He's incredibly self-sufficient, not just for an 84 year old, but in general. He does all of his own shopping and cleaning, goes everywhere on the bus and seldom asks anyone (especially his family) for help. In fact, he even 'does' for an old friend of his, a bit of light housework, sorting out paperwork, making sure that his kids don't steal all of his money, that sort of thing
Anyway, he checked himself into hospital last week with stomach pains, all sorts of unpleasant things going on with his digestive system and so forth, but his GP had told him that he just had an infection that was being a bit resistant to anti-biotics or something, probably.
He spent a week in there, being poked and prodded, pumped full of hardcore antibiotics, shoved into giant magnetic doughnuts and having cameras put in places where you normally wouldn't want a camera.
when we went to pick him up, he told us that his consultant had said that was an issue with one of his 'tubes' and they'd be having him back in when everything had calmed down a bit to do something about it.
It wasn't until the next day when he pulled an 'Agent Tee' (Go and watch Men in Black 2) on us, and waited until we were in a busy shopping centre before he told us the rest of the diagnosis... He was in the late, inoperable, stages of Cancer and his Consultant had given him 3-12 months to live.
Then he just carried on walking to the Post Office as if he hadn't just dropped the 'C-Bomb'.
Anyone who knows me in real life will attest to the fact that it's not very often that I'm rendered speechless, but on this occasion, I did not know what to say... So I told him that I didn't know what to say. He replied that there wasn't really anything that I could say that would make any difference, so why bother? Mrs Dandy took this opportunity to disappear off to the Vets, initially to pick some stuff up for the dog, but mainly so my Dad didn't see her burst into tears - He's a man of that generation where overt displays of emotion embarrass him greatly.
We walked for a while, in silence, until I broke the tension by asking if there was anything they could do, he shook his head. I asked about Chemo, he reminded that Chemo was still technically 'something' and he'd already told me that there was 'nothing' that could be done.
After we'd driven him back home, we sat with him for a couple of hours, whilst he stared at the TV. I can honestly say that this was the first time I'd ever noticed how fragile he was. He'd never been a big guy, never topped 5'9" or been particularly muscular - But he's my Dad, so by that virtue a dyed in the wool Superhero, his power was never to leap buildings in a single bound, he was always clever enough to find a way round. He couldn't fly, but he did tell some stories about when he used to. His one superpower was to be unerringly right about almost everything.
He would say things that started with 'If I were you...' and 'You know, if you do that...' and invariably ended with me ignoring him, making a hash of everything and asking to borrow more money. He warned me about women who were destined to tear my heart out, credit cards that would put me into debt and houses that would drain my very soul - I ignored them all. I'll bet you can count how many World's Greatest Son mugs I have in the cupboard on the fingers of one foot.
(Although, I don't think my Brother has any of those either, and he's taken early retirement and is living in his hollow volcano lair in the middle of the Mediterranean - He gets up every morning and can see the sea, and an honest to goodness shipwreck out of his lounge window - I think my Dad might have impossibly high standards for what classes as a good, successful, Son.)
I told him that I'd come and visit him every other day or so, to make sure he was OK and check if he needed anything. I mean, we only live around the corner when all's said and done, so it's not much of a stretch... And Mrs Dandy's going to do his housework and shopping. and that makes me feel... Well, guilty if I'm honest. He's 84, shouldn't I have been doing these things for him for a long time?
I mean, I've been thinking that he's not been long for this world for years, his memory's not what it was, his trips to the Doctor are getting more frequent and more serious, and every time I go to his house when he's not answered his phone a couple of times in a row during the day, I expect to find him cold and stiff in a heap at the bottom of his stairs, or dead in his bed. But he never has been.
Not so far at least.
So, on reflection, I'm a terrible son, a financial and emotional burden, thoughtless, non-empathic and generally a bad sort. Except, I'm kind of not... I have offered to help innumerable times in the past, he just looks at me askance and says 'Why? I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself.' - So many times that I stopped asking in fact. I let him ask me if he needs anything - It's usually something like 'I need a big bag of compost' or 'I want to go to PC World, but there isn't a bus that goes that way.' - Nothing too taxing, it's usually the donkey-work that he trusts me with, things that I would have to try really hard to mess up.
