ON BECOMING AN ORPHAN

Just a week shy of being in the UK for 2 months, my dad passed away in Cape Town.  

My mom died in April last year.  She had been very sickly.  Not only did her epilepsy continue to plague her but she developed the most horrendous skin disease which no-one was able to diagnose.  This left her in a state of continual itchiness and irritation.  She also had the beginning stages of emphysema as she had smoked her entire adult life.  She was 64 when she died after contracting pneumonia which she did not recover from.  Because my mom was always sick and in and out of hospital my dad had not even contacted me to say she was ill.  So the first I heard of it was when he called me at work to let me know that she had passed away.  

My dad was very grateful that my mother had died before him. She was 18 years younger than him so there was a good chance that it would have been the other way around.  The reality of it was that she needed constant care which would not have happened had my dad not been around.  

My dad was my greatest advocate to moving overseas.  He was so worried about me in South Africa, believing that the country was going to the dogs.  Every time I called him he would say ‘My girl, do you still have a job?’ ‘Yes dad, and the money is good, I am very happy’ and then he would be happy.  

So I believe that he was slowly letting go of this life and was ready to join the other side. His deterioration and sudden lackluster approach to life only happened after I left for the UK because I left a fit, happy 83 year old man when I said goodbye, just over two months ago.

I was his last ‘worry’ that he no longer needed to worry about.  After he collapsed outside church the Sunday before, it became known to me that he had not been eating much.  He was taken to hospital and he refused to be admitted.  The next few days saw him getting weaker and weaker.  On the day he died the lady who had worked for him for many years called me and said that he was not looking good at all and that when his friend took him to the doctor again they would insist that he was hospitalised.  So he packed a bag.  While his blood pressure was being taken he apparently said ‘No more tests, I just want to rest’ and then keeled over in cardiac arrest.  They tried to resuscitate him but to no avail. Which I am grateful for as he would have been pissed if he had come back from that.  My dad had a Living Will which expressly stated that resuscitation should not occur in such an instance.  

It is almost as if he chose his own passing.  He was very distressed by the thought of dying at home, in his sleep, and only being found 3 days later. So he very neatly got himself out of being hospitalised, with the indignity of pipes and tubes everywhere, but still managed to die in hospital. How many people can say that??  I find humour in it because I am so grateful for so many things.  I am grateful that my dad outlived my mom and was able to find peace in his last 18 months of life.  Looking after my mother was an extremely stressful job and he did everything from washing the dishes, cooking, washing the clothes and washing her.  Instead his last days were spent on long walks, reading, playing croquet twice a week, buying already made food and drinking a wine or two with his lunch.  

My father leaves behind a house – the house I grew up in.  The house I couldn’t wait to leave – and did – the moment I finished school.  The house that held so many nightmare qualities to it that I could not envisage ever having any good feeling towards it.  After my mom died and I started visiting my dad more frequently I started to see it in a different light.  I started to see its potential.  And I now own this house.  Lock, stock and mouldy garage.  

My step-dad was a great man.  Great because of his capacity to remain calm under extreme circumstances; most would actually call him a saint. He was the most steadfast gentleman, interesting and kind.  I loved him very much and am grateful for being able to finally have a proper relationship with him at the end of his life.  

He is safe in the arms of my mom and let’s hope she doesn’t keep giving him hell up there! 😉

And so, while trying to sever all material ties by moving to the UK I suddenly find myself the owner of a house again, and going back to South Africa to pay my last respects and wind up an estate that is now mine.  

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