It all started one morning when I got out of bed, went to the bathroom
and found that the toothpaste had run out. Where the hell did my wife
keep the spare tube? She normally did all the shopping and usually hid
the stuff anyway. I wasnt going to ask her, as she was still asleep.
Hang on! What was I doing getting up so early? I still had another hours
sleep. Oh hell! It must be somewhere. I found it.
I squeezed some of the goo onto my toothbrush, opened the cold tap and
let the water run. I wet the brush and proceeded to clean my teeth when
it happened. My twenty-year-old tooth cap came lose and stuck to the
brush. I looked into the mirror horrified. A face with an open
mouth showing a gaping hole half and inch wide between my upper dentures
stared back at me. I looked down at my toothbrush. I cringed. Three
ugly false teeth were protruding from the frothy brush. I was getting
a message. I must be growing old. God! I havent got long to go
before I die.
What else is going to go wrong? Im not sleeping properly, my teeth
are falling out, and Im too reliant on my wife. Im doomed.
I went back to bed and snuggled up to her. I slowly placed my hand on
her thigh. Suddenly she jumped up and shrieked! God! Id forgotten!
My hand mustve been at least 15 degrees below zero. I needed help.
I went to the office as usual but somehow things seemed different. Good
morning, Mr. Semple. Blondies noticed it. Theres that
tone in her voice. How come you made it in today? Have you forgotten
your walking stick? Isnt it time you invested in a nursing home?
Daft woman. What does she know about older men? Thats just it.
She doesnt. Oh my God! Maybe I should see my doctor.
Well your heart is OK. Your blood tests are normal and show no
signs of illness. Ive tickled your prostate and no swelling. I
know you dont smoke and your drinking habits are moderate. So
whats eating you, Mr. Semple? How can I explain it? No use
trying to tell this guy how I feel. Hell only shrug it off as:
We all go that way Mr. Semple. Just dont worry about it.
I walked out of the surgery without leaving a tip.
I went out for lunch down to the pub. On my way I saw a little boy playing
with a football. Hello son. Do you like football? I patted
the snotty nosed nappyless five-year-old on the head. The mother came
rushing over, snapped up the kid. Dont you dare! Help
me God! My grey hairs have labelled me a paedophile. Stupid woman. Cant
she see I have three kids of my own and love them dearly? Wait a sec!
They're all married with their own kids. Im a bloody grandfather
for Gods sake.
At the pub I ordered my usual pint and a basket of chips. John, the
publican came over. Hello Jack, feeling under the weather?
Bloody hell! He also sees through me. What is it thats giving
me away? No Im fine, just a bit of flu. I sat down
in a corner and read my paper. Not the headlines, just the bit that
says: Government confirms increase in pensions. Why didnt
I care about the bomb that Pakistan might drop on India? Oh no! I just
care about pensions. Thats it. Its the work of the devil,
or God. Which is which? For the first time in my life, I felt numb.
No, not physically, just plain numb. My toothless face, the toothpaste,
my wife, the blond, my doctor, John, they dont mean anything anymore.
For all my assets, faithful wife, drugless children, good job, friendly
publican, balls intact; I might as well be pushing up the daisies if
my mind keeps pointing at a tombstone. Euthanasia, heard about that.
The clog dancers with scrumcaps have now legalised it. Maybe I should
take a trip to Amsterdam. Talk to the inventors. Is it an invention
or a figment of my imagination? Am I at the Kings Arms and am
I holding half a glass full of Tetleys? Am I reading the middle
pages of the Times? Stop. Just stop right there, Jack!
God. Hes the one who can help me. Wait. Is God a he or a she?
I'm a Roman Catholic by birth but can't tell the difference between
belfries nowadays. What about faith? Is that it? Am I missing out on
faith, what faith? Maybe its time I took it seriously. Maybe I should
speak to a priest or something. These guys know about the inside of
our minds. Enter Our Lady of the Good Council. Its a church.
Father, please help me. I have sinned. I think, How
do I start this? Ive been married for thirty years,
have never been unfaithful, I dont drink. I have brought up, that
is, my wife has brought up our children in the faith. Ive worked
hard all my life. I dont know what to say. The priest is
invisible but is there. A moment of pause, a lifetime goes by. What
seems to really bother you, my child? Dont be scared. Open your
Suddenly, the numbness has gone. Internal serenity has taken over. It
came out like spring water. Father. Im growing old and my
body aches. Im scared of dying. I count the hours of the day and
the days of each month. Why? Where has my life gone? Is this the end?
Help me father, Please help me. Please!
How old are you? asked Father Thomas. I will be fifty-five
next birthday. Moments of eternal silence appeared to go by. Father,
are you there? Seconds continued to crawl. Finally his melancholy
voice breaks the silence. My son: I am eighty-two and have been
at this parish for sixty years. Among many things, I have learned that
Jesus Christ blessed us with the love of life. I have only one thing
to say to you. Yes, father?
© James Skinner