In many ways I think this little project which purely came out of a whim has help to partly come to terms with my fathers very sudden deterioration in his health. I know I am not the only person on the planet to have to face seeing a parent going this way, but its made all the harder knowing when he has gone I will have a very empty void in my life.
You maybe wondering why the glass cup. Well, while I was waiting in my fathers kitchen, I notice the sunlight shining though the backdoor window across the granite worktop with the resulting in a narrow reflection and shadow over the glass. Always having my Leica with me I took a couple of shots, then it dawned on me. My father is no longer able pick this cup up anymore because his medical condition means he has very little feeling or strength in his hands anymore.
So with his permission I started to document some of his everyday life for a day and in some ways it has helped me to cope with his situation, knowing the inevitable will eventually come.
My father is the only living parent my wife and I have now. In March of 2019 the hospital diagnosed him with a condition called Cardiac Amyloidosis. This is where the heart wall thickens with age because of excess Amyloid proteins in the body and there’s not much the medical profession can do to help other than fitting him with a pacemaker. In his eighties he gone from being a fairly fit pensioner with a healthy lifestyle to a very frail old man.
Daily tasks have became a slow, exhausting and with very laboured breathing. Just going to the bathroom to wash his hands is like a full blown marathon run for him. Everywhere he go’s now is with the aid a walker. For myself this seems very alien to see this man who never even used a walking stick to get around when he was in better health.
Unable to physically travel very far, hospital visits have to be done using a ambulance. Fathers life revolves around home visits from the district nurse, the doctor to the carers who come in three times a day now, he finds very hard to except being so independent before. His younger brother has Parkinson’s disease, lives two and half hours away and is also unable to make the long journeys, which is very hard on them both as I think they know its very unlikely they will ever see each other again. Thankfully, the youngest brother is still able to travel with my aunt to visit father although sadly he has now been diagnosed with Dementia.
Twelve months ago, he was able to get up and down the stairs, not long before that he was still able to drive his car and was part of a local walking group hiking across the countryside walking five or six miles at a time, sometimes more. My father thirty three years older than me and I couldn’t keep up with him then!
Everything, no matter how ordinary that you and I take for granted is just so exhausting, it’s hard to breathe, the heart is struggling to keep up so he has to stop to rest often. The stairs are now negotiated by a stairlift, but even this has become a arduous task. Just to manoeuvre from standing position holding his walker to getting into the chair is very tiring, plus the constant fear of falling which unfortunately he has done many times since the diagnosis. Finally getting to the ground floor is then requiring yet more strenuous effort to get back out of the chair to a standing position. His feet and legs are swollen from Oedema, excess fluid in the body which is part of the condition, making mobility slow and painful. The doctors prescribe drugs to help, but some have side effects like Gout or cause stomach complaints which made life even harder to bare.
In respect one of the worst things about all this is his state of mind. Life has come to a stand still but there is nothing wrong his brain and the mind works overtime, it has not much else to think about so he keeps asking me… Why?
All images taken with my Leica M4-2, Summicron 50mm f/2 on Kodak Tri-X film rated at a ISO 800 using sunny sixteen.
Robin Arthur Smith
26th July 1935 ~ 13th March 2020