We visit my father in hospital. He is 93.
He fell down the stairs at home. He should use both hand rails on the stairs but had just cleaned a pair of shoes and was carrying them upstairs in one hand…and over-balanced.
He fractured both femurs at the contact point with the hip joints; and also broke his collar bone. It was a four-hour operation to pin things together.
He’s grumpy that the nurses make him sit in his chair all day; it is comfier in his bed.
Though he’s not as angry as his neighbour, (with just one fractured femur) who is truly pissed off about this daily ‘Chair, yes, Bed, no,’ thing.
‘So this morning I refused!’ he tells me, like a member of the resistance movement. ‘I got out of bed when I wanted to and not when they told me to! I mean, they want to make the bed, but they can do that anytime – and they can do it when I’m ready! I hate regimes. I really hate regimes. ’
My dad is not in such open revolt against the system; he doesn’t do open revolt. Instead he does the crossword with a devil-may-care attitude…and drops the uncomfortable chair into conversation when he can.
His spirit is good, he asks about life outside – the traffic, our jobs, the catastrophe that is British politics. ‘I voted for Brexit but regret that now,’ he says.
But he’s bored. He can’t move, the TV doesn’t work and he doesn’t have the energy to read, a former love now lost.
‘The body just doesn’t get better in the end,’ he says, despite the bone-supplement drinks on his table. It looks like chocolate milk shake but he’s quick to tell me it isn’t like that at all.
‘Not as nice, I’m afraid. It actually tastes of nothing,’ he says. ‘Apart from bone.’
So similar to those Toblerone bars, I suppose.
‘I wonder if this will be my last illness?’ he asks.
Afterword: After three weeks in hospital, my father is now at home, able to walk with a frame…and with a stair lift installed.
He’s on an enablement programme – free of charge for six weeks, being washed and dressed each the morning.
And then on his own.
He is very pleased to have the remote control back in his hand, though he says he didn’t miss TV in hospital.
He does wonder what the point is of being around if you’re no use.
But if being useful is our right to live, really how many of us would be left standing?