Spelling those words since the early 80s / Purveyor of fine lines

I’ve had a busy old life so far: packing quiches in a refrigerated factory in blue plastic shoes, painting theatres at the Edinburgh Festival just so I could get free croissants from a daily breakfast show, photocopying tenancy agreements for Charlie Brooks (Janine from Eastenders), selling books to customers who insist 1984 was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and working in publishing for nine years. These days, I slave over a hot desk as an author and freelance copywriter.

Get in touch here to find out all the glorious words I could pour right into your brain.

It's Nice That

Oh Happy Day

The Bloggess

Yoruba Girl Dancing

You Are My Fave

What I'd Wear

I am a Leaf on the Wind

Gravity

On her recent UK visit, my sister notes how beautiful and various the architecture is where I live now. I haven’t noticed, not really, not in any complete sense, just odd observations here and there.
At the moment my father dies I have been sent out of his room - my mother wants to wrap my birthday presents for the next day - and am sitting at the kitchen table, flicking through a Sunday Times magazine, marvelling at their levels of trolling and trying to count how many chocolate chip cookies I can fit in my mouth at once with the aid of a hot cup of tea. My mother comes into the kitchen, pale, still, eyes wide, and says my name once. It takes a second before we are both racing upstairs, not hesitating at his doorway - there is something to be done and we absolutely have to do it. But even standing over him, touching him, me tonguing chocolate chips from between my teeth, we aren’t sure. I have to ring up his GP and say, “I’m really sorry; I *think* my dad’s died?”, sounding twelve years old, not thirty-two (for another eight hours). We watch him and watch him and watch him, our eyes so used to seeing the living that we keep seeing a vein pulse, a chest rise, an eye twitch. The doctor comes and takes long, long minutes to pronounce him; my mother and I terrified past words that he might still be alive, that this could be the final stage which goes on for more weeks, or months.
We call who we need to call, and we sit with him. We both kiss him. 
Because his illness was fast but linear - diagnosis; prognosis; declining speech; declining movement; increased fatigue; bed bound; mute; eyes closed; slowed breathing; less breathing; slower pulse; FIN - it seemed a matter of shading. But the truth I’m struggling with is far more black and white: alive; alive; alive; alive; alive; dead. That’s what jolts me when an elderly man reaches across me in a supermarket aisle, his forearms just like my father’s. It’s not my father’s forearm: he’s dead. 
The vast majority of the messages of support I receive understand the complexities of the relationship we had. One particularly pragmatic friend reminds me that ‘If you take the euphemisms out of an obituary, you’ve got prepositions and a resume’. But even a gentle death, at home, on a sunny day, of someone with whom you have this complex relationship, is savage and impossible to understand. 
I’m noticing the local buildings again. Mostly Victorian, with hints of Dickensian munificence, plus my beloved high rise blocks and some Georgian scraps around the edges. The temptation is to make a pun about how I’m looking up, but these reminders of dead builders and dead architects and dead designers are reminding me to look forward instead. 

On her recent UK visit, my sister notes how beautiful and various the architecture is where I live now. I haven’t noticed, not really, not in any complete sense, just odd observations here and there.

At the moment my father dies I have been sent out of his room - my mother wants to wrap my birthday presents for the next day - and am sitting at the kitchen table, flicking through a Sunday Times magazine, marvelling at their levels of trolling and trying to count how many chocolate chip cookies I can fit in my mouth at once with the aid of a hot cup of tea. My mother comes into the kitchen, pale, still, eyes wide, and says my name once. It takes a second before we are both racing upstairs, not hesitating at his doorway - there is something to be done and we absolutely have to do it. But even standing over him, touching him, me tonguing chocolate chips from between my teeth, we aren’t sure. I have to ring up his GP and say, “I’m really sorry; I *think* my dad’s died?”, sounding twelve years old, not thirty-two (for another eight hours). We watch him and watch him and watch him, our eyes so used to seeing the living that we keep seeing a vein pulse, a chest rise, an eye twitch. The doctor comes and takes long, long minutes to pronounce him; my mother and I terrified past words that he might still be alive, that this could be the final stage which goes on for more weeks, or months.

We call who we need to call, and we sit with him. We both kiss him. 

Because his illness was fast but linear - diagnosis; prognosis; declining speech; declining movement; increased fatigue; bed bound; mute; eyes closed; slowed breathing; less breathing; slower pulse; FIN - it seemed a matter of shading. But the truth I’m struggling with is far more black and white: alive; alive; alive; alive; alive; dead. That’s what jolts me when an elderly man reaches across me in a supermarket aisle, his forearms just like my father’s. It’s not my father’s forearm: he’s dead. 

