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Jo'Burg Days: The Golden Lining

Barbara Durlacher tells the tale of a lady driven to taking extreme measures.

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It was time she put an end to this uncertainly, and she resolved to do so just as soon as she had organised someone to look after Pop. Poor old man, he needed a full-time carer these days. It was no good thinking he could do things for himself. His hands trembled, his legs were so shaky he could hardly stand, and bathing and dressing was completely beyond his strength.

Most days he needed to be spoon fed. Meals took an age. with him dribbling and choking. Caring for him took all her patience and tact, and although she hated to admit it, sometimes she longed for the end so she could return to a life of her own, where she no longer ministered to the needs of a sick old man from morning to night. But, she’d been living for so long in the shadow of these cares that she simply didn’t have time to think of anything else. Other concerns would have to wait, she’d get round to them later.

“Here we are, Pops,” she said cheerfully, opening his door, setting her teeth as waves of pain flashed through her shoulder with the weight of the tray. “A lovely soft-boiled egg and toast soldiers. You know you always enjoy this breakfast.”

“Not hungry,” he growled, turning his head away.

“Well then, I’ll just leave the tray and you can help yourself. But the toast’ll get cold the longer you leave it,” she warned, trying not to scream at his childish behaviour.

In the end, her shoulder got so bad she arranged for Mrs Robinson to come in for a day to care for him so she could get to the local hospital for some tests. A few days later, she visited her doctor to hear the results.

“I’m afraid the news is not good, Mrs Peel,” he said gravely “It seems your condition is inoperable. We’ll put you onto palliative medication immediately of course, but I doubt it will help much. My diagnosis is six to eight months and it will probably mean a hospice. You’ll have to make other arrangements for your father if he’s still around.”

Back home and still shaking with the shock she thought back.

“Don’t know what else I could have done really. I knew there was something wrong, but kept hoping that it would all go away. There’s nobody else to look after Pop and if I hadn’t already been living in the shadow of his illness and declining health I would have taken more care of myself. I suppose it’s too late now. But I’ll always wonder whose fault it is, whether I should have neglected him to care for myself. Was I right in putting his needs first as a parent whom I had been taught to love and respect, or should I have thought of myself first?’’

Well, not much point in worrying about all that now. Better just get on with it.

And with that, picking up a sturdy cushion, she walked upstairs and straight towards his bed.

“Brought you something to ease your pain, Pa,” she whispered to the sleeping man, as she placed the cushion firmly over his face and stood, pressing heavily and breathing deeply while she gazed out of the window at the sun setting beneath a bank of gold-rimmed clouds as the shadows crept over the ground.


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