The sweetness that he brings to all things is unfiltered; every action, every interaction, every utterance. It is nearly all there is and it is everything.
“Just a second …” he implores from atop a mountain of soft pillows, beneath a mountain of soft blankets and duvets, (everything is soft) trying to put his good hearing aid in place (the other one got dropped and only transmits news from Mars.) It takes a full minute to get the hearing aid place, a minute and a half in total because he was struggling at the beginning. But I am not going anywhere. Where would be nicer than here?
“Now” he says, grateful for the waiting, “how did you sleep?
“Great!” I say and he looks happy.
“How did you sleep?” I ask
“I slept okay …” he says yet I detect a drollness between the lines, almost inaudible but there. I think it is in the way he rounds his words.
“I didn’t fall out” he continues, “so that was good.”
“Well, that is good!” I confirm and he laughs.
The news is conveyed as a small miracle, like someone who has gone to the supermarket to for honey – and finds a jar.
Sheilagh lies awake beside him, listening in, letting him do the talking. When she does speak, it is to suggest a hot honey and lemon drink, which is their morning ritual, but I put it down to sheer coincidence.
“Yes, please” says my father and Sheilagh rolls over and is up, gone to make it.
“Did Pete sleep okay?” asks my father because it wouldn’t be a normal conversation without him asking if Pete is okay/slept okay/how Pete is.
“Pete slept very well.” I say. “I was just going to make us some tea but I thought I’d check on you first. You’re still here, so that’s good!”
“Yes!” says my father.
Sheilagh returns with the honey and lemon drink and my father, who is lying on his side, reaches out for it. His movements are slow, like a snowman coming to life, his arm stretching in slow motion toward the bedside table for the drink. Somehow he is able to drink it lying there on his side although it is a little too hot so I add some cold water.
“Thankyou” says my father and continues to sip it sideways, atop the pillows. He is so comfortable atop these pillows, underneath these blankets, in this bed, he says.
“Sheilagh” he asks, sideways. He cannot easily roll over so he asks from the side of the bed, calling out to the other side where Sheilagh is snuggling up. Soon they will go back to sleep and so will I. It is early. Only Pete will get up (permanently) to go to work because he is the only one who is not retired. Eh-hem.
As for my father and Sheilagh, they catch up on sleep they lose in the wee hours when my father needs to … well, do the same. Sheilagh wakes up to help him because my father can’t do much of anything on his own anymore. I have never seen someone so tired or so happy.
The good thing is most of the furniture is electric so he gets rides to go up and down in bed, on his chair, everything. Electrical is the vogue of the house.
Other nights, a carer takes Sheilagh’s place. My younger brother stays over most Thursday and Fridays nights because he is already a night owl and a 2am wee break is like day-time to him. It would probably only be interrupting his lunch.
“Sheilagh” my father is asking. “You used to give me one of those bent straws” he says, at angle to me and the drink. The cup is upright in his hand but because he is sideways, it is not working that well as a drink and he has remembered about the bent straws.
“Do you still have those?” he asks.
At another angle next to him, Sheilagh’s smile, silent and full of warmth, conveys that she does and I offer to get them since I am the only one standing.
I find them in the pantry, grab one and on my way back, drop in on Pete, across the hall. The walls are thin enough and he is close enough to have heard the conversation.
“Hi Sweetie” I say. “Would you like a bent straw in your tea?”
“Yes, please” he says and I take the straw in my hand into my father with the news that Pete would like a bent straw in his tea, too.
On second waking, Pete is gone and Xen has arrived, full of love, to take over from Sheilagh for a few hours. My father is still asleep.
Sheilagh is in the living room. I find her sitting by the table with newspapers. Morning is pouring in through the windows from the bay and lights the room perfectly in beautiful, early luminescence.
Quickly, we get to talking about the operation my father needs and which the surgeon has reluctantly confirmed. It’s tricky: cutting open his hairline across his skull, under local anesthetic.
Sheilagh has her face toward the light, exposing her thoughts. If just left, the situation could easily become worse. It is impossible to know what to do. The choice is stark.
I pop in to see my father once more before I go. Last time we talked, he said he didn’t want to end up with a tomato on the top of his head. Now, when I bring it up he says he is not worried about the hospital trip, he is only worried about his knee (which makes him afraid to stand) He is not confident of conveying this to the nurses.
Of the of the tomato, he only says: “I suppose it could be my brains.”
“Or your sense of humour …” I offer.
As I leave, I hear Xen trying to gently persuade him to maybe let her shower him, which has a marvellous restorative effect- but my father turns her down with equal gentleness and perfect politeness.
“I don’t think so” he says with perfect politeness.
“I’m just so cosy here” he says, from the side and I know it is true. “It’s just so cosy in this bed. I don’t know why anyone ever gets up.”
“That’s what I say to Pete” I say and my father just catches it. I am pretty sure he wishes it were different, for Pete’s sake.
Later, I learn the shower went ahead as Xen planned. “She waves her magic wand over him,” says Sheilagh.
Beautiful artwork by Magaly Ohika