I flew up to Newcastle yesterday to visit my father who is ninety-one this year and is very ill in hospital. My brother, who lives in France, also flew over and we had a very rare lunch together with our sister and her daughter.
We have never been one of those families where siblings are on the phone to each other every day - although that has changed a little recently with my father's illness. I speak to my sister pretty much every week now, although sadly much of our conversation these days seems to centre on hospital visits.
My father was too tired and ill to speak, but he was certainly aware that we were there. He was such a big presence in my early life - often an intimidating, even frightening one at times - that it is strange to see him so weak, so fragile.
My father was the person everyone deferred to in the family. He seemed to know a lot about pretty much everything. Immensely practical, he could fix almost anything and was of that generation where, if your car broke down or you washing machine stopped working, you reached for the toolbox rather than the phone.
My brother arrived in Newcastle ahead of me and was lucky enough to see my father more alert and able to talk. But his condition when we went up together was more typical of the state my sister has found him in on her daily visits. There is more to life than simply being alive and my father, almost immobile, unable to see or hear properly any more, has little way of getting any pleasure from life. It is all very sad.
I flew back to Stansted with my brother and he stayed the night before flying back to France the following day. We spent the morning together just wandering around Cambridge before I drove him to the airport. It was the longest amount of time we'd spent in each others company for some considerable time. And my son was very excited to see his uncle and have a chat before he left for school.
I had a blood test in the morning and the warfarin nurses rang me in the afternoon with the annoying news that my INRs were down again. I was expecting them to tell me to inject myself with clexane again, but they didn't. They did tell me to up my warfarin dose again though.
Diet is a big factor with INRs and I tried to think if I had made any significant changes to mine in the last week. Nothing came to mind, but doing a little research online I came across a warning about drinking green tea, although it says nothing about it in the pack I got from the hospital.
I had green tea after lunch up in Newcastle. Maybe that threw the results out. In a way I hope it did, because that should mean they will go back to normal.