98: Time

In some ways time seems elastic.  It is only 8 days since my dad died and in some ways it seems like months ago. In other ways it feels like hours.  There has been so much admin to do that time has been filled and before I know it hours have passed and only one job on the to do list has been ticked off.

Dad died on the morning of Tuesday 22nd October  – Tuesday:  St Lukes to wash his body, Funeral director to take his body away, Sainsburys to do a food shop, food prep, cook and serve a roast at home.  We even had champagne to toast dad.

Wednesday:  Funeral director – dad had pre paid the company for the basic funeral so it was a case of finalising arrangements, working out cars, routes, etc.. and telling the young female funeral director that dad wanted a man to lead the procession.  She didn’t bat an eyelid and was extremely professional.  I think she may have been a bit surprised when we told her the funeral was planned and that I had a draft order of service which I’d email over later.   Later that day my brother, wife and dog (or bloody f**king dog as I prefer to call it) packed up and headed home.  They’d been with us for 12 days, their input had been invaluable and despite the geographical distance we felt much closer as a family.  Mum and I walked to the GP to pick up the relevant document to take to the registrar.  In the afternoon the Livewell driver arrived and removed the medical bed and all the other equipment which had been used to help dad.  It felt very final – there was no longer the pfff noise of the air mattress.  The bed was dismantled and taken out of the flat.  We all cried.  However, my mum was very practical and we gave the place a good clean and moved furniture back.

Thursday:  Nick and I took mum to register the death.  The registry office is on the Hoe and has good views over the sea and memorials.  As we arrived so did a wedding party, as we went to the first floor so we met a set of new parents registering their child.  We were here for a death.  The registrar was very matter of fact to the point of being severe – just as well really as it wasn’t a time for small talk or being jovial.  There are official elements which have to be carried out and these were in a rather brusque fashion.  One positive is that there is a “tell it once” service so the registrar can inform Government and Council agencies.  We went to Pier One for coffee and then we went home for lunch, took mum to the supermarket and then I took her home.  It was very difficult to leave her as this was the new reality – a two person flat with a sole occupant.   She was being very stoic saying “this is what it is now”.

We have a family Whatsapp group and we all ensured we sent messages for mum.

Friday:  There was admin to do, official letters to write and be signed, emails to send and then in the afternoon we had to go to mum and dad’s bank.  That was a hard meeting and although they have a bereavement section it was still business like as the joint account was changed to a sole account.  All of dad’s accounts were closed, balances transferred and home insurance changed.  Another tick off the list.

On Saturday one of Dad’s friends took mum out and I went to a class at the Life Centre.. total toning.  I’d only done pilates up until this point but I know the instructor well and gave it a go.  I really went for it, crunches, knee lifts, squats, mini weights… Nick met me afterwards to do a proper food shop – a get back into a normal routine shop and after homemade soup I decided I’d clean the house from top to bottom.  Nick and Phoebe had been out at a charity tea event and I relished having the time to do a deep clean.. there would be no evidence of the bloody f**king dog in this house.  Beds were changed, towels sorted, hovering, washing down… I’d bought “pink stuff” to clean.  I was exhausted in a good way and when they came home I ran a bath, put on my PJs and watched Strictly whilst eating a curry.  I slept well that night.

Sunday:  It wasn’t raining so Nick and I walked to the Royal William Yard in the sunshine – cold and crisp Autumnal days are the best.  We walked past Devonport High School for boys where lots of small children were carrying out rugby drills and bigger ones were playing.  Our own children had played for Devonport Services a lifetime ago so it was great to see the tradition going.  The Royal William yard is a gem of a place, I wouldn’t like to live there unless it was in Residence One with a walled garden and a terrace overlooking Drake’s Island.  The redevelopment isn’t on a par with Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth and that is partly because of the access and lack of parking, the architecture is beautiful and it is a good place to go for a meal or a coffee.  There is a new artists quarter which has opened up and after coffee we went to the pottery to see some pots being thrown.  There will be a farmers market and an artists market there this weekend and I think we will visit. We picked up the Sunday Times on the way home, read for a while and then made a roast dinner with lots of autumn vegetables – Nick picked up my mum so she would join us, not least as we could all then watch the Strictly results show – we (at least Mum and I are avid fans).  After strictly Nick then dropped Mum home.  It still didn’t/doesn’t seem real that dad isn’t here as he would come for Sunday supper and then say “Right Mrs Macleod, time to go home!”  It hadn’t even been a week.

Monday:  The first stop on Monday was to take mum to the Nuffield hospital to have her 6 week check.  She walked in without her crutches.  The surgeon met us and took us through to the office where on her notes there was a yellow post it note “daughter phoned, husband died”.  The surgeon gave his condolences and mum wept, so I spoke for her and told her she’d been fantastic at doing her physio and that her recovery had been very difficult as dad had been so ill then in palliative care.  She came home with us to have lunch and I was able to do more of the admin – now all the utilities are in her name and will be paid monthly so it is easier to budget.

That afternoon I had a meeting about my breast reconstruction.  One of the breast care nurses had invited me to up to a training day to discuss the patient experience as apparently I am fairly unusual having had a skin sparing, temporary implant mastectomy to then full DIEP reconstruction. Nick dropped me up as parking is even more impossible in the impossible car park.  I had to wait in the Macmillan centre – the Mustard Tree.  I arrived with my breast cancer folder and was met and taken into the training room full of health care professionals.  They’d organised a seat for me but I told them that as I’m a teacher I prefer to stand and then told my story, referred to my folder, showed them my coaching solution to breast cancer and took questions.  I asked if they wanted to see the scars and so I showed them… no one was sick but one or two looked a bit repulsed at my abdomen scar.  They were more interested in the breast scar and one asked to feel the breast to see if it felt normal.  It does but I don’t have any sensation in it. I got a round of applause at the end and the BCN cried as she said she remembered me getting my diary out and telling her and the surgeon which dates suited me best – ahh little did I know then that the NHS and one’s own diary seldom match.  This had almost felt normal – there was no mention of death or palliative care.  I caught the no.34 bus home – not normal but quite fast and efficient, quickly got changed and went to pilates at the Brickfields.  An extraordinary class taken by a young French woman who was very enthusiastic and actually said “oh la la” when demonstrating the exercises.  I enjoyed it so much I’ve booked another session this week and Monday again next.  Oh la la.  After supper I reorganised the white files – home/personal for mum with all the updates.  All dad’s information is still in them but in a new section called “Sandy”.

Tuesday:  Car admin. My folks had a large black mini SUV which was helpful for dad to get in and out of.  It was expensive and too big a vehicle for mum who didn’t like to drive it into congested areas.  We took mum and the car to the dealership to work out the deal on returning it and purchasing another.  The weather was foul, cold, driving rain, windy as we trogged around the used car lot.  The Liverpudlian used car salesman had a good patter and encouraged mum to sit in a variety of cars.  She tried a little silver Corsa and drove it around the car park.  In the office a deal was struck, there was just the issue of changing the personalised number plate to the original one on the SUV before the dealership could take it in part exchange.  With a bit of tooing and frooing the admin was explained and another letter, death certificate and copy of the will would have to be sent to DVLA.  When we went back to the flat we did this, got the photocopying done at the local library, sent the letters off (all signed for) and then I walked home in the rain.  Another job ticked off the list.  Mum had made more decisions and has taken on all the household information.  I’m proud of her – all these jobs had been dad’s domain but she is managing it all very well.  It had been a week since dad died. Time seems elastic.






Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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