From Jester To King XCII
By Simon Barget
While I was on my last legs, not that I knew it, I spent a good part of the day in bed. I was finding it difficult to get up and down the stairs, every movement I made put me out of breath, plus I was generally achy and weak. I wasn’t the sort of person to stay in bed, I was never ill and it took me a bit of time to learn not to fight and accept that if I was going to get better then I needed to look after myself and rest. I’ve got three children, I mean I had three, and only the youngest was still living with us at the time in our big detached house, but this time my son was round, aged 31 at the time, not the greatest of successes, a bit lost, and try as I might, I could never instil this sense of urgency in him, this sense that he needed to get his act together and forge his own path, and all my efforts seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. I mean I’d bought him cars and got him jobs, the number of things I’d had done for him because I bloody well loved him and he was just so ungrateful and even to this day I do not understand why he was so hostile to my endeavours, always threw them back in my face, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he broke off his legal career and just went flouncing about in India for six months, and this was after I’d been diagnosed, and it was like he was throwing it all in my face, after all the things I’d done for him, he just didn’t give a shit.
And then my property deal finally came through and I joked that if I did get the planning permissions and the covenants discharged then it would kill me anyway, I actually joked that I’d get cancer, and the fact that I actually did is perhaps the sickest joke anyone can ever come up with, a man of fifty-four, my own father died at eight one and my grandfather at seventy. What made me destined for the chopping block?
And looking back to being bed-ridden, these were in fact my final days, I would die on the Friday just shy of three weeks later, and I could hear my son coming, and it was a Saturday at about 12, and I could just feel he was lost and didn’t know what he was doing in life. Anyway we had this grand piano outside my room and he was the one who played, and he came upstairs but instead of coming in to me first he started playing. I would always listen to him playing, and couldn’t believe that a son of mine was that good at something. It was just easy for him, Grade 8 at 15. And he played Chopin’s Nocturne in C Sharp Minor, which was the one that Wladislaw Szpilman plays in the film the Pianist, and he played it so thoughtfully, delicately, softly, that as soon as he started playing I started to cry. The tears were warm and dollied out onto my cheeks. I had not cried in about twenty years. I had definitely not cried since Sandra had tried to break off the relationship with me, that I do remember, but since then I can’t remember crying. And as my son carries on playing I am profoundly moved, there is a certain absoluteness about this peace, a bluntness a candidness, and it’s not to say that I was consciously thinking about death and not seeing my son grow up, but I know now that this was what was going on in the background, that we were saying our farewells, and in the music was this profound communication, saying all these things to each other: that we both knew it would happen, that we accepted it, that there was more beyond, there was deep sorrow inside, that it was ok to let that sorrow in, that we shared this fount of sorrow and sadness, and before I could contain myself I told Sandra to ask him to come in, I had to say something to him before the moment passed, and she went out and I could hear him replying what do you mean initially resistant to coming in. He wasn’t sure, and I know I wasn’t approachable. But he did come in, and I asked him to come over and I took his hand. I was still sobbing, and I said, I simply said: I know how you feel. And I kept on saying it, sobbing it as if the sentiment would never be able to be expressed no matter how many times I said it. What exactly I meant by it I can’t say but I suppose it was something along the lines of: I agree with you, an acknowledgment that at the final moment I also didn’t really know what I was doing, that I was desperately scared of being found out not only by others but my parts of myself, and this seemed like the right moment to confess, to let my guard down and just to say it was ok not to know, that I needed to be honest for once. Three weeks later I was gone. I still hear the piano, the nocturnes, the Beethoven, the other stuff he used to play as if in this trance, in his own beautiful world. Through all the cosmic noise that is what I hear, me in that bed and the notes coming in through the closed bedroom door.