Suffolk November 8th – 10th

Has the decline started?

Dad is so slow now. It’s hard for him getting up out of his chair. He trembles and exhales. ‘Oooh’ A trembling, alarmed sound. Not pain. The awareness of how his legs can barely take the weight of the rest of him anymore. The cancer has made him weak.

For someone who only months ago was so strong it’s shocking.

The stream of visitors is continuous. Bob his old army friend from Cadet training in Wales came on Friday with a bottle of Pol Roger. That’s a nice touch. We drank and were cheery but I dread witnessing the goodbyes of these lifelong friends.

What do you say in such circumstances? Bob just said ‘Peter’ with real affection and hugged him.

Dad: ‘Well I never thought I’d be hugged by Sheddon’. The wit is still strong even if nothing else is.

Dad: ‘I will see you again.’

But will they? I doubt it.

On Saturday, Gilo my old childhood friend came. He’s one of the family. Another soldier and someone dad loves to speak to. Catching up, reminiscing and then the goodbye.

Giles: ‘Well take care’ a pause ‘and see you at Christmas’ Will they see each other at Christmas? Let’s hope so.

Yesterday we watched the remembrance service at the cenotaph while mum went to the ceremony that had been dad’s idea in the village.

As the marching songs started played by the Marines band I pinned a poppy to dad’s breast pocket. As I bent down to stick the pin through his shirt, he gently rubbed the stubble on my cheek.

It was the sort of thing he would never have done if he was well and probably how he would have touched me when I was little.

I think it was just spontaneous and because my face was close to his but it spoke so much of how he must feel about his path ahead. That path which suddenly seems to be reaching the cliff edge.

When I left after Sunday lunch, I had to wake him up. He was fast asleep. This weekend had been different. I had seen his frustration at his worsening condition. Something felt different.

‘Bye dad’

I felt I should say something else.

‘I don’t know what to say.’

Once again the same old him instinctively speaking:

‘No, don’t say anything. Just bugger off.’

He’s always hated fuss. As mum says ‘we don’t do long faces.’

I laughed. ‘Well it’s been great to see you’

Dad: ‘well it must be quite dull’

Me: ‘No, it never is. However unwell you are I love our chats’.

It was a good way to say goodbye.

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