Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fundamental design fault - 'Off' switch not included.

Dear Creator,
I am writing to point out a major design fault in your model Homo Sapiens Version I in the hope that you will take my comments into account before launching Version II.
I guess you're already aware of this omission - being omniscient and all that - and although some may argue that the lack of an 'Off' switch is not a fatal flaw, that's precisely my point.
Allow me to elucidate. My dad's 91 and, until recently, was fitter and more active than many people half his age, doing voluntary work twice a week at his local hospital, travelling across London on public transport to play with his grandchildren and running faster than I can (a fact pointed out with embarassing frequency by said grands).
Back in November last year we saw him off at Gatwick Airport on his way to a three month holiday in Portugal. You know he hates the cold and the deals he gets staying half board in a hotel on the sunny Algarve cost little more than if he stayed in Blighty buying his own food and keeping his heating on.
He sent me 22 letters while he was away, his self-deprecating and surreal humour having me laugh aloud while I smiled over the pressed flowers that fell from the pages.
He nearly made it, didn't he? But then, exactly a week before he was due to fly home, he had a major heart attack. He'd been in two different hospitals and endured two emergency stent operations before I even knew. The Foreign Office say they tried to contact me, but they can't have tried too hard, can they? Not only is there always someone here before 9.00am and after 6.00pm (as well as often during the day) but also my mobile number is on our answering machine. Nevertheless I knew nothing until four days later when the cops knocked on my door that grim evening in mid February.
To cut a long story square (as dad would say) over the following couple of months he was discharged from hospital there, endured a nightmare journey home, 3 weeks in Barnet hospital, a bout of pneumonia and a spell in a rehab unit. Having survived that lot, he prepared for what appeared at the time to be a triumphant return home.
But there is no triumph, is there? He's not coping. He's frail and fearful. In fact, it would be fair to say, he seems like a 91 year old. Having attained such a great age in relatively fine fettle, he thought that when his time came he'd be able to slip away peacefully with minimal fuss. What he didn't think was that he was still going to have to do the helpless geriatric bit.
Watching him totter, struggle for breath, deal with loss of memory, panic attacks and depression is what brings me back to my original point. When someone has led such a full and active life, loved, admired and respected by all who know him and an inspiration to all those who fear the cumulative effects of age, I fail to understand the glaring omission of an 'Off' switch.
I recognise such apparatus could be open to abuse, but I'm sure you could find a way round those possibilities, being omnipotent. Some might argue the apparatus is already in place - it's called euthanasia or suicide. Or murder. But would you not agree a simple self-operated switch would perform the job better and without the terrible trauma involved? Never mind the bureaucracy ...
Anyway, thanks for your time. I look forward to your response.
Love, Debi


Anonymous said...

Oh Debi... I know exactly what you're going through. My dad's 87 and, like yours, has been very fit until recently. Now he has dementia and hasn't a clue what's going on around him half the time. Couple that with emphasema (sp?) and he's just a shadow of the man he was. It's so sad to see, isn't it?

Years ago, my dad asked me to promise him that if he ever got like this, I'd finish it for him. I couldn't promise that. Everytime I see him now it hurts because I know this is what he feared most.

Yes, I agree. An off switch would have been very useful.


Debi said...

Oh poor you! I wouldn't wish it on anyone, let alone someone so clearly caring as you.
All I can say is that you should try not to feel guilty - it was an impossible thing for your father to have asked you.
Mind you I'm coming to the conclusion it's a bit like parenting. You can never get it totally right (whatever that is) and whatever you do you're bound to end up feeling guilty!
At these points I remember my mum telling me what a useless emotion guilt is - it doesn't help the person you feel bad about and just saps your energy.
So - strength all round to both fathers and daughters and maybe relief that it's out of our hands ...

Anonymous said...

Any change? I guess not but you can always hope, can't you?

You're right about it being an impossible question my dad asked me, and I don't think he realised quite what a difficult corner he was putting me in. Mind you, when I spoke to my mum on the phone a few days ago, I could hear him muttering away to my son in the background (Paul's 28 and staying with my mum at the moment to help her out) and he sounded quite lucid.

Did you see my good news? Richard and I have got engaged. I'll have to phone Mum tomorrow and let her know, although there won't be a wedding until... well, until Mum can get away. She won't/can't leave him and I don't want to get married without her there - it just wouldn't feel right.

Back to work now. We're going away for a couple of days so I have tons of work that I have to get out before we leave. If I'd know beforehand that we'd be going I wouldn't have taken on so much but as it is I'm just going to have to type until my bones are coming through my fingertips.

Take care xx

Debi said...

well actually there is a bit of what looks like progress. New medication has eased dad's breathing difficulties and they're hoping he can be discharged late next week with carers popping in 3 or 4 times a day (he's always refused this before).
I hope so - for all our sakes. Yesterday I spent 5 hrs travelling to and from hospital and his flat to pay his bills etc.
Still don't know what the future holds, but I'm determined to drag as much energy as poss from anything that seems remotely positive.
On which note - congratulations! As ex-wedding photographers, we know all about how complicated arrangements can be but I really hope that you have loads of joy and happiness.

Anonymous said...

That's excellent news, Debi. Like you say, any glimmer of hope is worth holding on to :)

I won't be stressing over the wedding. We're both very laid back and if things go wrong... well, that's what will be remembered :)