It began some time around 4am on Monday [19 December] morning. “It was really weird, ” he later told me, “… everything seemed to happen in slow motion.”
My step-mother heard the fall, and found my father, a contortion of awkward limbs on the bathroom floor. Naked, initially he seemed more concerned by the preservation of his dignity than being aware of the relative urgency of dealing with the fire that had been stealthily ignited in his brain.
I received a call a few hours later, still not entirely sure what the situation was. However, when I arrived at A&E that situation was suddenly snapped into sharper focus; clearly no longer the possible issues associated with his chronic neck and arm problems. The fire had been raging deep within the very essence of him. The diagnosis now confirmed as an ischaemic/infarct stroke: a blood clot on the brain.
Although clearly exhausted, I was heartened by his relative lucidity; recalling the moment he’d got out of bed to go to the bathroom and various things that had happened since his admission and in the days before. But now here we were, together, alone, for a seemingly endless few hours, awaiting a bed for admission. He drifted in and out of sleep, occasionally complaining of the pain in his head, and his hip – he has two hip replacements. A man, in his later years, of complex health.
Time crawled, a degree of surreality as the A&E whirled around outside my bubble. Eventually, though, he was admitted to a ward and the dust began to settle on the day. Finally, now more relaxed and comfortable, self-deprecating and dry sense of humour in tact – briefly naked again, surrounded by three nurses, he remarked on the apparent vulnerability regarding their disconcerting use of the word ‘stroke’ – I kissed the soft white hair of his head, he thanked me for everything and I headed home; I was told the next day or two would reveal more.