When my step-father married my mother he did not become my step-father, rather he became my mother's husband. I had already left home by the time they married although I was there through some of the two years of courtship leading up to their marriage. I liked John well enough but we weren't close. I wasn't one to trust easily and he wasn't one to impose himself on anyone. We rubbed along and I was glad to see my mother happy.

I got to know John better when my workplace was forced by the economic downturn of the early 80's to start working a 4 day week. I was an apprentice at the time and had little enough money to support myself so this was an unwelcome development. John offered to take me on to do "bits and bobs" on a Friday ... no pay but travel and lunch included. I figured it was better than sitting about in my bedsit so we agreed terms.

John is one of those people with a natural gift for teaching. His knack is to make any task seem quite straightforward, thus instilling you with such confidence that even when he wanders off to do something else you feel able to carry on with the task at hand. This wandering off was itself a teaching technique much employed to further engender confidence. You learn more by doing than you can ever hope to learn by watching or listening to someone else.

Under his tutelage I learnt how to lay down carpets, upholster a chair, paint a sign, hang a picture, put up a shelf, patch an oil painting, repair a chip in a gilt frame, build a partition wall ... all these things and more. But what I learnt most of all is that I am capable. What a gift he gave me in that knowledge. It was during this period that John and I developed our enduring friendship .... a friendship that has lasted for 30 years so far, and I hope for it to last much longer yet.

A month ago John had a serious stroke. He lost his sight, much of his power of speech, and he completely lost strength down one side. A stroke seems such a gentle word to use when describing such devastation. And he is devastated. We are all working hard at staying positive, at being supportive and lending a hand. It is hard for John to accept our help. He has always been the helper rather than the helped and it's a terrible blow to his pride.

Last year John started talking to me about his fear of death. He hates the idea of leaving us all, hates the idea of getting weak and feeble ... and ill. Helplessness appalls him and I can tell that he is utterly appalled at finding himself so in need of our help. Beneath this is his palpable fear that this is the beginning of the end ... death awaits and indeed is rushing towards him ... coming faster than he is ready for or feels able to accept.

In the wake of recent events I have been spending more time with John and far less time online than I envisaged previously. I love blogging and I miss it ... miss visiting you and reading your news. I will get back to it when I can.


  1. My thoughts and heart are with you, and your family and John. This story touched my heart, was beautiful to read, was so much about love and feeling. My heart wants him to recover, have good days, feel hope. With you by his side he is fortunate for that in this time, even though it may be hard for him, it must also be a comfort. This sounds like this is not only difficult for him, but for you all as well, best wishes in this trying time, Paul.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about your stepfather. A stroke is also my mother's greatest fear, mine as well to be honest. Sending a hug for you and John. Take care woman.

  3. You already know that your stepfather is in my thoughts and prayers as you are. I know about strokes and though my mom's was not as bad as your stepfathers I see how it has changed her.
    We all have to learn to accept help, it is harder for some than others. Fears have a way of finding us don't they. I am sending love to you and your stepfather and your whole family. I have missed you more than I can say, but totally understand your time away from us. Love you. xoxo

  4. You write so well about such tragedy.... my dear neighbours's brother just suffered a stroke last week- at 50.... almost identical to John's...loss of speech, paralised on one side.....but - the brain sharp and intact. It is hard to imagine how they are coping with this knowledge...like being entombed alive....BUT...now, more than ever, LOVE will help. John knows his family is there...sending love, sending strength....helping him find his way back... something like this does make feel death might be closer...but...one really doesn't know. John is blessed to have YOU in his life...as he helped you years ago, so are you now, helping him..grow...and try and hope. Love and Hope....this is what each one of us needs.
    John is now in my prayers.... as is your family....

    I have missed you.....

    Sending all, many hugs, strength, Love and Hope!!!! Give John that Hope... it is real.

    For you too.....


    ♥ Robin ♥

  5. jos, thank you for this post. you write like an angel.

    it is too early to know what functions will return for john. that can take up to a year. so hope can be real at this point. i hope john's doctors and therapists will second this.

    there is fear and heartbreak, no doubt. imagine how much strength and love you have to give. i know you will do this quietly, teach john in the same way he teaches you.

    don't worry about showing up here, jos, i and others will hold on tight.

    love, always

  6. Oh Jos, how heartbreaking. I know his thoughts in a much for infantile beginning, but nonetheless, I know them. The fear. The pride. The helplessness. Knowing I will one day be there. We all will. Death and frailty are inescapable. So, how to prepare now for such a thing? Is there a way?

    I am smitten with the way he taught you, the way he INSTILLED important things in you. What an amazing word, and an amazing power. Perhaps you could remind him, that such an ability does not diminish with physical frailty. It was a gift of heart that can keep on giving.

    Love and miss you!

  7. Cherish the time you have with him, after all it is only memories that we leave behind!

  8. oh my - he sounds like a loved and loving man and my heart goes out to you for this health issue. KJ is right - and all your love and support will help in so many ways. Tell him we are all thinking of him and sending prayers.