The run-up to Kay's expedition to Central America in July 2008 totally passed Greg by. He showed no interest whatsoever in anything we needed to do to prepare for the trip .....not the inoculations, the foreign exchange, the kit list, the travel advice. He stayed in his cocoon, watching TV, drinking, smoking and sleeping, while we shopped, scoured websites and packed. Even on her day of departure it was all he could do to turn his head in her direction to say goodbye. Not, I think, because he was disinterested in her. More, that everything was turned in on him. It was all he could do to exist. In the past he had been a wonderful father........ changing nappies; rocking her back to sleep in the middle of the night when she cried out; reading stories to her; taking her regularly to the cinema; or even once taking her single-handedly on a trip to Disneyland Paris, while I stayed behind to visit my dying father. Nowadays he was too self-absorbed to notice what she was doing.
Kay left for her expedition with a tearful farewell, leaving Greg and me truly on our own for the first time in ages. But far from it being a romantic time to be alone with one another, I could not bear to even be there. He was in the kitchen/diner, permanently drunk. I was in the lounge, watching TV on my own or in a separate bedroom sleeping on my own. Just like landlady and lodger. There was no hope in hell of behaving like two excited parents on their own without the kids for a while.
A few days later, Greg had an appointment to see a vascular consultant. This was a follow-up appointment from his previous hospitalisation in 2006 when they had decided the blood-flow to his legs was not good. They were monitoring it to see whether they needed to do some sort of surgery, but they had asked Greg to give up smoking first . The appointments were at annual intervals to see if he had achieved that. Of course he had not, but this time the consultant could see the blood supply in his legs was very bad. Apart from the fact his feet looked purple most of the time, he was now having extreme difficulty walking any short distance at all. It was decided he would need to have to have an angiogram to see where there were blockages in the leg arteries and possibly an angioplasty to widen the arteries with stents. A date of 5 September was booked for the procedure to be done.
Meanwhile, I was beginning to see clearly what life would be like next year once Kay leaves home for university. I have always known what it would be like, but without Kay physically here for a month, it brought it home even more. I knew I would not be able to continue living with him. I told him out loud what I had been thinking for ages, partly hoping that the realisation of what his drinking was doing to us all would somehow make him stop. But he kept saying that I was being over-dramatic and he refused to believe we would split up. He said we went back a long way and we could not throw that away. I told him in no uncertain terms that once Kay had left for university, I would be off too, as I could not take much more of his drinking.
I had had Kay at the age of 40. I had had an executive career beforehand, but gave it all up willingly when Kay was born, as I wanted to enjoy being with her - after all I had waited so long for her. But it meant I was now financially dependent on Greg. Without any personal income, I could not find alternative accommodation until Kay had left the nest. Once that had happened, I would be able to move sixty miles or so away to live with my ailing mother, who was more than pleased at the idea of me moving in, as she is getting very frail. To push home the point, I told Greg I had decided I would spend a couple of the following weeks with my mother, helping her with some of her big household chores, such as hacking back the undergrowth in her garden and washing curtains. He would need to get used to the idea and my being away would be good practice.
When I left to visit my mother, I hid 15 bottles of whisky and 400 cigarettes all over the house, making a list for myself of where they were hidden so I could remember to tell him each day where to find the next bottle and packet of cigarettes. I also made up or bought freezer-packs of ready meals so that he could take one out and microwave it. But of course, I was forgetting one thing.... Greg 's appetite had gone to nothing again. He only had the appetite for whisky and nothing else. After two heavenly weeks away, I returned home together with my mother. I wanted her to be with us when Kay returned from her big trip and to hear all the tales Kay had to tell. Mum's birthday was also on the day before Kay's return, so I did not want her to be on her own for that either. She was visibly shocked at Greg's appearance. He had gone downhill even more during that fortnight. He looked so thin. If he wandered around with hardly any clothes on, his skin hung on his frame in pleats. He looked like a little old man. He had not eaten a single meal I had left in the freezer for him but all 15 bottles of the whisky were empty and all cigarettes gone. On my first day back home, I had to buy more of both, as he was always desperate not to go into withdrawal at any cost.
He was now taking to sleeping a lot of the time. Either on the sofa or sometimes on the floor - in the kitchen or the lounge. It seemed like he could not be bothered even to climb the stairs to bed. He was not washing; his hair was long and unkempt; he was not shaving and his beard was dishevelled; his clothes were the same old ones, covered in stains and creases. He stank. The soles of his feet were black and his toenails so long. He really was a sight. I had to take him for a pre-surgical assessment at the hospital in preparation for the angioplasty in two weeks' time. I felt so embarrassed to walk alongside him. He clung on to me for support as he could not walk unaided from the car to the main entrance. Once inside, he then demanded that I find a wheelchair to take him to the relevant department, as he could barely stagger.
When Kay returned in mid-August from her expedition, she was naturally pleased to see us all, though disappointed that Greg had not changed. I think in her absence she had hoped for a miracle. Although she was jet-lagged and had also gone without a decent sleep the night before, she was bursting to tell us her stories. My mother and I listened enthralled by her tales, but Greg just dozed on the sofa and would occasionally open one eye to focus on her and then doze off again. She also showed us her digital photos on the computer - all 600 of them- but Greg declined to have a look, saying he would look at them later. In the middle of all this, Kay also opened the envelope containing her AS results which was waiting unopened for her return. She was pleased to have got As in all of them with the exception of Chemistry, for which she had got a C. She was disappointed, as the universities insist on an A-grade for the course she wants, but she stoically accepted that she would need to resit Chemistry at a later date.
To this day, Greg has not seen the photos, nor heard her account of the trip, nor taken on board her AS results. Kay said she was not bothered, but I could see it hurt her. She chose to shut herself off from him. I did too. It was the best way to cope with the inevitable disappointment, when he showed no interest.