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Monday, 15 February 2016

Just half a spoon of Decaf

'Just a half spoon of decaf Nescafe for both of us each dear, otherwise it is too strong, you know?' Mum said last year in their lounge at number 47.
Chalky coffee
This is after we'd come back from buying an electric chair for dad. The tipping and reclining sort. We came back to him slumped to one side in his ill-fitting armchair and I was primed to tell dad a big lie about how we had only been to the Chemist to see about what he'd asked for and they said he wasn't allowed to take any more medication on top of what he does. This was a lie, so we didn't have to anger him about the meeting for the electric chair.
I summed up the imaginary trip to the chemist with a little detail about the assistants,
'They are such nice people in there,' I say, 'so helpful.'
He accepts this as truth.
I think I am good at lying, I think I've been practising it recently. The white sort, the sort that placates. I used to think truth was all.

Recliner and tipper
In the mobility shop I had enjoyed riding in the chairs because of the buttons and the way they cup you safe.
'If he doesn't want it,' I thought, 'I'll have it.'
'This is not something to panic over,' I thought. I enjoy reclining, but then I have the choice. I know how to make the buttons do what they should and not what they shouldn't.
We don't mention the chair to him before I leave. But once I'm in the street, I can't stop thinking about it, how he won't want it and we've ordered it to arrive in two weeks. Nearly a thousand pounds.

Two weeks later he is back in hospital and he gets diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
And we have been asked about resuscitation.
He says no. We all say no.

I write him a card with all the things I want to say
and carry it in my bag
We move his old armchair into the conservatory in preparation for the new chair. We move the sofa into the already overcrowded conservatory dining room to make way for the hospital bed. I count twelve seats. Why does my mother have so many seats?
A hospital bed arrives. Dad goes into hospital.
On Monday morning I can't stop crying. I know I have to talk to dad about things at his bedside, say the things I want to say. Mum thought I could talk about my new novel.
I want to ask him to haunt me because I like the idea of it never being over. I like the idea that there will be proof of whether ghosts exist if we make a pact. Then I remember, he never was that kind of dad. He didn't know how to play with me when I got older.
I want to tell him my novel is going to have his name at the front and it will be called 'The Short Tall Summer'.
I want to say I forgive him and he can forgive me and I know he did his best and I thank him for teaching me to swim and seeing me through art college and sorry I was such a needy girl, but it was only because I wanted more of him than he could possibly ever give.
I want to say goodbye in a good clear way and that we will look after mum and that the life was good he gave us, although it was sometimes not, but it mostly was. I want him to hear it all so he can relax.

Two days later and I am alone with him in the hospital room. The air conditioning is too cool, Mum and her sister slept the night in their coats. They have gone home to warm up and get rest. It feels like there could be much time ahead spent like this. There is a sense that we are camping out and it's a little bit exciting although it shouldn't be.
The Macmillan nurse tells me how the body works after I ask her to explain the biology of Dad. She says the fingertips lose their warmth and colour as the body stops.

Back at the flat a parrot clings onto the wall outside the window and stares at my girlfriend while she paints the window ledge. Its beady glare reminds her of dad. She told me if I had rung now at that point and say he's gone then she will know the parrot is my dad, though she does not believe in this sort of thing. Pantheism. The spirits of people in animals and birds.

It's all in the glare of the eyes
It is a Wednesday. We are all at the hospital and my mother confesses she has always disliked Wednesdays for no real reason she can remember. They are just when bad things happen.

After he died I whispered in his ear that I loved him. I can't get over the love that was in the room. How when all personality is stripped away that this was what was left. Mum stroked his arm and he took two last breaths, revived by her touch then gone.
I do not want to be haunted.
In the reclined position

Outside my kitchen window I watch the parrots go crazy.
Can I publish this? Without the beady eye of dad ever glaring at me again, without the fear of him being cross with me for talking about personal stuff and wanting to convey my feelings out loud?
I can, because he was there but is not here now.

Last night we tried to sell the chair on Ebay - no bids.
It remains in the back room of their house.
We'll try Gumtree and Facebook.
Any offers contact me.