My Dad has always been one of those people who unfailingly looks on the funny side of things. This has got him in a lot of trouble over the years. But it resulted in an interesting childhood for me. When other parents were encouraging their children to read Blake and Keats in the school poetry competition, Dad was busy teaching me the 'Gafongo' by Spike Milligan, providing me with an A3 visual depiction of the poem, and dressing me as a mad scientist. I will never forget my teacher's look of surprise when I began to recite my poem with gusto, smacking the picture's 'singing knees' and toes that 'explode like toy balloons' at the relevant points. You will be pleased to hear that I was awarded second place for my performance: first place went to Rosemary with her rendition of William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils'.
This sense of humour has proved hardy. It has not deserted him even since he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. For example, instead of feeling sorry for himself when he began to find speaking increasingly difficult, he instead spent numerous hours programming in 'necessary' phrases in his light-writer. These included 'this is my Stephen Hawkins impression', 'pass me the Guinness', and 'Yes!' (do not be fooled by the seeming practicality of this last one; its was mainly a reference to the family joke: 'yes, your bum does look big in that!). Well, being in a wheel-chair, he is now the perfect height to judge.
Similarly, when his hands became so weak that he could no longer operate this machine, he embraced his new, swankier one, and set to work on mastering it. This one enables him to change the channel of the TV, talk, email and even send text messages, all using only his eyes. He loves it; he can now communicate even his longest, and rudest, jokes, with aplomb.
But it is not all fun and games, however, or even at all. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to experience your body shutting down, and not being able to do anything about it. To go from being the most outrageously extroverted person, always the centre of attention, to being forced more and more into your own head. And to have people, even your oldest friends, take one look at you, and assume that as your body has deteriorated, your mind must have gone the same way.
But the Dad I know and love is still right there, sitting before us. Even if it does take a bit more effort for him to let him out, he manages it, and succeeds in causing the same amount of mischief as before. When he was forced to stay in hospital for a time, for example, he soon had lots of the nurses 'popping in' for a chat and a giggle. He also insisted that, when no-one was looking, my Mum smuggled him out each day for a trip to the golf-club and an all-important cider and laugh with his mates. He has even managed to form a break-away group within the Motor Neurone Disease Association- he took one look at the misogs at the meeting, and immediately gravitated towards those that had a bit more oomph and were up for a laugh; these 'raspberries' and him now meet up regularly, send each other hilarious poems, and tell jokes. Some things never change.
So I hope this blog will enable him to put down some of his day-to-day musings. Because it is a waste to miss out on the tumbly thoughts that still churn around in that head of his. And even if though this will undoubtedly just prove what we all know- that he is as mad as a March hare- he is my Dad, and I couldn't be prouder of him.