Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: In which the prodigal returns – at just the wrong moment

09 Jul 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

Geraldine Durrant welcomes her son (and his help) into her home for a couple of days – to a welcome party her son was certainly not expecting…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

I was thrilled one morning to receive a phone from our second son, Theo, to say that he was planning his first trip home from Dubai in almost two years.

First, the pandemic had happened and then, having lost his permanent job because of it, he had been working on temporary contracts and unable to take leave.

So his arrival one Friday evening was eagerly anticipated by me at least – although I didn’t tell Patrick he was coming.

I had decided Theo’s unannounced appearance would be a lovely surprise – and would forestall the five-minute updates Patrick would otherwise have demanded over the preceding 24 hours.

“Who’s coming?”
“Are you SURE he is coming?”
“Can you prove he is coming?”
“How will he get here…?” on a non-stop loop…

I hugged the news to myself until I heard the taxi arrive outside – and so it was (with exquisite timing) that at this precise moment, Patrick pooed his pants.

Instead of being scooped up in Theo’s arms in a longed-for hug, I simply flung open the door and told him to get himself inside and put the kettle on, while I disappeared off for 20 minutes to shower his father.

It wasn’t quite the welcome home either of us had anticipated, but at least – after so long – Theo was actually home…

Patrick was pleased to see him too – but oddly reserved judgement as to exactly who our surprise visitor was.

“How long have you known him?” he whispered conspiratorially when Theo was out of earshot.
“Well who exactly do you think he is?” I whispered back.

Patrick tutted pityingly.

“I used to work with him,” he said, with every appearance of veracity.
“He wasn’t bad actually – but we don’t work together now, so I have no idea why he has suddenly turned up.”
Theo took this on the chin, and sat down to talk things over with his dad.
“I’m your son and I grew up in this house,” he told Patrick, who on the whole looked pleased to hear this astonishing news.
“Really?” he asked. “So which lucky woman was your mother…?”

But it was apparent even 48 hours later that Patrick was still harbouring doubts about the sudden cuckoo in our nest, hedging his comments with some neat linguistic caveats which would have done credit to a lawyer – or a Jesuit.

“I understand you are my son,” he said to Theo, unwilling to commit himself absolutely to the relationship.
“They TELL me we are related…”
“Allegedly I am your father…”
“It appears we know each other…”

But if his paternity was in doubt, it was all too apparent to Theo that his dad was very unwell, and on the third night of his visit Patrick had another of his regular bouts of explosive diarrhoea.

Between us, Theo and I repeatedly got him in and out of the shower, cleaned him up and put him back to bed.

He was wobbly and uncooperative, and I was infinitely grateful to have help for once.

We tucked Patrick back into bed for the final time at 4 am, when Theo handed me a cup of tea, and put a consolatory arm around my shoulders – and I burst into tears.

At 7 am Patrick was back in the shower again, and it was obvious that, in addition to the diarrhoea, he had another bladder infection.

As luck would have it, the district nurse was due to visit, but by then he was so dehydrated from the liquid which had been pouring out of him all night that she waited in vain for an hour to collect enough urine to test.

“I don’t know how you do this every day,” Theo said wearily as we decided to take an afternoon nap in shifts.

Which made two of us…

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