Formerly 'Rambling with a cantankerous old mule"
This was written partly in response to WordPress’s Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Blogging and partly just because it’s seriously funny!
Last year when I came back to South Africa from Madagascar with a lung malady I moved back in with my dad – temporarily, in my mind, until I was well enough to move on again. A year and a half later, I’m still here. I keep telling myself it’s a good thing…
When people ask him what it is like having his son living with him again, his stock answer is as follows, “Oh, it’s great. He lies on the couch with his laptop, from the time he gets home from work until he goes to bed, and I cook for him.”
I used to jump to my defence but eventually I just resigned myself to his inevitable, regular answer.
“Well, I’m sure he’ll get married soon … then he’ll move out,” they often say.
“My son, married? Never! Ha ha ha,” he answers, shaking his head.
An eternal optimist my father is, an eternal optimist.
Another thing I noticed about him (apart from the fact that he was kind enough to cook most nights) is that he has a Jekyll and Hyde-type personality-shift if he stays up a bit too late at night. Not a shift in terms of good and evil, moral and immoral, but rather one of heaviness and levity. Late at night, my dad seems to shake off the despondency of the day and become a comic … Jokes flow and he delights at pushing my buttons. He also seems to think that the time to talk is post-midnight, when most people are safely snoring. But, as well as I function at night, I’d much rather have soul-baring talks when actually awake. As a result, I’ve kind of banned him from bursting into my room after I’ve gone to bed.
Then came the incident two nights ago, when he was running a bit of a fever. First, at around 9.30pm, he asked if I’d drive to the shops to buy him a soda water. “Sure, I said,” rather begrudgingly. But off I trudged anyway. When I returned I saw he’d poured himself a coke.
“What’s going on,” I asked. “Why did you send me out for a soda water if you wanted coke?”
“I forgot I’d asked,” was his reply…
Off to bed he went, and then, at around 12pm, just as I was going to sleep, he emerged from his bedroom to take some medication for his fever – his socked-feet pattering noisily across the tiles. A while later I was shaken from my slumber with a question, shouted through my door, “Are you sleeping, yet?”
“Yes,” I answered (isn’t it funny how we do that, even though we’re already awake?) and promptly went back to sleep, thinking he just wanted another of his late-night chats. It turns out he was so dizzy that he couldn’t stand up, and so he crawled back to bed. If it wasn’t so tragic it would be hilarious.
The next thing, in the dead of night, I was again shocked awake to see my dad standing soundless in my doorway like a phantom, bearing a mug of tea. “What time is it? What are you doing? Huh?” I asked, while trying to make out the time through bleary eyes.
It was 2.30am.
“I made you tea. Drink it. It’ll help you to sleep,” was his explanation.
“I WAS SLEEPING! Quite well, actually,” was all I could hiss, as I plopped back onto my pillow.
But, sadly, sleep then evaded me for the next several hours.
Thump; rustle; crash; bang; rustle; rustle came from the bedroom next door. Eventually I got up to see what was going on.
“I’m cold and can’t get my hot water bottle to work,” he said, staring at the useless thing. So, I fixed it for him and went to bed.
A while later: Thump; rustle; crash; bang; rustle; rustle from the bedroom alongside again.
“What now?” I stormed in to his bedroom asking? There he was straining towards the ceiling fan: “I’m too hot and can’t turn the fan on.”
“THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE SLEEPING WITH A HOT WATER BOTTLE CLUTCHED TO YOUR CHEST!” I bellowed deliriously. But I turned the fan on anyway. “Now for my sake and all those at my office tomorrow please go to bed and go to sleep,” I pleaded.
“But I am in bed,” said he, balanced precariously on the edge of his mattress, one leg hanging lazily to the floor. All I could do was shake my head and glare at him severely until he hoisted the errant leg into bed next to its partner …
(Yes, I’m a bad son, I know).
Out I stomped to get that cup of tea I had turned down earlier in the evening, slamming the bedroom door decisively behind me.
And there I was met with chaos. A broken mug and tea-soaked floor, the oven door ajar at a jaunty angle, sugar bowl perched on the edge of the counter … All this caused by a dizzy father desperate for a cuppa in the wee hours of the morning.
At that scene, and with all that had gone before, I went back to his bedroom to ask if it wouldn’t be better if I took him to the hospital.
“No, I’m fine, really,” was his slurred, sleepy response …
After cleaning the kitchen I got to bed again, and finally slept fitfully. I did hear him a few more times in the night, and somehow made it through the day in a haze of exhaustion. When I asked him whether he had seen the doctor his response was, “No, I spoke to him on the phone though … We think it’s just a lack of potassium in my diet …”
(In February I wrote about my dad and our relationship here.)