My father is ill with lung cancer. He is very very sick. It won’t be long until he passes into the next world. His skin has a grey sickly pallor to it. His body is frail, his legs are feeble as are his arms. His skin is like fragile lawyers of tissue paper that tear and rip on anything and everything he knocks, giving him bruises and bumps and bleeds. His eyes are blood shot, but I can still see the majestic blue. He coughs and his chest is continuously filled with gunk that he coughs out, but it is still not enough to help him breathe well. He has lost control over his organs. He wets the bed at night and does not have a desire to eat very much. He has lost his voice, barely a whisper, but at least we can still talk. He is beginning to lose the lucidity of his thoughts and his eye sight has left him with blurring and contorted vision. It is ugly this cancer. It eats him up from the inside out. He is beginning to grow lumps on the outer parts of his body they are multiplying like a bacterial growth in a petra dish.
Death smells. The decaying body rots away leaving a very strange musty smell in its wake. But, we have time to talk. And the talks have been good; upsetting, but good. You see my dad was robbed of any real life when he turned 28. The year after he and my mum got married. That was the year I was born.
Before my birth, my dad was a farmer. He had the dreams and passions of any young man to go out and make something of himself. He wanted to be the best farmer there was. He wanted to work on machinery and figure out how to build it up or fix it. He didn’t have an education past the tenth grade, but really he had the mind of an engineer. He could build anything when the schizophrenia had released its hold on him. However, unfortunately, this was a very rare occasion.
When I was born, my dad had his first ever nervous breakdown. Today, while I sat and talked to him, he told me, “It was a miracle you survived”. He went on to explain that, it was the beginning of the voices in his head and they told him to kill his wife and daughter. He said he fought with those voices, but after a while they can be convincing and you lose all sight of yourself through them. It was only after this first episode did he know that he had this disease that literally took his soul away piece by piece for the next 40 something years. They are still there, but the medication he takes is so strong he can manage them and identify them as being “the voices”, but when a schizophrenic has a mental relapse those moment of lucidity are lost, and the person questions the voices in the real world or the voices in their head.
My dad has so many regrets about his life and this makes me sad. He was a good man, a kind man, but he fought hard against an ugliness that controlled him. It was not an easy life growing up with this disease. For him and for us. Life was like a loony bin, and as you can appreciate, this affects the very nature of who you grow up to be as an adult. Masking the pain, hiding the guilt and shame that are attached to such a horrible disease. There is still so much we need to learn about it and so many people that need help, but for my dad it destroyed him.
The medication meant he had no energy for work and thus he began to lose all sense of who he was. He lost his identity, love with his wife because after several break downs my mum could no longer cope. Basically he was left with a shell of the person he could become.
He taught me kindness and caring, but it saddens me to think that this precious beautiful life amounted to regrets and lost dreams. While I sit and listen to him talk about his regrets each one linked to this horrible disease tears fall from his cheeks and I remind him that “dad you were a good person, it was not your fault”. But I do not know what else to say.