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stargate, DanielJackson

Week 27

Posted on 2014.11.10 at 23:15
Tags: ,

When my dad began having aches and pains we didn’t think much of it, even he made jokes about old age. After all he was 68. Then he started coughing blood.

But a flurry of tests later he received a diagnosis of bronchitis and life went on as ordinary.

The bloody coughs got worse. The pain got worse.

We all floated in a hub of blissful inattention. It was just bronchitis; very stubborn bronchitis.

An x-ray was left forgotten, a spot unnoticed.


My dad was sitting on the sofa and I the chair. We were wondering about what a good way to quantify an amount of rubbish would be. Rubbishity or ribbishitude, we took our corners; made our arguments; on etymology and derivations and other quantifying words and parallel situations.

I don’t remember what we decided on in the end. But I remember we were happy.


The pain increased and my father felt too unwell and reluctant to go to the doctor. Perhaps he feared, perhaps he suspected, perhaps deep down he knew.

Eventually my aunt took him to see the GP, who insisted he go to the hospital immediately. He was admitted that day.

I went that afternoon to bring some of his things. He gave me a smile unlike the usual ones and a hug unlike the usual ones and I knew immediately that something was very wrong. The idea of this being something insignificant and easily solved shattered.

I looked around the space. A bed, a chair, a curtain and a dresser. The turquoises and blues and greens, I thought probably the shades had ridiculous names like aqua-marine-lizard-green or something of that ilk. It occurred to me how similar it looked, like Holby City or Casualty, of course British shows modelled their sets to look like British hospitals. And I thought about how most of the television I watch is American and how close to real the American TV hospitals may or may not be.

But there’s only so much distance I could create between myself and reality, when reality was sitting a couple of feet away from me. So I asked. I don’t know if I actually asked; if there were actual words or sounds or gestures, but there was something. Then there was a responding word, spoken soft yet terrifying.



There was an office and a consultant. My mum, me, my aunt and cousins, and my dad, sat around. There was discussion. Of course the assumptions we had was that there would be chemo and a fight, we knew it was bad, a strong possibility that the fight could be lost.

The doctor explained that there would be no fight. The cancer was terminal.


The cancer was called Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Lung cancer which had metastasised to his spine and other organs.

There was an old chest x-ray brought up again. And the issue that it had been ignored.  

This type of cancer was never caught this late, it was entirely ridiculous. The doctor pointed out that there was nothing that could have been done even if they’d discovered the cancer earlier. I wonder if the doctor thought it was the truth or was just trying for damage-limitation law-suit wise. It was true enough as far as saving his life went. I didn’t bitterly comment on the fact that knowing would’ve made a difference. He wouldn’t have had to suffer day after day in pain.

Struggling through his last months without knowing what was going on. We would have had more time to prepare, more time to say goodbye, more time to do things. We would have had more time.


The nurses were sometimes wonderful and sometimes terrible.

He needed help eating and we were chastised for giving it.

They were careful and loving and cheerful. We would smile in gratitude and lean on them for support. They were over-worked and over-tired and jaded, and we mired in the almost-grief of almost-loss. There were clashes.

He was confused and barely lucid.

People talked about spirit a lot. How he still had his spirit. I didn’t understand it at all. These instinctive reactions weren’t him. He was at his core a creature of rationale and logic, like me. We understood each other. In a way that maybe others didn’t. And I couldn’t see him anywhere in there.


I used to think about what would happen if one of my parents went senile and reverted to their mother tongue. More as an intellectual conceptualisation than a concern; I wondered if I would meet the challenge, string together the small set of words of Tamil at my disposal and manage communication.

It’s not nearly as intriguing when it’s the middle of the night and you’re with someone who’s confused and in pain and struggling, having a very definite funny turn. With the nurses calling for the on call doctor every ten minutes. And waiting and waiting and having no one coming.

(To be fair our family who do speak the language were also with me).

Midnight ticks over into two into three. The doctor will come with the morning rounds.


I phoned my mother at work and the person on the other end talked to me like I was the dirt on someone’s shoe. How dare I suggest someone interrupt their till workers? I hang up, filled with rage and fury and cried. I slid to the floor and scream-cried in a very Piper-after-Prue’s-death type fashion and it struck me how accurate that scene was even as I contemplated wanting to burn down every store in that stupid supermarket chain. Even as my hind-brain understood that that wasn’t what I was upset about.

He was gone. Not for anyone else maybe, but in the way I understood him, in the way we were, he was.


Plans were made for my father to die peacefully at home.

I insisted on the Oxygen tanks being in our house before my father was brought home. This seemed to be an unreasonable request to some. On the other hand, I was also surprised that we got a hospital bed, wheelchair and a whole slew of other necessary stuff for free. And nurses who were not only there for him, but us too.

He had one of those bright spurts just before the end and seemed almost himself for a few hours. I rolled his wheelchair through the park.

His bones were brittle and a small bang resulted in a broken arm and a trip back to the hospital.


My mother chastised me for not telling him I loved him. I didn’t say it would feel like too much of a lie. We never said it, we showed it, sitting next to each other on a sofa chair figuring out a Metro anagram, or debating over important things like which made-up word would make the most sense and silly things like political affiliations. Love like, when I come home from dropping out with nowhere to go, a hug not of pity or disappointment, but of joy to see me.

