“AT LEAST IT’S NOT ACTUALLY RAINING,” she said. No. Not actually raining, just the threat of that murky drizzle on the horizon. Oh look, here’s the bus. What? The draught? Rather enjoyable, I think… it’s keeping me cool, and so my feet. What? Yes, my feet. The tendons underneath are injured – no, I don’t know how. Just… here, have another mint imperial.
Bump, jostle and slide sideways and back as the bus negotiates the roads to the first change. Off the bus – cheers, driver – wait for the next one… no, dear, your bus pass isn’t in that pocket – well done! You remembered. Oh look, I have this new game on my phone. Watch. Slide this there, and that one here… see? Well, it’s sort of like a tablet only a bit smaller.
Have another mint imperial.
Yes, mother, I know we’re getting close.
Ah. The coffee booth is open today. Yes, do you want a cake as well? Okay then. You get a seat and I’ll… righto.
Minutes drag slowly until the appointed time, then we make our way up to the ward – oh. They moved him again; today he’s back in bed… and sitting pretty much upright. For a split-second, I see him. I see my father, looking like a much older version of himself as I saw him ten years ago in a different hospitalisation. All these mystery hospitalisations over the years. A different view – what’s that, Dad? You prefer this one because there aren’t any wolves in the undergrowth? Righto. I lean down to my mother and excuse myself, to give them a bit of alone time and because I want to find a lavatory.
I take my time and sort of explore different bits of the hospital… then nip outside for some untainted air and lurking behind my empty thoughts is the dread of how these trees are going to look in just a few short weeks.
I make my way back to the bedside, and notice that the years and her own perceived frail infirmities have fallen from my mother – again. She has command, she is strong for her husband and being an able care-giver. There’s enough of him for her to cling on to despite his fantasies of my being in jail at some point and – no, I don’t remember. (Don’t roll your eyes at me you old fart, it didn’t happen, I think but don’t voice aloud.)
Discreetly, I wander to the window and take a phone pic of the view. I excuse myself and wander to the nurses’ station to chat with them about him. Yes, he’s fine-ish, no, he behaves himself… no, he didn’t mention any pain in his back. Ah. I mention his posture, and they respond with a semi-sympathetic and almost-unconscious demonstration of his leftware lean. I pounce on that. I tell them to watch out for it, because that is the prime indicator that he is actually in pain. I tell them that even if he says he doesn’t feel any pain, he actually is in pain because that leaning scrunch is how he unconsciously finds comfort and relief. They nod, eyes opened with understanding.
Back to the bedside. So my sister earned her corporal stripes, eh? Oh good, he’s yawning. What? No, they won’t steal your shoes, they’re… look, I’m hiding them in the cupboard. Standing at the foot of the bed, watching their last smooch of this visit, I gather the dirty washing bag and stuff it into my satchel. Then father looks up at me and bids me a smiling goodbye by name.
Waiting for the bus mother asks me how I thought he was. I tell her that he looked more like himself although he was talking total crap. We both laughed a bit. Then I focus on her; nurture her as I hop from painful foot to painful foot. I remind her that although we couldn’t find it at first, she actually put her bus pass back in the same place every time today and went straight to it. That she remembered her drink. That she hasn’t worried about the clothes we took down nor the ones we’re bringing back.
She asks me about my feet, and I allow myself to moan bravely at her, and we compare notes about what it’s like to have bad feet. She shines when she has to be active and be the carer – the problem, though, is that she wouldn’t have the stamina to deal with father at home, alone… and I have enough trouble being in my own body and touching it, let alone having to… having to… images of that long, not-so-long-ago night try to surface and I will them away…
A couple of hours later, a can of beer opened and my feet up with some guy burbling about something on the TV, I text a friend. Yes, dad’s battier than a full belfry… the freakin’ bus was late and I just got in. We ‘converse’ about late buses and whatnot… then I put my beer on the side-table just in time, grateful we’re not in a voice call. Racking sobs vomit from deep inside…
THIS HAS BECOME ROUTINE!