THE WRITER’S LIFE | FICTION
After many months of not being able to write much about my dad, today I can. Until now there have been many open narratives, no closure and much speculation. Last night a chapter ended when I found out dad won’t be returning home.
Over the last few weeks, things have progressed steadily, while dad has deteriorated on the same undefined scale. The final diagnosis is that he has a kind of double dementia, a bit like having Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s living in your head at the same time, chipping away at your memory and sense of self. Either on their own would be bad enough, but there are two of them in there, vandalising the place. He’s at a point where he requires round-the-clock care, which my mum and his home carers can’t fully provide. It’s every family’s worst waking dream when they have to put one of their own into a care home.
Dad will never get better, and this move could hasten his demise. I wish I could have done more. I wish I could do something besides hope that he makes friends in his new home, rather than give up. I wish I could talk him out of it, if that’s what he’s planning. I wish I could swap places, or at least be there so that he wasn’t so alone. I wish I could turn back time. There’s a cloud stuck in my head, which is why it keeps raining on my face.
TIME FOR BED
I’ve been to my own funeral. I was there as they lowered me into the pit. There were people there. That was when I woke up and made the first jump. I didn’t mean to, I was pushed. Onto my death bed. Before I left, I wondered, will people visit my grave?
Now I found myself back in the hospital bed where I’d died, with no visitors. But when you’re buried in the ground, you have no way of knowing what time it is.
I asked myself what the point was, and perhaps explaining to myself why I’d died. I’d switched myself off in boredom and frustration at the loneliness. If I just go back to sleep, maybe I can get back there, to my own funeral.
It didn’t work. I went the wrong way. When I woke up, I’d reversed to the first night I spent in that bed in the care home.
I don’t know who decided to put me there, like some kind of monster which had to be caged, out of the way where I couldn’t bother them. They visited, but with me incarcerated, they got to choose how much of me they’d put up with. A bit like visiting a grave, when the occupant can’t come to you.
After they’d left on that first night, I slept, trying to remember how I got there, how I’d come to be in this new place alone, when I’d spent much of my life sharing a warmer bed.
The next day I woke up in that other place, but it was cold. I lifted the sheets next to me but there was no indentation of a person. My partner had already left. I slept and I tried to dream.
We’re never aware of the moment we fall asleep. When we wake, we may remember some of our dreams, but we can never recall the point where we fell. I dreamed I was running through a woods, then I tripped, and I forgot my dream. I woke with a start. My jumps were taking me back in time.
I remembered my mum tucking me into bed and dad reading me a bedtime story, then checking under the bed for monsters. He said they only hid under there because they were scared. How ever many tales he told at the bedside, essentially they were all this one.
The scariest thing is this final jump into the past, the last chapter before the light goes out.
When you die at the end of your life, you may lose your own memories but you’ll be remembered by others. It’s but a comfort blanket to think we’re only truly gone when we’re forgotten.
Others will live on who’ve lived their lives with us, but I won’t be remembered when I’ve forgotten the people around me. When life ends the way mine will, I’ll regress to a time and place where I never existed. It’s not the loneliness I felt in hospital; it’s a bed without me in it. And no-one to read a story, no beginning before the book is even opened.
Memories become visions of the future when you’re living life in reverse, but I can’t see the future. I knew I was never going home. Like a baby given up at birth.
They think I didn’t feel anything, but this is how it feels.
I’m alone and I’m afraid.
And so an ending is written, a few words carved in stone. My story is here, hiding under the bed, in the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your ears, and the memory of when we’d only just met.
© Steve Laker, 2019
So many opportunities at the beginning of life, so few at the end. So much discovery in the closing chapters, when there were few clues at the start. We learn as we live, and even though my dad’s hardware is defective, I hope his memory will be stored on some device out there. Maybe he could plug himself in, so that me and him can keep talking.
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align, and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.”