[Grandfather, who has laid himself down to die, opens his eyes]
Old Lodge Skins: Am I still in this world?
Jack Crabb: Yes, Grandfather.
Old Lodge Skins: [groans] I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
From the film Little Big Man

hey Dad … I’m smiling

Your Dad says his times up and you’re smiling? Why?

When Dad turned 70 I visited him and Mum at our family home in Corrie on the Isle of Arran. This is what happened:

First goodbye

‘My times up.’

It’s not every day your Dad says he’s going to die. We’d been having a philosophical discussion when, out of left-field, he dropped the bombshell.

‘How long have you got?’

‘Who knows?’

‘You mean, as far as you know, you’re okay?’

‘My times up. It’s important to be prepared.’ On that he was right. ‘I’ve I had my three-score and ten.’ He was always biblical. It’s a chat I’ve never forgotten.

As I write I smell the scent of home cooking leaking in from the kitchen. The seascape seen through a window, shaped by my great grandfather, changed constantly. The distant roar of angry waves cuffing the rocky shore provided a rumbling accompaniment to our voices. It took twenty years for our chat to come back to me.

Second goodbye

At 90 years old, Dad had a burst appendix. Told to expect the worst, I rushed south. Mum was off somewhere when I arrived. The echoes of feet slapping lino resounded from painted walls. The smell of bleach, cleaning liquids and stale food reminded me of his situation.

This time? 

They told me where to find him. His bed was empty. A spider of fear walked up  my back.

Then a jingling like Santa’s sleigh started. He appeared shuffling, slow as a turtle, pushing a gantry of drips. Dad didn’t take things lying down including the toilet.

‘Hello young-man.’

‘Hello old-man.’

He gazed at me for a moment. ‘I hate those catheter things.’ He’d just had a tough op for goodness sake. We talked for a while.

‘What happened to the three-score and ten, Dad?’ He looked tired, but not at death’s door.

His eyes fogged with thought. As the haze cleared, a twinkle appeared and with it, an impish smile. ‘Preparation my boy.’ I returned north reassured.

Bless me …

I visited again a couple of days later (300 mile round trip). He knew I was coming. He sat, erect in a hospital chair, beside his bed. He wore his dog-collar and a black jacket, looking every inch a Church of Scotland Minister. After a hug, he asked me to get on my knees.

‘Preparation Malcolm,’ Using my proper name, this was formal. ‘I’m going to bless you.’

I knelt, leaned forward and he laid his hands on my head. His words commended me to God, I can’t remember them, emotions ran high. The video link is worth a watch.

NHS floors were hard in those days, too, my knees cracked as I stood up. He wiped a small tear.

We talked, laughed and had tea and biscuits from an apple cheeked Cumbrian nurse.

 

The next goodbye was yet to come, but that’s another tale.

© Mac Logan