Wednesday, 14 November 2012

I'll never know how you feel


On Friday evening I was felled by a flu bug. I could feel glands swelling up where I never knew I had glands. My stomach rebelled against food and I’ve spent the best part of the last five days curled up on the settee with Mabel the Cat watching daytime TV.

I’ve tried to explain to friends and family over the phone exactly how I feel but each one has a different take on it.
      “Get yourself up and moving and it’ll soon go away.” No it won’t.
      “I’ve had that too and it only lasts a few days.” I suspect you haven’t had this bug, not exactly this bug, because this is my bug.

What I wanted to say was, “You don’t know how I feel,” but I didn’t because that would sound rather pathetic. After all, it’s only the flu, but it is true that no one can possibly know how anyone else feels in any given situation, no matter how empathetic they are.

On Sunday morning, with this thought in my mind, I curled up with Mable the cat and watched The Remembrance Day Parade on the TV. I watch it every year. It makes me think of my Dad. He always went down to London and marched alongside other members of AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen. He always made careful preparations for the trip, ensuring that his poppy was smooth and perfect, that his coat was brushed and clean. He always came home cold, tired and silent.


My Dad in the Middle East sometime
during the 2nd World War
In 1977, at the age of 55, he became seriously ill. We didn’t yet know that it was Cancer and that it was too advanced to treat. This was the first time since the end of the 2nd World War that my Dad did not go to London for the Parade. He died the following week.

And so I watch the Remembrance Day Parade every year and think about my Dad.

Was he traumatised at losing close friends in the war?

Or did he miss the camaraderie and organised life that National Service had given him?

Did he see terrible things when he was posted somewhere in the Middle East?

Or did he relish the new skills that came from being in the REME, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers?


My Dad never talked about feelings. It was the way things were in those days, and besides, I could never have known how he truly felt, however hard I tried. The only feelings I can really know are my own...

...and now excuse me while I take two paracetamol and curl up on the settee with Mabel the cat.

Have you ever longed to know how someone else is truly feeling?

27 comments:

  1. A very moving piece, Ros, and a timely reminder of a sad event! My parents refused to talk about WW2 - my father lost practically all his family in the Holocaust (as you know). Sad times.

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    1. War is such a sad and tragic thing, isn't it Carol, and it's strange how those two minutes of silence hit home every year, especially since Dad died.

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  2. Hi Ros .. I do hope you are feeling better - (in my humble opinion) if you've resorted to watching daytime tv you must be feeling pretty dire?! I'd love to have known how my mother felt during the past few years .. but you don't bring up feelings of emotion .. dying emotion, sad emotion, anxiety emotion .... somehow she managed to not show her feelings and we carried on 'as normal' ...

    Sadly my childhood wasn't easy - so also those things never got discussed ... I'm so pleased your father went to London to march - that will bring added memory when I watch next year. How sad he died so young ...

    We each adjust to our own family's way of life ... after the war - life for anyone unless they had an exceptionally strong marriage and family cannot have been easy .. I'm pleased yours seems to have been so ... however we all cope somehow and learn from others ..

    The services were evocative this year ... my thoughts to both you and Carol .. Hilary

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    1. I thought of you on Sunday, Hilary, as I know how hard it was for me to watch it after my Mum died. Take care.

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  3. Poor you! hugs to banish the bugs! hope you feel better soon.
    We were at our own Remembrance Day service here in Tenerife, too. We are not the only bloggers to have mentioned Poppy Day, so the memories are still being upheld.

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    1. Thanks, Lizy. It must be strange to have Remembrance Day in the heat of Tenerife. I haven't called round to many blogs this last week. I shall pop over and read about your service now.

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  4. I hope you get well soon. did you ever get that flu shot we talked about a few months ago? It may be a good idea. Meanwhile, there's nothing better for body and soul than to snuggle with a cat. Finally, I'm so sorry you lost your dad at such a relatively young age. I too wish I could have found some answers from mine before it was too late.

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    1. How funny, I was visiting your blog while you were commenting here :-) and no I haven't had the flu shot and it's probably too late now. I still miss my Dad and I know that my children missed their Granddad.

