Her dad is eighty eight, not in the best of health: there is no choice: he must go to a home. The daughter is worried but her day is filled with work and battling through the grind of middle age. She has her own family now: they must come first. It is the new order where the old are children once again, with little to hold onto but memories and a cup of tea. Life must rush by, that’s all we understand. We cannot let our problems hold us back.
This is all she needs , but somehow she must find the time to settle his affairs. Her father has no power now; lives as a guest in his own life, smiling at a world he no longer influences or understands: most of those who loved him are long gone. He used to dance, he tells the nurse as she settles him into bed. She smiles kindly in a busy way: pleasant but unmoved: she’s heard it all before. These old boys do go on. She turns away and moves towards the door.
The daughter walks into the house he called his home, not where she grew up but still with objects she knows well. That crazy plastic parrot sitting on a branch; the cupboard filled with china from God knows when. The photographs of course, she always looks at those. Here they are , she with her mum and dad. Sitting on the beach, she eating her ice cream: he always wore a hat regardless of the place. She smiles at last and looks around the room. Just by the door his old desk sits. What is in there”? She opens a drawer and peers at what’s inside. She sees a pile of letters, yellow now with age, and tied with some old ribbon, red and frayed. Not really knowing why she picks them up and takes a letter from the pile. It’s dated 1942 while he was on the front. Fighting for his country somewhere far away. He’s never talked about it . She removes the letter from the envelope and reads.
It’s bloody hot out here. We’re on the move tomorrow. Some big push. That’s all I know. God knows what will happen, but if I don’t make it through always know how much I loved you. It made me proud to have you in my life, and your photograph is always with me. Be happy and, if I don’t get back, just get on with it as you always do. Somewhere up there will be a star. It’s me twinkling and smiling down on you.
All my special love, Harold xxx”.h
His daughter felt her eyelids fill with tears. Her Dad. He always made the time for others, not himself. Without knowing why she climbed into her car and went to see him driving in a haze. Entering the room she sees him lying there. Propped up in bed and patient with his lot. Sitting down she moves to hold his hand. “I love you dad. I’ve loved you all my life”. “I know you silly fool. ” he says and smiles.