“Have you been to Cloonagh?”
“Not today Dad, no.”
Physically, my father is in a nursing home in Manchester. Spiritually, he is in the west of Ireland. He thinks I step into the room from County Galway when I visit and, in many ways, I wish I did.
In July 1945, the British ceded sovereignty of Suite 212 at Claridge’s in London so that Crown Prince Alexander could be born in ‘Yugoslav territory’. Disappointingly, my letters to the Queen and the Taoiseach to create a similar arrangement for my father’s time in room 7 at Brocklehurst Nursing Home in West Didsbury remain, as yet, unanswered.
Moving my Dad from his armchair into his bed is a long and laborious process. His upper body strength has waned – but he resisted help. He tried a few times before success and his big chest eventually rose to the right level for the walking frame. This position is now the closest he gets to upright.
Before the journey to the bed commenced there was a window of opportunity to remove remnants of lunch from Dad’s front. Mum stepped in, held the front of the polo shirt taut and removed all crumbs with her dust-buster before setting it back into its charger.
On arrival bedside, dad’s rear end had to be aimed precisely at a sweet spot in the centre of the bed – the spot which allowed his legs to be helped across into the snugness at the foot of the bed. A few millimetres out and the result is chaotic.
We were a few millimetres out.
“Get the undertaker!” called Dad - as my mother struggled to organise his feet into some kind of comfort.
Having made the bed earlier, Mum carefully folded back the bedding in readiness to receive the man we traditionally referred to as ‘The Old K’ (mother was ‘The Old Q’).
“Will I cover you now?” She asked.
“Cover me with clay,” he answered.