Just as the programme on the modern family paused for the regular channel four commercial breaks, there came a loud thud from upstairs.
“What has he done now?” Mum sighed.
“Fallen over by the sounds of it.” Becky answered not the least bit bothered about her awful pun on words. Even though she was studying a degree in the English Language with a nice helping of creative writing on the side which she preferred.
“Go and see if he’s made it back into bed Becks but don’t help him, he doesn’t deserve it.”
She couldn’t disagree with that. Dad was fulfilling the exact opposite of the dictionary meaning of ‘Dad’ and he wasn’t doing anything to change it. So she went upstairs and approached Dad’s bedroom. Although it was more like a hermit’s hovel from the state of his bed, the extremely well worn condition of his clothes not to mention the smell of decay marking his presence firmly in the household.
“Dad?” she asked the darkness shifting sluggishly behind the door.
“Ugh, yeah?” It replied with a grumble.
“Yeah.” He lied as he always did. Becky knew this and so slowly pushed the door open, wary that he might have easily fallen behind it and didn’t want to make the situation any worse than it already was. As she stepped into the room one hand went for the light switch but with the landing light on behind her, it revealed a thin wrinkly arm stretching out across the far side of the bed as if it was a cliff edge. She turned the light on anyway.
“Turn the damned thing off!” he cried as a balding head with hair as fine as cobwebs emerged in her sight.
“Well how can you tell what you’re doing in the dark?” she complained.
“I know what I’m doing.” Another blatantly obvious lie. He’s been lying so often he doesn’t bother trying to make it sound anything like the truth.
“No you don’t, you haven’t done for the past three years.” Becky turned it off and walked over to him, her eyes already scanning for any sign of blood splattered on bed, carpet or the walls. But she knew that the worst bodily damage has already been done and is still continuing. “Are you hurt?”
“Did you fall out of bed?”
“Do you need help?”
Dad didn’t answer that, he just grumbled some more as he fought hard against himself to sit upright whilst kneeling down, with limited success.
“I think you do Dad, serious medical help. Come here, lean back on me.” Becky fell victim again to the small knot of pity in her heart despite the overwhelming sensation of shame and repulsion thus ignoring her Mum’s suggestion to not help him.
The darkness of his room couldn’t hide the sorry condition of him. He was sixty-three yet if you met him randomly in a street you would say he was in his nineties. His skin is as pale as milk a visible sign of his fading health. His legs are unsteady as a newborn child’s but as stiff as metal joints that hadn’t been moved or oiled in a hundred years and had been overcome with rust. His entire body was decaying like wood rotting on a sunny day and seeing him in this situation, again, convinced Becky that the largest muscle mass left in his body was his brain but even that was showing signs of breaking down.
Despite all this though he still managed to make Becky brace the windowsill to secure herself as he literally fell with his back against her legs.
“Now, we need to turn you around so we can haul you back into bed.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do but the damned cover keeps moving.”
“Well of course it will Dad, it’s not like attached to the bed is it by nails or anything. Right, I’m gonna try turning you round so I need you lift up a bit on your legs so they will turn. Ok?” Becky did try her best but his legs were acting like they were glued to the floor so not matter how much she spun and twisted the top half of his body his legs remained in the same position.
“You see, this is why you need to be in an old people’s home, at least there a big machine can lift you into bed and not me.” She muttered exasperated now realising she may miss the rest of the programme.
“Ok, can you shuffle forwards at all? We’ll see if you can grab hold of the top of the bed.”
“I can try.” He said as it was the most difficult thing to do in the world although to him it actually was, this fact was more than apparent to Becky.
Dad did try to help himself although most of it was him just falling onto his hands and then Becky pushing him from behind that extra couple of feet on the floor. By the time she had got him in the best position possible Dad was out of breath.
“Right, I’m gonna lift you up by the waist and I need you to reach out for the top of the bed please because I won’t be able to hold you up for long, you’re too heavy.”
