It’s been a tough week. 3 long hard days carrying out interviews on site for a client to assess just how low staff morale is. That was a barrel of laughs. Combine that with a heavy cold (flu, of course, I’m a man after all), poor sleep (my wife has the cold too, so we took it in turns to wake each other up with coughs and sneezes), and stress about my Father’s well being, and your source of weekly inspiration, dear reader, might be deemed to have dried up somewhat.
So I’m sitting here feeling a bit cranky, wondering what on earth to write about, when my thoughts turn to events of yesterday, and to my 92 year old Father, Jim. He was in hospital with agony in his leg: a foot that has gone purple because of a collapsed vein in his thigh. We called in to see him yesterday on our way home from Cambridge, expecting to have to gee him up ready for his operation today. Instead, when we got there he was in theatre having the operation (one day early), so we waited for him to come back to the ward with little expectation of getting any sense out of him, but knowing we would feel good about seeing him alive at least (God willing).
There he was, looking remarkably fresh and tidy, sitting up in a somewhat regal repose. He opened one eye when I spoke to him, took in the fact that it was me, and was suddenly fully awake. When he saw Charlotte his face broke out into a grin. “No, it can’t be, this must be some kind of trick. You’re not telling me I’ve had the operation already are you? It doesn’t seem possible.” He was like a child for whom Christmas has come early. He was in a mild state of euphoria, I’d say. I can only guess, but I imagine the absence of pain in his foot (they had already detected a pulse and it was visibly changing colour back towards normal) must have been like drinking champagne. And mentally, not having an operation hanging over you in which the consultant has spelt out the risk of losing your leg and of not surviving the operation, must have been like being given a Get Out Of Jail Free card. He couldn’t quite believe his luck.
But how much of his survival was down to luck? How much of a part did his attitude play? Jim has always called himself “a survivor”, and for good reason. In World War 2 he was a Japanese Prisoner of War, and spent several years in prison camp in Java. There are not many of his comrades left now, and he’s one of the oldest. He reckons he survived partly because his prison was “like a holiday camp compared with some of the others.”
He lost his wife Janet last year to a series of strokes, and since then he has carried on living alone at home. Mum was a lot younger than him, and was in effect his carer: now she is gone he has picked himself up and got on with caring for himself, with some extra outside support for cooking and cleaning. “Life goes on”, he says. “We need to look to the future.”
This is bravery indeed. He has occasional wobbles, when you see the vulnerability. He is frail, scared of going outside in case he falls over (so would you be if your foot was agony), so it’s not much of a life. But he’s an Introvert, loves reading and crosswords, card games, the odd glass of malt whisky, and is happy with his own company. He hasn’t given up, not by any means. In fact he is keen to break the family record of 97 years, and judging by his performance these last few days, he will do so. He has persistently shown over the course of his life the power of positive attitude. Attitude is a choice, and he knows it.
“Lucky Jim”, we sometimes call him. And as we all know, you make your own luck in life.
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