The internet being more fluid than a printed page gives me an opportunity to go back and fix mistakes or things I’ve left out, so will do that with this story. revision v1.1
I mentioned in the last post that I had been sick, I’ve wanted to write about that in detail but have been avoiding it. Not because I don’t want people to know, I’ll happily talk with people about it, and have done.
I’d been doing radio at Meltons’ 3 RIM FM, a community station. I did two shows a week which was generally composed of a lot of joking and what we think of now as typical 80’s pop. It was a fun and energetic show and I loved doing it.
The other work I did included making promos for the station, I loved writing things and cutting up tapes, which kids, was something we did back then, and it was fun, if environmentally dubious.
I once made a promo for the station which was to be played first thing each morning, it was supposed to be a short hello da-da-da good morning everyone kind of thing, but I wrote a script with funny characters, and used sound effects, and it was used for about three years. I was told that it’s still dusted off and played now and then, quite a compliment.
Well, I started feeling different, run down, I didn’t have that sparkle anymore, it got so bad that one day I had a phonecall from a listener who asked “Are you on drugs?”, I certainly felt like I was, and I couldn’t shake it.
Eventually I gave up and left, regretfully.
Then I went through a period of agorophobia, I couldn’t even walk my dog to the park, just a few houses up the street, going anywhere became incredibly difficult.
My doctor put me on drugs to help but I ended up feeling very strange, so I had to come off them, I began to feel very worried about going out by myself, you see, there are drugs and users in our area, so sometimes you see people laying around and nobody looking after them. I worried that if I were to collapse, would people think I was on drugs too, and just not check to see if I was ok?
I got better for a while, it just completely lifted after a year or so.
So I felt like doing something again, so took up shiatsu massage which was nice and quiet, and the class was composed of friendly people who I knew would look after me.
It was funny, that first day, up till that point, I had never touched another persons body, and it was there in the classroom that it dawned on me that that was exactly what I’d be doing, and I almost walked out and left… I was glad I stayed, all those massages did me a lot of good. I made several really good friends there too, one of which introduced me to Reiki, I went and took a few classes for that too. anything calming was perfect for me.
After I left shiatsu classes, I then took up a volunteer position at Melbourne Zoo. but began to slide again, to the point I just couldn’t go anymore, which was sad because I really enjoyed it.
Around this time, My Father was diagnosed with cancer, and slid rapidly down hill. My memories of him were of a formerly muscular man who was thin now and full of tubes, and smelt funny.
Dad would lay in bed at night groaning.
Sometimes when he was in Hospital, I found I couldn’t go in, because the anxiety was so terrible. I wanted to go and see him so badly, and sometimes I sat for half and hour willing myself to leave the garden space where I was ok, and go and see him.
Once, I almost completely collapsed, I sat with my face in my Mothers lap, behind the nurses desk, wishing desperately that I wasn’t there. If I was outside, I wasn’t quite so bad. The doctors there wanted to take me down to emergency, it was really awful.
Poor Dad wanted to be home with us, and came home in a taxi suddenly after midnight one night, He told us the nurses let him go but the truth came out later, he’d made the decision to come home himself, I can’t say that I blame him, But we had no painkillers here and soon he was feeling the pain of his illness again.
He went back to hospital the next day.
One day Dad was sitting up in the ward, and he thought he was in the carpark of the KFC. His reality was skewed by the morphine he was on, but once in a while he was very clear in his thoughts.
On the way out of the ward, Dad pulled me back and asked “Tell me honestly, Am I going to die?” how do you respond to that? Dads odd coloured murkey sea green eyes searched for an answer from me.
When the doctor said he had cancer, he almost went hysterical, If I told him the truth, it would make things worse, and besides, I didn’t want to believe that I’d lose my Dad soon, I felt that there might be some hope, so I lied to him, something I rarely did.
“I’m proud of you” He said, it was unexpected and it was said with reverence, but I’d just lied to my Father and felt like crap for it.
I have this vision of him standing at the hospital doors in his tartan dressing gown, holding his bag which was connected to his catheter, wishing he was with us as we drove off in the taxi, I watched him till the last second from the back window. He turned around and wandered back inside.
A few days later we found he’d been moved to a private room, a paliative care room.It seemed that each time I saw Dad, I had tears in my eyes, My sister abuptly told me that my crying makes her sick and her face was flushed red with anger, I called her a bitch.
My sister though, recalled a past where my Dad was abusive, and would use his fists before using his head, and I also remembered a time when he was violent, One particular memory was of Mum shielding me from Him afer I’d done or said something to annoy him.
However I was more forgiving, mainly because the light came on for my Father, and he changed, He became very thoughtful and caring… He was never perfect, but would never resort to violence. Some leopards really do change their spots, and Iwas glad of it.
But My sister had also known the gentler Father for many years herself, I really don’t know why she was like this now, but she was always difficult to fathom.
The next day a friend who’d worked with Dad, and his Wife, had come to visit, Dad wasn’t really with it and had imagined himself somewhere else again, which was probably for the best. They left us alone so that I could give Dad some Reiki, and I found that helped me, I had this odd feeling which was about giving Dad permission to go.
He was so thin and frail, This man had been in the army in WWII, Served in the Islands. He’d worked as night patrolman in Melbourne, and He delivered rubber from a company He, Mum and my Sister had worked for. I’d see him throw huge, heavy rolls of rubber over his shoulder like a soldier holding a rifle, and he had this knack for tying down huge “cotton reels” of rubber conveyor, which was destined for outback mines, a thousand miles away. The truckies would say that if He tied them down, they’d never move till they had to come off.
