- the pension?
- the broadband?
- the bills?
- the funeral?
- the last wishes...
But for me, this simply summed up my dad. Every sentence... “and whatnot”.
I’m not trying to make my dad out to be less than he was. A clever man. We just thought he had it sorted when he said “and whatnot”. Difficult, when it felt at the end that my mum was a “whatnot”.
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Did he expect to outlive her? Perhaps. Or following years of cancer treatment (CLL), was he simply focused on getting back to the golf course? He was such a fighter, a wonderful joker and best friend to Mum. But a truly awful patient, who unfortunately met a truly awful end. My poor mum.
After losing Dad
Dad died in 2014, aged 79, following a shingles jab he was eligible for, but as a recovering cancer patient, not supposed to have. He died several weeks later from chicken pox, inside and out.
His case has actually helped to make this live vaccine safer for everyone, but that’s another story.
When death is this abrupt, you’re really not thinking about a positive lasting legacy from a tragic accident. The story feels unfinished - and for me, there’s so much I wished I’d shared, asked about, and dealt with before he died.
Like the “and whatnot” - which in truth, we just muddled through.
Did we give him the funeral he’d have wished for? Was it the best decision to remove the broadband? True my mum has no interest (Dad, a sports fan, loved it). But who these days watches TV real time?
Except my mum who complains there’s nothing on. Annoying when this is not the case with on demand - but I couldn’t persuade my brothers on that one. And that’s largely down to Mum, who tends to stick on “no” until you make it easy for her to say “yes”.
Making the TV work as a friend also highlights the isolation and loneliness of suddenly being on your own with no one to speak to about the little (or big) stuff. Not easy when your whole reason for being in life was to care for others. Four children, 10 grandchildren, my dad.
I hear this every time I call - “didn’t use my voice today, saw no one, so glad you rang... there’s nothing on TV”.
Then the conversations moves onto sorting the bills and everyday stuff like a dripping tap. Alien territory for Mum. My dad, Mr. Whatnot, did it all.
My brothers live closer than I do, and get things sorted. But the biggest part of all this ‘sorting’ has been to save money because the “whatnot” (in other words: we’re really not going to discuss this) pension died with my dad.
Money is, of course, on Mum’s mind (she doesn’t really need to worry, we all help), but it’s not just the finances.
Mum’s shrinking world
Last year the car died (possibly a relief for neighbours, her eyesight not what it was). Her world keeps shrinking, losing the car just one of many little things that keep diminishing her world, making her feel more dependent.
Sadly, as things progress, you get to other difficult conversations, like power of attorney and is there a Will? There was a Will (I know Mr Whatnot was not that rubbish). But Dad’s aged solicitor also died so there wasn’t a trace.
As mentioned, we muddle by.
Someone said to me recently, “Bad stuff just happens, good stuff you have to plan for.” It would have helped if we’d planned more. But looking back, simply just talking more openly about death would have helped the most.
For free advice, information and support, visit www.independentage.org/TalkAboutDeath
We offer free, confidential advice for older people on care and support, money and benefits, and health and mobility. Call our Helpline on 0800 319 6789.