Tuesday, February 01, 2005


The doctor is hopeful that Dad will make a good recovery in the 100 Acre Wood. He is continuing to make good progress. Last week, my sister and I were standing next to each other in the front room, leaning with our backs against the radiator, whilst we watched my parents compete at Scrabble, as they always do on Sunday mornings. It was like nothing had happened. A few days out of hospital, and less than three weeks after the brain attack, my Dad was selecting tiles from the wooden rack and placing them on a Scrabble board, and I wondered: if I had dysphasia and dyspraxia - if I had had the stroke - would I have the balls to do what Dad is doing - laying down letters to try to make words, marshalling them, experimenting, trying to brush away the sand from the hieroglyphics? My Dad had the first go in the game, and his first go yielded the word "joy", at once chiming with the emotion it invoked in me, and scoring 13. Later, he tried to extend this word using the letters "v,e,d", but then withdrew his tiles without hesitation when we told him that "joyved" was not in the dictionary. He persevered, uncomplainingly, delayingly, stumbling on and over words, whilst the rawness of his dysphasia and dyspraxia was being made apparent to the family members who looked on.

Whilst Dad was in hospital, my two sisters and I spent time with Mum, staying at the family home in Hampshire. The day after my Dad's admission, the pet Labrador swallowed a pop sock, and we had to rush it to the vet. We were given some liquid paraffin and, after two days of adding drops to its food, the dog's neck suddenly rumpled and it puked up the pop sock, which now languishes in the birdbath in my parents' garden (one of the first things my Dad did when he got home from the hospital was to take a walk around his garden, and I accompanied him, making sure he noticed the brown, distended pop sock in the birdbath).

At Home
Me: "Dad doesn't say 'Russia' anymore, does he?"
Kathryn: "What?"
Me: "When he sneezes, he doesn't shout out 'Rrrussia!', like he used to."
Kathryn: "Oh yeah, that's right, it did always sound a bit like he was shouting 'Russia'. What do his sneezes sound like now, then?"
Me: "Nothing distinctive. It's still loud, but now it's just sort of, 'Aaghsh!'. I think it's so weird how his dypahasia has taken even that unintentional word. Even though it wasn't a real word, it sounded like 'Russia!', and now it's gone.
I'm just waiting for my body to ambush me.”
Kathryn: “Strokes aren't hereditary. The factors that cause strokes can be. We both should watch our cholesterol.”
Me: “I haven't eaten any meat since 1993.”
Kathryn: “I know, that's really good, but you do eat a lot of dairy products. Avoid eating too much cheese.”
Me: “All kinds of cheese?”
Kathryn: “And butter and pizzas.”
Me: “Soft and hard cheese?”
Kathryn: “They both can increase your cholesterol levels ... Have you and Norma put an offer in for that cottage in Bentley?”
Me: “Yep, we offered the guide price, but the estate agent has told us that several different property developers have started a bidding war over it, so I suppose it's unlikely we'll get it in the end. I don't know, this is an incredibly hard time, Kath.”
Kathryn: “It is for everyone, Rogan. You're first time buyers, which is a nice position to be in. No chain.”
Me: “Yeah, but first I find out that Norma is pregnant, then Dad had his stroke, I haven't had a job for six months, we're trying to find a house, the dog swallowed a pop sock, and Norma's antenatal blood test came back with a positive result for syphilis, which they said was likely to be a false-positive result, but we had to wait for two weeks to get that confirmed .... ”
Kathryn: “Hmm ... Ah dear. Is Norma alright now?”
Me: “And I've got verrucas all over my feet. Mosaic verrucae. And I have to go every other week for cryotherapy, but every time a few are burnt off, more come in their place. It's a shitting nightmare. Yeah, Norma's fine now. I tried not to accuse her of being unfaithful whilst we waited for the result of the re-test, but you know what I'm like. But, she's fine now.”
Kathryn: “Did you hear about Mum and Dad at the garden centre on Saturday?”
Me: “No, what?”
Kathryn: “I'm not sure Dad took it in, thank God. They were sitting in the cafe, when a man, in his early sixties, came and sat down next to Mum. It was bizarre, really. He started telling her that he'd had plenty of affairs when he was younger, but his wife had never found him out.”
Me: “Sleazy bastard ... was he trying to flirt with Mum in front of Dad, or something?!”
Kathryn: “I don't think so. Not sure. He said he was a property developer, funnily enough. He didn't speak to Dad for a while. Dad pointed to his mouth when the man finally addressed him directly, and Mum explained that he’d recently had a stroke and couldn't speak.”

The Garden Centre
Property developer: “That's a bit rough, mate. Woz it a biggun'?”
Dad, nodding incredulously: “Yes.”
Property developer: “Well, I hate to put a damper on things, but, you know, when you've had one, you're likely to have another.”
Mum: “No, not with the medication they have these days.”
Property developer: “Well, good luck with it.”