Dad sits in his new chair locked into the telly. He wears slippers that have Velcro flaps to allow for his swollen feet. He has a rug over him. His glasses are on and his head is bent forward.
He seems more absent. The tumour is affecting his ability to make connections. His eyes seem to stare at the images but without seeing. Glazed.
That bright spark that used to be there has almost gone.
Mum has fallen into the role of full time carer. How strange it must be to be living with the love of your life (50 years they’ve been married – we celebrated their Golden Wedding in April) and then suddenly to be nursing him, helping him up out of his chair – him once so strong, now so weak, getting up with him 5 times a night to help him pee into a bottle. Last night she was up most of the night. She had to change his pyjamas and his sheets.
I wonder if she thought something about it when she stood in that church in her polka dot dress and veil, still so young and repeated the vows ‘In sickness and in health’. And her still so loving to him speaking softly to him ‘Peeka, my darling boy’ as she smooths his forelock of her back over his head, just the way he used to before he started to forget.
She puts on a brave face but I can tell it’s tiring her. Sometimes she sighs, emotionally and physically worn. Earlier she told me ‘I’m not coping’. His deteriorating condition is too much for her to manage on her own.
The vicar had been here earlier and while he talked about the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Dad slid further and further down in his chair so that he was almost lying down by the time they went.
It took all of our strength to get him back into his chair and he’s barely able to move his feet now to get his legs close enough to the chair to be able to sit down in it properly.
I think of the way she has always made everything all right, the way mothers do. When I couldn’t sleep as a child, she would calm me, reassure me until the panic was gone and I’d be calm enough for sleep. For a long time in my life I was lulled into thinking everything will be all right and that is mum’s way. Everything is always ok.
But now it’s not.
Just now after the carer had come to help him up, help him wash and put him to bed mum just said out of the blue:
‘He’s still my Peeka but he looks so old.’ It’s true.