“Hapless Uncle and the Alveoli“
Auntie Joyce had emphysema. When she was ambulanced to Glasgow Royal Infirmary we gathered around her bed come visiting – Uncle Bernie, cousin Tom and me. As she lay there masked and struggling to blow up her lungs, Bernie wanted to but didn’t say all the right things, and had meant to but hadn’t brought all the right things she’d requested – Catherine Cookson, slippers, new pants and nightie secured from Marks and Sparks for events such as this. It wasn’t Bernie’s fault, the man was just prone to forgetfulness and mistake. He was a hapless specimen, a card and a hoot.
As I perused the notes at the foot of her bed, “Inflation of the Alveoli”, Bernie and Tom kept the woman company, telling her stories and making her gag with laughter. Seeing the tears of a wife of forty years and more, Bernie was suddenly moved and reached over, not to kiss her, that wasn’t their thing, but to disconnect from his emotion and ask what was the pipe connected to the whassaname above her bed? And as he fiddled with said pipe it was it that got disconnected, cutting off the vital oxygen supply to the woman he claimed to love. As it hissed and flapped in the air like a poked viper, Auntie Joyce gasped for breath.
“You’ll have me dead ya bastard!” she wheezed.
“Fix it back on!” exclaimed Tom.
“Nurse!” cried Bernie.
But it was too late, the woman had said her last word, “bastard”, and taken her final breath.
Come the wake, where we feasted on fish paste sandwiches, it was audibly and respectfully agreed this was a tragic death by misadventure. Quietly and respectfully, however, it was posited as murder.