Tress’ Dad


I started reading Christos Tsiolkas’ “The Slap” about a week ago. An incident that can in some ways, be viewed as trivial, can be the epicenter of rippling effects that touch many lives. The breathlessness of Tress’ dad in recent years/months, was seemingly a minor setback to an ageing man who still enjoyed travelling to all corners of the world across the seas in mega vessels. The cause of that breathlessness, a defective valve, came home to roost a few weeks ago, and the gentle man finally had the dreaded open heart surgery. He had not just a valve replacement, but also a couple of by-passes.

So I followed Tress this time around, as she made her umpteenth trip back this year. We took advantage of the Melbourne Cup holiday and took the week off. We took a red-eye on Saturday night, arrived on Sunday morning and not long after arrival, headed to the hospital to see him. We were to stay there in the same hospital room with him for a few days, until he was able to return home on Thursday.

At the hospital, we’d slept in a sofa bed. “Slept” as in having a shut eye for intermittent periods, because the light in the corridor, the light emanating from the toilet (the old man dared neither sleep alone nor in a totally dark room), the constant in’s and out’s or ward staff and nurses, meant sleep was like guerrilla attacks. You hit a shut-eye when there’s a window. I’d make a beeline to one of several coffee vending machines at the start of each morning, every time I’d get a chance – after ensuring Tress’ dad’s immediate needs had been attended to. Then it was a series of helping him get up for walks, ensuring he has something to eat or drink, wheeling him to places across the hospital grounds. talking to and cajoling him to put in more work to become better. Sometimes it felt like the rest of Tress’ siblings had dropped the mission on our laps while we were there, but those feelings were passing moments. I thought it a blessing to be near the man, helping him in what little ways I could, to get back on his feet again.

When we finally left the hospital, we had only a couple of days left in the country. I caught up with mum, David and Jean, as well as May and her kids. We left Tress’ family home on Saturday evening, and on the way the airport, Tress’ brother buzzed her to say I had left my iPad behind. He put it on a “Grab” (the local Uber equivalent) and had it sent to the airport to meet us, as we were about to check in.

We got home on Sunday morning, caught a meal and had LBJ (the Little Black Jedi) back, early arvo. It was a gloriously sunny day and I had wanted to soak up the sun (partly to deal with the jet lag) so I did the garden – trimmed some hedges, edged and mowed the lawns, and swept up. By the time we had the next day’s breakfasts and lunches sorted, I found myself snoozing through my chilled glass of chardy as I finally put my feet up.

Back at work yesterday morning, I got stuck into it from the time I got in the office, just a little after 6.30am. By the time I caught up with most of my stuff, it had been past 4pm. The boss had left soon after but my plans for an earlier finish didn’t work out – the tram had disappeared for some unknown reason and I ended up walking to Spencer. It was warm but it felt nice.

As I continued reading Tsiolkas’ book this morning, I thought about how a seemingly trivial incident can evolve and become a defining moment, become an inflexion point of sorts. I wonder how best to deal with such moments when they appear.

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