About two and a half years ago my little sister gave birth to my gorgeous niece. It was about that time that I started blogging, partly because I hoped that I’d be able to record what happened in life and give her a sense when she’s older (if she wanted it) of how awesome her Grandad was….at the time I never thought she’d live to be old enough to actually remember her Grandad or know that for herself. Dad had lived with bile duct cancer for two and a half years when she was born and living long enough to meet her had been a significant motivation.
This was the two of them when she was a few hours old in the hospital
If anyone had said then that Dad would get to see her grow into a toddler and maybe even live long enough to meet her younger sister (if medical imaging is correct), I don’t think any of us would have dared hope so, never mind believe it.
Yet here we are, my sister is overdue and is going to be induced next week. Dad has been really poorly over the last weeks and months. About ten days ago he started coughing up blood, this is a new development for him. He had occasionally vomited and has been bleeding internally (which was the reason for the palliative chemo) but never before had this happened. I wasn’t at my folks house but Mum rang to say what had happened and I met them out at the hospital. To cut a long story short Dad spent three days in hospital as they stabilised him, all the while waiting for a bed at our local hospice to become available so he could go there for assessment on the way home. Last weekend there was still no bed available and Dad didn’t want to spend the weekend in hospital (it was particularly unpleasant that week, if you can remember that far back it was sunny, and there was no air on the ward and half the windows had been screwed shut which didn’t exactly help). Dad convinced the hospital palliative care team that he was good to go home and home he went.
We watched the Olympic diving together last weekend, Mum Dad and myself. I think we all shed a tear when the video intro to Tom Daley was played – his Dad was only 40 when he died last year from a brain tumour. He was 40 and Tom D was a seventeen your old lad, training for the Olympics and studying for his A-Levels. He won bronze last weekend and the local paper informs me that he maxed out on his results, with 3 As and A*s, what a success. I am almost (not quite, steady on) but almost twice Tom Daley’s age and I am seriously struggling to get my head around my Dad’s situation still. I don’t think anyone can underestimate the scale of his achievement.
The last fortnight has felt different to any that have gone before. Mum and I were out of kilter (which rarely happens) but meant we weren’t communicating very well. Dad was very, very low and has now seriously picked himself up again, fighting all the way. In terms of lists of things I never thought Dad would live to see, London 2012 was up there too. For all the complaints about us being a nation of fickle slobs jumping on the Olympic bandwagon to become armchair pundits, I’m not complaining, it has seriously helped Dad’s positivity and determination, so #ourgreatestteam can take a bow as far as I’m concerned.
So, here we are. The middle of August 2012. Dad has a matter of days (hopefully) until he becomes a Grandad again. He is also now less than four weeks away from his 65th birthday and a very significant transaction. My Dad joined the Navy as a teenager and worked ever since, until he took early retirement and two months later was diagnosed with cancer. Having worked all his life he is incredibly determined to claim his pension, at least once. Some fairly powerful short term goals going on there.
One of the absolute hardest things about life at the moment is the lack of certainty and structure. The inability to plan more than a day or so ahead. The fear I have to making commitments or booking a holiday. The constant niggle when I try to make arrangements. I’m on standby duty for my sister, she has mates around all weekend and is booked to go into hospital next week but if she goes into labour on Sunday night I’ll be jumping in my motor to get to her’s to look after number one niece while number two niece arrives. As much as I hate uncertainty these days, and hate not knowing if I’ll be called on, for this occasion I’m chuffed. I can not wait to visit a hospital for a good reason and more to the point I can’t wait for my Dad to meet his granddaughter. I’ll make sure when she’s older that she knows what an important part she played, a solid strong motivator for her Grandad to hang on and find some more energy and courage to live a little longer, fighting a hideous disease.
A month or so ago my sister got upset when I rang her because she couldn’t do anything to help. I reassured her then that she was doing more than she realised, she was reproducing, she was carrying a ray of hope in her belly, so much more than I could ever have done. After all its the short term goals, however small and insignificant in the big scheme of things, that provide the moments that make life worth fighting for.
***Update*** My new niece, Phoebe George, arrived last night (19 August) weighing in at 8lb 6oz. I’m hoping to get to meet her the day after tomorrow and will post some photos afterwards. Next goal is for Dad to meet her….watch this space
A former Torbay magistrate once described a ‘man of the people’ by a court colleague has died aged 94. Bert Langmead, a retired manager with the Post Office, joined the bench in 1962 and served on it for 26 years. During his last nine years on the bench until he stood down in 1988, Mr Langmead was also chairman on the licensing justices. When Mr Langmead retired from the bench, numerous tributes were paid to him by policemen, solicitors and court officials. Colin Jones, who was clerk to the court at the time, described Mr Langmead as
“A man of the people” and added “You take with you not only our thanks and respect but our genuine affection and goodwill”.
Retired Torquay estate agent Barney Bettesworth, who served on the Torquay bench from 1975 to 1990, remembers his former colleague as someone who brought a common-sense approach to administering justice.
“He was a very amiable guy who was well balanced and brought a level-headed approach to the bench…I remember him as being very down to earth and someone I respected hugely during my time as a magistrate”.
During his time as licensing chief, Mr Langmead was critical of the drinking culture which was starting to develop among young people in Torbay. He told the Herald Express “Young people today are being conned – there is more to life than just boozing yourself to death”.
Mr Langmead was employed by the old General Post Office for 46 years. He joined in 1932 as a telegraph boy and worked his way up to postal superintendent in Torquay via stints in Teignmouth, Exeter and Paignton. He and his wife Margaret were married for 71 years. They met at the youth club run at Christchurch, Ellacombe in Torquay when he was 13 and his wife to be 11.
Gran and Grandad’s 67th wedding anniversary on my sister’s wedding day in 2007
In the months before the outbreak of World War Two, he enlisted in the Territorial Army and when was was declared was posted to France. Mr Langmead later served in Norway. When British forces were evacuated from Norway, he returned to this country and spent some time with an anti-aircraft duty in Kent. The couple were married in June 1941, in Exeter, and within weeks he was sent to Burma, where he served for the remainder of the war.
Mr Langmead was a regular churchgoer and served on the Cockington-with-Chelston Parochial Church Council. He was a churchwarden at St Matthews Church. Mr and Mrs Langmead have two daughters, Sylvia and Marion, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, with a sixth on the way. Daughter Sylvia said her father enjoyed a full life well into his 80s when, inevitably, his pace slowed.
“My father was a man of integrity and a true Torbay gentleman who will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him” said Sylvia.
Mr Langmead’s funeral took place yesterday at Christchurch in Ellacombe where he had been a boy chorister more than 80 years ago, followed by a burial service at Torquay Cemetery.
Albert William Langmead, JP
Died Sunday 8 July 2012 at Torbay Hospital aged 94 years.
Devoted husband for 71 years. A loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
A true Torquay gentleman who will be sadly missed by all who loved and knew him.