My dad is in hospital.
On the day my granddaughter crawled for the first time, with due excitement all round, my dad fell over in the street again – the hopeful and sad symmetry of life.
There was a day when he crawled for the first time, when everyone oohd and arrd…
I go to visit. He is asleep when I arrive, his face and body all the colours under the sun – an aurora borealis of bruising where his body took the hit.
Peter, a nice nursing assistant, fills me in. They are worried that my dad is incoherent though he has been talking with Peter about apparently real things.
‘Was he in the navy?’ he asks, checking.
‘He was in the navy, yes, during the war – HMS Glory, in Japanese waters.’
‘He remembers that.’
I think he recognises me when he wakes. He smiles and seems peaceful in a gentle land between coherence and drift.
Neither yesterday nor tomorrow register; they are simply not there. (The following day my sister will tell me he does not remember this visit.)
There is no real conversation – but momentary connection, a brief spark in the eyes. He is worried about jobs.
‘It is good they have jobs,’ he says, out of the blue.
‘Who has jobs?’ I ask and he smiles, gone again, there’s no link made, but I continue down the path. He has always liked the news. ‘It is hard for the young people at the moment, with Covid. Jobs are hard to find.’
‘And you’re in work?’
‘I’m in work, yes. I’m one of the lucky ones.’
He has always liked people to have jobs. He was forever telling me not to write because there was no money in it. I help him with some tea, one sugar, in a baby bottle. He enjoys it.
‘Peter said you were talking about the navy. Was that a good time for you?’
‘I think it was a good time, really. Glad to get home.’
Again he smiles and says it’s really very nice to be here. I don’t know if he speaks of me or himself. His speech is gentle and quiet, vague and elusive
It is time to go. There is a weariness in the smile he offers; it doesn’t always reach his eyes.
I say he is mending well and that we are looking forward to seeing him home again.
I kiss his forehead, move away and then turn back and kiss him again and he won’t remember, I know; by the next day, these things are long gone.
Though maybe in eternity he is marked forever by my lips; and I will remember it, for as long as I can.