Sunday 17 October 2021

Yesterday I talked to a dying man

and it was strangely good to do so.

He knows he is dying. Yesterday was not a good day. He was carrying a small bottle of oxygen on his back...and the "whipper snipper" in his hands. He was going to edge their tiny front lawn. Somebody else has to mow the lawn now but he can still do that - but it is an effort.

"Gidday matey good to see you,"he told me as I stopped. I didn't immediately ask about him. I asked about his wife and the six month old dog they now have.

There's a reason for that dog. I knew that the first time I met him. He's small but smart. He somehow knows he is there for a reason. He is a "mummy's boy" - as if he knows that, barring accidents, he will need to be there for C.... when B... goes.

B... could go at any time.He has had four stays in intensive care. He has COPD - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It has not been fun. 

B... had to give up a promising career in the army because of it. He never smoked, never had more than the occasional beer in very hot weather. He thought he was fit. He thought he was going to last forever...the way we all do at certain stages of our lives. 

"I'm over it Cat," he told me some months ago. The lock down was getting to him. He wants to spend what time he has left with his immediate family. He wants to be able to chat to their wonderful next door neighbours. He wants to be able to stop me as I am pedalling along the street. 

He asks if I have seen his former neighbours from across the street. He was the one who put up more and more Christmas lights each year so that the children could enjoy them - children from a family whose cult like religion refuses to celebrate Christmas or birthdays.  A few years back he could still, with some difficulty, climb up to his roof to do that. It was an enormous effort - but one he believed was worth the effort. He went on adding to his Christmas display because the adult cult members across the street didn't like it - but their children loved it. 

"I'm going to give them a little joy in their lives," he once told me. 

He asks after the Senior Cat. I've told him he is welcome to use the Senior Cat's mobility scooter - still sitting here - if  it gets to the point where he wants to go walking the dog with his wife and feels he can't do it. Right now he can make it to the end of the street and back... then  he watches as they walk on. He's thinking about the scooter but I doubt he will use it. He could leave us at any time.

I told him about Friday. His reaction to Ciaran's grief is "Poor bastard! What a hell of a thing to happen. I'm so damn lucky."

And perhaps it is that attitude which has got him so far. His wife has told me that the medical profession thinks he should have died several years ago. Instead, he is up and doing things. He may be doing them slowly but he is still doing things. He may need to go and rest after doing some little thing but he is still doing things. B.... actually does more than some fitter and healthier people I know. 

And somehow the little dog knows all this. He comes out with B...'s wife and sits there quietly between them. He looks from one to the other as if to say, "Yes, I'll look after her when you've gone."

And I wonder how animals know these things. 

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