I think my male staff's mum is probably the bravest human I know. For one thing she had to put up with having my male staff in her tummy for ten months because he didn't want to be born so close to Christmas and thus be deprived of two lots of presents. He made the poor woman wait until the first of February before gracing the world with his somewhat tardy presence. He weighed almost eleven pounds by that stage. It must have been like giving birth to a watermelon. Rumour has it that the instead of slapping his bottom, the nurse had to give him his first shave.
Five months ago she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. The surgeons removed as much of it as was safe, but the evil thing had spread it's tentacles deep into her brain. I was sitting on my male staff's lap at her hospital bedside when the specialist oncologist nurse told her the prognosis. Without radio therapy she had three to four months, with radio therapy - six to nine months. She absorbed this news with great stoicism, it was a display of the Great British stiff upper lip at it's very best. There were no histrionics, wailing or gnashing of teeth that would have accompanied the delivery of such news to my male staff. She quietly chose to have the treatment that would keep the tumour at bay for just a few extra precious months.
She's at home now and getting on with life as best she can. My male staff's dad looks after her to the best of his ability, but his health is failing too and now his hair which was always as thick and healthy as mine has started to fall out in great clumps every time he combs it. My male staff's mum is now bald, the radio therapy saw to that. It's also left her thin, weak and tired, and she looks so small and vulnerable. My male staff says that she was always such a robust woman. He is able to walk tirelessly for mile after mile after mile, and he puts this down to pre-school training with his mum. As a toddler she'd take him and their boxer dog Jonathon for long walks in the English countryside in all weathers. My male staff would start off in a pushchair and Jonathon would trot along behind. Invariably Jonathon would tire first, and when he did, he'd just sit down and refuse to go any further. At this point my male staff would be turfed out of the pushchair and Jonathon would jump in to be pushed home in comfort while my male staff walked along behind on his chubby, but very sturdy legs.
Now she takes pleasure in small outings to garden centres and the like. She's always loved her garden and is proud of it even now. It's always full of colour and interest at any time of year. She potters about the garden centre with her stick and enjoys a sit down and a cup of coffee and a cake when she gets tired, which is all too soon these days. All this makes my male staff feel sad and helpless and even cuddles from Badger and I don't really help. He says it like having a photo of his mum - like the ones that Michael J Fox had in the movie "Back to the Future". The characters in the picture fades slowly away as his attempts to change history fail. My male staff says that feeling must be all the more intense for his dad after nearly sixty years of marriage. What must that feel like, to watch your life partner slowly fade away until one day there is nothing left at all?