. I seem to have even run out of annoyance at the endless bouts. Life just is—except for when it suddenly just isn't—and there are things I really ought do yet haven't.

It's all so strange, but it is future and it leaves me guilty for experiencing it.
Bearing up mostly; the wrenching pain and futile rage (which was mostly rage at futility) seem to have passed, replaced by numbness, absent-mindedness, dramatic sighs staving off tears that won't quite come anyway. Still crumple on occasion. That and the vomiting this morning, but I think that was more to do with being too hot and exhausted.
It's odd how much just cease, vanish, evaporate and be scrubbed out. There's nothing else in the world which works like it. Nothing just isn't. When he first died it seemed like America had gone missing and we were the only ones who knew.

And then the world goes all bright and shiny and fun just to really grind the contrast into your face. Gorgeous, miraculous days drenching the wanton, arbitrary destruction; guilt over my very existence is an odd concept (just as well I'm not a Catholic, as I think that's a prerequisite; I'm think I'm probably atheagnostic, as in I can't quite believe, but realise it would be useful on occasion, but also can't quite care enough to worry about the whole thing).

I'm still here, still scared, uncertain, only now more crumpled and hollow than ever before, and hideously aware the buffer-zone of generations is eroding far quicker than I'd like (dread to think how my mother feels, as before all this she was worried about my aunt, her sister-in-law, who has lymphoma dying [it feels awful to think now that that's who I thought I'd have to dig out my black tie for next], then her husband dies fairly rapidly, and then when inviting people to the funeral she discovers one of her friends from before she was married is dead, of cancer she thought had gone, and the funeral is in the same place as my father's, 25-hours earlier. Life has a habit of ladling it on).
It's remarkable how rapidly the anguish fades. I still can't quite believe the nevermore bit—rationally I can explain the process of death, but the answer does make it seem like I asked the wrong question—as it feels so odd. And yet it is what is, and must be. But still so odd, so terribly, terribly odd.

I think we're mostly what we were before he died, just somewhat duller, a little more scared. The funeral was interesting, better than I remember them; still cold and so many strangers, but less anxiousness, perhaps because I didn't have to worry about being appropriate for once. Still bizarre, but awfully, possibly wonderfully, human. Faintly inept (the feedback when the choir started, trying to turn the lectern microphone off using the curtain control, the vicar-for-hire [the parish one had the bishop round and my godfather one already had 4 funerals that day] calling my female cousin "[yes, I recycle stories]" because he can't read his own handwriting), a little mundane (the tomatoes ripening on the crem office windowsill as we went in), but warmer (laughter speckling each of our tributes) and more joyous (a Zulu lullaby, which possibly would never get any baby to sleep, and which didn't have much to do with death, other than it used to be sung by a dead man, sung by nearly half the congregation and sung well) than those I remember from elsewhere.

According to my mother it was a lot better than the one the day before (friend from before she was married, stuck in the same oven 25 hours earlier. Sometimes life twists the knife).

Afterwards, at what I imagine must have been the wake, but no one called it that, there was song, and a toddler dancing, and much talk (including being asked by a man who lives down the road from my parents, who has talked to me while I've been gardening there, how I fit in. But he did it to my brother too). Although some of the talk was telling me how much of a shock it was for them (it's not just you), how brave I was for standing in front of people talking about someone behind their back, and that I ought to write given my natural poetic voice (I ripped off a line of Auden and played with Lear's words [Edward not King]). And on the Saturday following my mother dragged me to a barn dance in lieu of my father (she's not stopping anything, despite have one woman from a fortnightly event suggest that perhaps they'll see her in the new year, and is fairly annoyed at the extra problems not having an immediate partner will create) and then next day out to a celebration of all things apple where she morrissed.
Which is where the t-shirt I hadn't yet mentioned fits in:
[link missing]

I designed this as a birthday present for my father in April. Oddly enough he liked it. Then he died and I moved the washing to his wardrobe upstairs, knowing one day it would get me. And then my sister-in-law suggested he be cremated in it, which made me crumple entirely, so that idea was mulled a bit, tearfully, then quietly scrapped. And so my mother decided it ought to be on the coffin during the service, as a summation of him (Youthful? Fun? Unusual?), which seemed odd to me, confused the hell out of some of the rather fuddy-duddy duffers from his old work, but made my mother happier, and I'll acquiesce to that.

