O View: Perspectives on Life and Living

Dad's poem, my photo; collaborative creation!
Dad’s poem, my photo; collaborative creation!

O View? Oh boy have things changed around here!

In February of this year (2014) my father Douglas nearly died in front of the family. It was his 84th birthday celebration, with steak and lobster. He choked. Badly. We spent the rest of the evening in a trauma room at the hospital. It was tough enough to watch and wait as a daughter; but as a registered nurse? It was AWFUL knowing that at any moment that obstruction could move and fully block his airway.

My Dad was amazing! He used all his skills of meditation and chose to be Buddha-like calm. We even laughed a couple of times; quite the feat as someone over the trauma room divider was fighting for his life. He made it, thankfully; and so did my Dad – the obstruction “passed” aka they make you throw it up, which is effective but not very pleasant! Especially on your birthday.

My Dad, bless his heart, chose to go home so he could have a belated birthday cup of coffee and a cigarette; rather than stay at the hospital to have a scope done to find out why he choked so badly. He felt he deserved it after everything he had been through; fair enough. He has been fiercely independent since he was a wee boy, why stop now?

Eventually things were investigated and we discovered that my father has cancer of the esophagus; five biopsies were taken, all five were positive. The prognosis was not good; “get your affairs in order and do what you enjoy doing.” He was given months to live.

Getting Dad’s affairs in order wasn’t easy. He has lived alone for 30 years since he retired from teaching Art; his home is a reflection of his creative endeavors, full of paintings, writings, ceramics, books and books and more books with everything covered in a fine layer of nicotine, dust and cigarette ashes. Who has time for housekeeping or maintenance when creative ideas are bubbling up to be expressed? He needed some support before this; but was too proud (or stubborn) to let us pitch in – at least now he had a good excuse to accept help. OMG doesn’t suffice to capture the apparent disarray – it turns out he knew what pile to search and had a  system to organize, but that was NOT obvious at first!

So my dad came to live with me and Reg so we could care for him. He needed to have a feeding tube inserted so he could gain weight before having radiation therapy. Thank goodness I’m a registered nurse, and one who works with elderly people at end of life; my training and experience were perfect for this! Or so I thought originally; now I’m beginning to understand that I had the training, but not the experience.

No one close to me has ever died before; we emigrated from Scotland in 1966 – I never knew my uncles or grandparents. The closest I had come was Casey Mae, my first family dog. I didn’t know the emotional tangle that the “spectre of death” can create in a family. As a nurse I’d seen “family dynamics” in action, I knew intellectually and had intervened to assist professionally; but WOW, let me tell you that the emotional experience of knowing is vastly different than the intellectual one.

How can I describe the last six months? It started off great, was beyond horrible in the middle, and is now slowly getting better. My Dad has outlived his prognosis and is so much better, he moved back to his now clean house two weeks ago and is doing all his care himself. Somehow though, it left me shattered.

Who could have foreseen that such a conflict would erupt … between me and my sister. Tension turned into loud LA LA LA’s and furious F-bombs ending with me crying and yelling back trying to defend “my position.” I am comfortable talking about death, she is not. My Dad isn’t sure – he says he’s never been “terminal” before and feels he is getting better. He doesn’t want to buy into the “cancer scene” – so what if he’s 84 and a dedicated smoker of 63 years – he has things he still wants to do, and things to create. He is NOT ready to go!

I wasn’t ready for him to go home though; it all happened very quickly and without much input from me. I crumbled. It was all too much; depression sucked me down into a negative spiral and all I could do was cry and beat myself up over how things turned out … with such a deep, deep sense of loss, loss of connection, of vitality …

Thankfully, I’ve been through this before. Yes, I am grateful for being a depressive; I have learned so much about the connection between mind, body and brain. I know what to do to help myself. And even better Reg is an amazing grounding presence in my life; his hugs heal! I am taking positive action and it feels good; things like fresh air, exercise, mediation, and dancing. With Reg’s support, I am focusing on what IS working and being deliberate about giving myself positive experiences – oxytocin producing ones like snuggling hugs – a practice called Blissipline. Isn’t that lovely?

I am deliberately sharing this experience as part of my recovery. I am proud to be me and not afraid to show it. I don’t know what is going to happen with my Dad and there is still a wedge between me and my sister; but things will work out as they should.

“This is perfect, I just don’t know why yet.” ~ Louise Hay

I am also sharing a poem that my Dad wrote; it describes where I am right now – in between the All and Nothing – knowing intellectually that they are one thing, but unable (yet) to connect emotionally to that knowing.

Join me as I share my progress. I’ll also share some of my favourite links and videos that have helped me master myself. I believe that knowledge is power; combined with experience and focus, who knows what can happen. How good could we stand to have it? First, self-mastery, and then share it with the world!

Imagine if everyone could look themselves in the eyes in the mirror and know that they truly loved themselves … what a world it can be …

Ahhhhh …. this feels good, I’m all glowy from sharing. Thank you for sharing it with me 🙂