OK, this sounds morbid, but I am now the same age as my dad was when he died.
I don’t remember him as a ‘young man’, always as an oldie. His Parkinson’s Disease rendered him housebound, afraid to leave home for the final few years of his life.
It wasn’t solely the physical limitations inflicted upon him that kept him a prisoner in his own living room, it was the embarrassment he felt. His stuttering walk, his shaking limbs, his slurred speech all attracted unwelcome side-glances. It didn’t help that when eventually given a wheelchair, on his first outing he was ignored by people he knew, as they chose to speak to my mum, the ‘pusher’, instead: “So, how’s Bob doing?”
He’s sitting there!
That was the last time he left the house until admitted to hospital a couple of years later. A few days later he passed away, too weak to fight against pneumonia.
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but his last couple of years must have been horrible. He never complained, though. Not when his smoker’s cough took almost all his breath away. Not when he had to be helped to go to the toilet. Not when the small dining room had to be converted into a bedroom as he couldn’t climb the stairs. Not when I spent every waking hour either at school or at my part-time job on a local farm.
His ‘treat’ every now and again was to lie on his side and get me or my sister to sit on his legs to suppress his shakes for just ten minutes. Very occasionally, he would have a small whiskey. He loved Morecambe and Wise. That was about it.
Now that I’ve surpassed my dad’s age milestone, I’m very grateful that, despite the odd blip, my health’s decent, I have a happy and contented home life, a well paid job, and a group of friends I can rely on.
I keep myself mentally active through my job and writing the odd piece here, though I have to admit that I’m having to put about 25% more effort in than I did three or four years ago.
Physically, I could do much better: I need to lose weight (again) and get more exercise. Trouble is, I can’t seem to muster the energy and willpower to get started. I’ve become an expert in finding an excuse to start tomorrow. Always tomorrow.
My dad never got the option of tomorrow. I’ll have to have a serious conversation with myself about life, the universe and everything…….
So what to do? Time, maybe, for that long walk……