Most weekends, I schlep children around between softplay establishments and football matches. I contact their friends’ parents to accept their invites and take them to where they need to go. Husband says, “They have a better social life than us,” and so it is with Dad.
Twice a week, HomeCove court hold coffee mornings that Dad must be reminded to attend. These have not been an unqualified success: the last turned out to be a fashion demonstration and Dad left in a huff: “I didn’t want them to think I was a pervert”. The week before was better: a music quiz which his group won. “Only sweets,” he said. “What did you expect?” Then there is the once a month party. He went last Saturday: “I only danced once,” he said. “I chatted to a deformed lady but she’s very nice.” He’s got a way with words, my Dad.
Yesterday, there was mince pies and carols. I also called to arrange for his lunch at another day care centre on Friday. I have given myself the prestigious title I always wanted at university: Entertainments Officer. There are no hip bands to show around the union, but ‘Pauly B’ will apparently be playing on the keyboards on throughout the afternoon and Dad says he’s so good he can’t understand what he’s doing there.
I take Dad shopping to Aldi and he tells me what else has been going on in his new home:
Last week, he fell out of his bed. He looked for his mobile phone in the darkness – couldn’t find it. The emergency cords were nowhere to be seen. He crawled to his front door, hammered on it, made a hell of a noise. A neighbour he’d never met before, came. The kind neighbour, for this was two am after all, tried to pick him up, but fell down himself. It’s like some nightmare vision of a dystopian future, isn’t it? Or as Mini would say, there were two old men on the floor “Rolled over”.
Someone, Dad isn’t sure who, called an ambulance. The ambulance people were really nice and set them both upright again.
“Oh dear,” I say, “but why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to worry you,” Dad says. He pauses at the chilled counter looking for profiteroles. “Why don’t you wear your glasses, Dad?” I ask. “Oh yes,” he says like I’ve invented cheesecake, “Do you think that would help?”
Then he says, a couple of days ago, he got up, he felt a bit chilly and decided to, how do we say, warm his cold morning arse against the storage heater. Bad move. The result was a burnt bottom.
“You should have told me!”
“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to worry you,” Dad repeats the party-line. And it is this, more than his dilly dallying over the trifles that I find irritating. I wonder what he thinks happens when I am worried. Is my worry something no person should face? The thing is, I’ve heard it before, or rather not heard it before. Dad had his first heart attack just before I had Ray. No one told me. We didn’t want to worry you. It makes you feel bad when you find out you have been gaily getting on with things when all is not well. It makes you feel stupid. We go back to Dad’s flat, I unpack the desserts and the rest of the shopping, then go home.
I am still annoyed. As prestigious entertainment officer, surely I have a right to know?
My sister is in charge of health and cleaning. Every week, she packs his tablets into the big tablet dispenser so he can take them easily three times a day. She takes her hoover to his flat, hoovers, then takes it back. She washes up. And she listens to Dad. He tells her everything.Why won’t he tell me?
This evening, I am still annoyed. I lie on the sofa, eating mince pies, I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to worry you, I think, hmm. How very patronizing. But then, my sister texts to say she is just applying cream to Dad’s blistered bum and I have a sudden and powerful revelation: there are some advantages.