Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Through fourteen-year-old eyes

Marcel decided to write about dad about four weeks ago. He then gave it to his English teacher to read, planning, if the teacher liked it, to let Pumpa read it himself. I can only imagine his feelings today, when it was returned to him, full of praise. 

In the last two years, and more importantly in the last ten days, I have watched this childhood ebb away. He started this journey as a child but holding dad's hand for two years as he slowly died, holding it still after death, hugging and kissing him farewell a few hours after death and then seeing the young man in the suit carry his beloved Pumpa's coffin all in the space of a week is hard to put into words. I think he would have been proud of what his grandson wrote for him.

So for what it is worth, here is a short account of dad's illness by Marcel:

Cancer. Everyone is aware of its existence, its causes, its process, its effect on life, but no-one, no-one ever thinks it will hit home. I used to be everyone, the oblivious majority, but now I'm well and truly aware of just how hard this demon lurking in the shadows can hit home.

Three years ago today, grandpa, born April 5, 1943, aged 66 at the time, had his retirement set out, golf, golf, and more golf (and of course, the weekly family visit.) He had everything enjoyable - hobbies, friends, family, holidays, monthly golfing tournaments, everything. These were soon to become the rock upon which he would rely for support.

One fateful day, life was rolling on as usual, birds chirping in the trees, sun blazing, refreshing summer breeze, lunch in the garden with the family, my favourite. I had just begun being indoctrinated, as now seems to be our tradition, into the family sport, golf. Due to the beauty of the morning I was of course out with Grandpa in the garden practising my golf swing, the casual chat that comes with golf continued as usual, this day could not have started out more ordinary. The day rolled on and the family left but what I had noticed was that mum hadn't quite been herself throughout the day, this worried me. I began to look for her in the house but before I could find her she found me. There I was, stopped, in the midst of a content childhood day, the perfect day, with the cold words I'll never forget "Marcel, sit down, you need to hear something about grandpa", her face screaming with sadness. I sat for what felt like hours, days, this couldn't be true. The man swinging the golf club with such power and glowing with health could not have, as diagnosed then, three months to live. It began to become real, I was broken. It was as if a small part of me had been ripped out and could never be put back. This image of grandpa swinging his golf club in the afternoon sunlight would be the image I would focus on whenever I was in a bad place throughout this experience. It became the embedded image of my grandpa and has remained unchanged to this day. I had now begun my long walk down the path of going from the oblivious majority to the enlightened few.

Bowel cancer. Liver cancer. Lung cancer. Three cancers that standing alone are life threatening but with a full three at once, the way the doctors saw it, he had no chance. Grandpa had gone overnight from a relaxed, care-free lifestyle to a horrible 40 pills a day routine, his diet had to be monitored and he was forever in and out of hospital, the discovery of his cancer being his first visit to a hospital in his life nonetheless. On top of all this came the dreaded chemotherapy, basically a poison designed to take you as close to death as possible in order to kill all the cancerous cells in the body. It certainly brought a great deal of misery to us all. The golf stopped due to a simple lack of strength, rarely did he manage a full game. This was painful for me to watch, a man I looked up to, a second father to me was being deprived of his lifelong hobby and there was nothing I could do. Looking back now, being able to sum up and understand my grandpa's day to day actions after being diagnosed and how he dealt and is still dealing with this really only brings one thought to my head, unwavering courage. Watching my grandpa fight this demon is the most courageous act I have ever seen by a man. Some say that once someone is diagnosed with cancer they begin to hate the world, life and everyone around them for the simple reason, "Why me? Why not them?" but not my grandpa, he blamed no one. I found strength in his strength and in turn I believe he found strength in mine. The open-mindedness and the constant hope shown by my grandpa is why my grandpa is and always will be my hero.

Days turned into weeks, months turned into years and time went by, slowly at first but things soon settled down, life had to continue so it did. Grandpa was back on the golf course on the beautiful fairways of Scotland and now much more often accompanied by me. Two years down the line he's on his 3rd batch of chemotherapy and has far outlived any of the doctors' expectations. Grandpa is still his cheery, golf-obsessed self and remains to this day one of my greatest role models in life. Sure, grandpa has his ups and downs from time to time but here we are, living to the fullest what ever time we have left with him, however long that may be.


Trine said...

You have a truely wonderful son, Phyl! You and your dad has a good reason to be very proud of him.

Anonymous said...

I can only echo what Trine said.


Anonymous said...

I can only echo what Trine said.


Alan on the Southside said...

That is so beautifully written. Those words are very poignant and heart touching.

Your sons words are the words of a writer.

I can see why you and your family are so proud of him.

Alistair said...

Insightful, poignant and mature. He has a talent for words and perhaps more than a smidgin of his Pumpa's compassion. Just braw!