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  5. Sorry you've been unwell Ros,and you're right ,no one knows how someone else feels. Remembrance Day always makes me feel teary thinking of all the lives lost. People forced to fight who don't want to. When you imagine how close those men must have been during the war they must have missed the people they spent all that time with. Great photo of your father.

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    1. Thanks Anne, would be good to have known how Dad's war was.

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  6. Ros, first of all, I'm glad at least that Mabel was keeping you company. There's nothing like a warm, furry body to help you through the bad times, whether it be physical or mental! I have my Sindy although she is very old now and now she needs me to cuddle up to her. Secondly, I know from my own father that things were not said - at least nothing that was painful, or emotional. My dad was also in the war in the middle east, and although he talked about his fellow seamen, he never talked about anything that happened out there. I often wish he had. It might have been cathartic to simply share it with someone. All the best, dear Ros and get well soon!

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    1. Mabel has 'put herself out' greatly to snuggle on the settee with me ;-)

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  7. First off, no, it isn't too late to get a flu shot. There's all kinds of flu strains, and just because you've gotten one nasty bug already doesn't mean you won't be "lucky" enough to get another. I hope you're feeling better now.

    So sorry you lost your dad at such a young age. There are a lot of things I wish I could've discussed with my mother, too... so many questions I would've liked to ask before she died and took all the answers with her. We always seem to think we have more time to talk about those things than the cosmos grants us.

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    1. It pleases me to say that I'm too young to be offered a jab by the doctor. Apparently our supermarket does them. Sounds a bit weird, doesn't it.

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  8. In my other life as a psychotherapist, I see on a daily basis the immense amount of healing that comes from just being heard, just having another bear witness to your suffering. Being willing to have true compassion for another, I believe, is a gift we can offer to others. Thank you for sharing about your dad. I am moved by his preparation for the parade and what that ritual must have meant for him.

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    1. Sadly they didn't receive counselling in those days.

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  9. Flu is rotten, so take care, keep warm and drink nice things (if you can't face food)

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    1. Thanks. I'm trying to drink loads but it's so easy to forget the liquid intake business!

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  10. Poor you Ros....hope you soon feel better. The annual service for your father must have been full of memories, and sadness for those who lost their lives.No wonder he was so quiet when he returned each year.

    We share so many things - we live, love , work....but each experience of every situation is unique isn't it?

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    1. Totally unique. Aren't we fascinating creatures.. I don't just mean you and me Bridget but everyone!

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  11. Sure hope you feel better too. Indeed, my husband came home Monday sick as a dog and still puny. I'm not a good nurse at all, but I can pour ginger ale. That's what my mother always gave us not matter the illness. I do think, when you are physically down, watching a memorial service or thinking of the past, just strikes deeper into the heart. It's like the flu bug invaded and now everything else can too. Oh well - very nice post. Your Dad sounded like quite a man. Get well soon

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    1. Ginger ale! Noooo! Couldn't face that. I guess it's what you're brought up with.

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  12. Ros, you look SO like your Dad!!

    My main primary school teacher (there were only two teachers in the whole school) had no sympathy at all for children off sick with flu. For years she was horrible to parents and children who she thought were laying it on a bit thick about how ill they'd been. And then - he heee! - SHE got proper flu for the first time in her life! Oh, how the village rejoiced! She was slightly more sympathetic to others after that.

    Drink lots of lemon and honey, and soak up the love being sent from all over.

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    1. Thanks for the delivery of 'love' Pippa. I'm feeling a bit sorry for that teacher of your now ;-)

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  13. We can't know how other people feel. And yet, as writers, we have to guess. We have to put ourselves in different bodies and in different situations and try to describe how we would feel as those people. It sounds impossible, but still we keep trying.

    Greetings from the Middle East, where war is, unfortunately, not only a memory.

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    1. Sorry, Miriam, if this post is a little more than ironic. I do hope you all stay safe and that peace might one day soon be made for everyone's sake. Take care.

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  14. I hope that you're starting to feel better now Rosalind. I'm sorry that you also lost your dad when you were both so young. My dad served in the Navy during the Korean War, and died in 1978. Both of our fathers were heroes who kept their feelings to themselves. It's amazing how suffering through your flu motivated you to write this moving story. Thank you, and get well soon. Julie

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