What a couple of weeks it's been.
As with 'most everybody, the Holiday season is both a time of joy and stress, demands of family, friends and work making it a roller coaster of love and life. For our 'mob'... a particularly special year, as we all headed north to Brisbane to celebrate both a Christmas and a Boxing day birthday with my Dear Old Dad. Pa to grandchildren and children alike, his run up to this particular Christmas has been demanding to say the least.
This time last year he was diagnosed with cancer, the prognosis poor and his attitude philosophical. Deciding not to go the chemotherapy route, and take his licks..." bugger it, I'll just have to eat more oysters!", his past year has been one of catching up with friends, getting his business back on an even keel after a bit of GFC beating, and being attended to by a tag team of sons spending some time with him and giving a rest to my sister Kath and brother Ben who, by dint of geography, live in the same city and have a far greater role in caring.
Those of us from interstate would come up for spells of a week or so, and tell stories, relive moments from their own far off dream times, the common denominators being the love and fun had with Dad, and Mum, in those carefree days long gone.
Of course, in the telling, you discover why Dad was a grump sometimes, and we could say finally, 'we understand!" as we too deal with the storms of bringing up kids, and all the pyrotechnics hormonal monsoons bring.
And laugh. A lot.
So come this Christmas and the run in is all good, a couple of weeks back Pa gets up for a midnight pee, tottery and half groggy as you'd expect at three, leans the wrong way, falls down a flight of fifteen stairs, head first he goes, ending up at the bottom, out cold, with a busted rib. Naturally a fall like this should have killed a near 83 year old, or at least broken everything, but not Pa. Shaken and stirred, down but not out.
A couple of days later we hear, to top it off, and this really is a topper, he has a stroke, loses his speech, and the use of his right arm. Hoo-fucking-ray, if you'll excuse the french. Who's going to tell the jokes at Christmas?
Fast forward a day or two, and we are getting sentences out of him, the ever sparkly mind saying, "I'm learning new stuff everyday" referring to the discourse with the physio and speech therapist. Good on him. Skinnier now than a cattle yard dog, but still swinging though the punch wouldn't knock out a starving budgie.
Ageing surf rat that I am we had planned, post Christmas, to spend a few days on the coast, catch the odd wave and play, a car load of boards and a road trip adventure with father and sons being the way north for both budgetary and fun reasons. Pa's misadventure, however, meant Sue and Beelzebub took a plane, while Joey and I did the gun north (2000K) over two days to get there on Christmas Eve.
All good. We did the drive with only one or two hair raising moments. Always something happens on these drives. This time 'round, apart from the locust plague (I'm serious), a near miss of a rather large kangaroo, and me dozing off, only being saved by hitting a pothole which woke me up just in time to avoid us going off the road. My frustration there was it happened fifty metres before the rest stop I was aiming for.
Finally in Brisbane and straight into the hospital, Pa propped up, on the oxygen and looking a little like a twinkling Mad Eye Moody from Harry Potter, a wicked crooked smile on his face and a welcome good hand. Speaking way better than I could have imagined, lights on, everybody home, but now so skinny you wouldn't even feed him to the cattle yard dog.
Still good for a laugh though, so yesterday, Christmas Day, the whole family gathers at home, and I mean every grandchild, every child and every spouse, plus friends, all together to wish Pa a very special Christmas.
Holding tottery court on his throne, oxygen at ready and rugged up, he managed some pureed turkey, stuffing and joy of joys, a prawn and four oysters that slid down beautifully. Understand that post stroke eating is no easy task, and the slippy slidey oysters proved the hit of the day, no chewing, just a delicious toboggan ride down.
After dinner, an endless round of family photos, to the point I asked Dad if he was getting over it.
"You're dead a long time" was his reply. Amen to that.
With time to get back to the hospital looming, while we ferried Pa to the car, the kids, from, 8 to 28, lined up for a Mexican wave as the car backed down the drive. Waving like the King heading off to his palace, Dad sailed into the night, skateboarding on the street resumed and we went back inside and had another drink.
The pics: The road north, Joey's Christmas Pa portrait done on the sketching toy the hospital use to help patients with speech problems communicate, and Pa, crooked smiling and Mad Eye in the shade.