The vast majority of the messages of support I receive understand the complexities of the relationship we had. One particularly pragmatic friend reminds me that ‘If you take the euphemisms out of an obituary, you’ve got prepositions and a resume’. But even a gentle death, at home, on a sunny day, of someone with whom you have this complex relationship, is savage and impossible to understand. 

I’m noticing the local buildings again. Mostly Victorian, with hints of Dickensian munificence, plus my beloved high rise blocks and some Georgian scraps around the edges. The temptation is to make a pun about how I’m looking up, but these reminders of dead builders and dead architects and dead designers are reminding me to look forward instead. 

My mother and I take my sister to the airport this evening. It’s been two weeks of almost non-stop laughter, and between friends and those two and my family and extended family, it feels like I’ve been lifted through something which could have been truly awful, and instead was utterly good. So much so that at the airport tonight, despite that ol’ light of my life disappearing to the other side of the globe again, all I could notice was luggage tags and eye blinds and bag straps and travel pillows and a bubbling excitement of voyages, even if I’m going nowhere right now. 
Driving home in the dark while my sister texts me film options before take-off, my mother and I talk about my dad, of course. We allow the possibility, and the blessing, of binary thoughts about him at last, at last, co-existing in our contented minds. 

My mother and I take my sister to the airport this evening. It’s been two weeks of almost non-stop laughter, and between friends and those two and my family and extended family, it feels like I’ve been lifted through something which could have been truly awful, and instead was utterly good. So much so that at the airport tonight, despite that ol’ light of my life disappearing to the other side of the globe again, all I could notice was luggage tags and eye blinds and bag straps and travel pillows and a bubbling excitement of voyages, even if I’m going nowhere right now. 

Driving home in the dark while my sister texts me film options before take-off, my mother and I talk about my dad, of course. We allow the possibility, and the blessing, of binary thoughts about him at last, at last, co-existing in our contented minds. 

Cooking a breakfast pancake feast for my most beloved people, all of them sitting in my garden, in the sunshine. I still dream about taking J and the kids around the world, but days like this also make me daydream about painting the kitchen, going on a bike ride, having another day like this. 
In the afternoon I send the kids up some local apple trees, and we return with an enormous bag of fruit. I find a recipe for cheddar and apple pie, and after slaving in the kitchen for hours (I end up making a pie for our neighbour too, such is the glut) while they watch Great British Bake Off, I am forced to listen to my tiny Paul Hollywood telling me with familliar unbearded bluntness that my pastry is too salty. For that reason, I offer you instead my recipe for the roast peaches I made the night before, easy and quick and tear-jerkingly delicious. 
4 fairly hard peaches
2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tsp of vanilla paste
75ml water
Cut the peaches along the seam and twist apart, leaving in the stone. Put in a deep sided-baking dish, sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle over the vanilla paste. Put in a pre-heated oven - maybe 180c - and leave for 15 minutes. Once that time is up, pour the water over the peaches. Leave in the oven for another 20 minutes, until they look like forlorn old shoes. Serve two halves in each bowl, with a bowl of cool, cool cream. 

Cooking a breakfast pancake feast for my most beloved people, all of them sitting in my garden, in the sunshine. I still dream about taking J and the kids around the world, but days like this also make me daydream about painting the kitchen, going on a bike ride, having another day like this. 

In the afternoon I send the kids up some local apple trees, and we return with an enormous bag of fruit. I find a recipe for cheddar and apple pie, and after slaving in the kitchen for hours (I end up making a pie for our neighbour too, such is the glut) while they watch Great British Bake Off, I am forced to listen to my tiny Paul Hollywood telling me with familliar unbearded bluntness that my pastry is too salty. For that reason, I offer you instead my recipe for the roast peaches I made the night before, easy and quick and tear-jerkingly delicious. 

4 fairly hard peaches

2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar

2 tsp of vanilla paste

75ml water

Cut the peaches along the seam and twist apart, leaving in the stone. Put in a deep sided-baking dish, sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle over the vanilla paste. Put in a pre-heated oven - maybe 180c - and leave for 15 minutes. Once that time is up, pour the water over the peaches. Leave in the oven for another 20 minutes, until they look like forlorn old shoes. Serve two halves in each bowl, with a bowl of cool, cool cream. 

