My regular readers must be wondering why I have taken so long to write again. The answer is unbearably painful in its simplicity and permanence: I lost both my parents over four months ago. My mum died on Christmas Day and my father less than 48 hours after. My father was eighty-seven and had various illnesses but was doing OK. He deteriorated rapidly on the last two weeks before his death. I am so grateful his frailest state was short-lived and that he only had to spend one week in a nursing home. I am even more grateful that he did not endure those achingly lonely moments without my mother for very long. In the foggy midst of his Alzheimer’s, we were blessed with endearing moments of lucidity, like the time when three of my four siblings had moved him to the nursing home and the next day, looking out of the window in his forebodingly spare and lifeless room, he said to my husband and I: ‘This is not such a bad place to live, is it?’. Even in his most vulnerable moment, he was father first and foremost, ensuring our pain was lessened by his make-believe reassurance. It was a sobering and humbling moment; one I will never forget. My father led by example until his last breath. He was far from perfect, but he never demanded or expected anything from us he had not practised himself first. He has set the bar really high for us, in life and in death. His unwavering sense of duty, responsibility, and leadership to his family lives now within me and I hope I can be to my kids half the inspirational figure he has been to me.
Entrenched on my memory like a knife to the heart is also that agonising moment when my siblings took him to the nursing home whilst I remained at home with my mum in readiness for her life-threatening surgery the next day to remove a malignant tumour in her liver. My siblings were so incredibly overwhelmed by the unbearable task at hand that in their haste to make my father’s transition from his home to the nursing home, they neglected to allow my mum to say goodbye to my dad. My heart teared further apart when I looked in my mother’s eyes and saw the unforgiving sadness as she realised that she might never see her lifetime companion of over 65 years again. As it turned out, the surgery was in vain; the tumour was inoperable and two days after surgery she developed a perforated intestine which killed her. She was 80 years old. My mum was fit and healthy until three months before her death when she began experiencing excruciating pain on her right-hand side, below her rib cage. Initially, after countless tests, the doctors told her that she had an infection in her gall bladder, but it gradually emerged that that was only the beginning of the end. Three days before her death, we all had hope that she would recover, and she would live on to tell the tale. Three days before her death, her and I laughed together, joked together, hoped together.
It all happened so fast, and it did not help matters that those three of my four siblings turned against me towards the very end like hyenas hunting as a merciless pack. They deeply resented me for living abroad and in their words ‘having abandoned my family’, which was all the more devastating to hear bearing in mind my husband and I took my parents with us on holidays all over the world around 17 times, which none of those three siblings ever did, not even once. Asides that, I am aware that it is primarily during those times when my family and I visited my hometown in Spain that the whole family gathered together for lunch or an outing. As far as I am aware, my parents never got taken out by those three siblings all that much outside of those times when we were visiting. I will never recover from witnessing and suffering first-hand the monster within that can surface in people when they are undergoing immense pressure or pain. I became the punch bag for all three, specially one of them and the verbal and written punches did not stop coming until I was breathless, almost lifeless on the floor. The pain of losing the love, trust, and belief in my integrity of my three siblings was far greater at the time than the pain of losing both my parents unexpectedly in the space of 48 hours. That gives an idea of the intensity and shock, the hatred I was exposed to by those who should have been the most supportive at such a time, in such tragic circumstances. Even today, almost five months later, I cannot comprehend how love can turn into such hate in such a short space of time. The only explanation my mind entertains is that it was never love to begin with, and that realisation pierces me all the more, even today, probably forever.
I spent 9 days with both my parents prior to my mum’s surgery. I would be with them from 8:30 am til 11:00 pm. I would then go to a nearby hotel to get some rest and fuel up the tank to be at my best for the next day. No point in staying each night with them, I figured, and be exhausted from the beginning of the day ending up having them look after me. It made absolute sense to me and yet that is one of the issues my siblings took up with me, even though every time they had stayed the night, they whined about how that position was unsustainable and how we needed to get extra paid help to look after my parents during the nights. What was not sustainable or acceptable for them to keep doing, soon became their choice of punishment for me for my intermittent absence of 32 years. They looked for any excuse to criticise me, bully me and badmouth me to my mother who was already dying. The viciousness of their insults grew all the more aggressive and unforgivable the day I finally left to go back to the UK. To this day, I am still devastated that three of my siblings with whom I have always had a great relationship; whom I loved unconditionally could throw me to the gallows at the first hurdle, no trial, no innocent til proven guilty; just pure hatred and pain projected onto me as if I was the cause of my parents’ illness and tragic end.
Living in a different country to that I grew up in til the age of twenty, has always been incredibly challenging for me, because I have no family here in the UK other than my husband and kids. I come from a large family in Spain, and so the last 33 years I have missed so many incredibly happy times back home, some sad, not many. The truth is, however, I have a full life in the UK; a life that makes me happy; I have a family, a business, a home. I know my parents wanted me to be happy, fulfilled, and at peace. I know they never resented me for not being there. If anything, I am convinced they have always been so incredibly proud that I was courageous enough to travel at a youthful age and brave enough to give up everything and everyone I knew to move to another country for love. Throughout those 33 years, I have tried to see them as much as I could; I have tried to keep the balance right between raising a family to the best of my ability thousands of miles away; nurturing a marriage which has been very challenging at times and helping make a business successful, but also keeping in touch with all my family back in Spain. It is a very delicate balance but, in my heart, I know with certainty and confidence that my parents would have wished for me to put my own family first, specially since I had four other siblings who lived so close to them. It is a much more complex issue than what I recount here but for the sake of brevity, I will leave it at that. I could write a book on this sorrow episode of my life and who knows, when the time is right, maybe I will.