Twenty six years ago this year.
my Dad died.
The hole he left in our family has never been filled in.
The link in the chain never repaired.
I miss him every day.
Scarily my husband at 50 is the age my dad was,
when we were told he had motor neuron disease.
At the time,
By the time he was diagnosed,
his balance was affected,
his speech was becoming slurred,
his hands, no longer the steady hands of a carpenter.
Day by day,
week by week,
we watched him deteriorate.
He had to make the very painful decision to retire.
Not to retire to enjoy time with my mum,
but to die.
What he thought that last day in work,
I cannot even imagine.
I clearly remember him coming home that night.
They had a “Good Bye” drink for him.
I asked him “was it okay?”.
He laughed so heartily,
“I was the only one who fell in the door of the pub!”
He was such a joy,
and did his very best to keep us happy,
but there were so many dark days during that time.
However for me,
the darkest day,
was the day he lost his voice forever.
My Dad had a beautiful voice.
A very gentle, lilting Co Donegal accent.
He also was my guide,
My mentor, my port in a storm.
My mum was the feisty one.
His words of counsel sought regularly.
Just listening to his voice calmed me.
The disease had taken hold,
And was paralyzing his vocal cords.
The awful decision had to be made,
He had to have a tracheotomy.
In real terms,
this meant putting a tube in to his neck,
bypassing his vocal cords.
As result of this tube,
and the disease,
he would never quite sound the same again.
The pain of that last night with him,
before the operation lives with me still.
I was nursing,
so I could visit any time.
I went over to see him late,
and stayed til midnight.
Every word he spoke I clung to,
knowing… never again!
Eventually the time came to say “Good night”
We hugged tightly,
His voice was faltering,
and we had a last minute joke about sounding drunk.
Both of us ignoring the obvious.
not a tear from either of us.
My heart inside was burning in my chest.
The overwhelming sorrow bubbling within me.
The actual physical pain,
caused by containing my sadness was so acute.
I decided to leave the hospital,
via the underground tunnel,
back to the nurses home.
This tunnel is a rarely trod,
dimly lit corridor,
And I welcomed its poor light and solitude.
I checked behind me,
When I knew there was no one about,
I allowed the tears to flow.
Within moments I was out of control.
I began to wail,
sobbing with all my heart and soul.
I sat on the ground,
hugging my knees,
and I cried so hard.
Reality shouting in my head.
“you’ll never hear his beautiful voice again”,
“He will not be getting better”,
“This poxy disease would beat us all”.
I was loosing my dad!
I could hear my own grief,
echo along the corridor.
When I could cry no more,
I looked up,
a pair of shoes were in front of me.
It was one of my dad’s doctors.
I sobered up very quickly.
He held out his hand,
I’m so sorry.
I stood up,
The moment had passed,
I was tired and spent,
but I was okay.
I headed back to my room.
I had done my mourning.
That night was the loneliest of my life,
I had but one witness,
My dad lived for nearly a year after.
We became accustomed to his new voice.
We saw beyond the illness,
and up to weeks before the end,
he tried to have a very real input
into all our lives.
Maybe he lost his voice,
but thankfully he still had plenty to say!
I hear him talk to me still.