I drive to the Committal service behind the car with my mother, her sisters and J, following the hearse. In my car, my sister and I have our French cousin and French uncle, the latter of whom plays us the Benny Hill music on his phone as we travel in convoy and bangs the top of my head until all four of us are weeping with laughter. At the Crematorium, we meet my dad’s family, his sweet sisters - really, we have so few men in the family, we’ve had to marry them all in or produce them ourselves - and suddenly the simple horror of his still body in a box makes me feel sick and weak and bovine. We shuffle into the Chapel, accidentally wedging my mother down the end of one row, and listen to the RAF Padre talk about the Kingdom of Heaven for a while. He mispronounces my mother’s name over and over again, and I smirk each time. We enjoy the hymns. I’m distracted by the buttons he pushes when it’s time to draw the curtains across our view of the coffin - he’d told us about them earlier, and once you know he’s doing it, you can’t un-notice it, like the weather presenter’s discreet thumbing for a new screen - but when the service is over and my mother’s choice of exit music begins, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, the front row - my mother, my sisters and I - fall apart, starting up a howl in perfect sync, which of course instantly turns to laughter in my mouth and sets us all giggling. We sit and cry and sing along, then realise when the song starts up again that everyone is waiting for us to move first. 
As we drive out of the Crematorium ground, we see my father’s oldest friends, the ones we were wondering about the absence of, driving in. We have given them the wrong time. For the rest of the day, we all laugh about this, and friends tell us that my father would have found it hilarious, that error. (He wouldn’t. Appropriately, somehow, he would in reality have been so angry that he would have refused to attend the entire rest of day.) 
At the afternoon Memorial service, the church is full, bulging, standing room only. The Padre brings us to the door to see where we’ll speak our Memorial words, and the verger misunderstands and makes 300 people stand up, while we back away from the door, doubled-over with fist-in-mouth silent laughter. When our chosen organ music strikes up, we feel any tension has been destroyed by the premature rise and burst in, the four of us marching down the aisle to our blank pew at the front. It feels like some kind of last-minute provincial rep, not a sacred ritual; Bring Your Own Costume. 
We head straight to the pub afterwards. J reassures me that I got the biggest laugh of the service - is there any other reason to speak at a funeral? - and I am tearful at the sight of my friends there, pressed fresh and smart in black. They buy me tiny glasses of sambuca. I am struck by how few people I know at the wake: there are hundreds, literally hundreds, and I wonder at how far my father’s life drifted from the one he loved to the one he had when I knew him, that I don’t think I’ve met even half of these dear friends before. But the ones I do know, the beloved family friends whose children we were raised with - their hugs and hand clasps and laughter are a cure for what ails me. By four o’clock, I am cadging cigarettes from mon Oncle Georges and when my mother comes outside, she gives me a mock-shocked look and I reply with an exaggerated What?, letting a pop of smoke bubble from my mouth. She laughs. I am so proud of her, as she stands in stockinged feet outside the pub, next to my friends who tower above her and listen to her stories. Her oldest friend finds me too, and tells me such beautiful things about my mother that I wrap them up carefully in my brain, to tell her that evening, when we are quiet, after midnight, back at home. 

I drive to the Committal service behind the car with my mother, her sisters and J, following the hearse. In my car, my sister and I have our French cousin and French uncle, the latter of whom plays us the Benny Hill music on his phone as we travel in convoy and bangs the top of my head until all four of us are weeping with laughter. At the Crematorium, we meet my dad’s family, his sweet sisters - really, we have so few men in the family, we’ve had to marry them all in or produce them ourselves - and suddenly the simple horror of his still body in a box makes me feel sick and weak and bovine. We shuffle into the Chapel, accidentally wedging my mother down the end of one row, and listen to the RAF Padre talk about the Kingdom of Heaven for a while. He mispronounces my mother’s name over and over again, and I smirk each time. We enjoy the hymns. I’m distracted by the buttons he pushes when it’s time to draw the curtains across our view of the coffin - he’d told us about them earlier, and once you know he’s doing it, you can’t un-notice it, like the weather presenter’s discreet thumbing for a new screen - but when the service is over and my mother’s choice of exit music begins, ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’, the front row - my mother, my sisters and I - fall apart, starting up a howl in perfect sync, which of course instantly turns to laughter in my mouth and sets us all giggling. We sit and cry and sing along, then realise when the song starts up again that everyone is waiting for us to move first. 

As we drive out of the Crematorium ground, we see my father’s oldest friends, the ones we were wondering about the absence of, driving in. We have given them the wrong time. For the rest of the day, we all laugh about this, and friends tell us that my father would have found it hilarious, that error. (He wouldn’t. Appropriately, somehow, he would in reality have been so angry that he would have refused to attend the entire rest of day.) 

