The cruelty of ageing
My father was looking forward to his retirement. But ill health robbed him, not once, not twice, but three times.
My dad left school at 15 years old and immediately started work. And he would work, almost without interruption, for more than 50 years.
It was a source of great pride to him that he could go for years without taking a day off sick. He was not invincible, of course. But he was raised to believe that you had to be at least three-quarters dead to justify a day off.
Headache? He went to work. Upset stomach? He went to work. Bad back, sore throat, cough, cold, flu? He went to work.
Aside from work, my father had two key passions in life: fishing; and reading.
Retirement robbed him of both. It was almost as if the ill health he had kept at bay for half a century was merely lying in wait.
My dad was a chauffeur for most of my adult life. He wore sunglasses to drive and, towards the end of his career, he wore reading glasses to read the newspaper.
But just as he retired, he was diagnosed with macular degeneration that would slowly rob him of his ability to read. It would also limit his ability to tie fishing hooks.
So we got him an MP3 player and introduced him to audio books. And I would tie hooks for him, even though his ability to see his fishing float dip below the river’s surface to indicate a bite was also beginning to fade.
But fate wasn’t done yet. A smoker all his life, he was then hit with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which rendered him constantly and increasingly breathless. It was a slow process but this gradually prevented him from going fishing entirely because he found the walk from car to river virtually impossible.
Now I said that my dad had two main passions. But there was a third. His greatest passion. His wife. My mum.
My father was from a generation in which husbands placed their wives on a pedestal and then spent their lives worshipping them. My dad was the same. My mothers’ wish was his command.
And age robbed him of that too. My mother took a fall as elderly ladies sometimes do. My father no longer had the strength to pick her up again.
Over her final few years, she took quite a few tumbles. None of them too serious — Just a few scratches and bruises.
But they took a greater toll on my dad. His inability to help his stricken wife — the love of his life — hurt hm way more than it ever hurt her.
A man who worked non-stop for half a century to provide for his family. A man who spent six decades worshipping his wife. And old age and ill health robbed him of two of the simplest of pleasures: opening a book; or fishing with his grandchildren.
My father passed away last year. He finally got to rest.