So far my way of preparing for this trip has been to take the ‘ostrich strategy’ approach, treat it all like one big adventure, write about it, take pictures of it, and use humour as a coping mechanism. It’s the way we were brought up, to laugh in the face of adversity, and make sure that any tears we shed were the ones that celebrated the good times (preferably aided by a glass or two of something containing alcohol). When Skipper (spot the nautical reference) the family dog died, we floated him out on a haze of Bucks Fizz, as Dad decided that he was a dog worthy of a more ‘sophisticated’ tipple than the cider and black we were prone to drinking in those days. Five days after mum knocked herself into a coma and onto a life support machine, when we still didn’t know whether we were going to have to make the God-awful, on/off button decision, we all went out as a family, (Dad, three sisters and respective husbands of the time) to let off steam. Such was the raucousness of our table the owner came over to enquire exactly what we were celebrating. It’s stuff like that that has got us through.
But life has a way of coming up and knocking the wind out of your sails when you least expect it, and sometimes the tears can’t be joyful. A phone call from Dad today (the fifth in two days), all of a sudden brought into very sharp focus the reality of what is going on. It also brought home what little sis, the one who lives close by, is having to deal with on a daily basis (but ten-fold). It’s not that I didn’t already know how things are, but distance makes it easier to keep things parked in a little corner of the mind to be dealt with when necessary. But today, after explaining (again) the basic logistics of the travel arrangements to a man who, for all his life has kept everything together so effortlesly, it hit me square between the eyes, it bit me on the bottom, it blindsided me.
A flashing moment of ‘fuck, Dad, your head really has gone, I’m not ready for this, and I don’t mean the cruise, I mean, I’m really not ready for this other huge thing that is no longer looming on the horizon but right here with us, right now, the big ‘A’. I am so not ready for this, there are still so many times I want to sit on the kitchen back step with a glass of the awful wine you insist on buying and recite Kipling’s ‘If’ with you. I am so, so not ready for this. There are still so many more times I want to sit in the Small Crafts Club, or the Cricket Club* and reminisce with you and your friends, (fishermen or otherwise). Will somebody please come and make your head better because really, I am so, so, really, really, not ready for this!!’
A fleeting Kleenex moment followed, before I pulled myself up straight, (tears in the office has never been a look I’ve been particularly fond of – but thank you Susana for coming to the rescue). The floodgates opened again when I got home as the stark realization of what’s up ahead really, really started to bite.
* I must point out that Dad hates cricket, but it’s the closest bar to the house for a night time stroll. He is nothing if not practical!