A Pall

Jim’s father, who I’ve known, liked and got on with since I was a teenager, is in intensive care and it seems borderline whether he’ll live. An elective surgical procedure seems to have gone wrong.

I went for a ride with Jim today, feeling a bit rough but not so bad to not ride. A bit of a sore throat, a bit of a tight chest – niggles present to some extent since last Thursday. I’d been looking forward to getting out for over a fortnight. Jim needed a ride after a morning spent at the hospital; a morning after much of the previous day doing the same thing.

And we talked about this and we talked about that and we talked about his dad. He understands more about hospitals and health care than I do and we were able to talk factually, but the emotional pall cast by a potential, unnecessary death was there.

It happens, we all know that, but that doesn’t make it OK. And I’ve never been any good when it comes to death.

‘What ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ rear up – ugly, misplaced and emotionally deforming.

I think I’m what they would have called an ’emotional man’ once upon at time, back when they had ‘confirmed bachelors’, ‘spinsters of the parish’ and other such euphemisms and terms. Nowadays they’d probably say I’m in touch with my feelings. God help me if I’m a ‘new man’.

The temptation for me is to always hanker after avoiding the extreme emotions that come with a death. I don’t know if that’s universal; I suspect not. It’s certainly how I’ve been for as long as I can remember.

There is, of course, a natural order in these things, whereby those older than you are supposed to die first and, I guess, I can just about countenance that. Just. But even then that’s not something I’m wholly sure I can face with any equanimity. And when it comes to contemporaries I’ve always been happy with the thought of ducking out sooner rather than later, certainly sooner than those closest to me, and if that makes me a coward then maybe I am and maybe that’s just the way it is.

I suppose the interesting thing in all that is that I’m scared of tearful times. I don’t know why I should be; it’s just the way I am. It’s something learned, I guess. On the whole, society prefers bottled-up emotion. I can cry all too easily – a story, a song, a news report. I get annoyed with myself that I do and that I’m always – to some degree – living in anticipation of being emotionally … what? Weak? Demonstrative? Vulnerable? Honest?

So, not a great bike ride for reasons wholly unconnected with riding. And now I feel like that tight chest and bad throat is going to mutate into a full-blown stonkin’ cold. What joy.