But he's my Dad, and doing stuff for my Dad makes me feel good - Feels like I'm paying him back for me being a bit of a disappointment.
I regularly fix his computer, buy him tinned peaches (he loves tinned peaches, they remind him of when rationing first finished I think) and provide him with Grandchildren. But I still feel guilty, not about not doing more, but for waiting until it was confirmed that he had a terminal condition before thinking about doing it.
I've told some people (I suppose technically, I've now told quite a lot of people, what with Blogging it) and most of their reactions have been similar, you get the 'Oh, I'm really sorry!' and the 'Is there anything I can do?' - And these people are great friends and good people and they mean well and there's nothing else you can really say... But it still take all my strength not to sound all glib and answer 'Why? it wasn't your fault.' and 'Yeah, just nip back in time about a year and give me a poke so I can tell him to go to an Oncologist so he doesn't die.' - I'm practicing my 'Thank you, but no.' - But it's going to take a while I'm afraid.
(If I do see you in real life and I do say any of these things, feel free to just shake your head and walk off, whilst muttering 'Wank*r' under your breath.)
Whilst we're on the subject of reactions, my Brother initially felt guilt too, must be a family thing - He was guilty about not immediately spending however many hundreds of pounds jumping on a plane and turfing up at our Father's house only to be told by a little frail old man what a bloody idiotic waste of money it's all been, he should have waited until there was a machine that went 'Beep' involved. (He is, nonetheless, paying hundreds of pounds on a plane ticket and coming over anyway - He's just sensibly waiting until the prices go down next month... Dad will actually appreciate that, he'll be proud - We're an odd family when you get down to it.)
Mrs Dandy was pretty devastated, but has now clicked into super-efficient carer mode, doing everything possible to make life easy for him. Especially if that means shouting at him for his own good when he fails to take sufficient care of himself in the few times a day that she's not there. Technically known as 'trying to keep busy so she doesn't think about it.' I think.
The Mini-Dandy cried, a lot - but now she does a fine job of masking her emotions so that she doesn't make anyone else feel sad... Which reminds me, I must have the 'Bottling up your emotions can make your mind snap.' Conversation with her this weekend - I guess that she's learned it from me, I'm not an obviously emotional person ('cos I'm dead hard Me...) and things usually don't hit me until everything's all over, you know, when I consider that I've got time to grieve without effecting anyone else - Yeah, because that situation happens all the time. I guess that being your Father's Daughter isn't just trifle and pony-rides all the time.
The Micro-Dandy... I didn't get to see his reaction, because the wife told him whilst I was at work, because I didn't seem to be able to bring myself to do it. The words that he said that were the important thing though I suppose.
'Oh... Is Dad alright, because Granddad is Dad's Dad isn't he?'
Stunned me a bit when I found out about that one, with him only being eight years old and everything.
My Dad himself... Well, I think he's doing the whole 'Stiff upper lip' thing, trying to convince us that he's jumped to the 'Acceptance' phase of the Kubler-Ross model (Yeah, you're right, there should be an umlaut over the 'u' there, but I really can't be bothered) Though I don't believe it for a second.
Every time I leave him I imagine that he goes and sits back down in his armchair and bursts into tears - I know that I probably would, but I'm not my Dad... He probably just wanders into the bathroom and shaves himself with a Bowie knife which he licks the foam off and then spits it at the dog, because that's the sort of thing that Dads do. That's the sort of thing that my Dad does at least.
At least, he does in my head, because he's a Superhero.
So, that's why I said that the Blog might get a bit sporadic from now on... Not because I can't think of anything funny, although I'll admit that it is a bit more difficult at the moment. But because I really need to finish the book and get it published before...
Well, you know what I want to do it before...
I want him to be proud of me one last time.