I’ve been a bit quiet on here over the last week. It’s been one of the strangest weeks.
I don’t use that sentence lightly, I’ve found myself in some bizarre and quite frankly, unbelievable situations many, many times but this one, I’m still struggling to compute, it simply refuses to sink in completely. I’m writing about it in the hope that it helps.
On Tuesday, my Mum called to tell me my Dad had suffered a heart attack at work and had been taken to hospital; I think I’ve been in shock ever since.
I’ve never before considered my parents mortality, I know I’ll lose them one day, but this was not on my radar. As soon as my phone buzzed in the middle of the afternoon, I knew it wouldn’t be good news, she never rings in the middle of the day. I braced myself, expecting it to be about one of my Grandparents – I have three, all in their 80s – I’d be devastated if anything happened to them but that is where my mind automatically went, it’s the natural order of things I suppose. I didn’t for a second think it’d be about my Dad.
This is the man who took me to my first football match (Burnley), drove miles across the country to take me to karate tournaments (only for me to get disqualified in the first round), rented Rainbow Bright every single week from the video shop for me (probably should have just bought it), busted me every time I pushed my boundaries as a teenager (that happened a lot), never really minded when I’d steal Christmas presents that I’d bought for him (The Jam’s Greatest hits springs to mind), didn’t mind when me and my brothers each bought him the same book three Christmases in row (true story), cried when I went to university, cried again when I moved out for good and championed me along the way.
Normally, I’d be straight in the car headed to the hospital, of course in the current world we live in, that’s not an option. Instead, I found myself joining a work conference call, acting as normal, agreeing to put calls in an on a story and going back to my laptop. It took me about half an hour before I thought “what are you doing?”.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, there was the slow drip feed of information. This wasn’t a small heart attack; this was a collapse, defibrillator, three ambulances and no pulse heart attack. Had there not been a defibrillator at his work, he’d be dead – those are the words of the paramedic who brought him back from the brink.
So, here’s where we are 5 days later. I know my Dad’s very ill. He’s conscious and talking. I know he needs a new valve; I know he’s confused and agitated, I know he’s alone in hospital. I know he’s been very lucky. Still it doesn’t feel like it’s really happened.
On the one hand I have for the first time been confronted with losing a parent, on the other I haven’t at all. You see, I haven’t actually seen it for myself. We haven’t been able to visit, he’s a technophobe so there’s no video calls, there’s just been relays of fact and phone conversations with doctors. I haven’t seen how ill he is. I’m not in denial, I know it’s happened, that it’s serious and he faces a long road ahead but it’s almost as if my brain hasn’t digested it because I haven’t seen it, I’ve been shielded from it. I guess seeing really is believing.
I don’t think anyone really knows what to do in these situations. I think I often snap to practical mode, thinking who needs taking where, what needs doing etc, but this bloody pandemic doesn’t allow for that. Instead we’re just in this strange paralysis of waiting and talking on the phone. Do you just carry on as normal? What do you actually do? – I know there’s no right or wrong answer.
I’ve worried that people think I’m cold or that I’m not acting in the right way. Then I remember I don’t actually care what people think. I’m worried and upset, it goes without saying, but there is literally nothing at all I can do apart from sit, wait, talk on the phone and wait for it to hit home.
This is just my family’s story, there’s thousands the same. I’ve reported on some of them throughout this lockdown thinking ‘how awful, I can’t imagine being put in that situation’, I never thought I would be 10 weeks down the line.
When things like this happen, our natural instinct is to go and be with those we love, we hug our parents, we hug our siblings, we visit hospitals, when that isn’t allowed it all feels rather helpless and all you’re left thinking is ‘I haven’t seen my Dad since March’ with a series of what ifs. I don’t when I’ll be able to see him again, I don’t know how he’ll be. Working our way through the unknown is scary and confusing.
I don’t know what the next few weeks hold. Christ, I don’t even know what the next few days hold. I wouldn’t wish this anyone, so speak to your friends and family, tell them you miss them, tell them you love them, don’t let anything go unsaid and when all this is over give them an extra hug.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm