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Tea at 4:30, with milk?

Callum Fawcett is a writer and teacher. He is interested in making children’s books that help explain the science and meaning of serious illness as a way of helping them understand and cope. Whilst working for Medqp ltd he presented this story at a creative writing day run by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in London.

November mist floats down grassy hills, sheep graze and the sun is blurred behind thick moisture filled clouds. I feel T22 muzzle up behind me as I start to pour the feed, for the Texel tups. Clattering as the feed sprinkles onto the trough. The boys shuffle around trying to get into the perfect eating position. Squeezing my way out of the the fluffy bodies I walk across to the gate. Before I leave, I have a glance over to them, all seem relatively happy. 4:22pm.

The Farmhouse sat in the middle of the farm, next to it was the hay shed and in front of them both was the courtyard surrounded at the end by the sheep-shed. To finish off my description of what was a fairly small farm in the Eden Valley, 42 acres separated by a small river with trees alongside. 4:28pm, I would be late for Dad’s tea if I didn’t get a little jog on to the house.

Opening the oak wood door I took off my bucklers before entering. Jacket on hook, just socks, I slid over to the kettle on the slate floor. I would normally fill the kettle to max but, only a third would do today, Dad would be wondering where his tea was. A sugar and dash of milk would do. 4.33pm, better late than never I guess.

Dad was sat on his armchair, I handed him the tea.

‘There’s milk!’

4:45, the last day I would spend in the house with my dad before his accident.

‘Yes dad, a little dash like normal.’ I never knew how to reply. Was he asking a question? Was he just making a statement, did he even want milk in it? Had he forgotten how he had his tea? I never knew and how could I know, the man was a shade of his former self. I sat across the room on my own armchair, separated by a big red rug. Reruns of Top gear had been on all afternoon, to my knowledge. I watched him as his face scrunched up as Jeremy raced around in an Aston. Dad probably remembered the cars, but couldn’t get the name out. His leg jerked as a constant reminder to me his condition kept getting worse. 4:45, the last day I would spend in the house with my dad before his accident.

I left him after we had our tea, I would go back out to do the rounds. It would always pop into my head, should I have spent more time with him? The dog would bark at me as I left, as if she wanted to come with me and knew I’d need company. I don’t know why I never took her for the company, maybe it was better she stayed behind for Dad. I’d sit in the tractor, carrying the bales thinking similar things from start to finish. Any period of time I spent by myself; I thought about dad.

I would have had you anyway because… I love you and who is going to make me my tea at 4.30 when I can’t feed the sheep anymore?

Now I have a couple of kids and am married. They weren’t there to see my dad, I wonder for myself if there is something I should find out. My wife will probably work it out once I come back from the hospital after having the test. If not they never have to know but, God forbid if I have, how do I even start the conversation? They come down the stairs for school, sit to eat their weetabix, with a dash of milk as usual.

So kids I just wanted to have a word with you. See there is on average, a 50% chance you could possess a gene that would mean, later on in your life you will lose motor function, muscle strength, maybe some memory, you will have spasms, twitches and you will struggle to speak. This is your dad’s fault you have this but, I would have had you anyway because… I love you and who is going to make me my tea at 4.30 when I can’t feed the sheep anymore? Novembers will always be misty and moggy but, the tea tastes better when you’ve been out all day.

Featured image by Rumman Amin on Unsplash

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