Our words and ideas and debates were quick and sharp and dicey and never needed things as silly as ‘I love you’ for the words to ring true. I thought he would understand this even though he was no longer conscious.

I said it anyway because grief is for the still living.

They told me he was dead. I held his arm, secretly feeling for a pulse. I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t believe it.

A part of me still doesn’t.


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kickthehobbit at 2014-11-11 02:35 (UTC) (Link)
...I want to say more about it but I can't come up with the words.

This is sad and poignant and lovely.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-11 18:54 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)
fodschwazzle at 2014-11-11 05:16 (UTC) (Link)
I've witnessed similar processes but have not yet experienced it firsthand. I feel too privileged and sometimes a little immune. This reminds me that I'm not. The intimacy with which you describe this is gut wrenching and familiar nonetheless. Thank you for sharing this story.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-11 18:55 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)
livejournal at 2014-11-11 07:15 (UTC) (Link)

LJ Idol Week 27: Recommendations

User kickthehobbit referenced to your post from LJ Idol Week 27: Recommendations saying: [...] and saying goodbye [...]
tonithegreat at 2014-11-11 16:16 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. :-( This was amazing.

I'm so sorry.

You have written a gorgeous personal thing about a universal black inevitability.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-11 18:57 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :).

Thanks. Yeah, it's one of those hard facts of life.
bleodswean at 2014-11-12 00:02 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, J. *HUGS* This is so raw and so real and so open-wounded. I'm so sorry. I know this feeling and you captured it in words - He was gone. Not for anyone else maybe, but in the way I understood him, in the way we were, he was.

I'm thinking of you.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-12 15:10 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

Yeah, it was hard, but I'm okay now.

i_17bingo at 2014-11-12 09:17 (UTC) (Link)
Rubbishity or ribbishitude, we took our corners; made our arguments; on etymology and derivations and other quantifying words and parallel situations.

I sang to my aunt the night she died of lung cancer, and to this day, I can't think about or listen to that song without tears, but this--this was the hardest part to read in this. This is normal; it's the kind of thing you don't notice, but treasure the most in the end.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-12 15:11 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah definitely, it's what stands out as precious.
tsuki_no_bara at 2014-11-12 18:56 (UTC) (Link)
my dad's seventy-eight and in pretty good shape for his age, but still, this made me cry. it's stark and poetic ("They were over-worked and over-tired and jaded, and we mired in the almost-grief of almost-loss" is just a perfect sentence) and i paradoxically really enjoyed reading it. and i'm so very sorry, because i can tell that you loved him.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 15:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

Glad you liked that line.
beeker121 at 2014-11-12 19:39 (UTC) (Link)
This is lyrical and oh so sad and damn hard.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 15:59 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"
roina_arwen at 2014-11-12 20:13 (UTC) (Link)
I love all the little tidbits of shared experiences that you sprinkle in, it really brings everything closer to home.

My dad passed many years ago now, so I can relate to your loss. *Hugs*
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 16:00 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

*Hugs Back* Sorry for your loss also.
mamas_minion at 2014-11-12 23:44 (UTC) (Link)
This was a heart wrenching to read. Sorry for your loss. I still have trouble realizing my mothers gone and it has been 3 years since she passed.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

*Hugs* Sorry for your loss also.
A Karmic Sandbox
karmasoup at 2014-11-13 00:11 (UTC) (Link)
Such a loving, tender tribute, so painful, but sweet. So sorry for your loss.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
Every Day Above Ground
mallorys_camera at 2014-11-13 12:48 (UTC) (Link)
Ah! This was so wrenching to read. So very sad. But beautiful. Poignant.

Your father is not so much older than I am now...

You describe the intimacy beautifully. And I also loved your meditations on the Mother Tongue. (In my own family, that's Italian, which my parents actually forbade us to learn because they wanted us to be American.)

If you did decide to rewrite this at some point, that's actually one of the stronger subtexts of your piece. Because it fits so well with your meditations about American TV -- if you watch so much American TV, if you speak Tamil, does that mean you're not British? No? Then what are you? Etc. Hey! Zadie Smith's made a career out of writing about this issue. :-)
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 16:02 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

And thanks for the analysis, glad you liked that aspect.
crisp_sobriety at 2014-11-13 15:46 (UTC) (Link)
This is beautifully done, but heart-wrenching. I don't know what to say, other than I'm so sorry this happened.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 16:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.
reckless_blues at 2014-11-13 19:42 (UTC) (Link)
I appreciated this a lot. I worked in palliative care. I hated it. I have no idea how to handle people's emotions during this time. I know the piece is about you, but I related to that doctor - stay out of the way, focus on the technicalities, focus on your own business. You won't be useful here as a person. You made the calls, you brought the news, you're the enemy. They need an enemy. I've never met anyone who didn't talk about the doctor with at least a little bitterness and accusation if they lost someone to a terminal disease. So that hit home for me.
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-13 19:52 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

I hadn't thought of it that way, that's definitely an intriguing perspective.
hosticle_fifer at 2014-11-13 21:22 (UTC) (Link)
Sad, poignant, and very well done. I think it especially hit me because my dad's in recovery from cancer right now, in fact - just finished up the radiation. Thankfully they caught it early enough, but he's getting up there in years, so the thought is always there in the background, you know?
swirlsofblue at 2014-11-14 16:21 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you.

*Hugs* Hope he gets well soon.
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