Dad died.

Dad died on Tuesday the 22nd of May. He had a fall in the nursing home, where he was under house arrest due to his dementia, or, to be more precise, his inability to remember short to medium term events. He would wander, and lose track of the time and place. It wasn’t so bad when he was still in familiar surroundings, but when he moved to the home, he was completely disorientated.

This has no bearing on his fall; it was just a fall such as the elderly suffer. He hit his head, and his skin being paper-like, his blood, inclined always to flow from incidental cuts and now full of warfarin, made a messy spectacle. As usual in such circumstances, he was taken from Tarry Brae to emergency at the Wesley. From there, Judith was rung, but there seemed to be no urgency, so she walked over from Toowong. A scan had revealed no cause for alarm. I don’t know whether Judith talked to him, or whether he was sedated. While she was with him, be began to fit. Judith called attention to this, and left while he was attended to. One of the doctors came to speak to her. He didn’t have long to live. Weeks, days? Hours. Judith went outside to call the kids on her mobile. While she was contacting them, he passed away.

Kyla called in the small hours of the Bristol morning, to tell me. I called Cherie in Utah. Cherie and Rob were preparing for a road trip to the east, to see Rob’s relatives. Cherie decided, after talking to Judith, not to come for the funeral.

Jen and I had been due to arrive on Saturday evening. We were booked on a flight leaving Heathrow at midday on the 25th, Friday. The plan was that we would pack up on Tuesday and Wednesday, hiring a car to take us and our worldly possessions to a B&B in Iver, nearby to Fogchicken. We would spend a couple of evenings with her, and leave in her care various odds and ends she might find useful, going on Friday morning to Heathrow. We brought the flight forward by two days, packed in a frenzy, hired a van in which we drive our luggage to Heathrow, and Fogchicken’s paraphenalia to Langley. We had dinner with her in a pub, and said goodbye in the evening. Jen was quite distraught as we drove back to Bristol. I dropped the van at Bristol airport, while Jen started the final cleanup.

We had already given things away on Freecycle, and we were now dumping the remainder. As well as the clothes and shoes that went into the clothing bins, some bagsful were secreted amongst the many plastic bags of detritus around the Asda charity bins, with messages left for Freecycle subscribers on how to find them. There were a dozen planters with mature fuchsias, geraniums and ivy, which went down beside the entrance, with another Freecycle plea that they be given a good home. A few other larger items went in beside the building’s bins, in the hope they would also be put to good use. We had a bus to catch at 5:30 in the morning, so after about two hours sleep, we were up again. By 8:30 we were having breakfast at Heathrow. Sometime after 7:00 pm on Thursday we landed in Brisbane.

On the Wednesday night, at Lang Park (formally Suncorp Stadium; a.k.a. The Cauldron) Queensland met and defeated New South Wales in the first State of Origin match of 2007. I wouldn’t be able to watch that with Dad, but I expected to see the remaining two matches with him. Before we left for the U.K., a small private ritual for us to watch the matches on TV together, fielding complaints about the noise (when Qld were on the attack). It wasn’t just the Origin games we liked to watch. Before my evenings had been re-focussed on Jen’s shifts, I would often go over to watch the Friday night game with him. I sometimes did still; before we left for the U.K.

I’m sure you will allow me a confession. In the two years we were away, I never once spoke to my father. It was too easy to rationalize that he would probably not remember me anyway, and that, in any case, his memory of a conversation would not survive its end by more than a few minutes. So it was too easy for me to justify my innate aversion to social contact without a “purpose”, even if that purpose is to watch a game of football. That, however, seems to be one of the components of a definition of “bloke”.

Such, at any rate, were my plans to re-establish my connection with Dad. Ah, happenstance.

There was a twist in the story that threatened to let me recover from the jet-lag before the funeral. Because the initial scan had revealed no life-threatening injury from the fall, no one knew what had killed him. His body went, then, not to the funeral director, but the coroner for an autopsy. The brain is a mushy thing, so the pathologists wanted to let it sit in something to let it firm up for about a fortnight, so that it would slice with greater consistency. In the end, they were persuaded to give it until the Monday following his death. I can’t remember now whether the funeral went ahead on the Wednesday or the Thursday. In any case, I was able to remain awake, and more or less alert, for the proceedings.

Dad left the church without us, borne off to the crematorium on the other side of Brisbane in an unaccompanied white hearse. I decided to stay with the relatives whom I only saw, nowadays, at funerals. Not that I saw them any more often in less morbid times; probably less so. Dad was the last of the siblings, and only three of the spouses remain, so the gatherings will likely dwindle back to their usual frequency soon enough, to pick up again as the boomers generation runs out of time.

It doesn’t sound like a very traumatic event, does it? Appearances can be deceptive.

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