23rd July


Doorways are a problem. Going into the house from outside, or sometimes going from one room to another, my father gets stuck. As if some force field will not let him pass. He stops. What looks like thinking is on his face, but it is not thinking. It is thought frozen. He cannot penetrate the field and does not know why. He leans into the problem, one hand on the doorframe, one foot trailing the other. Nothing moves.

This has been going on for a while, since before the only way to get him to travel any distance was in a wheelchair. The last time he walked with me to the shops and back, he froze at the door of the house. This was months ago: it feels like yesterday. Time suspended. I spoke to him, trying to help him to get unstuck, but he seemed not to hear. I moved around him. If he could lift his back foot. If he could let go of the doorframe. I lifted the foot. I eased the fingers from the wood. The force field did not apply to me. We were both in the same place, but he was not with me nor I with him. We were not together.

It reminded me of something.

Eventually, the seized moment unseized. I got him through the door, the portal from somewhere to somewhere else.

He sat in his chair, drained. He fell asleep. I don’t think he had any memory of being stuck.

Later, I recalled what this had reminded me of: the table-tennis scene in A Matter of Life and Death. Squadron Leader Peter Carter should have died when he jumped from his burning plane without a parachute, but in the fog over the English Channel the guide sent to conduct him to the other world missed him. Carter is caught between worlds, between life and life after death. The bell he rings makes no sound. He walks round the frozen table-tennis players, puzzled by their state. They are there, but not with him.

In the film, Carter was played by David Niven. But who was playing that part in our little scene? Myself ? Or my father?

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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