“Ok.” He gave a weary sigh, swallowing in preparation for more exertion.
“Ready, go.” She grabbed him around the waist and lifted with all her might. Dad’s hands scuttled across the bed like drunken spiders until finally coming to a half around the bed edge behind his pillows.
“Have you got it?”
“Ok, now pull yourself up whilst I lift your legs round onto the bed.” As soon as she knelt down to do such a thing she regretted it because from her location she could see how thin he truly was. His legs and arms and waist were probably thinner than she was and she was an underweight twenty one year old.
So whilst Dad hauled himself up like a merman with no legs, Becky lifted one after the other and swung it up and over to join the rest of his body which was now roughly on the bed.
“Right, you’re back up. Now please don’t fall out bed again because I really hate doing this Dad.” She admitted for the fourth time in as many months whilst tossing the duvet back over his body. From where she stood he appeared to be what it would look like if humans were born old and not small or young. They would be frail, weak, thin, wrinkly, grey hair and have limited muscle.
“If this doesn’t show you how much trouble you’re in then I don’t know what will. You’ve lost your licence, you may never work again but no one deserves a Dad in the state you’re in.”
“I know, I know.” He muttered sighing with relief now his body was stationary.
“I don’t think you do Dad, I would have thought loosing your licence would be enough to make you sort yourself out but you haven’t. You’re still like this yet you’re not prepared to keep trying. The way you’re going you will not be around to see my graduate let alone get married. Do you honestly want that?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well please for god’s sake do something about it then Dad. I know it will be tough for you but you have so much to gain from it all afterwards.”
“I would if you Mother would stop yapping at me, it’s all I ever hear from her, not a single word of support.”
“Oh Dad, that’s not true. She nags in the hope of convincing you to change, to take action. And we would all show you support if you did something for us to support you on. We won’t praise you each time you carry on this road. Wouldn’t you pester Mum if she was in this position?”
He didn’t answer, he never did. Something always prevented him from facing the truth be it good or bad.
“You may have lost all hope for your relationship with Mum but you still have a job on this earth as a Father so start acting like one, please? I hate coming home because it means I have to see you like this. I would rather you went far away so I could remember the Dad who was happy and healthy, not the Dad I have now. It’s why I don’t come home as often as I should do and when I do it’s usually for Mum’s benefit more than yours.” She had made her way to the door by this point in her yet again futile plea for repentance in her Dad’s ways.
“Goodnight Rebecca and thank you.”
“Your welcome, just don’t make me save you again. I’m your daughter not your nurse.”
With that she went back downstairs to quiz Mum on what she had missed of the programme giving no explanation as to her prolonged absence because none was needed. Mum knew that her daughter was too kind for her own good and that was shown because it was usually Becky that tried to aid her failing Father. Everyone else who knew about his problem has lost hope he will ever try, let alone, recover at all.
Upstairs in the safety of the dark oblivion in his room an old man lay in his bed now reflecting on all that had happened during his day.
First he had made the unsteady walk to the village bus stop to buy his supplies of tobacco and wine.
Second he had nearly fallen over whilst in the Morrison’s supermarket but thankfully managed to stabilize himself ironically on the wine and spirits shelving unit. A concerned staff member did ask him if he needed help or wanted to sit down but he shrugged them away saying he was fine and hinting to the walking stick he now begrudgingly had to use for this very reason.
When he finally managed to get home he had found one of the two golden Labrador pups, Bailey in particular, had torn apart their new blankets leaving bits of thread all over the stairs which forced him into kneeling down to pick it up. Not doing his back problem any good at all he added to himself.
Yet people would always blame it on the drink he thought. It was never the drink to Richard. It was the fact that he had rheumatoid arthritis in his shoulders, bad wear on his hip joints and simply a very dodgy back that meant he couldn’t walk straight. That’s the truth, in his mind.
