Living in a different home.
One of the positives about working where I work is the wonderful concept of a two-week half term in winter. Of course, they get the week back later in the year but as the autumn turns to its colder cousin and the pressure builds at coalface it is a blessed relief to have two weeks not in school; although all the preparation and other nonsense continues at full pace. So week one a trip in the van as heralded in last week’s post. This week a different thing altogether. My father is 90 this year and over the past few years we have watched disconsolate as the sands of time have scrubbed his memory clean of all but some disconnected facts and assumptions that have no logic or correlation. Normally, my mother cares for him but in order to give her a break I am staying with him for five days.
We are 2 days in and it is a joyful, terrifying, frustrating and ultimately upsetting experience. I left home really at 16, forty years ago, but it is incredible how all the tropes of living with a parent return to the surface at the slightest scratch. My father, a party-loving, work hard play hard man with an unquenchable thirst for life and all those who live in it, has become a quiet, beatific cherub who smiles when addressed and shuffles between ‘reading’ the papers and attempting jigsaws for up to 8 hours whilst self-medicating with up to a bottle of red wine a day! My mother is concerned about his drinking, I am not so much. Sure it makes his condition worse as the day fades but, if I could guess, it probably also numbs the creeping terror within him that is evidenced by the constant questions of ‘when am I going home?’ and ‘where am I sleeping tonight?’ despite the fact that he has lived in this house for at least a decade. And anyway 90, if I can drink a bottle a day at 90, surely that’s a win…
Dad was always at the centre of things and now he rarely leaves the house but as we laugh at some dire comedy on GOLD and raise yet another glass to each other I am reminded he has, and continues to, live his life to the full; he’s just not sure who’s life it is anymore.
As a postscript I have just taken Dad out for a pint (trying to slow the wine intake!!). I parked him in the snug and went to go to the bar. He reached up and pressed the content of the photo below into my hand.
Gawd bless him! I paid by card…..
Unsurprisingly, I find myself slipping into melancholy, tinged with not a small portion of rage. Hence my choices this week. Take what you want or need!