Copyright© 2010 Angharad
All Rights Reserved.
Once I got anywhere near the town centre I met traffic—grid locked traffic—why oh why don’t these imbeciles leave their cars at home when it snows? All they do is clog up the roads for those of us who can drive in these conditions.
If hadn’t been in such a hurry, I could have enjoyed the entertainment of cars spinning wheels and going nowhere; of white van man braking—the thing you never do on ice—and turning round to face where he’d come from and with a face as pale as his van.
I watched a cyclist on a modified mountain bike, his front wheel missing and his forks screwed into a homemade sledge—he was fine until he came across some cleared pavement and he came to a rapid deceleration. I didn’t see if he fell off because at that moment my attention was taken by the traffic moving forward a few yards.
It took me over an hour to do what is normally a twenty minute journey. I have a very poor estimation of motorists based on years of abuse by them on me as a cyclist, today didn’t improve things—most of them have IQs in single figures and are so self absorbed they probably didn’t even notice it was snowing. They still drive the same—accelerate-brake-accelerate-brake and wonder why they have accidents. I wonder if stupidity is inherent in motorists and politicians?
I parked and paid for my car—the hospital doesn’t clear the car park but still charges you for the privilege of leaving your vehicle at your own risk on a compressed/snow/slush/ice substrate—really nice of them. My anger subsided when I did some unexpected ballet on the ice and just managed to stay upright although it completely messed up my funk.
At A&E the receptionist recognised me and asked why I was there this time? I replied to see my father, Professor Agnew. She told me to take a seat while she made some enquiries.
The waiting area was full of long faced, bored individuals who I’m sure had better things to do than wait for minor injuries to be looked at or wait with those who were injured. Several kids were nursing injured arms and legs and I was half tempted to ask if they wanted me to sort them to reduce the queue, but then perhaps it’s all part of their Karma to spend hours of boredom in this soulless place watching equally inept individuals do the same.
Either way, it wasn’t mine and I was called to reception and told that Tom was up on the EMU ward. I wandered off in search of it. District general hospitals are big places and the QA is no exception. I eventually found Tom’s ward and waited to speak to the nurse in charge who was a very nice young male charge nurse.
“Your father is very poorly.”
“Yes, I know, it was I who called the ambulance and have been trying to get here ever since.”
“Roads are bad are they?”
“Diabolical may be more apposite.”
“Wonderful, I’m back on earlies tomorrow—I’ll just about have time to get home and it’ll be time to come back in again.”
“It might have cleared by then?”
“Yeah, and we might have a Saharan sandstorm to save them gritting.” He gave me a resigned look and shook his head. “Your dad is on antibiotics and has some sort of chest infection—we suggest you wear a face mask to see him and make sure you wash your hands after you leave.” He pointed to some wash basins and skin cleansing gel—the latter is useless for the most part unless you’ve just washed your hands—it’s there as a PR exercise.
I pulled on the face mask and felt like a cross between someone in the US TV series ER—which I thought was about the Queen—and a bank robber. Tom was sleeping so I went and sat alongside him and took his hand.
Without opening his eyes he said quietly, “Och, I kent ye’d come.”
“The traffic is dreadful, I should have been here ages ago.”
“Aye, weel ye’re here thae noo.”
“Yes, Daddy—just lie back and think of Eng—um—I mean—Scotland.”
“Aye, alricht once I tellt ye aboot ma will.”
“Why, you’re going to be fine in a few days and live so long we’ll all be too old to inherit from you.”
“I’m a realist, Cathy, jest in case ye hadnae realised.”
“I know, Daddy, I’m an optimist and I’m usually right.”
“I’m no gonna argue wi’ye, jest listen tae whit I tell ye.”
I blushed. “Okay, fire away.”
He coughed and spat some bloody phlegm into a little pot and put the lid back on. He was breathless for two or three minutes and I waited patiently for him to speak. “In ma filin’ cabinet, there’s a muckle broon envelope wi’ yer name on it. It’ll tell ye whit tae dae if I should pop ma clogs. I’ve left everythin’ tae ye, make sure thon kids o’ yourn get a share o’ ma money.”
I felt a tear run down my face, followed by another. “I will, Daddy, I promise.”
“Jest a precaution.”
“Of course—but you need to get well again.”
“To run the survey and...”
“Och, ye’ll need tae see tae it. I’ve tellt thae Dean, he kens whit tae dae.”
“What about my PhD?”
“There’ll be others who can supervise ye.”
“But I want you to do it.”
“An’ want ye ta stop a’ this adventure stuff, but will ye?”
“I’ll try if you will?”
“Ye’ve got a deal,” he squeezed my hand, “Noo piss off an’ look efter those bairns o’ yers.” With that adieu, he sent me on my way and told me not to come in tomorrow if the roads were still bad. On the way out, I gave my mobile number to the charge nurse and asked him to let me know if there was any news or change in his condition.
I then went back to the car, sat there and cried for I don’t know how long. How could I tell him how much I loved him and how grateful I was for his belief in me and his personal support. How could I thank him for all he’d done for me and the rest of my family. He’d given me a home and I’d repaid him by causing a full scale invasion and filling his every nook and cranny with children and noise—which he said he loved.
I remember him telling me about his wife and daughter, and how I’d sort of filled part of the void in his life. I remember too how he’d told me his was a family home which should reverberate to the laughter of children and how I’d made that happen, something he’d almost given up on. A tear dripped into my lap and I jumped out of my skin when the window of my car was tapped by a man in a dark coat.
I opened the window a fraction, “Are you alright, Miss? I’ve been watching you for about ten minutes and you seem very upset.”
I nodded, “I’m okay, my father is very ill—sorry, I have to go.” I started up the Cayenne and nearly ran over his foot in my haste to remove myself from his prying and his pity.
The roads were still busy but I got home in forty minutes, hoping my eyes would lose some of their redness before the children saw me. I parked the car next to Tom’s LandRover and that made me feel sad, then I trudged up to the door and let myself in.
“Mummy,where have you been?” demanded Trish, “Daddy’s been trying to call you on your mobile.”
“Oh, sorry, I switched it off in the hospital.”
“There you are,” Simon came up and hugged me. “How is he?”
All the subterfuges I worked out on the way home to prevent upsetting the kids went out the window, and I gasped, “He thinks he’s going to die,” and sobbed on Simon’s shoulder.
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