Youngest child syndrome

Dad is at home and he’s having a turn. He’s frightened and it frightens me. If I take him to hospital he’ll never get out but if I leave him here, he might get worse. I give him his pills and some water and then go downstairs. I have a tea that slops against the sides of the cup because I am shaking.

I call my sister and she says call the Doctors and ask to be referred for a blood test. I do, glad of the instruction. I am the youngest child and right now, I am a typical youngest child. If I could give the responsibility of Dad to anyone else in the world except me, then I would.

There are no blood tests available until Monday. That’s ok though because by midday Dad is up and eating again. I am annoyed because he doesn’t seem to warrant the earlier panic and that I’ve had to stay home because of him. I’m annoyed that Monday will be another day of running errands and I’m annoyed that I had to ask my sister what to do. What’s the matter with me?  I should have been born first then I would have known what to do.

That evening, husband comes home and while I am complaining he says, “why don’t you take him to the blood clinic at the hospital? I went once, and it was fantastic.” My husband is also the oldest child. He likes to make a decision.

I look at the blood information sheet. I see it’s open until 7.40.  Its 7.20 now. We live ten minutes drive away. On a good day.

“You can do it,” husband urges. I don’t think so but he is sure and he and my sister are always sure about everything. I dash into the living room and tell Dad to get up. I am thinking, I’ll have a free day on Monday if I do this now. Surprisingly, Dad is up for it. The old adventurous spirit kicks in. Then, I tell Ray that I want him to come with. Ray, who has had his bath and is only now deciding to make a dent into his homework, is furious. I hear husband shouting at him as I gather my keys and coat:”If you don’t do this for your mum, we won’t drive you around at the weekend.”

Ray storms off to get changed. I wait in the car, drumming the steering wheel. Eventually, Dad joins me and finally Ray with a face of thunder, slumps in the tiny space in the back between the two car-seats.

I drive like Cagney and Lacey.  I pull out in front of a van. I go through an amber light: Arnie my lovely little rule-keeper, would have  a fit, if he knew. He can’t bear a rule-transgression and I wonder where he gets this from. Not me, not my side, he is all his fathers. He can’t bear to be late either. And I am not going to let us be late tonight.  My foot is hard on the accelerator. I usually drive like the only child of aged parents. Now, I drive like a child of 8, a feckless middle one. I am on the speed limit and have to take a corner too fast. I mount a kerb.  In that brief moment of flight, I think this will settle it one way or another.

The plan is I will drop them off at the hospital entrance and Ray will run ahead while I park.  I drop them off. After I have desperately parked and then searched all the sticky pockets in the car for money for a ticket, I sprint back.  They are at the entrance, in the same place, I mean they have not moved. Mini playing musical statues moves more than them and she plays to win. (The youngest child is competitive!)

“We don’t know where to go,” they say, and I huff what defeatists!!  However, after a few minutes I can see why.  When I worked in marketing at a local college, I used to be in charge of signs on open day. My superiors called it ‘placement of the signage’ in a bid, I think, to make me feel like it was a terrific job. Anyway, I sympathise with the people who are in charge of signage, but whoever has done the signage for the blood clinic has done an exceptionally bad job. I have no chance of finding out where the bloody blood clinic is. It’s like trying to find your shepherd in the school nativity when you’ve arrived late and are standing at the back of the hall behind a lady wearing a hat.

Then I see something, a long note pinned on a pillar (that’s poor placement) the short version of which is: we have to go up.

“Stairs?” says Dad hopelessly. It’s 7.35. It takes Dad five minutes to find his feet, never mind raise them.

“There’s a lift,” I say and sure enough there is, discretely hidden near the sweet shop.  “Where is the blood clinic?” I ask two nurse pushing what looks like a dead man on a gurney.

“The first floor,” says one. “The mezzanine.” says the other. I glare at them. Can they not get their answers straight? Who is the big sister here? “The mezzanine,” agrees the first one reluctantly.

I don’t know what a mezzanine is. A balcony? A Greek dish. It calls to mind dancers in white socks, hummus, tzatziki?

It’s 7.36. Dad moves like a slug. A slow slug.

We are in the lift, we must be nearly there! I can’t see the button for mezzanine and then when I am ready to burst, I see the beautiful mountains of the ‘M’. Arnie is learning phonics and for him ‘M’ is a rub of the tummy a “mmmm”. It annoys me that no one in my family says ‘phonics’, they all say frenetics instead.

We are frenetic now.

I run round the corner. Once again, the blood test signs couldn’t be less obvious: its as though they don’t want us there.

But then I am there, I have stumbled across it, and there is a woman waiting, it is the woman I nearly ran over in the car park when I was reversing in an episode I had put to the back of my memory, but I can’t say sorry because then she will know for sure it’s me. Instead, I say, “its not too late, is it?” and she says, “I don’t think so.”

It’s all going to work out and husband is going to be so pleased because it was his idea and sister will be pleased too because it was all her idea originally. Husband’s pleasure might border on the smug but still, he is allowed to be sometimes. Dad arrives euphoric at the excitement, it is 7.37 and it’s like, Cinders, you shall go to the ball. We have three minutes to spare!  Ea-sy. Time for a Greek feast! Dad grins, “Well, this proves one thing, that I can get around when I have to!”  Ray stares at his shoes but even that is progress.

A nurse comes out and I am wearing my brightest smile, the right mixture of sympathy and humility. I say, “Hi, can my Dad have a blood test?!”

She says, (and I am going to kill husband) “No, we won’t do anyone without an appointment.”

On a positive note, I have heard youngest child and oldest child marriages tend to work well.

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