Despite the fact that somewhere, deep inside his heart, trapped in a cage the small voice of his conscience whispered ‘the doctor said it’s the drink ninety-nine per cent of the time that makes you unstable’.
Just recalling all the memories of the harsh, angry, tearful and desperate comments said about him both in front of his face and behind his back stirred up the craving again. It smothered his anxious mind with the fake belief that everything was fine, he was fine and that a drink would make him feel a whole lot better. He allowed that false feeling to overpower all his senses and emotions. Letting it once more choke the voice of his conscience as it pleaded for the millionth time for him not to make the same mistake again. When the craving had wrapped around his mentality like a snake it then took over his physical body and sub-consciously guided his hand to the whisky bottle hidden under a pile of clothes beside his bed.
Cradling the bottle in his hand, like it was a vase on the antiques road show with an estimated value of a million pounds, he ever so carefully and slowly twisted the top off and stiffly put it to his mouth and drank. The poisonous liquid running down his throat gave him a temporary sense of feeling alive, like he hadn’t drunken for days and this was his first drink. That tingling sensation only helped to make him want to taste more, to feel more and the deceitful snake of alcohol laughed silently as it ever so slowly hissed his mind to an always troubled sleep. It slithered back to the now blackened depths of Richard’s heart content with having seduced its host to the forbidden liquid which made its power stronger. A power that very few could ever truly escape from until it was too late to go back.
About a hundred miles away in West Yorkshire, in a small flat, Becky and her boyfriend Andy sat down to watch ‘The Simpson’s’ as they usually do most week nights. It was during a scene of Homer sitting down before his TV with a bottle of ‘Buff beer’ in his hands that her mobile let out its cheery ring tone.
Becky got up and picked it up off the ironing board and pressed the button to accept the call already noticing the word ‘Home’ flashing on her screen.
“Oh hi Mum, you ok?” She asked, a bit surprised her Mum was calling her for once. It was usually the other way around. Becky walked away into the study room and sat at her desk so she could hear better over the sound of the TV.
“Yes I’m fine darling, just doing everything at once as always. Managed to start cutting the lawn this afternoon.”
“Oh Mum, can’t Nick do it for once?”
“Oh no, he’s just like your father. Won’t move a muscle for anyone but himself yet its muggin’s here who drives him to all his mates each weekend.”
“Well just tell him you won’t do anymore for him unless he does something for you?”
“Ha fat chance of that getting him up.”
“Well maybe once he has a job he’ll start pulling his weight a bit more.”
“Perhaps but it’s just the problem of finding a job.”
“Something’s got to turn up sooner or later.”
“Let’s hope so. Oh by the way your father is in hospital.”
“Oh why?” What confused Becky more is that Mum didn’t mention it until now.
“Well he’s spent most of the last three days in bed during the afternoon and been complaining of the trots. I haven’t seen him recently after work so before I left this morning I went to check up on him. Couldn’t wake him up, he just kept mumbling nonsense so I called a doctor round and she then called for an ambulance. Suspected he might be bleeding internally somewhere.”
“Is he awake now?”
“Oh yes, he woke up steadily once we got to York. Only then did he start swearing and cursing at me for causing all this. Right in front of John so now at least he knows what I have to put up with.”
“Well Uncle John has never been much help anyway. And typical of Dad to get all abusive when you may have just saved his life. I’ve always thought this might happen, where he might drink himself into a coma or worse.”
“Yes I know sweet heart. Perhaps this will wake him up a bit more to what he’s doing to himself.”
“Let’s hope so. How long will he be staying in there?”
“Probably for a week, they need to run some tests to find out if and where he was bleeding plus they’re not letting him leave until he’s put some weight back on.”
“Good, I guess we could view this as an emergency detox.”
“Well it will be for him that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see what he does when he comes out though.”
“Do let me know won’t you because I won’t come visit him unless he does something to change, even if it’s just speaking to a councillor again. It is such a shame he won’t talk to Doug anymore I thought he was making progress there.”