But I'm digressing. Mostly it's just odd how very nearly normal everything is. But it's that slight crack, yet infinite schism, that draws the milling eye, catches, jars as you pass.

As for being not-strong, I'm not sure I have much option; coping is what we do. We're a hardy lot, and yes, there are wobbles, but there is also endless pragmatism (I suspect us of being emotional Weebles).

I'm aware that far too soon someone will make an oblique reference to the vanishment, I won't understand and then I will, blurting out the words "Oh, that! I'd forgotten that".
[And none of this is as good as the words my brother posted on Facebook]

My dad went into hospital on Friday and was taken into intensive care on Friday night. Leaving the hospital I did an automatic head count and we were missing one. [My father] wasn't there. And he won't be ever again.
[I've just found something sent on the 23rd]
And I think if I ever have to ring up anyone to say that someone's dead I wouldn't be very good; just had to phone my uncle to say my father's in hospital in the manner proscribed by my mother (in hospital, chest infection, keeping him in overnight for observation. Not allowed to mentioned Intensive Care, the oedema, the liver and kidneys out of whack, the heart struggling with it all, and not allowed to worry about it, though my mother had just paid for more parking, which given it's expensive).

He had a cough. It didn't shift. He complained of feeling weak but he's a hypochrondriac (childhood was any cold you can get he could get better). Was on antibiotics, but they did nothing. Doctor sent him to get a chest x-ray. Picked up possible irregular heart beat, so they were going to investigate that. Then somewhere along the line they found he had too much water milling round his body, and that his kidneys and liver weren't working as they should, so they're keeping him in until they sort it, but think it's something they can quickly treat. No idea yet on the cause (heart weakening could cause a pressure drop in the kidneys, disrupting excretion...

Er, phone call.

Excuse me, I'm just going to [Notacity].
Clearly I don't do clairvoyance. Except then we thought—they thought—it was something they could easily sort out.


Rather than continue to sit here open-mouthed and wondering quite which words to offer you, and recognising that you are a certain way up/down/along the grief curve, I'll simply start by offering my sincerest condolences, whatever they are.

Your extremely moving post makes for a rather splendid eulogy I think. I'm not sure I could ever be so brave as to expose my thoughts at such a time. Maybe it was a sort of therapy, or maybe you just wanted to be able to remember how you felt
when you look back. Either (or neither) way, truly heart-wrenching stuff, and this comes from someone who hasn't cried for nearly five years (save whilst watching the odd sports-related film).

Atheagnostic is more or less where I am. The whole thing would be lovely, but I could never quite reslove the sheer implausibility of it all. And as you say, regardless of what may or may not come next, we have more than enough to worry about.

Your entire family sounds wonderful. Most of all you, actually.

"British poet d.1965 (5)/ Middle letter probably 'i', assuming 'opium' is a narcotic": (T.S.) Eliot. I'm sure you've got it by now, but just in case.

Ben x
Thank you; I'm glad someone else doesn't know what a condolence is.

Most of the post is taken from emails sent in the aftermath, and bits of them got used in the eulogy. It's probably this reworking that was behind people there telling me I ought to write.

As for exposing thoughts, well, most of them have already been sent, in part, to various erstwhile readers* of this, so adding them here, although public, just seems like filing.

* Perhaps this is why I didn't include you at the time; I knew you'd see it here, being about the only one left. That and I wasn't sure sending "Hi, Remember me? My father's dead" was fair. Apologies about the delay in posting, but for some reason I tend to write a few posts, then publish en masse, except found I had the one from 23rd September, before the phone rang, unpublished and now rather jarringly unpublishable. Frivolity suddenly became much too frivolous.

How have you not cried in so long?
I often don't know what to say to people even when there's nothing wrong, let alone when there is.

I cried readily enough as a youngster, but stopped in my early-mid teens for some reason. Only one event since has allowed me to do it again. Not sure why - chiefly because I've been lucky, I guess.

No need to apologise for lack of posting, even if you didn't have such a valid excuse. Good to see you back, and coping (another of those inadequate words I'm afraid).

Do you still have my e-mail address:
Be good to swap some further inadequate words.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?