I am having one of those days when I am doing too much and I need to relieve the pressure in my head but I also want to just run away from it. I have done the snooze thing already after the Edinburgh airport run this afternoon which at least gave me the energy to sort out dinner (pizza and salad) and watch Bake Off with the family. Almost every single thing today has been pretty straightforward but the constancy of change wears me down and I feel rather anxious and a bit overwhelmed at the moment. I wrote “almost” then because I am aware of two things that gave me unexpected emotion though when I think further more things become apparent and it feels like I could just drift off following the seemingly infinite sequence of events that have affected me. To drift off along that tornado – the further I go the greater the pressure increases, to escape from here feels like the wrong way to go, it feels dangerous. That thought is a bit unsettling in itself.

I want to pull myself back to today.

Normally I don’t work on this day but we have a team meeting and since normally everybody else in working then I go in especially for the meeting. It’s a good useful meeting which even after twenty years is still evolving its format. One constancy is that we each share how we are feeling personally at the start of the meeting. I’ve talked about my depression in this group, the stresses I find in everyday situations, and even issues with my family and friends. I find this openness builds trust, respect and understanding between our team so we work together better, but it also underlines the ethics of our business and our focus on supporting people.

One work issue that cropped up again was the intermittent networking issue we have we a particular computer. This computer is in a separate room to most of the others and uses a Powerline connection to network up to the server and the internet. This system has worked fine for several years but recently the connection was drop or short periods unexpectedly. I thought it might be the network adapters so changed them. Then I thought it might be the network interface on the computer so was planning to swap in another computer to test this out. Today the network link failed completely and I only had a short time after the meeting to work out what was going on because I needed to get to the airport for the family pickup. I didn’t solve the mysterious issue but the pressure is on to fix it before I go on holiday this weekend and I have only a vague idea that the Powerline network might be suffering interfere from another adapter in the building. I don’t like not knowing what is going on.

Since we were in the Edinburgh area, after the smooth airport pickup, my wife had arranged to visit our terminally ill friend and her family. It has been a couple of weeks since we were last there so I wasn’t sure how different L would be. On the way to the house, we picked up our son up from his university campus because he had an appointment in our home town in the late afternoon and the parental taxi was a cheap way to get there (and to be fair it is nice to spend some time catching up with him). So there were four of us visiting our friend’s house.

L’s husband greeted us at the door and we trouped into the sitting room where L is perched in her customary seat. It occurs to me now that before her illness I don’t recall L taking this seat when we have visited; did she always give up her seat whenever visitors are around? I have to say I’m a bit Sheldon like (see Big Bang Theory) in this respect when at home. We say our hellos and find seats. I consciously sit opposite L, my “normal” armchair seems too far away this time. My daughter sits right against me and I wonder if she was missing me on holiday but suspect she is unsure of the situation and seeks comfort from the closeness.

It has been two weeks since we last visited and I study L a bit whilst she asks my wife about her Rome trip. The muscle loss has continued visible on her arms and legs, her neck is corded and thinned; she mentions the difficulty in pushing herself into a standing position. L’s speech is less animated and the word order is sometimes mixed up; I wonder how much morphine is needed now to keep her comfortable. Her abominal distension has increased. A pharmacy delivery arrives which prompts a discussion about the opiate: how much is needed now for the pump; the extra injections L’s husband can give per day; how the capsules have to be counted each day by the health visitors and any used recorded in log; how some health visitors are better at placing cannulas; how the GP needs to sign off any increase in dosage. I work out that the flow rate of the pump is not proportional to the amount of morphine given because it is the concentration of the solution that is changed. I mention this and discover the total amount of morphine per day has increased three fold since the pump was introduced.

L’s daughter returns after an expedition to find proper French eclairs. L desired the treat she remembered from her childhood and thankfully there are four French patisseries in Edinburgh, so the daughter was able to source the required flavours of the required quality. Superficially the eclairs look similar to what I see in Tesco’s but when they are cut up it is obvious the choux pastry is much thicker and the chocolate filling completely fills up the cavity left inside. The taste test by L gives the verdict they are not the best but are definitely good eclairs; I made a mental note to identify the patisseries’ locations and try to sample one from each. I sample biscuits from a selection bought over from France and sip my tea.

The conversation moves onto the meeting with the chaplain and the planning of the funeral. I find this very moving and my eyes start to perspire (as a retired-soldier American friend would say). There is something very powerful about how personal the choice of any music becomes and when it will be played. The chaplain will read out a letter that the husband writes and my wife is asked to say something with the hope that she can help make the Catholic French feel included since L rejected the religion of her youth. It is hoped that the quartet of children will play something though the chaplain suggests recording it first so that there is no pressure to actually play on the day. We move onto the practicalities of where the cremation will be, how large the chapel will be, and how many people to cater for. This is all very familiar to me from planning my father’s funeral but there is no guess what the deceased might want or family pressure to do something that doesn’t feel right. I do wonder what the family will do in between the time of death and the ceremony when other families are kept busy planning such arrangements.

On the drive home I notice my wife is making notes presumably about what L has said today, she is already thinking about what she will say at the funeral. We make it across the Forth Road bridge with little delay to my relief so my son shouldn’t have any trouble making his appointment; the traffic lightens the further we get away from the capital. After a while the car becomes quiet, perhaps the kids in the back are asleep and I start to think about my own funeral and the music I might choose. The death of a parent is a transition of responsibility in some way which I think will need to be teased out later. It seems to me that the music should represent this transition and acknowledge my past, present, and future. I’ve never really cared about my own funeral before, I always believed it was for the immediate family left behind but now I think it would be nice to leave a part of myself behind with it. I wonder if I could write something too. Interesting times then.

 

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