The two words from Nick's mother said everything. Nick is my father's godson. This is the second lot of secondary cancers this year. He started out with osteo-sarcoma and has an artificial "bone" in one arm - the result of brilliant surgery interstate.
Nick has gone off to see the same man in Melbourne this morning. His mother is pacing their house. His father has gone off to do the essential watering and clearing on their small property in the hills behind us saying he wishes it was him and not Nick. You do not expect your children to die before you and they know this could happen.
You do not expect anyone younger than you to die. It is not supposed to happen. I do not have children but Nick is younger than I am. I used to supervise Nick in the bath when he was tiny. He was a little demon, along with his twin brother. They were always up to mischief. They did some pretty crazy things in their teens and young adulthood but (there is always a but isn't there?) they have always been kind to me. They never teased. They were never rude. They always acknowledged me - even in their worst teenage years. Nick at 14 or 15 was the one who carried a mug of tea outside for me and put it on the table without being asked. It was just enough help but not too much. It counts for a lot.
There was a bit of a party for their father's birthday not that long after Nick came back from the major surgery in Melbourne. He had reached the point where he was able to eat again with some semblance of normal appetite. There was the usual buffet laid out and people were helping themselves. Nick was trying to manage with the use of only one arm and not succeeding terribly well at cutting something. Nobody else seemed to want to notice although they must have seen. I came up on the opposite side of the table. Our eyes met. I put my hand out and steadied the plate for him. It was enough, not too much. Nothing was said. It is not Nick's style.
I hope, if - when the time comes I can do the same thing for his parents. The thing will be to judge how much is enough and not too much.