My mother’s phone call had just brought the news: My father had suffered a severe heart attack and was in hospital recovering. Emergency over, my mother had reassured me. Despite my repeated offers to come over, she insisted there was no need to make the trip from Amsterdam to Newcastle. It would be a waste of time.


But that had always been my mother: no fuss, no bother, no worries. Once I had told my son, Joshua, about his grandfather, he said, “It’s your father! Go!”


For a moment I was motionless and speechless with received revelation.


Then, “Josh, yes! You’re right!”


I was off like a racehorse, unboxed from my uncertainty. Riderless, free.


The following week was spent accompanying my mother on daily trips to the hospital to visit my father. I had never had a week like it. He was a changed man. The wall around his soul, which had been there my entire life, was gone. Our separation evaporated. There in that ward we talked as we had never talked before. At the age of 42, I finally recognized something of myself – not in my mother, but in my father – for the first time.


The day after I returned home to the Netherlands, my mother phoned.


“He’s gone.”


And through grief and shock rose gratefulness for the intervention of a thirteen-year-old.



First published in ‘Ruminate’:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s