Dad has a bad leg. Perhaps that’s only to be expected when you are 94 and three quarters. In a good mood, Dad will say this himself. But struggling to walk and being dependent on others to regularly bathe and bandage ‘the rotting member’ as he calls it, hasn’t improved his incidence of good moods.

Allotment; Yorkshire; humour

The curtains tremble

He’s been in and out of hospital several times for treatment and when visiting, you often hear him before you see him, especially if his bed is curtained.

‘What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?’ is his battle cry. The curtains tremble. Later, he will show you his diary, in which he’s noted down the names of all the staff he thinks are incompetent, under the heading Complaint. Later still, when wheeled finally out of the ward, he will resist staff efforts to say goodbye and just call, ‘you’ll be hearing from my solicitor.’

When the curtain are open it’s almost worse, because he can see the other patients in the bed bay and voice loud opinions about them. ‘That poor old bugger over there has had his leg amputated. He’s not going to last the night, is he?’

Mr MS and myself, sensitive types, find ourselves mortified and apologetic. But when you’re close to someone, you can’t see how they come across to others. Recently I saw a lovely healthcare assistant clasping Dad’s hands in hers and telling him she loved him. He reminded her, she told me, of her grandfather back in Hungary, who also has a bad leg. The feeling was mutual. ‘My friend!’ Dad told her, ‘my only ally!’

Allotment; yorkshire; humour

Cosmic

Similarly, Dad clicked with a young male healthcare assistant who was interested in astronomy and had been to NASA. Dad had us fetch his Carl Sagan book, Cosmos, to give him. ‘Some patients you don’t forget,’ said the lad. Soon after that, following an impressive performance on the Zimmer frame, Dad was christened Speedy Ted and given a special warning sign to attach to his frame.

You can’t help admiring him.  At our local pharmacy, they now refer to him as ‘sir’. The title appears on the district nurses’ notes too and in the community care team file. We aren’t clear when exactly his knighthood was granted, but it doesn’t seem out of place.