Me talking about the part my parent’s play in the memoir and reading some bits from the book. Read writing below …
Extract from A Day In The Life Of New Timber Ward
After dinner my parents come. Tired, bedraggled, but looking like home. Mum has short brown hair, is very tiny but has a healthy strength. She used to be a P.E. teacher and is still a keen sportswoman. She’ll happily play a game of hockey then hit the bar with the girls afterwards. Some people might describe her as a feisty little woman.
Dad is quieter and less of a social whirlwind. He is pleasantly plump and I get my ginger locks from him. He, however, has lost the red and his hair has turned a nice blonde white. Another thing I have inherited from him is something about my face. We both seem to attract beggars and charity muggers. We must look approachable, harmless and nicely exploitable. Short blokes, both stuck with this dumbly amiable face.
So, they come and see me everyday and their visits have really improved recently. For a while they were visiting coma Dave and beeping, blinking machines. They then paid several visits to thrashing, angry, mute Dave. Who I am now is a fairly new development. Admittedly I might sound a bit drunk but I’ve always got a smile and a giggle. Plenty of giggles.
I am “suffering” from euphoria. It can happen with a brain injury, apparently. The poor stranded patient is left finding everything hilarious. And I do. Ridiculously, stupidly, funny.
I greet them with a smile and a laugh. I have a new laugh as well as a new voice. It sounds like a thick henchman’s guffaw, it is deeply, deeply dippy. Yuk Yuk Yuk!
I tell them about a moment when a nurse asked about my discharge. She, of course, was talking about my discharge from hospital, but I couldn’t help hearing the possible smut hidden within her innocent question. Now, I found this funny at the time, and it only sets me off again. For a good four minutes I’m quite, quite helpless. The thing about the giggles is that half way through you realise you are slightly out of control and for some reason this makes the whole thing funnier. Which only sparks more haw haws, and some more, and so on and so forth, and haw haw haw!
Lisa, a young passing nurse, looks over, “the discharge conversation?” I nod and gesticulate weakly at her, giving her the thumbs up. My parents smile, if this is brain damage then they like this phase.
We play Trivial Pursuit and keep busy. Every time I surprise myself with the odd thing I know. It is weird having no immediate past but being able to remember which Beatle wrote ‘Something’. Talking about my memory, my parents ask me what I’ve done today. Now, they know the answer, but are testing me.
I shrug, puff my cheeks out, “Just sat round all day I guess.”
“No Dave,” my mum says. “You had something, did something? Can you remember?”
“Erm, hang on. Did I have physio?”
“Yes. Well done. But you had something else…”
I have no idea. I cast around wildly, “They x-rayed my head? My catheter bag burst?”
“No, you had Stuart Little. Remember?”
“Oh yeah!” I lie.
That’s my reality at the moment. I have this goldfish memory but I do find the world hilarious. Just don’t ask me what made me laugh because chances are I will have no idea. So, on to another big hole in my memory:
“Mum, what happened? What was the accident?”
My mum rolls her eyes. “Not this again. Look, we’ve told you. You were in Eastbourne and that’s about as much as we know. We don’t really know what happened.”
“But someone must have seen something.”
“No, you were just found. We don’t know what happened.”
And this is all I get, but I do persist in asking, having forgot that I asked five minutes ago. My mum gets a bit annoyed, shuffles the Trivial Pursuit cards and says, “Look, it’s your turn for a brown cheese.” I get distracted and we move on, but this conversation is familiar and whenever I bring it up I’m met by a very thinly veiled agitation.
What happened? None of the nurses seem to know either. What went on out there? What exactly did happen? We are all, it would seem, in the dark.
My Drunk Mum and Dad
All those times, as a teenager, when I didn’t come home on time. All those times I was thoughtless and unpunctual. I think back to all those bollockings off my mum and decide that, maybe, she had a point.
Mum and Dad aren’t home yet.
They’ve been to a hockey do or Gala or something and they are not back at the time they said they would be. I sit up in bed, turn the lamp on and frown at my watch. Where are they? I tut and decide to read my book.
They are only fifteen minutes late when I hear the taxi pull up. There are jolly voices, a joke is cracked and laughter. The taxi drives off with “goodbyes” yelled from the windows. Then I hear Mum and Dad coming up the drive and trying to scale the few steps leading to the front porch. There is a slip and the sound of crackling branches as a hedge is heavily leaned into. Then laughter again.
“Oh John … come on,” says my Mum in a high voice, filled with mock exasperation. It would seem my Dad is the problem.
“I’m fine. Fine. Don’t you worry. Why isn’t the porch light on? Can’t see anything.” I can hear the slur in his voice. Mum, tiny woman that she is, could always handle the sauce better.
Then a few attempts at getting the key in the lock. An expletive in a low voice.
“Here John, let me do it.”
I get out of bed and make my way to the top of the stairs. The door swishes open, they pile in and for a while I watch them in silence.
My dad tries to get his shoes off and then decides that he better sit on the stairs to do it. Mum blearily inspects her makeup in the mirror.
“And what time do you call this?” I say in a booming voice.
My mum turns the landing light on.
“Oooop, are we late?” She scowls at her watch. “Oh for God’s sake … I can’t read this bloody thing. John, what do you make it?”
“What?” my Dad is still grappling with his shoes.
“What do you make it?”
“What do I make what?”
“What do you make the time?” my mum’s voice is high and shrill, once again filled with pretend tried patience.
“Right,” my Dad looks at his watch, a moment passes. He brings his wrist closer to his face, frowning. “I can’t read this bloody thing.”
“It’s a QUARTER PAST twelve,” I say.
“Oh,” says Mum looking up with droopy eyelids. “Sorry,” and then in a low voice, to Dad, “I think we’re in trouble…”
Then they try to tackle the big stairs. My mum takes my Dad’s hand and leads the way.
As I look down on them I am reminded of a moment in my youth. The moment I was introduced to the concept of goosing. I was about 10 and in the same position on the stairs. My parents were also in the same position, making their way up the stairs, my Dad following my mother.
Then, with a jokey gasp my mum said, “Oooh John. Don’t goose me!”
They both laughed and I looked down, confused.
“What’s goosing?” I asked.
A memory from a time when I was younger, when they were younger and more carefree. They are in this mood tonight as they clumsily ascend the stairs. I say good night and go back to bed.
I listen as they make there way down the hallway, talking about the night. “Did you think Brian was a bit smelly?” and I smile.
This is the first time I’ve seen them drunk and happy for a long time. I must be getting better. They have stopped worrying about me quite so much. I am pleased they have let themselves go a bit tonight. They deserve it.
Extract from Leaving Home, Going Home
I look at my mum and dad, silent in the front seats, and I think about how much I love them. As I was lying in a bed, tubed, lost and defenceless, they were asked for a very particular love. A love from a long time ago. To love the defenceless thing that is yours. Elemental and there.
They are parents and they have done their job, breathtakingly well. I love them very much indeed.