At the afternoon Memorial service, the church is full, bulging, standing room only. The Padre brings us to the door to see where we’ll speak our Memorial words, and the verger misunderstands and makes 300 people stand up, while we back away from the door, doubled-over with fist-in-mouth silent laughter. When our chosen organ music strikes up, we feel any tension has been destroyed by the premature rise and burst in, the four of us marching down the aisle to our blank pew at the front. It feels like some kind of last-minute provincial rep, not a sacred ritual; Bring Your Own Costume. 

We head straight to the pub afterwards. J reassures me that I got the biggest laugh of the service - is there any other reason to speak at a funeral? - and I am tearful at the sight of my friends there, pressed fresh and smart in black. They buy me tiny glasses of sambuca. I am struck by how few people I know at the wake: there are hundreds, literally hundreds, and I wonder at how far my father’s life drifted from the one he loved to the one he had when I knew him, that I don’t think I’ve met even half of these dear friends before. But the ones I do know, the beloved family friends whose children we were raised with - their hugs and hand clasps and laughter are a cure for what ails me. By four o’clock, I am cadging cigarettes from mon Oncle Georges and when my mother comes outside, she gives me a mock-shocked look and I reply with an exaggerated What?, letting a pop of smoke bubble from my mouth. She laughs. I am so proud of her, as she stands in stockinged feet outside the pub, next to my friends who tower above her and listen to her stories. Her oldest friend finds me too, and tells me such beautiful things about my mother that I wrap them up carefully in my brain, to tell her that evening, when we are quiet, after midnight, back at home. 

Sometimes, I get non-musical earworms (the other day I had the name Jaqen H’ghar going round and round all morning), and one of my most common is Nick Hornby’s “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” It rattles back and forth inside my brain, serving no purpose but to remind me that I should avoid sad music, for the instant and crippling effect it has on me. Is that just how ears and brains work? Even if I’m in the jolliest mood in the world, a few bars of On and On by Longpigs will have me bed-ridden for days. Is that usual? I’ll wake up craving some NIN but once I actually put it on I’ll not be able to speak for a couple of hours. That’s how music and humans function, right?

All of this is just to say that when I’m attending my father’s cremation tomorrow and the sky is beige and weeping, I probably shouldn’t have picked up a Tori Amos CD.

Sometimes, I get non-musical earworms (the other day I had the name Jaqen H’ghar going round and round all morning), and one of my most common is Nick Hornby’s “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” It rattles back and forth inside my brain, serving no purpose but to remind me that I should avoid sad music, for the instant and crippling effect it has on me. Is that just how ears and brains work? Even if I’m in the jolliest mood in the world, a few bars of On and On by Longpigs will have me bed-ridden for days. Is that usual? I’ll wake up craving some NIN but once I actually put it on I’ll not be able to speak for a couple of hours. That’s how music and humans function, right?

All of this is just to say that when I’m attending my father’s cremation tomorrow and the sky is beige and weeping, I probably shouldn’t have picked up a Tori Amos CD.

The sideboard is filled with cards, and the table is full of vases of white lilies, a flower none of us like. It’s beginning to feel like the front door is host to some kind of haunted letterbox, too; we can’t turn our back without another note arriving on the mat. Letters - handwritten on thick personalised stationery with a fountain pen - tell us that we must be devastated, that he was the very best of men, that he was stoic and silent in his illness. 
My mother, my sisters and I go to register the death, then to the funeral director to choose the cheapest coffin and plan the cremation and memorial details. There may be hundreds at the service. We rarely stop laughing, giddy fools, while our mother alternates between fondly rolling her eyes and kicking us silent so she can give details of her husband’s birthday, their wedding day, the GP who cared for him until his death, five days ago. 
In his absence, we are swearing a lot. It mostly makes our mother laugh.

The sideboard is filled with cards, and the table is full of vases of white lilies, a flower none of us like. It’s beginning to feel like the front door is host to some kind of haunted letterbox, too; we can’t turn our back without another note arriving on the mat. Letters - handwritten on thick personalised stationery with a fountain pen - tell us that we must be devastated, that he was the very best of men, that he was stoic and silent in his illness. 

My mother, my sisters and I go to register the death, then to the funeral director to choose the cheapest coffin and plan the cremation and memorial details. There may be hundreds at the service. We rarely stop laughing, giddy fools, while our mother alternates between fondly rolling her eyes and kicking us silent so she can give details of her husband’s birthday, their wedding day, the GP who cared for him until his death, five days ago. 

