Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Since our move the journey has required a couple of trains and a hike, before then it was a car journey through the rush hour. When I arrived I'd ring the doorbell and after a minute or so I'd hear his feet shuffling up to the door which he'd fling open with a beaming, toothless smile: 'Hello. I didn't expect to see you today.'
'Dad, you knew I was coming...'
And he did, because a tray would always be set out ready in the kitchen with the teapot and mugs, and biscuits or a doughnut if he'd been shopping, or I would bring cake from home. And we'd sit in the front room, he in his fireside chair, I opposite, near the window, and we'd mull over the latest news. Sometimes we solved problems - he needed a new vacuum or he'd lost ground in some way - was a bit wobbly, needed to think about giving up driving, or one of his outings. Always we talked about his grandchildren and the rest of the family. I would tell him a little about my writing. He was my greatest fan. He had all my novels on my shelf and he read them on a loop. He always said: 'I don't know how you do it,' and I would say: 'It's my job, Dad.'
As he grew frailer I grew more bothered. It was harder to leave him. Sunday visits became trickier - he was less mobile, we could take him out less. But he hung on at home until six months ago.
And now this constant in my life is gone. 97 years snuffed out. It's autumn and the leaves fall and part of me is rested by this knowledge, that there isn't an old man longing for me to arrive, waiting for the doorbell. And part of me, the orphaned part, knows there has been an extraordinary and seismic shift I have only begun to comprehend.
The world is a remorseless place for a wobbly old man. Everyone rushes past. He left a planet full of bad news and crowds addicted to a technology he couldn't share. But he'd detached himself. He had stepped away until he was hardly bothered at all by any of it.
He has made me think that politicians, writers, all of us, are forever asking the wrong question. We should not be saying: What world do we want to live in? But: What world do we want to die in? Would we not be rather gentler if we worked out the answer to that, a little less short-sighted, a little readier to sit back and think for a while about what really matters?
Posted by Katharine McMahon at 08:48