Friday, 16 January 2009

My friend's mum is dying

I was just told today that my friend's mum is dying.

We were talking about something trivial, house prices. He knows I am looking to buy a flat and he has also been thinking of doing so, though I have always known it would depend on house prices as well as his mum's condition stabilising.

She is not very old, only in her mid 40s. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago, and then found that it had spread even after she had a masectomy.

So today we were in a cafe having lunch, and he had just been lamenting chosing a salad when I had a burger (and to my defense that meant no proper dinner, just some ceral.. which I hope evens out the day's calorie intake). He then told me his dad had instructed him to keep an eye on the property market, to see if prices would keep plummeting or not. His idea of doing this is to ask me about three times a week what the prices are doing, as he
a) knows I am obsessively checking the property pages
and
b) is just on the shy side of lazy.
I told him it could really go either way, as I don't want to end up being blamed for him being stuck with negative equity and God knows what else.

"Well," he said. "I don't think I'll be buying until next year anyway."

"Prices or your mother?" I said.

"Both," he said. "We were just told she has a year left, at most."

We went silent. I really didn't know what to say, and I told him so. I mean, what can you say? It's horrible, and unfair, and it makes no sense. He is still in his early 20s, and his mum will never see him get married, have grandchildren, and probably make a very good specimen of his chosen profession. It's just grim.

And I guess grief, even grief that has not yet happened, has a pre-emptive repelling effect on people. We draw away, because we don't know what to say, and maybe on some level, we don't want this evil, meaningless situation to rub off on us, as if it could.

"Yeah, well, we can talk about something else less sad," he said. So we did. I guess he is coming to terms with the pending loss in his own mind, in his own time. I think how I would feel if it were my mother, and it feels horrible, just thinking the thought scares me shitless. She has done so much for me, and yet she hasn't seen me married, have children or becoming a very good specimen of my chosen profession. Hopefully she will, even though she smokes upwards of 15 a day and refuses to quit.

I feel for my friend, I really do, in that way that reminds me that I have managed to preserve some scraps of empathy, even when I think it's all gone and I'm just sick and tired of people being useless. I hope he realises that if he ever wants to not change the subject.

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