Which side of me will win?

Dad – Part 1: Bodily Function


Several months ago I wrote a handful of pieces dealing with my father’s death. I didn’t write them with this blog in mind but, having thought long and hard about it, I’ve decided to post them here. This, the first, on what would have been his 75th birthday, then five more over the next three months, culminating with the last one on April 16th, the sixth anniversary of his death.

The window won’t open wide enough. I can’t get my head out. I have a big head, like my dad, but that’s not really the problem in this instance. The problem is this isn’t a window designed for people to stick their heads all the way out of in a desperate effort to escape the sickening smell of a very unwell man’s shit. This is a window whose main concern seems to be that it be difficult to see in or out of. This window gives up fresh air begrudgingly, considering it something of a petty triviality.

I’m kind of amused. That’s the weird thing. This is horrible in so many ways, but there’s something oddly reassuring in the way that, for just a few minutes, this whole situation is reduced to one man’s pathetic attempts to evade the pong of another man’s remarkably stinky crap. Proof positive, I think, that bodily functions are inherently funny, even when the body in question won’t be functioning much longer.

Dad seems to find it funny too. Maybe not funny exactly, but I detect an odd sense of pride in him. It’s almost like he’s thinking, “Take that!” I guess it’s a kind of power trip. He’s otherwise totally powerless and this… this dump that’s reportedly been stewing for several days… is an opportunity to make an impact, to feel strong in some way.


A week or two later, he would showboat his pee in a somewhat similar manner.

Peeing became a major source of drama during his last few weeks. I forget the exact details, but there was a lot of build up, a lot of ‘will he or won’t he?’, a lot of disappointment and not a lot of triumph. Things got a lot more seat-of-the-pants when he was no longer strong enough to get himself out of bed and into the bathroom, and on occasion the call of nature could come at very short notice. I’m thinking about one occasion in particular.

I was visiting him and, as far as I can remember, he very suddenly needed to pee and started calling for assitance using all means at his disposal, namely pressing his Call For Assistance button and feebly shouting. I was also presumably sent out on a care assistant finding mission. I don’t really remember the details. All I remember is him on his back with two care assistants trying to move him into position and then… a jet, a fountain if you will, of pee arcing into the air with a total disregard for the readiness of any of the three people involved.

Again, I remember being saddened, but more amused than saddened somehow. Dad definitely felt the same way about this one. He made repeated references to it afterwards.

“Hey Gav, did you see me peeing spectacularly into the air?” he’d say. Or words to that effect. I did see. And I was nearly as impressed with him as he was with himself.

He claimed, towards the end, that he’d lost all appreciation of art, humour, music or storytelling, and perhaps he had almost entirely done so. But toilet humour, it seems, proved most resilient to the draining effect of death’s tightening grip. It’s comforting to know that, even at the very end, simple acts such as peeing like a human sprinkler or appalling your friends and family with malodorous excretions off the turd kind can still instill a faint spark of joy.


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