My new novel is a family saga set on a little farm on a picturesque hillside in the South East of Ireland. It’s the story of three generations of the Bracken family and the incredible twists and turns of their lives over the past fifty years.
It also captures the beauty and tranquillity of life on a little farm, its simplicity, its peace and contentment in harnessing the joys of nature through the changing seasons and the harvesting of its annual treasure trove.
But as with life itself, it’s not sunshine all the way. There are ‘ups and downs’ and for the Bracken family the ‘highs’ were blissful but the lows were cruel.
Not many families have to receive visitors such as those:
A childless marriage.
A divine intervention.
A miracle birth of embracing twins.
Sibling’s inseparable and unnatural love.
To whet your appetite, I will feature a little excerpt from the story on this blog every few days. Here is today’s snippet.
Entering the doctor’s car park, the jeep swung around and stopped close to the surgery door. Arie helped her mother through the hallway into the waiting room where one other patient was sitting.
“I’ll wait in the jeep, Mam; I’ll see you coming out.”
Sitting in the jeep, Arie had time to have a good look around. There was nothing modern about Doctor Barry’s house or surgery. The house was a lovely old stone building that must have been there for two hundred years and was admired by everyone for its quaintness and old world charm. The surgery too was old fashioned. It hadn’t changed in fifty years and computers and technology were nowhere to be seen. The doctor himself, a lovely, gentle, kind man, was old fashioned too. Almost eighty now, he refused to retire, and although he then had only a few long-term patients like her mother, who wouldn’t go anywhere else, he was always regarded as a great doctor that would intuitively diagnose and treat an illness better than all the modern technology. He’ll probably be treating patients in ten years time when he’ll be ninety.
“Sit down there now, Missis Bracken, ‘till I find this letter. How are you feeling?”
“Ah sure, Doctor, I’m not too bad. I have my good days and my bad days. It’s the tiredness that’s the worst of all. I can’t do a thing.”
“Sure what do you want to do, only get as much rest as you can. You haven’t much pain?”
“No, Doctor, it’s just the tiredness.”
“I know. Ah, here it is.”
He sat down facing her with his little spectacles resting on his lower nose with the letter in both hands. He seemed to read it twice while Doreen was reading his face.
“I’m afraid, Missis Bracken, the news is not good.”
He seemed to read it again
“This old scourge is back and has started to travel. I’ll just read a bit of this for you, the part of it that you can understand. The rest of it is old jargon and medical terms – bullshit really. It says that “the scan revealed the presence of stage 4 cancer. It is now metastatic, meaning it has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to the liver. This is a recurrence of your previous breast cancer that has now spread to other organs and if not treated successfully, will spread to more organs such as the lungs, bones and brain.”
He removed his glasses and straightened up.
Doreen sat without changing her passive expression, clearly unmoved by the news.
“Yes, Doctor, it was what I expected.”
“But you don’t have the symptoms … yet anyway. How did you know?”
“Ah Doctor, I do have the symptoms. I don’t feel right. The energy is gone. The strength is gone and the spirit is gone. It started when I lost Padge and has got worse every day since.”
“But we have treatments you can get such as Chemotherapy or Radiotherapy or both, but we would have to get you into hospital quickly to start them.”
“Ah no, Doctor. That would be wasted on me. Save it for some young person that would have the will to fight it. My fight is over now.”
“I understand what you’re saying, and of course it’s entirely your choice, but you might change your mind when you consider it further. Life is precious, Missis Bracken. I’m a lot older than you and I cherish every day as if it was my last.”
“Ah yes, Doctor, but you have a partner here in your wife to love and sustain you. Mine is waiting for me in heaven and every day I get up I look forward to being with him again.”
“I have no answer to that, Missis Bracken. We’re all only passing through and even if we live to be a hundred, it’s still short.”
“Thank you, Doctor, for all you’ve done for me and for my family over all those years. I appreciate your kindness and care.”
“Ah sure, isn’t it my job. We all try to do our best.”
She stood up to go. The doctor left his chair too.
‘Now Missis Bracken, if you are in any pain or need me for anything at any time just call me and I’ll be with you. You will soon need palliative care and I will organise that for you. Make sure now to ring me if you need me.’
“I will, Doctor, and thanks again.”
He led her to the door and shook hands with her.
“Take care. Mind yourself now.”
Arie helped her into the jeep and they started for home.
“Were you fed-up waiting for me, Pet?”
“Oh no, not at all. Sure you were no length in there.”
“I thought I was a long time.”
“Well, how did it go?”
Her mother fiddled with her bag which she was holding on her lap.
“Ah, sure I told you before I went in.”
Arie felt her heart slump with pain and her head stunned as if hit by some huge object.
“What are you saying’, Mam, what do you mean?”
“Well, there’s not much to say. The cancer is back. It’s in my liver now and will soon be in my lungs. But sure I knew that.”
“Oh God, Mam, that’s terrible.”
The tears that swamped her eyes impaired her vision to drive. She slowed the jeep, wiped her eyes with her handkerchief and continued on.
“Don’t be sad like that, Pet, I don’t mind at all.”
“But what about the treatment? Did he say anything about your treatment?”
“Oh, he did, he did.”
“I told him I wouldn’t take it. T’would be a waste of time.”
“But why, Mam, it could save your life.”
“Ah, that’s the thing, Love … My old life is not worth saving now.”
“And what’s going to happen then?”
“Doctor Barry will arrange for the palliative care nurses to look after me.”
“And will you get any treatment at all?”
“Of course I will, Pet, the nurses will give me the medication to make sure I’ll be in no pain and any other help I may need.”
Arie found it difficult to drive with the tears streaming down her face and her head spinning in a daze but she managed to reach home, help her mother in, before going to her room for a long ‘let it all out’ cry, fuelled by grief and anguish.
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