18th October


Everything is an effort. Pushing the buttons on the remote control is an effort. Working out if there is anything worth watching on the TV now or in the near future is an effort. Reaching behind the chair for the light switch is an effort. Picking up the paper is an effort. Reading the paper is an effort. Getting from the chair to the dining table is an effort. Going to the toilet is a monumental effort. How did all this happen? Even a few years past – a mere blink of time for one whose father was born at the height of the reign of Victoria – these things were done with hardly a thought as to how they were done. Now, the successful method, the route to achievement, is an achievement in itself. The end is sometimes forgotten in meeting the challenge of the means.

Between showers we take him out in the wheelchair, through the town and across the golf course to the beach. The clocks went back two nights ago, which means that the already shortened days have become shorter. The heat leaves more quickly than the light. The autumn sky is soft, calm, immense, but the air is cold. He feels it closing in on him, and wants to walk.

With the two of us supporting him, one on each side, and my mother now in charge of the empty wheelchair (too heavy for her to push when he is in it), we start back up the road from the beach. This is the greatest effort of all. He manages a hundred metres or so, his breaths shortening and quickening with each step on the gentle slope. We negotiate him back into the wheelchair as the rain comes on, and head for home. By the time we arrive, it’s dry again. Like museum curators manoeuvring a bulky exhibit on loan from some other museum, we get him indoors and into his chair – the one without wheels. Within a few minutes he is dozing.

How tired he must be of all that vast expenditure for such meagre return. And what little extra effort, going up that slope, might have brought a different outcome.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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