Yesterday afternoon, within the welcoming environment of our parents home, my sister Helen, her husband Steve, daughter Megan, my wife Karen and I cordially lunched with mater and pater.

As ever, the quality of the buffet lunch didn’t disappoint. If food critic Egon Ronay had have been present he would have undoubtedly bestowed a glittering review on the feast provided by mum and dad (Maggie & Malcolm).

Although always heart-warming to read a good review of your work, as Egon died seven years ago it was probably for the best he didn’t make an appearance. A situation that would no doubt have scared the crap out of us.

On reflection, I could be wrong and the late critic may have found the flavours in a buffet of beef, prawns, chicken, salad and potatoes too bland. I don’t know what they eat on ‘the other side’, but I’d wager every recipe includes capers.

Anyway, I digress.


My dad, who is still recuperating from the major surgery he underwent in June, was pleasingly in reasonable spirits. Still frail, his mobility remains poor. However, there are the positive signs of putting weight on, displaying a cheerier disposition and appearing more lucid than on his return home a few weeks back.

To be honest, the old man isn’t allowed to dwell negatively on his circumstances as my mum constantly cajoles him in an attempt to negate any self-pity. With tongue very firmly planted in cheek, her comments include “Will you bleeding cheer up….. Your face could stop a clock!” and “Will you give us a smile…… You’ve a face like a pan of s***e!”

I’m unacquainted with the text in nurse’s training books, but I suspect the motivational methods employed by my mum won’t darken the pages of these tomes. Maggie means well, though, her colourful jibes a strategy to try to introduce lightness to a dark situation.

Understandably, she is clearly worried about what the future holds for her husband of 57 years, and has quite visibly lost weight since my dad’s diagnosis of cancer. We as a family do what we can to assist them both, but there is obviously more required than just ‘doing stuff’ for them. There’s also the emotional barriers to help overcome, which is often harder than physical assistance.

Despite the unavoidable absence of my brother Ian and his partner Ann, along with his daughter Iona and my two kids, yesterday afternoon we spent a genial few hours as a family. It was particularly heartening to witness the continued positive recuperative signs displayed by the old man.

A small sign of his increased motor functioning was his insistence of carving the chicken. No easy task when propped up by a crutch and utilising a large wooden spoon to carve the meat…….. In hindsight, it was perhaps it was a foolish move to slice the meat without his specs on.

His appetite is also much better now. According to Maggie “I can’t fill him now…… The miserable bleeder!” A comment she followed up with “Bloody hell, have you seen how thick this chicken’s been cut! You’d think it was carved with a wooden spoon, Mal!””

In his own undemonstrative style, Mally rarely reacts to his spouse’s playful jibes. Despite this antagonism, he ordinarily holds his counsel with the occasional exception of muttering to me out of mum’s earshot “Does she ever stop bloody whining!”

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