Wood you please - Chapter 10

Three different stories

11th June 2019

So it's another night with no sleep. I've had a reasonably productive day and week. I've finished a garden table that I've been working on and I've completed some legs for a client who wants to raise a lamp that she's purchased off the floor. I'm physically tired and mentally tired but sleep eludes me. Insomnia has been something I've lived with for many years. The slightest stress and my mind buzzes and sleep becomes a dim, distant friend: I kind of remember what it feels like but the memory is fuzzy and indistinct. So I do what I usually do – watch TV.

Tonight's list was 'interesting': The Brief, the story of an itinerant gambler whose father is dying in the last episode [not a great choice for obvious reasons] and since that didn't make me sleep I decided to watch an old favourite from  the 80s: Beverly Hills Cop. It's the story of a Detroit police-officer whose friendship with a criminal leads him into trouble. Hilarity ensues. It's made me think about friendship and friends.

Sometime in the 80s – a conversation with Dad

TWW:     Why don't you go and visit them?

Dad:        I don't know whether they want to see me and I don't want to impose.

I have often felt the same. I've always lacked in confidence particularly in my relationships with friends. I can pinpoint this feeling to an incident in the late 70s when I was told by a child in my class that none of my friends liked me. I remember as clearly as if it was yesterday. It was in the boys' toilets at the top of the Junior playground. The quarry tiles underfoot were slick with poorly aimed urine, the trough urinal started to flush and I stared into the brown, earnest eyes of the child and thought, 'Why is he telling me this?' My paranoia begins.

Sometime in the Early 90s

Friend:   You know you can be in a room full of people who like you and you'll think they hate you

11th June 2019

The saying goes, 'a friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body.' This is a stupid expectation I know but it makes me think of friends and friendships. Thankfully, no one I know would help me move a body because they are all inherently too good but does this mean I have no good friends? Of course not.

My friends have shown their true colours in the past few weeks in myriad ways. They have looked after me. They've called just to check-in. They've invited me over for dinner or lunch. They've been patient, understanding, caring. They've given up their time. They've been kind. They've mopped up tears. They've placed a gentle hand on my shoulder or have given me tight embraces. They've shared their homes or listened patiently whilst I've repeated myself.  They've just been there. And for that I can never thank them enough.

It would be too laborious [for you] to share every story with dear reader so I shall share just 3. But these stories could apply to any one of you.

Friend 1 – Sunday 14th April 2019

Friend:   I'll be there tonight.

TWW:     You don't need to come; I just wanted to tell you. I know it's the start of the Easter hols and ou'll want to rest

Friend:   I'll be there tonight.

As promised he arrived and he spent two days of his holiday in a small hospital room. He made mum and I laugh in between a stream of visitors. He sat chatting about the time he'd first met Mum and Dad: we drove through the night from university. We landed up outside our small-terraced home in Wembley and woke my parents with a loud back-fire from his ancient Vauxhall Chevette. In order to keep the rust at bay, he coated the entire car in clown shelf paper. He reminded us of my PhD convocation where he'd taken us on a short walk: seven miles uphill in the Yorkshire Dales. Dad was wearing a suit and was 66 at the time; Mum was 52 and just as exhausted. 3 miles in and my friend realised that this wasn't really a short walk for a pensioner and was worried about how grey they were going. Mum and I laughed again.

He sat with us for 10 hours on the first day and with us for 4 hours on the second day.

Friend 2 – Thursday 18th April 2019

I have to dress Dad in sudreh and kusti today. Although I'm not religious, I wanted to Dad to feel safe and happy. I know that he was happiest when protected by his religious garments and so I wanted him to feel safe on his next great adventure. When I arrived at the funeral parlour on Acton Lane with my cousin, the Directors were kind and sympathetic. My friend went to park the car and met me inside. After we had completed the religious ritual and I had left we drove back to his house. As we drove, I silently started to cry. He must have glanced at me and saw the tears rolling down my cheeks.

He rested his hand on my shoulder.

Friend 3 – the last six years

The friend I've had longest is Mum. I am definitely a mixture of both my parents. I have the fiery temperament of my mother and the introverted nature of my father. But Mum is the one I have always turned to. She is strong, passionate, and loving. And she has spent the last 6 years of her very well-deserved retirement looking after Dad. She didn't resent it, she did it out of love and her sense of duty to the man with whom she'd spent 51 years. As such she rarely went out for anything except medical appointments and shopping. Mum or I would tell Dad where we were going in the hope he wouldn't forget and we'd dash off.

February 2019

We can't do that anymore – Dad's too fragile. Dad's cousin [himself in his 80s] comes to look after him while we're out. Dad always used to talk of his cousins as brothers and sisters and they treated him as such. Dad's cousin returns pretty much weekly so that we can go out and get things done and for the love and care that he shows my father, I'm eternally grateful. Eternally.

End of March 2019

We've been invited to someone's house for lunch and I know that Mum really wants to go. As is my wont, I'm not particularly bothered as an afternoon watching NETFLIX or PRIME [other streaming services are available] seems infinitely more inviting.

I give Dad his bath and Mum and Mrs WW head out for lunch. Mum has left lunch for both of us and a list of instructions for me.

As I settle down to watch the TV, I can hear some noises coming from Dad's room. He's struggling to get himself out of bed. As I approach, he asks me who I am. This is the first time that this has happened. I manage to swallow the lump in my throat and help him.

I know how upset this made Mum but as ever, she bore this new load with her usual good humour and fortitude. I can't express how much I love both of the women in my life [Mum and Mrs WW]. They put up with my moods and my temper. They look after me, they care about me and they show it. I can be a bit of a cold fish and as such I express myself better on the page than I do in real-life so this is for you both. I love you.

Author's Note

This leaves me to thank all of you – my dear, good friends. I am lucky to have all of you in my life. You have refreshed my faith in humanity and I hope that I can repay you someday. I don't know if I will but thank you none-the-less.

PS However, I still won't move a body.