Saturday, 8 December 2012

Daddy, my Daddy

My best friend's dad is dying. He's been battling cancer for over a year now and the last time I saw him he looked like a completely different person. He still has his spark and sense of humour, but he's lost an insane amount of weight, can't eat as the doctors removed half of his stomach, which is a big deal when you're Italian and can't eat pasta anymore. He's having another round of chemo and needs a bone marrow transplant. Despite being a massive wimp I am genuinely considering signing up to the Bone Marrow Registry in case I can one one day stop someone else's family going through what they are. This is a family that treat me like one of their children, not a guest. She has been my best friend, my evil twin, since we met age 11 at secondary school. Watching her suffer like this as her funny, kind dad fades away is horrible.
I promised her that I would be here no matter what, and I am. She finds it all really difficult to talk about, but I check in with her all the time and I've told her that whatever she needs, all she has to do is call me. Losing someone you love is horrible, and I hope he gets better and is with us a lot longer.
I am not really religious - despite my upbringing, but I am praying for Daddy Zenga to get better and not be sick anymore.
My own dad's health is deteriorating, but at a slower rate - he's got spina bifida, a heart condition and type 2 diabetes. Most of it is because he's not been taking care of himself, he blames my mum, even though she's tried her best over the years. But I think he's just scared of how much of a mess he's made of his body and his health.
I think the problem with dads is that they're so important, even if like me you're not a daddy's girl (that's my sister). They're the first men you ever know, your role model for the kind of man you want to meet (especially if they're good fathers and husbands). My parents marriage isn't perfect, but it works (they've been married 30ish years) and is the template for my relationship with The Boy.
My best friend and her dad are incredibly close, which seems to make what's happening worse. He used to come to parents' evening when we were at school, and they'd laugh their way round the school, with him asking whether any of the younger female teachers were their next appointment with a twinkle in his eye. He also use to come to the speech nights, where we read out poems under the direction of our English teacher, and were awarded prizes for our achievements.
Last time I was at their house he was advising us on where did the best curries locally, and what to order as he can't things like that anymore, and making us laugh with descriptions of a family party earlier that day, and how mad his relatives are.
I spent part of today with my dad as he put up shelves and hung my mirror in the flat I will be soon moving into with The Boy. He was quite funny about how rubbish the screws holding up the shelves are, and how badly put together the cupboards that the flat came with are. Then he really scared me.
He is going into hospital in January, just after his birthday, for a procedure on his heart. He's had similar ops before, and they've not been very successful. The last time he had one, his heart stopped on the table and he had to be revived.
Today he told me that he is getting his will in order, making my mum his beneficiary and me his executor. He asked me to look after my mum and little sister, and should anything happen to my mum, would I make sure my sister (who has learning and behaviour difficulties) is safe and looked after. He doesn't expect me to have her live with us, she doesn't listen to me, and can be difficult to handle, but to make sure she ends up somewhere where she will be looked after and treated well. She can't cope with money or changes to her routine, so would need to be in sheltered living for the rest of her life. Neither of my parents wants to make me her carer, but my dad said he has been kept awake with the worry.
My dad and I have a sometimes fractious relationship. I have spent my whole life trying to make him proud, and I finally saw it on his face as I walked across the stage at my Masters graduation ceremony in March. The thought of losing him scares me, I am literally crying as I type this.
I check in with him almost every day, asking him how he is, telling him I love him. I am guilty of taking both of my parents for granted at times, we probably all are, but I am incredibly grateful for the life they've worked hard to give me. For the home they created, the sacrifices they've made. My dad used to work incredibly long hours, driving up the motorway every day. Now he runs his own business, from our spare room, and still works just as hard as he did when I was little.
The title of this post comes from the end of E. Nesbit's The Railway Children, when Bobby sees her daddy emerge from the train, having thought him lost, and runs to him crying "Daddy, my daddy".  Which to me sums up the bond between child and father, the love you bear the people who are responsible for your existence.
I love you Daddy.

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