Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Goodbye-ee, goodbye-ee...

... Wipe the tear, baby dear, from your eye-ee,
Tho' it's hard to part, I know,
I'll be tickled to death to go;
Don't cry-ee, don't sigh-ee,
There's a silver lining in the sky-ee,
Bon Soir, old thing! Cheerio! Chin-Chin,
Nah-Poo, Toodle-oo -

There are pitfalls in looking too far ahead, too soon, too complacently. Today, with World Cup fever fairly pitching, I was feeling about as alive, a-tingle and a-glow as you're ever likely to catch me, and was even looking forward to a night of travel-bag packing this evening as a I strolled home from, less than 48 hours away from that flight to Stuttgart and the start of three weeks of a match-a-day amusement. Plus, the permission granted earlier today to take off an extra long weekend in Berlin for the final and surrounding explorations. Ruckseite vom Netz, indeed...

Easy now, Aidan.
Rather than tucking into tea then waiting to collect my mum from her Tube station later this evening, I discovered she had rushed up to the West Midlands earlier today to be at the hospital bedside of my great-uncle Reg, sadly seemingly - and abruptly - at death's door. After several years of astounding battling against the cruellest-of-cruel, Alzheimer's, and yet defying doctors with his brave brinkmanship against disease and debilitation. Drifting distantly one minute, jerked back into the most lucid memories of lost comrades, vividly-remembered-and-re-tasted revelries, battlefield setbacks and poppy-field tributes...

My (great/Great) Auntie Ivy and Uncle Reg seem to have become even closer family treasures in the 11 years since my grandma (my mum's mum) died, and especially to me, a few months later when I first him Birmingham as a stooodent - and, indeed, hit troubles - but would canter my battered Austin Metro along the Perry Barr road to Walsall, for a Sunday (veggie) roast, a leaf through that week's Express&Stars and general comfort and chat and camaraderie... And fellow-feeling, I'd like to think on all sides... I hope. I certainly felt so, anyway.

When Spurs got drawn away to West Brom in the FA Cup in January last year, I took the occasion of a Midlands revisit and long weekend to not only see the game, and visit a close university friend in Coventry, but spurred by Uncle Reg's recent hospitalisation, to go with Auntie Ivy for one of her persistent afternoon visits.

It seemed the right, and a harmlessly nice thing to do. But I must admit, I thought it would surely be the last visit, the last sight of him, despite his cheek, his mischief, just the not-right thought of not-him. And indeed, it really wasn't much of a visit - just Uncle Reg drifting mostly through various stages of stupor, Auntie Ivy trying vainly to hold back old tears, one of Reg's loyal old soldiers sticking by and chatting manfully cheerfully.

And that, so I thought, was sadly that. And yet, within weeks, he was being reported as gradually livelier. Days off, more days on. With occasional bursts of sheer spark, especially as my mum's music hall group's latest show, Somewhere In France With You - crafted around Reg and Ivy's wartime romance - took greater shape, became a real show, toured heritage sites and old folks' homes and church halls and, last summer, triumphantly in many eyes anyway, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Intercutting dramatisations of their story, blushing Black Country courting, to D-Day landings, to prisoner-of-war encampments, to erroneous death notices, to surprise Tipton reunion... with re-renditions of Vera Lynn, George Formby, Cole Porter, singalong-despite-yourself many-multitudes...

Well, it worked for me. And bursting-with-pride Uncle Reg, too, as compelling in the audience as anything on-stage. Especially with a special performance in the Dudley church where he and Ivy wed, on their 60th wedding anniversary last November.

And that was then. And now it seems to be over. Speaking to my alternately-stoic and emotional mum this evening, after several heart-stoppages and recognition that the last one was indeed the realistic last chance, already gone...

"Pray for him tonight - but not recovery: just safe, swift, peaceful release..."

Well, indeed. Amen.

Apologies for the mawkishness. Normal flippant service'll be resumed soon, have no doubt of that.
But meantime, here's a salute to a proud Para.

After seeing out D-Day, and precisely 62 good years more - if one eventual date must be, June 6 2006 at least seems some sort of sadly fitting farewell.


http://overnighteditor.typepad.com said...

My thoughts are with you, yours and Uncle Reg.

In the US they call them "the greatest generation." Hard to argue.

prolix said...

Indeed, my thoughts are with you and your family Adrian.

Mike said...

It wasn't mawkish at all - quite the opposite. A really sincere tribute to someone who obviously means a lot to you.

It will be hard going away while your family is going through such a difficult time, but I hope that you can make the best of it. By the way you've described him, I'm sure that's what your Uncle would want.

Enjoy Germany as much as you can and think of us poor drones reading your despatches on the tube.

Aidan said...

Cheers for the kind words - much appreciated.