Dad was built like a bull, but now he was wasting away, he was thin, breathing strangely, and the veins sat up in his neck.
Blankets were strewn over him, and parts of him were bare. I noticed the catheter leading into his penis, even the part of him which had sired my Sister and I had been corrupted, though moreso by necessity than from any disease. But that was a lasting image in my mind, My Dad was not ashamed of his body, like I was, so I was used to seeing him naked in the home, and healthy.
I had a memory of dad shaving naked in the mirror facing away from me. I was about two or three years old, and I remember looking up and noticing his balls, and feeling impressed. Kids just know things sometimes.
Just before we left, Dad had another moment of clarity. The nurse came in and he tried to hitch his “sexy son” to the lovely nurse, He joked a bit and laughed, Then told Mum and I that we should hurry and get our taxi, He told us that he felt perfectly fine, and said it in a voice that seemed to confirm that he was perfectly ok. I walked out into the passageway, but then had another quick look at him in the ward, it was the last time I’d see him alive.
Dad passed away shortly after Anzac day in 1998.
Not long after,I had this weird dream where Dad was perfectly ok, the dream was more or less lucid, It was as though we could do anything as we knew it was just a dream and we couldn’t get hurt. Of all things, He and I were in a plane, in the cockpit, no passengers, and we decided to crash the damn thing, just for the heck of it, so we did. The plane dove through the technicolor sky and crashed into a bog, Dad and I roared with laughter.
One day, I managed to get enough energy up to walk my Malamute, a huge hairy boy called Benny. I haddone pretty good taking him as far as I had… but a friend stopped me and asked about how I was coping with Dad passing, and I nearly collapsed and had to be driven home. My faithful dog wouldn’t leave me and had to come home in the car too, even though my friend had offered to walk Benny home, which was just around the corner really.
When I began feeling better, Mum suggested that maybe I should learn to drive, I was in my 30s, The car had always been seen to belong to Dad, and we had a code in the house that we didn’t use others things without permission. but I didn’t desire a car, I didn’t like them… but I learnt to drive it anyway. but one day I was driving home from nearby and had a huge panic attack on the road. A factory worker called a taxi for us, who understood and took us and the car home. The car is in the garage, covered in inches of dust and cat prints, and hasn’t left the garage in over ten years.
My dreams of Dad would haunt me at night, I’d see him laying in a bed, groaning, with tubes sticking out of him, But one dream was really strange. I was in an old green truck, something from the 40s or 50s, and being driven down a dirt road in the country. I looked at the driver, who was a green version of my dad, it was a representation of the cancer. “I ate your dad” it said threateningly, “and I’ll eat you too before much longer”.
I was back with “agorophobia” I couldn’t go anywhere, definately not to shops, and my poor Mother had to go with my Sister. I wanted to help so much but found that I just couldn’t do it.
Eventually after months, the feeling began to lift again, I had not been to a hairdresser in a year, and my hair was enormous. Mum walked with me up to the shops with Benny, I felt like a scared horse, and visualised myself calming down a panicky stallion, it seemed to do the trick.
I would go out with Mum after a while, but sometimes would just sit in the car, and not go to the shops at all.
My stomach wasn’t good, something started telling me that whatever it was, was in my gut somewhere, it would usually lift after a few minutes and I could go to the shops in yarravilles’ anderson street, which was an open space, not closed in like Altona Gate or Highpoint shopping centres, which I just couldn’t handle.
Benny was getting older, his feet had bent with arthritis, but he’d bravely go for a walk whenever he could, and would hobble along like an old digger, I was very proud of him, He tried so very hard.
Benny would always lay in the cold, being a malamute, he’d lay on the cold concrete verandah till whenever we went to bed, 1am sometimes, and would be reluctant to come in.
One night I went out and cuddled him, and found a lump under his amazingly thick coat.
I’d taken him to vets but had little satisfaction… He was given the needle and passed away in my arms, I was broken hearted, Benny was one of those very special animals who teach you something of value, like it’s ok to Howl your head off if you really want to.
Benny had been a christmas gift from My Dad, who gave me Benny because I had lost Laddie, a lovely dog who Mum had saved almost eleven years earlier.
He was a link back to My dad, and an incredible friend.
I laid in bed calling God as many terrible names as I could think of, any religious thoughts I had instilled in me were dying.
There was blood in the toilet, I had been aware of this for a little while, but had put off seeing the doctor.
It wasn’t far inside me, His finger found it, a small hard lump, He said it was probably a polyp, and I accepted that.
He sent me to a surgeon who put a short scope up there and saw it, and organised a colonoscopy.
I drank horrible fluids which made me crap like my bum was a volcanic site, and even the next day was a difficult event as I kept going to the lavatory every five minutes, like everyone else in the waiting room.
They gave me a pillow to lay on which was nice and soft, and I sank into it as I was injected and my bottom was lubed up, I fell asleep.
When I woke up and was seated, and given a sandwich and a cup of tea, my surgeon sropped an envelope in front of me and muttered something I asked if he got it out, he said no and walked off
I didn’t bother for a few days, but went back to see my GP, He took me into his room, and perched on his swivel chair like a canary and started telling me about cancer treatments.
“Cancer?” I said.
“Yes it’s in your letter, didn’t you read it?”
“No, it’s addressed to you” I said.
In the envelope were all the details and photos of a horrible little red blob, there it was.
End of part 1.