He drifted into my life gradually, I became aware of him probably because as a baby I became familiar with his face, voice, smell and aura. Now he’s drifting out slowly. There may become a day when he totally fails to recognise me. At the moment, he looks up and says “Hello Mike” likewise “Hello Astrid” who only arrived into our family 15 years ago. He has a “girlfriend” in the home. She’s married, he’s married but neither of them care. She’s a sad fruitcase as well. My mum doesn’t even care because as far as she is concerned, she is safe and he is being looked after, something he couldn’t do for himself and something she could never have managed to do anymore. I don’t think he is fully aware of his situation anymore. He is fed, washed and has his medication administered by professional carers.
He looks well, smells better and is eating better, mainly because he’s getting looked after far better then he looked after himself at home, far better than my Mum could look after him. He chats with us, often repeating himself and when he loses the thread, seamlessly moves onto a weird topic of his own making. Apparently he had 15 cups of tea before lunch time the other day! He has no idea when that other day was, he has no idea of time or date or even what day it is. He said he heard that our team Sheffield Wednesday beat Arsenal 2-0, I told him it was 3-0 and he just said “phew” and raised his head slightly.
We walked around the upper floor and came across an area bedecked red and white with Sheffield United photos and flags and he said jokingly “I don’t like this side” and laughed. He then pointed out some blue and white drawings of some Wednesday players from my era and said “This is better”. He’s not totally gone. His long memory is pretty sharp but he has hardly any short term memory. I ask him what he has eaten for lunch and he doesn’t know. He could have made something up but he just looks at me with his quirky little grin and says with total honesty and no embarrassment whatsoever “I can’t remember”.
Then I get a lump in my throat and try to choke back the emotion.
He took me to my first Sheffield Wednesday game in 1965 and was never a big Wednesday fan but followed them with me until about 1972 and I could go to games alone. Then he stopped going. But the fact that he made a joke was brilliant. He also made jokes about other things in the home.
He is gradually becoming institutionalised. We wanted him placed in the home for my Mum’s sanity and his wellbeing. Then along comes Miss smart arse social worker trying to throw a spanner in the works saying things like “If the panel deems him okay to come home, he will be sent home” to which my Mum said she’d move out and leave him alone. Legally, nobody can be forced to be a carer. So they’d be setting him up to fail, which is what they also do with kids with parental and educational problems. It’s cruel and in my dad’s case, bloody dangerous. He cannot feel whether water is hot or cold, he can’t see any details, just shapes, he’s totally blind in one eye and has less than 20% vision in the other.
Pardon my French, although it’s never stopped me before, but social workers are fucking idiots and jobsworths when they say “I’m just doing my job”. Yes, they are following a procedure, 50 sheets of paper, all to be filled in without exception and not one iota of common sense, no flexibility whatsoever. They’ve probably come across the same thing a hundred times or more, just like the guy who delivers your 3 seater couch and moans and whinges trying to get it through a standard 6 foot 6 door, like it’s the very first time he’s ever done it. You would think experience counted for a lot in a job like that, but no, “each case has to be weighed on it’s merits”. So my Dad is now a case. Nut case? Well yes, in loose terminology, but a number on some jumped up council pen pusher’s scribble pad NO, and he never will be. He’ll always be my Dad, until he dies. Then he will still be my Dad in my memories.
We, as a family, are trying to convince my Mum, to move on now, don’t even worry about visiting him too much. We go twice a week, my sister also, probably more than us but Mum really must let go. If he hangs on until March 31st 2016 they will have been married for 60 years. There won’t be a diamond celebration. Not even for my Mum. We will celebrate her birthday 2 days later.