“Well he never did visit your father when he was out of detox last time so if that’s the kind of support he gives his clients then your father may be better off without him.”
“I guess but Dad needs help of any kind at the moment.”
“Yes maybe this will make him understand that his body can’t take it anymore. Anyway I can hear the dogs barking outside so I better go.”
“Ok Mum, thanks for letting me know and contact me if anything else happens.”
“Will do darling. Will speak to you tomorrow.”
“Yeah will do. Love you Mum.”
“Love you too Becky. Speak soon. Bye.”
With that the line was cut leaving Becky with a small knot of worry tightening in her stomach. Her mind was already playing scenarios before her of what it might be like to get the call telling her he had died. She quickly closed her eyes and shook away such morbid thoughts. Shocked at how dark and gloomy her imagination could be at times and cursing herself for possibly tempting fate. The truth was that although Dad never acted like a nice Dad, he was still her Dad and despite all he has done she didn’t want to loose him.
“Hello Mummy.” Becky smiled sliding into the car with her rucksack on her knees.
“Hello darling. How was the trip?”
“Cramped as always. What’s for tea?”
“Sausages and mash, how’s that sound?”
“Yummy! Haven’t had sausages in months. How’s Dad been?”
“Not too bad actually, still grumpy as usual but he actually cooked some mince for us last night for tea.”
“Wow that’s a first.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Do you think he’s honestly been off the drink?”
“I can’t say. I’d like to believe he has been, he certainly seems happier than usual.”
“Well that’s a start at least.”
A small glimmer of hope started to sprout weak buds in her heart at the thought of a reformed Dad.
When they finally arrived at home Becky of course was mobbed by two very energetic and excited puppies, Gem and Bailey, who kept jumping up at her and licking her face. Took them at least five minutes to get the message that paws on body weren’t welcome but Becky didn’t mind. She missed her ‘fur balls’ as she fondly called them and gave each vigorous belly rubs and cuddles plus all the silly baby talk over them. Eventually once the dogs were outside chasing each other Becky walked over into the sitting room where as always Dad was sat in his set chair before the TV.
“Hello Dad.” She said noticing with a smile the little bit of colours now in his cheeks.
“Hello darling. Welcome home.” He announced stiffly getting up from his chair.
“Well this is a surprise. First time you got up for me in a while.”
“Oh shush and give your father a hug. I’ve missed you.” The pair hugged and for the first time in a very long time Becky genuinely hugged back. There was a certain sparkle in his eye and a lightness in both his mood and voice, despite how thin and weak he still was, the essence of his former self seemed to have returned. It made Becky feel like she truly had returned home.
“I’ve missed you too Dad. I’m glad to hear you’re finally changing.”
“Yes and I’m trying my best. It’s hard but I am trying.” He replied settling back down against his large bent over cushions. Becky walked around his coffee table and sat beside him on the sofa.
“I’m sure you are Dad and that’s all we’ve ever asked of you. Just to try and keep trying.” Both looked at each other and smiles of fondness shone between them. “I was worried about you when Mum told me what had happened. Did the doctor find what happened to you?”
“Ah I just drank too much, simple as that.”
“I’ve always worried about this happening Dad.”
“I know darling but I promise it won’t happen again.”
“I hope so. How long has it been now?”
“About five days although it’ been two weeks if you count when I went into hospital.”
“Good and how have you found it?”
“Erm, not too bad, I have my weak moments but I get through them.” A hiss came from the now caged addiction in his heart.
She cast a glance around and noticed a familiar looking book on the table. “I see you’re finally getting into reading again.”
“Oh yes, well I needed something to do whilst I was in hospital didn’t I?”
Thus began the slow rebirth of a once broken relationship between father and daughter. Now that change was occurring, Becky hoped and wished with all her heart that this time things could only get better. Perhaps her family may gain the happy ending they all deserve.