Thursday, September 08, 2016

In the midst of life...

Media vita in morte sumus. 

I only have one uncle, my father's younger brother. Just a month or so ago, after a very long and slow decline, he was finally diagnosed with inoperable and terminal cancer. I was able to travel with my parents on a quite extraordinary helicopter ride to see him one last time just three weeks ago. This evening we phoned and spoke to my aunt because Ben wanted to express his sympathies - is that the right phrase? Anyway my uncle is now too ill to speak on the phone, and is dosed up with morphine and really just awaiting death, but both Ben and I managed a good chat to my aunt, who is pleased that their two sons, who have barely spoken to each other for years, are now reconciled.  It was far more upsetting than I had expected, given that we knew just how ill he was, and that my father has been threatening imminent death for several years. Still, if anything was needed to make me believe that we are doing the right thing, it was that phone call. 

Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian a few weeks ago wrote about the challenges of making choices: He quoted psychoanalyst James Hollis: 'Ask yourself "does this choice enlarge me or diminish me?" Go for enlargement, every time.' Well, I think going sailing with Sam enlarges us, despite grumpiness, rough weather, fog and the many challenges of sharing a boat with a disabled and frustrated husband. 

And today was a good day. We slept badly because the wind, exactly as forecast, went westerly and gusted up to 25 knots or so in the night, resulting in loud sloshing noises because our stern was into the wind. Still somehow we all got up and dressed and took Sam into Pornic, which was quite an undertaking because the pontoon is very long, the ramp steep, and the route into town not 100% wheelchair friendly, but a delightful trip into a pretty town. Sam and Ben had a late brunch while I went to the supermarket, and then we all went to a very pretty little creperie by the river for a small and expensive ice cream for Ben, a crepe for me, and a nice disabled loo for Sam. 

We got Sam to walk for a bit on the way back, which woke his legs up before he had to stagger down the rather steep ramp down to the boat. Later in the afternoon we bit the bullet and warped the boat around using ropes (the technical term is "winding ship"), with only a hour's planning by me and some bad language from Ben. With our head to the wind we were able to have a Cobb barbecue without filling the boat with smoke, and then we phoned my uncle. A good day though and plenty to think about. 

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