I visit my father in hospital.

I have heard it said before: there is something beautiful about seeing a person in their twilight years, serene and at peace with themselves in a hospital bed.

Whereas my father looks like a pissed off man covered in probes.

“Hullo!” I beam at him. “What happened to you?”

He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. “Nice probes,” I add. The things are sellotaped all over him. It is quite impressive.

“Absolutely nothing happened to me,” he complains. “One minute my blood pressure dropped a bit, so I felt a bit faint. But because I was standing on the stairs, it got all spectacular. If I’d have been sitting down in an armchair then nobody would have taken any notice.”

I study his probes. “It is quite bad luck that you weren’t in an armchair at the time,” I agree. “What were the chances of that?”

A nurse wanders by and gives my father a selection of studious pokes. “We should have you out of here in three or four days!” she promises.

“Three or four days?!?” he replies in alarm.

I look at my watch. “Well, time is getting on. Did you sleep well, by the way?”

My father glares at me. “What, with all these bloody probes?”

The Hospital Meal Operative approaches with her trolley. She passes over a card, which contains meal options and some instructions to place a tick beside the items required. My father studies the card with the out-and-out enthusiasm of a Christopher Hitchens addressing a creative writing group of left-leaning scampi.

He finally places a tick in a box. The Operative takes the card from him. “You’ve written on the card!” she laughs. “You’re not meant to tick on here – this is for the whole ward!”

“But it says to ti…”

“Look! He’s gone and ticked on the card!” she announces to the ward, before turning back to him with pitying eyes. “Don’t worry love, we’ll sort it anyway.”

“It clearly says to ti…”

“What are you having, anyway, love?” She stares hard at the card. “You’re having the pie, but you’ve not said what sort of potatoes.” She turns to us. “He’s not said what sort of potatoes.”

“I don’t really want any potatoes.”

“No potatoes?!?” She turns to us. “He doesn’t want any potatoes?” She turns to the ward. “Pie but with no potatoes! Oh, you are a one.” She reaches for a loudhailer, throws the window open and announces across the plains of South East Essex “no potatoes! You see he has ordered pie, but has not taken the potato option!!! Honestly!!!”

“Are you sure?” she adds.

My father looks on helplessly.

“Anyway, it’s been good to see that you’re ok,” I say. “I’ll leave you to it – I was planning on going to the pub for lunch.” I take my leave and go to the pub for my lunch. It is good to know that he is in capable hands.

20 Comments

  1. Why don’t you do Dad a favour, smuggle him out and, to cheer him up, take him to the Pub for lunch. He could probably get …a….pie……., with chips?

  2. Or just a pie.

    And beer.

    mmmmmmmmmmmmm beer.

  3. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait for the song and dance they put on when they bring around the Bowel Movement card…

  4. To fight your dad’s “blues”, why not play the banjo for him at your next visit ? Maybe they ‘ll ask you to play for the whole ward…………

  5. He should’ve snatched the card back and eaten it, extra ticks and all.

    And that HMO needs to STFU.

  6. In my day if a son visited his dad without bringing a bottle of something and then he got sarkey – the aforesaid son would get a thick ear.

  7. How did you find all that time in your busy schedule to spend with him? Do you count driving to the hospital as part of the visit?

  8. Annoyingly enough, I did actually order the pie when I got to the pub. But they had run out of pies.

    A problem that they did not have in the hospital, according to his later report.

  9. “She reaches for a loudhailer, throws the window open and announces across the plains of South East Essex “no potatoes!”

    This made me laugh a lot. Out loud, even.

    It would have been a lot quicker to write LOL there, wouldn’t it? Hmm.

  10. I await updates on hospital sartorial options, toilet facilities and sponge baths.

    Actually, having spent FAR too much time this past year visiting people in hospital I already know, in excruciating detail, about all of these things.

    I do feel culturally enlightened though as over here we do not offer pie to patients but limit them to turkey (grey and in slices), beef (grey and in planks) or pork (grey and unconvincingly chop shaped). Potatoes are, naturally, mandatory.

  11. It’s all quite random. One friend fainted and found he was banned from driving for a year, another fainting friend was told it was probably a virus and nothing was done. I keeled over and they called the paramedics.

    I think that the only reliable thing to order in hospital is salad. You know where you are with salad, though it’s a good idea to have wet wipes on hand to clean the lettuce unless you don’t mind grit.

  12. Z, of course it must have been a virus – I mean what you have described is three friends keeling over.

    Dr. House/Hugh Laurie would agree that it must be some sort of diabolical terrorist plot that has infected your friends and will only be cured by eating salad.

  13. I don’t know any ‘person in their twilight years, serene and at peace with themselves in a hospital bed’.

    Oh wait, I did know one ol’ lady who saw it as an escape from her husband, she said it was like being on holiday.

  14. Eessential potato must be an Essex thing. I work in Essex and there have been days in our staff restaurant where I have selected my protein, then moved along to the carbohydrate section:
    Me: I’d like mashed potatoes please
    Dinner lady: Anything else?
    Me: Well, do you have anything here that’s green and not fried?
    Dinner lady: Not really. The mash isn’t fried. You can have chips, more mash, curly fries, corn, baked beans, a baked potato with cheese on top, parsnips or purple cabbage.
    Me: I suppose I’ll have the cabbage… again.

    And don’t get me started on the custard with pudding thing. Since when was custard not optional?

  15. My Old Man spent years in a semi-vegetative state in the Whittington Hospital (possible the only hospital ever named after a pantomime)

    I was visiting him once, sitting by his bed bored because ‘semi-vegetative state is a bit of a misnomer as it means far more vegetative (alas no potatos) than not.

    And, I promise I am not making this up along came one of the nurses, Swedish, very pretty and I have to say blond and buxom having checked his vitals turned to me and with true Nordic candour said ‘I’ve noticed you visit quite a lot, would you like to come for a drink one night?’

    Ye, I checked to see if Charles Hawtrey was gurning in the next bed, yes I checked to see if I had suddenly morphed into hapless Jim Dale.

    Truth be told she did spend all her days wafting amongst elderly men who were 87% unconscious so the competition was slight but still this kind of thing does only happen in films.

    It didn’t last. In fact she was horrendously unfaithful, sour and a very messy drunk but still…

    hmmm this has been more of a pointless boast then a pointless anecdote hasn’t it?

    Carry On.

  16. No, actually it was more of a warning tale for us all to respectfully decline any come-ons from fetching nurses/doctors that deal with geriatrics. So thank you!

    I will definitely heed your advice when the time comes. Do you have any advice on dealing with a menopausal mother that refuses to accept that she’s actually hit well into menopause and as a result is kind of batshit crazy?

  17. Justthoughtyoumight – Respect. Huge respect.

    (Although have you not forgotten Seven Dwarfs General in Reading? V famous.)

  18. Alas Kermit I have an old school guilt-distributing, Catholic Irish mother who only ever communicates in terms of disappointment.

    I forgot about the Seven dwarfs General JonnyB – if memory serves me that’s the one quite small staff and only one Doc?

  19. Well, disappointment is not that different from communicating with East German guilt mixed in with the pathos – and I suppose ethos – that comes with “denying your way through menopause”. It would be amusing if you saw it in a Beckett/Woody Allen play, but in real life, not so much.

  20. If the aim is to bring your father’s BP up the nurse is doing a fine job.

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