In his absence, we are swearing a lot. It mostly makes our mother laugh.

I’m beginning to understand why I need to be here so much, at my father’s bedside. Having had 24 hours off yesterday to take the kids to meet friends in town, it was so hard - like underwater punches - to go back into his bedroom, to see his yellow skeleton head on the pillow, to hear his puffs. If I never leave the room, that disintegration isn’t quite so striking. I understand why people keep away. 
The family doctor visits and makes an almost-comical face when describing his bafflement at his patient’s continued survival. It seems we all have to keep remembering how serious this is, even though it seems ridiculous, utterly unreal. Why are the nurses taking this so seriously? Why are there so many carers here? Why are they all treating this like it’s a *real* life or death situation? We are getting worse and worse at maintaining our poker faces. I don’t even stop my iPhone game when the nurses come in, now. But I have developed a horrible new fear, too, to match my horrible new habit: what if this really *isn’t* real? It’s all just makeup and camera trickery, and tomorrow he’ll leap out of bed and berate us all for not fighting for his life hard enough. 
Soon, says the doctor. Soon. 

I’m beginning to understand why I need to be here so much, at my father’s bedside. Having had 24 hours off yesterday to take the kids to meet friends in town, it was so hard - like underwater punches - to go back into his bedroom, to see his yellow skeleton head on the pillow, to hear his puffs. If I never leave the room, that disintegration isn’t quite so striking. I understand why people keep away. 

The family doctor visits and makes an almost-comical face when describing his bafflement at his patient’s continued survival. It seems we all have to keep remembering how serious this is, even though it seems ridiculous, utterly unreal. Why are the nurses taking this so seriously? Why are there so many carers here? Why are they all treating this like it’s a *real* life or death situation? We are getting worse and worse at maintaining our poker faces. I don’t even stop my iPhone game when the nurses come in, now. But I have developed a horrible new fear, too, to match my horrible new habit: what if this really *isn’t* real? It’s all just makeup and camera trickery, and tomorrow he’ll leap out of bed and berate us all for not fighting for his life hard enough. 

Soon, says the doctor. Soon. 

Last night, after three days sitting mostly alone at my father’s bedside, I go a bit Bertha Mason. A phone call from someone infinitely more sensible than me stops me from torching the place, and tells me that while my father *will* die, we will all keep living. So we need to keep living. 

This morning I wake up to pouring rain. By the time I’ve got my running kit on, it’s become a full-blown thunder storm and the rain’s coming down so hard I can’t see the end of the road. My mother forbids me from going. It’s all the fuel I need. I run away from the traffic and into the fields, and in the middle of one huge open field I’m already drenched and the thunder booms and it’s like a perfect Dawson’s Creek moment and I remember how much I liked being a teenager, for moments like this. 

