Sunday, July 25, 2010


My daughter asked me the other day if I believed in magic. She knows me to be a sceptic, a person not readily convinced of fanciful ideas. And yet there are many everyday occurrences that seem to me unexplainable and astonishing. So while I don't believe that David Copperfield's performances are real and true, I told Laura that I do believe in magic. And this is the example I gave her:

A middle-aged man sat wringing his hands by his father's hospital bedside. The silver-haired father tossed and turned, muttering and grumbling. His mind was affected by his pneumonia, and he was confused and agitated. Over and over, the dark-haired son patiently explained to his father where they were, what was happening. He pushed the oxygen prongs back into place. He quietly beseeched his father to take his medication. The father scowled and refused.

With his wrinkled right hand, the father reached out in front of him, grasping at something that wasn't there. He muttered to himself, bitterly, "They're trying to poison me, I know they are." The son sighed. "No, Dad," he reasoned. "They're trying to help you get better." The old man continued to pick and grab at nothing, his tired arms working as he reached and reached for some imagined object.

The son turned wearily to his father's bedside table, and picked up his father's bible. In a slow, calm voice, he began to read his father's favourite section of the bible. The son read patiently, steadily, while his father's hands plucked at the air and his father growled and shifted and mumbled to himself. The father showed no sign of listening. Still the son read in his quiet, measured tones - he didn't know what else to do. The son read for an hour, maybe two. It seemed like a long time, reading to his dear Dad, who was too sick and too delusional to understand. It seemed pointless, but he read to his father out of heartbreak and love and despair. When the nurses began to turn the lights off all around him, the son finally closed the bible. He touched his father's hand, and wished him goodnight. The old man didn't even glance his way.

The next morning, the son returned to the hospital to an entirely different scene. His father was sitting up in bed, smiling at his nurse, and eating breakfast. He greeted his son warmly, and his son sat down in a chair near the bedside. They chatted together, father and son, and the son's relief was huge. The father spoke of politics, and of family, and of football. The son was amazed at the change in his father, and he laughed in shaky gratitude at all his Dad's jokes

Towards midday, the dark-haired son stood to leave. The father turned his kind, lined face to his son, his second-born, his much loved grown-up boy.
"Thank you for reading the bible to me last night."

The son's eyes blurred with tears.

(My eyes blurred with tears, too, when I heard this story a few days ago. Because the father is my father-in-law, and my husband is the son.)