Sometimes things are so awful that you just have to laugh.
Nearly three weeks ago my 94-year-old father almost lost consciousness as he came out of the bathroom. The paramedics arrived and advised an overnight stay in hospital. And so I came to be sitting with him one afternoon at the Major Emergencies ward at Broomfield hospital, Chelmsford.
They had hooked him up to a variety of stuff. Sensors across his abdomen, a blood-oxygen gauge clamped on his finger and a blood pressure device on his arm. All of which meant the poor old boy couldn’t easily wander across to take a wee in the commode. The situation required lots of explanation on my part, because he suffers from deep vascular dementia.
Each time his bladder filled, my job was to pull down his trousers and pants and give him one of the disposable urinal bottles to piss into as he lay on the bed. On one occasion, when he had finished, I took it over to the sink and emptied it. Turning round, I could only see his back. But he stirred my curiosity as he was cocking his head at differing angles, as if deliberating over some kind of choice.
“What you looking at Dad?”
In a stride it became clear. He had taken the clamp from his finger and now had it poised, jaws open, above his penis. Still cocking his head, trying to judge which part of his bell-end might best receive said clamp.
Before he could let the thing squeeze hard around the purple flesh, I snatched it away. “What the hell are you doing? That goes on your finger.”
“Oh, I didn’t know.”
Back home, I told Maureen. The pair of us ended up crying so hard with laughter that it hurt. We were weeping at the bit where he was puzzling over the best angle to clamp it on.
Hearing the story, a couple of friends suggested we could buy him some clothes pegs for his birthday. Or maybe attach a set of jump leads that start flat car batteries. Another recommended a good S&M club.
The line between tragedy and comedy can be so thin.