Which side of me will win?

Dad – Part 6: A moment

He could move his face. It wasn’t exactly expressive though. For most of that final day, he just wore an almost blank, but not quite, expression. You could see the fear, the loss, the exhaustion in his face. And, if you really looked, the love.

And he could move his hand. This I know well.

I’ve only seen WALL-E once. I saw it alone. There’s a moment in it, towards the end of the film, that’s so powerful to me that I cried through the rest of the movie, all the way through the end credits, and for some time after it was finished. I’ve re-watched that moment countless times. But the rest of the movie – still just seen it the once.

I really am talking about a moment here. Not a scene, not a line, not a shot. A moment. It’s a split-second of time – that’s all it takes to totally and utterly destroy me.

EVE has taken the mortally wounded WALL-E back to his home in the hope of repairing him. She replaces his motherboard and reboots him. He comes to life but… he’s not WALL-E any more. He’s just a robot. His soul is gone. She takes his hand in hers, but his arm hangs limp, the meaning of the gesture entirely lost on him. She begins to resign herself to her loss. Slowly she tilts her head towards his, almost, but not quite touching it.
A tiny spark passes from her to WALL-E. She doesn’t notice this and, that first time, I don’t think I did either. Accepting that this empty, mechanical shell is no longer the WALL-E she loves, EVE starts backing off but, as she withdraws her hand from his, it happens…

He grips her hand. Not tightly. Just enough to stop her letting go.

This is exactly what happened the last time I saw my Dad.

We’d been told it would be soon. Possibly that night, but more likely the following day. Mum decided to stay the night at the hospice. Andrew went back to London, Karen and I home to Bournemouth.

Before we left, I went into his room alone. I knew this might be the last time. I held his hand. He’d lost a lot of weight, but his hand was still big. Holding it, I felt like a child again. I told him that I loved him. I told him that I like who I am and that I was grateful to him and mum for making me who I am. I told him mum would be staying the night. And I told him that I’d see him “tomorrow”.

When I’d said my piece, I started gently pulling my hand away and he gripped onto it. He looked me in the eye, his expression barely changing, but a subtle, noticeable look of anguish in there somewhere.

I think I smiled weakly and let him hold my hand a little longer. I don’t remember what I said, some further words of reassurance, I suppose. After a few more minutes, I took my hand back and left the room. I think perhaps he knew it was going to be soon. Really soon.

We said goodbye to him before we left, and I said again that I’d see him the following day. He died about four hours later.

Alastair Mackenzie
10th January, 1939 – 16th April, 2008


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