18 days ago, my old Pa had a stroke so massive he was still having it 48 hours later; even though it was caught immediately by my Mum (‘He was mumbling in a monotone- I thought he was doing an impersonation of Andy Murray’); even though he had a clot-dispersing wotsit within 2 hours.

A stroke so big, it was almost the equivalent of a hemorrhage, accompanied by internal bleeding and swelling.

Yet yesterday he wolfed down the quails eggs I took him and coherently quizzed me about the status of the boys’ bank accounts.

Next week he’ll be discharged to rehabilitate for a few months at a hospital home before going back to his top-floor flat.

What is driving this man through survival?

Is it physical strength?

No. His body is not so much a temple, more ancient devil worship ruins. He is weak on his feet, nigh-on 17 stone, has diabetes, a leg ulcer, high blood pressure, a back rash and more.

Is it a lust for life?

No. He eschews hobbies, is unimpressed with the state of the world and is separated from his only true loves: food, alcohol, radio 4 and his family.

Is it faith?

No. There’s a Christian kernel in there somewhere but redemption is not on his mind. (‘There was a priest in here yesterday. I called over the nurse and said, ‘Jesus, this looks bad.”)

I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s humour- or more specifically taking the mick; a single-minded deliberation to observe the cretins surrounding him with the perspicacity he thinks they deserve.

A recognition that the chap opposite who puts his rubbish next to the bin every morning ‘should be putting himself out with it.’

A determination for the physiotherapist to understand (in the wake of a ‘Well done, Anthony’ patronisation) that when he tells her he’s ready for his rusk, he’s not being senile- he’s joking.

An assertion in the midst of being cleaned up down below, that he is, in fact, a member of Mensa.

A desire to restore some potency by asking- after he has been buttoned up by his carer- if he can un-button her in return (it’s more challenging, this impulse, but we’re working on it).

Ironically, funnier still is to see a staff for the most part untrained in seeing the individual behind the patient, make benevolent, misguided assumptions about this immobile old lump with the crooked smile in bed 6.

Nurse: There’s another man coming in today from the Navy.

Dad: Good for him.

Nurse: We thought you’d be pleased.

Dad: Sounds like a match made in Doctor Heaven.

Nurse: Don’t you want to meet him?

Dad: I’m here because I’m in bad shape, not for social discourse.

Nurse: He only wants to be friendly.

Dad: In the words of Alan Sugar, ‘If I wanted a friend, I’d get a dog.’


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