Saturday, October 09, 2004

Dad died

Friday 8th October

3.15 pm ** I'm having a shower getting ready to go over to David's to look at his central heating problem.

Phone rings, and Big Sis intones: "Aunty says come over now, because Dad is shutting down.."

5.00pm ** I am at Manor Park train station on my way to Heathrow Airport. In that time, I've found on Opodo the cheapest flight for only 250 pounds, on Air Canada, leaving at 9.00pm. I've packed what I need, including a funeral suit, and shut down the house. From the time of the phone call received in London, I will be at the house in Toronto in 13 hours. Rueing the irony of 21st century life: that I have spent 5 weeks jobhunting and yet have not secured one interview, let alone been economically productive. Yet for what is not much more than 1 week's wages, I can cross the atlantic door to door in half a day. Put it another way, it's so easy to add to global warming because oil prices are too, too, low, yet at the same time human energy is wasted
on slothful underoccupation.

My first journey at rush hour on the Underground for several years. By the time I reach Kings Cross, I am homicidal, and my shoulders and backpack are set in a rugby tackle posture. There are so many sleepwalking zombies in the trains, on the platforms, in the stations. Some are tourists, some are office robotpersons on their way home. I suddenly am reminded what a different London it is from being an unemployed person spending all day in a Zone 3 suburb. A London just as undesirable, but even more remote from any universal reality worthy of Man the Animal.

I have forgotten none of the battle strategy on London Transport. Get as far as you can on any train, so long as it is heading in the right direction and running well. So if one or the other Tube services up ahead is delayed, you can always exit for the street and catch a taxi the rest of the way. My cleverness has allowed me to avoid the Central Line blockage that had just started at Liverpool Street.

So now I jump on the first Piccadily Line service, though it's heading for Rayner's Lane, not Heathrow Airport, and hot with exasperation, I sulk on the trundling train.

6.20pm ** I reach Baron's Court, which being an open air station, is ideal for changing to a Heathrow train. My mobile phone beeps into range. I jump onto the following Heathrow train, and find out that sis in Europe wants to know what flight arrangements I have found. So I ring her back.

On the seat to my left is a classically attractive Irish girl with luscious dark borwn hair and clear complexion. She is nattering with girlish enthusiasm at all manner of silliness. The train car is full but there is plenty of standing room. With my mobile phone to my left ear, side by side with the Irish girl's..

Me: "Hi J.. It's me...I'm on my way to the airport"
J: "Oh! You got a flight already?! *breaking voice* Did you hear? Dad died ten minutes ago."
Me: *euphemistically* "Oh so he's gone is he? Already? Well it's too late to worry then.."

And the people around me are nattering, or cold, or sullen. They are Londoners. This is a Tube train. If you are tired of Life, it is because there is none on a Tube train.

I felt so cheated. I had decided I wanted to be there when he passed away. And now I was too late.

And no private space to shed my tears.

So my wishes earlier in the week for his speedy exit were heeded. He still took some food and water yesterday, but today he has died. Rotted away from prostate cancer, there was little of him left to die in any case.

Prostate cancer metastasizes into the bones, and when he was diagnosed three years ago, it had already done this to an advanced stage. Then it affects the bone marrow, so that there is little red blood cell production, which is why his haemoglobin levels were already critical in June (see archive). Starving of oxygen, and unable to take new blood transfusions, and regardless of the canned oxygen available, his death did not linger for weeks beyond the last intake of food, as it can do with some other cancers.

And so Dad you are gone
Where to, it matters not.
It is the end of an era
And the beginning of many more endings
Until at last I meet my own.

We reach Acton Town, and I suddenly spy Dom walking past the train. Eager to seize some contact, I shout, "DOM !!!". I don't care anymore what people think of me.

D (from the train door): Oh it's you! What are you doing over here?"

G (shouting): I'm on my way back to Toronto. MY DAD JUST DIED!"

And my fellow passengers just wavered a bit.... Especially the bubbly Irish Girl on my left..

9.08 pm ** Now I'm on the plane. It stinks of oil fumes. It is Air Canada. Air Canada stinks. (See March Archives). I could have flown in comfort on My Travel for 50 pounds less, but it was not leaving till tomorrow afternoon. How was I to know that Dad would be dead already?

There is no seat back TV. The uphostery is an indescribably drab grey. The leg room is minimal, and the seat width is just acceptable even to my slim butt. It's a Boeing, B767-300, and the whole interior is ugly. (MyTravel has lovely bright Airbus 330's.) I think I'll need to get drunk.

And then some bland canned chill out music plays in the background with some vacuous coral reef film imagery sloshing around on Vaccuum-tubed Televisions. Air Canada is so shit.

An imperfect father. He was that. Yet the world seems a lonelier place now. The bubbles of mourning that have welled up throughout the year all came from this reservoir of loneliness. One less person who was part of my past. Gone forever, undeniably, and irreversibly. I wish I were not on this plane, amongst alien strangers. I should like to mourn now, free to sob and shudder and shed more tears.

At last, we are in the air, and dinner finally arrives. A lamb curry and a Bloody Caesar with clamato juice lifts my spirits. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkhaban starts to draw my attention.

Our attentions are incessantly torn by distracting entertainments from the deep dark wells in our souls. This is a characteristic foundation of modern, commercialised, Westernized cultures.


Anonymous said...

i can comprehend to the feeling, only i was luckier to hold his hand when he took his last breath. My condolences to your family and prayers for your beloved father.


Astolath said...

I'm really sorry mate...

I can't really impart anything sagatious, I have no experience in this area as of yet. I do know that lack of what's fashionably called 'closure' can be really hard to deal with.

I hope you can take some comfort in your friends and family...

loveandthecity said...

Thanks much!

It feels infinitely better to be here in Toronto with family than alone in London worrying about it. As soon as I got into my parents' house, from the airport, I became aware of this. It seemed to me that my life in London was almost ridiculous. It isn't entirely so, of course, but its remoteness from recent family events definitely was.

In these times of telephones, mobile phones, the Internet, cheap jet travel, cheap cars, and cheap petrol, there still seems no substitute for being physically within walking distance of those whom mean something to us.