Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Over the Hills and Far Away

Still in London. Starting to feel quite bad about it. Mostly because Littlest Brother (who would like to be known as Cellophane Brother from here on in, for reasons best known to himself) is with my parents, on his own, and having a bit of a hard time.

First, my parents are being pissy with each other because of something that happened on Chemo Day (21st). The Swiss, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a bag of chemicals that said, in large lettters "DO NOT FILTER" needed a filter. Consequently, the quite sludgy chemical got all backed up and the procedure had to be stopped while they figured out their mistake. We are not yet sure how much damage has been done, if any, but I told my dad that court hearings make some people feel better. He says "life's too short", by which he means "MY life is too short". But I think he is worried that they have wasted an entire chemo session, each of which is vital to him right now. After all, anyone can say "whoops" at an autopsy.

So they have gone to Italy, to enjoy the hot springs there (anyone seeing a pattern?). But travelling is quite stressful for my family, at the best of time, and Cellophane Brother reports that my father has taken to eating a lot of cake, or other things that my mother disapproves of. She shouts at him that he is committing suicide and he, I suspect, shouts back that it's his life and he will kill himself as he likes.

Bear in mind that I am getting all of this information second-hand, so it may not be accurate.

In the meanwhile, Cellophane Brother is in the back of the car feeling like a 10-year old whose parents are getting divorced. They can be quite intense when they are fighting. I told him that he needs infinite patience and infinite love and he has to realise that, if they shout at him and make him feel useless, it's not personal. It's just way that they are coping with a shitty situation. But I can understand why it would be hard to have to listen to, especially since it often sounds as though Love has left the building.

Funny thing is, though, that the worse it sounds as though it is, the more I want to take the next flight over and just hug them and tell them it will be ok. The more pain they are in, the more I want to ease that pain and take some of the burden from them. So yes, over the years my father has accused me of being a "nursemaid", and not in a nice way. But look who's reaping the benefits now! My mother, several weeks ago, told me that my life should not have to stop and that I should continue as normal, despite the Cancer. I protested with the same arguments that I have previously laid out here. A few days later, she turned to me and said, "you know what I said about not stopping your life? Forget it. You do exactly what you have to do and what you think is best." So, here I am. Currently nursemaiding from afar, or at least giving the temp nurse as much guidance as I can.

So, to Cellophane Brother, if you are reading this. Tips from what I have learnt in the last few weeks:

1. It is never personal. Our family shout when they get angry/frustrated/hungry/tired/confused/scared/etc. It's a coping mechanism.

2. Try and figure out what the underlying cause of the shouting is. Often, it's quite simple, like hunger. Do not talk to your father about ANYTHING when he is hungry. I recommend over breakfast, if it's something important. Once you have figure out the cause, alleviate it, if you can, or address it gently if you can't.

3. There is bound to be A LOT of existential angst kicking around. If your father wants to talk about it, let him. If he doesn't don't push it. Let him joke irreverently if he wants, but always listen.

4. Actually, that's a point all for itself. LISTEN. You will learn to judge what is going on.

5. Don't ask about their plans, if you can help it. They don't know what their plans are. Try to keep your diary free for them, but make plans, with a view to cancel if you need to. Plan and Cancel, baby, that's the phrase of the year.

6. If they are fighting, you can take sides for the sake of the most vulnerable. They should know that, even though they are hurting, there are things you can and cannot do to another person. But don't get angry. Confront them with the truth. But, in the end, comfort them both.

7. Do some really serious thinking about what the situation is like for each of them. You will be able to really help once you understand what is going on in their heads. Only then can you be their Strength.

8. Always remember that you are there to prop them up. If you need support, I would probably recommend getting it from someone other than them. Your mother told me that the siblings should be talking to each other more. She's probably right, although it's difficult across oceans.

So, in short, Unconditional Love, Endless Patience and Profound Understanding.

You'll be fine.

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