In the afternoon I get in the car for the first time since Monday and drive to the shopping centre to get shoes for a wedding on Saturday I’m glad to know I’m finally definitely going to attend, whatever happens. The teenage boy at the till asks me if I’ve been shopping long today, and I respond with a beaming non-sequitur that I’ve just come from my father’s deathbed. ‘I take it from your smile he’s OK, though!’ he smiles back at me, and I find that I’m smiling even more now, as I explain in way too much detail (Him: ‘Right, if you could… just… put your card in… please…’) just how long they think he’s got, and that it’s just sheer magic to be out in the real world again. When the transaction is finished he smiles at me, properly, and wishes me luck, and I want to hug him and have him hug me and we would both feel total peace and that feeling would spread out from us to all the shoppers, out past the glass walls of the shopping centre, out across the country, out over the world, and all wars would cease forever, for good. But I take my bag and thank him and look away, not knowing how one deals with this precise situation. 
Last night, after three days sitting mostly alone at my father’s bedside, I go a bit Bertha Mason. A phone call from someone infinitely more sensible than me stops me from torching the place, and tells me that while my father *will* die, we will all keep living. So we need to keep living. 
This morning I wake up to pouring rain. By the time I’ve got my running kit on, it’s become a full-blown thunder storm and the rain’s coming down so hard I can’t see the end of the road. My mother forbids me from going. It’s all the fuel I need. I run away from the traffic and into the fields, and in the middle of one huge open field I’m already drenched and the thunder booms and it’s like a perfect Dawson’s Creek moment and I remember how much I liked being a teenager, for moments like this. 
In the afternoon I get in the car for the first time since Monday and drive to the shopping centre to get shoes for a wedding on Saturday I’m glad to know I’m finally definitely going to attend, whatever happens. The teenage boy at the till asks me if I’ve been shopping long today, and I respond with a beaming non-sequitur that I’ve just come from my father’s deathbed. ‘I take it from your smile he’s OK, though!’ he smiles back at me, and I find that I’m smiling even more now, as I explain in way too much detail (Him: ‘Right, if you could… just… put your card in… please…’) just how long they think he’s got, and that it’s just sheer magic to be out in the real world again. When the transaction is finished he smiles at me, properly, and wishes me luck, and I want to hug him and have him hug me and we would both feel total peace and that feeling would spread out from us to all the shoppers, out past the glass walls of the shopping centre, out across the country, out over the world, and all wars would cease forever, for good. But I take my bag and thank him and look away, not knowing how one deals with this precise situation. 
Besides the family doctor, the only people in my father’s room are women. Carers, nurses, palliative teams; my mother, my sister and me turning him over in bed. Five of us today, daughters of mothers and mothers of daughters, cackling at his bedside at the thought of any man demanding a son. I try not to breathe in his smell of warm, rotting cabbage when I touch him or bend down into his lemon-yellow eyeline, attempting to interpret the sounds from his mouth. When we unbutton his pyjama top for the nurses to fit a syringe driver to his upper arm, I see that the skin on his chest is rolling hills, valleys between each rib and shadowed craters of collarbone dips. His upper body is all bone and wasted sinew, with binding muslin skin. 
Mostly he doesn’t greet us when we come into his bedroom, only fractionally rolling his semi-open eyes. Dude, I know what you mean. 
This morning, my mother brought me orange juice in bed and said he was the same as yesterday, peacefully sleeping. I told her I’d had a terrible nightmare that he was up and about again, and she asked if that wasn’t a nice dream, then we looked at each other and I rubbed my puffy face like people don’t do in real life. 

Besides the family doctor, the only people in my father’s room are women. Carers, nurses, palliative teams; my mother, my sister and me turning him over in bed. Five of us today, daughters of mothers and mothers of daughters, cackling at his bedside at the thought of any man demanding a son. I try not to breathe in his smell of warm, rotting cabbage when I touch him or bend down into his lemon-yellow eyeline, attempting to interpret the sounds from his mouth. When we unbutton his pyjama top for the nurses to fit a syringe driver to his upper arm, I see that the skin on his chest is rolling hills, valleys between each rib and shadowed craters of collarbone dips. His upper body is all bone and wasted sinew, with binding muslin skin. 

Mostly he doesn’t greet us when we come into his bedroom, only fractionally rolling his semi-open eyes. Dude, I know what you mean. 

This morning, my mother brought me orange juice in bed and said he was the same as yesterday, peacefully sleeping. I told her I’d had a terrible nightmare that he was up and about again, and she asked if that wasn’t a nice dream, then we looked at each other and I rubbed my puffy face like people don’t do in real life. 

Baby clothes bagged up for the charity shop, each one faintly stained with memories and ghostly food smudges, and it’s hard to justify my sadness at seeing them leave. It seems inviting disaster to wonder if our babies might have babies, and need these same clothes many years from now. 

At my parents’ house two days ago, my dad tried to laugh at the idea of his plans for the future, for retirement. A grimace, no sound, then a blank Parkinson’s stare again. Today, every window is open to try and rid the house of the smell, and he doesn’t wake much even when my mother strokes his face. I almost make myself cry by playing the Judi Dench performance of ‘Send in the Clowns’ in my head, even though my dad has very little affection either for Dame Judi, or for any musical theatre that doesn’t contain pop hits of his younger days. It’s just a beautiful song.

We sit with him, and listen to him breathe.

Baby clothes bagged up for the charity shop, each one faintly stained with memories and ghostly food smudges, and it’s hard to justify my sadness at seeing them leave. It seems inviting disaster to wonder if our babies might have babies, and need these same clothes many years from now.

At my parents’ house two days ago, my dad tried to laugh at the idea of his plans for the future, for retirement. A grimace, no sound, then a blank Parkinson’s stare again. Today, every window is open to try and rid the house of the smell, and he doesn’t wake much even when my mother strokes his face. I almost make myself cry by playing the Judi Dench performance of ‘Send in the Clowns’ in my head, even though my dad has very little affection either for Dame Judi, or for any musical theatre that doesn’t contain pop hits of his younger days. It’s just a beautiful song.

We sit with him, and listen to him breathe.