Sunday, 5 May 2013

"Cricket, and you have to understand this,"

he told me, "Is an intellectual game. You need to know about psychology in order to understand it."
We were about to start the annual game between the disabled campers, the Girl Guides and the Australian cricket team. I had just been introduced to M. He was in his early twenties. 
Someone had brought him up to the campsite at the racecourse for the day - to act as "coach" to the campers. He wore a wheelchair and an umpire's hat and yes, he knew about cricket. M, I soon discovered, was devoted to the bat and ball and wicket. What little I know about cricket is what M taught me. He taught me a good many other things as well.
Yesterday morning the phone rang and another friend, who has quite a severe speech defect, said, "M's gone." It was difficult to understand her when she was almost in tears. "I wanted you to know from a friend, not see it in the paper."
He had died the day before. We had been worried because he seemed to be losing his memory and, whatever his physical problems, M was a highly intelligent person. An inoperable brain tumour was diagnosed. Fortunately he went quickly. He would have hated lingering and unable to see or hear his beloved cricket.
I knew him for almost fifty years. He spent his working life as the "morgue-librarian" for a newspaper. Under him vast quantities of information were filed and re-filed, added to, cross indexed and goodness' knows what else.  All was helped by his extraordinary memory. Reporters would ask, "What have we go on...?" and a short time later M would phone their desk and tell them, "Come and get it." They knew they had to go to him rather than expect him to wheel himself slowly to them. 
One of them, now also deceased, told me "He's the biggest asset we have. He saves everyone hours of work."
He retired early because his body let him down. Getting to and from work was becoming too much of an effort. He lived alone and, services being what they are, he could no longer rely on people to get him to the office on time. He would go home exhausted. Instead he did advocacy work. He sat on the board of a number of organisations for people with disabilities. He was secretary of the local cricket club and a life member of the state one. He collected cricket books - and other books. He played chess. The internet was his lifeline as it became more difficult for him to go out. He played chess on the internet - often against quite highly ranked players who had no idea who he was. He played Scrabble too - against other quite highly ranked players. When our mutual friend J was alive they indulged in games of three dimensional chess and the game of "Go" via computer. 
E-mails would come from M to me, "Cat, I need to send a letter to... what do you think?" His English was always very precise and formal. Or he would alert me to something, "B is in hospital..." or "D is about to...and needs...." and "Can you write a letter to the paper about..." 
We did not see one another often. He lived one side of the city and I live the other. We were however in contact almost every week, sometimes several times a week. 
It grew quieter just before Christmas. He admitted he was "not feeling too great" and there were times when he seemed to forget things. Those of us who knew him wondered whether it was the onset of Alzheimer's but I thought the pattern was wrong for that because he still seemed as sharp as ever. Then there was a sudden, rapid decline. He could no longer push himself around or see the screen properly. His hearing, never the best, seemed to be going. He was no longer batting sixes in the game of life.
And, on Friday, the cricket was over - but it was a wonderful match. 

1 comment:

Allison said...

What wonderful memories you have of your friend. I'm so sorry he is gone.