Facing another's death, it's hard not to think of your own and reflect. By the
time you reach palliative care your world may have to that of a toddle or, to
put it another way, shrunk to that of an intelligent chicken. My father is
unable to mask emotions. One moment he's worried, the next he's really happy,
then there is annoyance. Thank goodness we've not had the extremes of emotion
that are possible with brain metastases. My favorite exchange thus far, apart
from his obvious joy when I showed up, came after I found that the care home
allows dogs. Knowing how much he enjoys Hamish I told him, when I brought up
his third cup of tea, that there were dogs in the building. He stared at me,
cupped his ear.
"Dogs! Dugs! They say someone's got a St. Bernard. I saw a very quiet short-
I was about to suggest organizing a visit; there's so much literature on the
positive effect of animals in such circumstances. One home I read about uses
"No," he said. " They've got dirty teeth."
We measure by many points of reference. He notices how many toothpicks he has
left and how hot the tea is. We brought him a lifetime supply and a thermos
cup. Many of the rules he has lived by are out the window; desserts and
chocolate, once taboo, are now a prime interest, but he still says R. W. was a
" gentleman" because in ten years of golf together he never heard him swear. I
doubt I'll ever hear my father swear.
To get through a tight opening, we enter the world small. Some of us leave as
if there were a similar aperture in our future. I wonder fantastically if all
this ghost lore isn't actually about the manner of death but merely that some
people die too large and have to do a lot of walking to slim down. Maybe when
they talk of a mortal coil that wants shuffling off, the reference is to
something like the Michelin man?
Sent from my
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