Gardening, allotment, Dad

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated…

Spring has arrived and I find myself uninterested in the allotment. I credit this to Dad (95) or to be more precise, Life’s Rich Tapestry.

Recently the doc told Dad he was about to pop his clogs (not her exact words). It was credible – since Christmas he’d been mostly in bed complaining of stomach pains and had barely eaten.

When we visited the care home, he hardly knew we were there. The hospital bed arrived and he was put onto palliative care, with oral morphine every hour. I went into bedside vigil mode and contacted relatives and old friends. Missing him already, I cried in the care home manager’s office and cancelled normal life, in thrall to grief-induced childhood memories.

I was advised to appoint a funeral director. As I type, the Forget-Me-Not seeds that came in their presentation pack are on my desk. A nice gesture, though as the plants only flower a year after sowing, a delayed one.

Mr MS was a rock. Our sleep felt conditional: every night we expected to be woken in the early hours by a phone call.

It came as a surprise to be accosted yesterday by a beaming care home chef. We’d got used to the staff respectfully casting their eyes down when they saw us.

‘He’s just eaten fish and chips for lunch.’

‘What?’ I stared, a cocktail of feelings roiling in my breast. Had they got the wrong man?

‘You mean, he’s out of bed?’ I  managed.

‘Oh yes. He’s had some apple crumble too. With ice cream.’

Gardening, Dad, allotment

Memorial Seeds

In his room, Dad sat contentedly in his chair picking his teeth with a splinter from one of those thin wooden stirrers you get in coffee shops. On his last admission to Bradford Royal Infirmary, he stocked up at their Costa Coffee outlet and now has a ready supply in his top drawer.

‘Nice to see you, love,’ he said.

I was too shocked for niceties. ‘You’re out of bed,’ I said, accusatory.

He shrugged, finding this unremarkable.

‘But you were so poorly!’ I said, unable to catch up with events.

‘Maybe,’ he said, unconcerned. I got the impression he didn’t believe me. He was certainly bored by my attempt at conversation. This all took place at a shout, as he seemed even more hard of hearing than usual. Deaf, rather than death.

I learnt later that the man in the room opposite Dad died in the night totally out of the blue. It seemed that when the Grim Reaper came for Dad, he turned left instead of right in the corridor.

Today, Dad reportedly ate eight Weetabix for breakfast. He also made it to the sitting room on his walking frame, after two months of total immobility.

I force myself to visit the allotment. Everything seems unreal. I don’t know whether I can allow myself to feel relieved or not. I understand, as if for the first time, the expression I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.

I find a shady spot for the Forget-Me-Nots. It’s too early to scatter the seeds: the packet says May. But at least now I’m prepared.