The Strong One

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Friday 6th June

It started with an argument.

The relationship between my Mum and Dad had gotten dire. Co-dependent. Mum was the cancer patient, Dad was her carer. He was becoming accomplished at transforming the smallest worry into being the biggest concern. Too big for my Mum or I to contend with, but Dad could handle it. I believed my Mum a very capable woman, much more capable than my Dad allowed her to be. It angered me to see my mum try to do something for herself, for my Dad to take over and speak to her like she was a child. Today he’d rang the hospital and called me home in a panic because my mum had forgotten the word for the shed, and momentarily forgetting how to eat. A long conversation with two lovely paramedics, whilst my Mum sobbed beside me on the couch, encouraged me that there was nothing substantially wrong with my Mum, it was most probably stress catching up with her.

I went back to work briefly, until my Dad called me again in a panic. He had spoken to the hospital, it was not good news. I raced home to be asked to babysit my mum whilst he popped out for her prescription. Nothing seemingly wrong, I pressed for news from the hospital. My Dad wouldn’t budge. So I pushed again. He pulled me into the Kitchen and he shouted at me and insulted me, and then told me the specialist nurse suspected that the cancer had travelled to my Mum’s brain. I demanded to know why he had kept this from me. My Dad angrily replied because he knew I couldn’t handle it, only he could be strong enough.

My mum had been sleeping upstairs, and woken by the argument wandered downstairs to find my Dad leaving, and me, a crying mess, standing alone in the living room. She asked me what was wrong but I couldn’t tell her. She couldn’t find out this way, and anyway the cancer travelling was only a suspicion. It wasn’t yet a fact. So I lied and told her I was worried about the youth group I was about to run, how I hadn’t prepared for it and how I was worried what Donna, the Church Pastor (my boss), would say. She hugged me tight and then rang Donna, told her that I was a crying mess and my worries about youth group that evening. She passed me the phone, and I sobbed my apologies. Donna assured me that it was okay, we would piece it together.

When I got there, Donna asked me to come and help her get stuff out from the car. She used the opportunity to ask me what had really happened, she knew the phone call had been a cover-up. We stood in the car park and she listened as I expressed my frustration with my Dad, and then we walked into youth group as if nothing had happened.

In my mind, my Mum was the sick one, the one we needed to care for. But in reality, she was the strong one, holding herself together and me too. I didn’t know how quickly that would change.

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