A day after my birthday last year, on the 8th August, I called my Father from the passport queue at Gatwick Airport to say we’d landed. He did not answer.
Half an hour later, I go through to my Mother, who was on her to the hospital where my Father had been taken. Stroke. That was all she knew and that was all she said.
And that was the end of life as we knew it.
I remember having the baby in the baby carrier, so close to me, and spinning around gently, oh so lost, when busy Gatwick seemed to have emptied with the weight of that word. Stroke.
No sleep for 48 hours. Conflicting news as the situation was critical, but hopeful, and people back home were trying to spare me the in-between of updates. There were no updates. Stroke had been upgraded to stroke with paralysis of the left side. Talking. Conscious. Aware.
I know where I was when I first spoke to my Father after that 8th August, but I have no idea when it was. I know everything he said and everything I thought. And it’s sad I don’t have a day for it because it was one of the very few where he was still the dad taking care of me, and I was the little kid, forever little.
Ours isn’t a story of overcoming stroke, of pushing through against all odds and coming out stronger at the other end. Ours is a story of pain and loss and sadness, and ultimately grief.
Ours is a story of who we were then and who I can hope to be now.
Ours is a story of what-ifs that nobody wants to be left with and yet come with me wherever I go, like faithful companions I never asked for.
What if I’d said something, what if I’d been there more, what if I’d challenged that medical decision, or that physio, or that situation.
What if I’d challenged the diagnosis of a bacterial infection he didn’t have and that kept him in isolation in his room and barely let him see he’s grandchild?
What the f*** if?
I’ve lost the boat on that one and if I say that’s my cross to bare that sounds so much lighter than it is. That statement, true and clear that it is, does not say of the sleepless nights or the cold sweats, or the uncontrollable tears in random car parks.
I was not the person I would want in my corner were I ever in that position of needing an advocate and a champion. I failed him and myself. And he wouldn’t have failed me on that.
I so desperately want to take something more from this though. Something positive. I want to become the advocate I wasn’t. I want to become the person who fights her loved ones’ corner. Always. And that is the one thing I can control right now.
I choose to become her.