Last week I was running around like crazy, trying to get stuff done. So many things on at the same time, including organising things for work, managing builders at the house and my dear dad’s birthday. God bless him, he turned 95 and still in pretty good shape, but his memory had definitely been going or fading recently and I’d been out there to his flat quite a bit. Anyway I should have thought of it before, getting him a cake, some things to take around to his flat for instance. In the end I forgot the time and was late when i finally went over there. Even though I’d knocked on the door, he didn’t respond so using my own key, went in, and there he was, had gone to sleep in that hot afternoon, storms and things, with the cricket game still on the TV. Some days things just don’t go right. I didn’t wake him up,but put the cake on the table with some flowers I’d picked up. Nice mix of tulips, to remind him of the old days.
The mobile phone rang…
“Hello John, you there son”
“Yes dad, I’m here, how are you ?”
“Well, not too bad .. ahh… I’m in Alice Springs… I can’t get home ! How come you left me behind ?”
“What do you mean, Alice Springs, how on earth did you get to Alice, out there in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well… I really don’t know. Didn’t you bring me here …? It’s just too hot…. to stay here. They have air conditioning,… but it doesn’t …work”
“No… I didn’t take you to Alice Springs dad…. Who are you with then ?”
“I’m with Connie my sister,…. She is out here. She… lives here. But she must’ve gone out … gone out for a while.
Where are you then ?”
“Dad, I’m in Sydney. I never drove you to Alice Springs. It’s too bloody far anyway, why would i do that ?.. Besides, you can’t possibly be in Alice Springs, you couldn’t catch a flight and there’s no way you can drive there and you’re birthday was last week” – I said
“I don’t know how I got here, but I’m here now and I need to get back.” said dad, getting a bit louder.
Mate, how did he get to Alice Springs, I’m wondering. I look at the phone, it says “DAD” and the number of the call is right. He must have his phone with him. Who would have taken him to Alice ? The idea was crazy.
“Anyway” dad continued, “at least Connie remembered my birthday, which is more than I can say for you !!”
The phone was quiet for a bit.
“Dad, I’m sorry about your birthday, yes I did forget..” I said, feeling a bit like well, actually I hadn’t forgotten, but then he had been asleep at the time.
“Yes ! John !” he said, quite angry now
“What kind of flowers did Connie get you ?”
“Well she got me a nice chocolate cake !. I don’t know who got the flowers. A bunch of tulips.” he said
Ok.. then he thinks he is in Alice Springs with Connie, but actually he is in Sydney in his flat. Perfect. I got in the car and drove round to the flat, kept the phone on handsfree. I’ve never seen people buy tulips in Alice Springs, and it was no doubt the chocolate cake I’d taken around to his flat last week and more significantly Connie had died quite some time back.
“Dad, I’m coming around to see you” I’ll pick you up in my car and take you back home.
“OK Son. At least that’ll be something.. forgetting my birthday.”
It’s strange, I had to smile to myself at least, each of us now comfortable in our own imagined world. I knowing that he was in Sydney, and he, knowing that It was no problem for me to drive the 2700 kilometers through to the red center in the middle of nowhere – Alice Springs. Whereas I said I’d be round in 10 minutes, it would’ve actually taken 30 hours of continuous driving.
“Hey Dad, I’ll pick up some beers along the way, we can watch the cricket for a bit before we come home.”
“OK son, thanks. See you then.”
I flicked it off handsfree, knowing I’d be there in around ten. I knocked on the door of his flat, the TV still on, I went in, there was the cake, untouched, and the flowers, open and wilting in the heat. I walked over to the air conditioner, grabbed the control and turned it back on. That’ll get him back to Sydney I thought, with a smile.
We sat down together, got some beers, and checked the score on the cricket.. for old times sake.