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Some of you may remember this image, I wanted to reload it again because I have a deep connection with this portrait of my father as it serves to remind me of both the fragility of life and the tenacity of some to keep living it.
The items on the table in front of him represent his life as it is now, a simple yet, as he reassures me & I have witnessed, very fulfilling life.
This portrait of my father was taken 3 days after he came out of hospital after having a golf ball size tumour removed from his large intestine. The tumour had caused him to suffer a major blockage that saw him unable to keep any food down for several days. My father lives alone in a run down cottage in country Victoria, 600km away from family and 25km from the nearest town or hospital. After 3 days of constant vomiting he walked the kilometre and a half to the nearest bus stop and took himself to the hospital, firmly believing he’d be home again by the evening, (my father has always imagined himself to be invincible). Needless to say they didn’t let him go home and operated on him the very next day. His instructions to the nursing staff at the time were that they not call me, (I am his only offspring), unless, (and I quote), “something really bad happens”.
A day after his surgery, which saw the tumour successfully removed, my father was again rushed into the operating room. Apparently the surgeon hadn’t stitched him up properly and he had sprung a leak internally. During this second surgery dad also suffered a minor heart attack because his system could not cope with two such close, major surgeries – my father was 68 at the time.
Despite all the ‘bad things’ that had already occurred, he still refused to let the nursing staff call me & he spent the ensuing 3 and a half weeks in hospital recovering, during this time he lost 45kg because he couldn’t keep a thing down for 3 weeks.
Two days after arriving back home, he finally decided to call me, I immediately drove to Victoria and spent the week with him to help aid in his recovery. I was initially shocked when I saw him as he looked so frail and old….I had always thought him invincible too.
When I questioned him as to why the hospital staff had not contacted me, he explained that he had instructed them not to as he did not want to worry us (!!!) and really, what could I do whilst he was in hospital, he’d rather have me there with him now.
My father has always been a stubborn, infallible bugger. He used to drink like a fish, (in fact a fish would have drowned by now), and has smoked like a trooper for nearly 55 years, still, he insists that he shall live to be 100, and that indeed he knows that even the devil doesn’t want him for he is far too big a rival!
My dad & I have not always had a good relationship, in fact my father could be abusive in his younger days when he drank, he also had a gambling addiction.
During his time of recovery and subsequent chemo treatment I spent a great deal of time with him, time that took us back through over many years – it was both a painful and very cathartic experience that has since led us to be able to make our peace with one another.
I am very grateful to have had that opportunity, as it could very well have gone the other way. This image will always be a poignant reminder.
He has in the mean time made a full recovery, even having the colostomy bag he was told he’d have till the end, reversed – (he’s definitely made a full recovery there! lol)
This image is not for sale
© Marion Cullen
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