an old man now. Some say I'm a very old man. But now, at 87, I feel
I'm ready for the next twohundred years, and if anybody knows where
I can book for them, let me know, it won't be difficult to get that
message out to me... I can thank my nephew for that sensational
feeling of readiness for all that may lie in store for me, for the
next fifteen minutes, or for the next two hundred years.
Saw the doctor last week: clean bill of health and he told me in
no uncertain terms that having an erection and ejaculations at my
age is quite normal, the difference being that there was a time
one used to keep that sort of information under one's hat and what
was exceptional was, that I thought I could brag about it in 2004.
"Who else, if not you, should I tell it to, eh," I burst
out to him.
"Ouch, watch your grammar ! Whom, whom, whom, dear Uncle Lalli,
and whom, if not to you, should I tell it," he corrected me
He normally speaks as if he is addressing a formal gathering in
an important ceremony, and funny, it suits him, haven't heard anybody
remark unfavourably on his stilted manner of speech.
But I am allowed to treat him with a casual and familiar disdain,
he is my brother's youngest, my nephew as they say in polite circles.
Mutually respectful, yes, we were that, but polite ? Hah, think
again. As is proper of course between doctor and patient, uncle
and nephew, rellie or no. It is one of our favourite skirmishes,
my accent or my fractionated syntax, as he terms it, in his milder
moments for me.
But suddenly turning serious he said quietly: "I think it's
time for you to come clean, auld mon!"
Instead of normal New Zealand slang he often affects a Sottish accent,
The question mark on my face he answered with an uncharacteristic
expression: "Ya don'fool me none, come out with it. I can see
it has become a burden, time to shrug it off. Le's be'avin'ya mon..."
"What ?!?" I extemporated, in vain, for he quickly saw
his chance and dug the dagger deep into my soul, saying:
"Sex, Uncle Lalli, sex, let's talk sex."
All I could say was: " You little bastard..."
But he saw me coming and interrupted: "That I am not, and well
you know. Told me hundreds of times, if not thousands, that you
helped Mum and Dad with my birth up the Hogburn valley... were they
married then ?"
"No, they were not yet married," I helped him, And I could
not stop it: I started to weep.
He rose quickly from behind his desk and reached out to me. I got
up and with a wail of a sob I thightly grabbed my nephew in an embrace
for support, hearing him say in a whisper: " There, there,
there..." and when I had quietened down, " shall I see
if can make a time with a counsellor ( a funny PC name for a psychiatrist
I think )?"
"No !" I protested now with a steady voice, " you're
my doctor, might as well be my father-confessor as well."
"That's two holes in the ground," he quipped.
"Two what ???"
"Two HOLES," he sniggered, and: "Oh, never mind,
father-confessor eh ? Have had worse from you. OK, when do we start."
That last question hit me like a cricketball in full flight, right
in the stomach. He saw that. He picked up his in-house phone and
quietly spoke to his nurse:" See if you can delay or cancel
the next two patients, May, I need more time for my uncle..."
Strictly speaking he was not my nephew, just the youngest child
in a previous marriage of my brother's New Zealand-born second wife.
In New Zealand it is considered unethical to entertain a professional
interest in blood-relations.
There was what seemed an interminable silence, on both parts.
showed he was a seasoned professional, not a sound, not a sigh,
not a deep breath intake from him, just his kind face, his beautiful
violet-blue eyes under chiselled eyebrows, he waited for me to speak
first, yet he was very busy writing on a clean sheet in my file.
"What are you writing?" I asked, finally able to break
"What you're telling me," he answered in a tone more serious
than I had ever heard from him. And suddenly I knew he had made
my statement true ! He had, indeed, become my father-confessor.
And I started to sob again. In silence he gave me the box of tissues
on his side-desk.
"How many of those do you have," I asked, trying to avoid
what I really wanted, no, needed to tell him.
"Plenty," he answered airily, " but is it not time
now to start listening to what you're telling me."
"What did I tell you ?" my tone had become defiant.
Patiently he put down the golden Parker Pen, the very pen I had
given him when he graduated from Med School, made himself more comfortable
in his large bureau chair, and while leaning back he grabbed the
file sheet from his desk and read: " Discomfited, acute state
is near, mustering up courage to end escapist behaviour..."
and then I saw what he meant with <what you're telling me>
and < it is time to listen to what I am telling...> and Don
interrupted sharply: " I did not say that !" and almost
threateningly he continued: "I said < is it not time now
to start listening to what you're telling me >. There is a whale
of a difference."
"Akh nebbish," I exclaimed," facile and fatuous sophistry,
"won't cut any ice with me."
I knew I was recklessly on dangerous ground for he hammered me down
with:"The difference between formal observation of facts in
memory, as opposed to romantic interpretations of unsavoury, hurtful
experiences, blocked, expunged and thus exonerated by oblivion."
Hell ! After all that all I could do was give a gasp. He did understand
my facial expression and answered with a grin:
"No, I have no X-ray eyes. I have had medical training, you
helped me have it, remember ?"
Then out of the blue, a searing sword of truth cut down the defences
in my long suffering being and I simply said: " Don, how long
have you known I love you ?"
"Good, now you're talking! Are you also listening to yourself
? Go on..."
I thought I could allow myself to be clever with him and continued:
"How long have you known ?"
"Aha, you're trying to trip me. I will ask the questions. So,
I ask now, how long have you known you love me."
"When I started to teach you French and Hungarian," and
unwittingly I continued in my native tongue and, becoming aware,
seeing his screwed-up eyebrows and pursed lips, I stopped.
"That much Hungarian you have not taught me, drága Lalli
Bácsi, kerek szépen, nevetsz, az nem szabad."
(dear Uncle Lalli, please, you're laughing, don't do that )
And then I felt totally free to tell him and it came in rolling
waves, engulfed the atmosphere in his surgery.
He did not interrupt me whilst he talked over his private line to
Elaine, his wife, asking if he had anything special on that night.
"Oh, good, can I come with a guest ? Who ? Uncle Lalli. What
do you mean not as a guest ? Tonight he is, in my study, for a private
meeting, yes medical, thanks darling..." and he did not blink
once when took me on again, shooting me off target with: "Yes
I remember that was actually very amusing you know, I did enjoy
it, at least my memory of it still gives me a warm feeling, we were
a damn good pair, weren't we."
He had asked me to teach him an Argentine Tango, as a solo dance,
if you please, for he had no partner. He had seen Fred Astaire in
the cinema, dancing a tango by himself, and all that time he had
thought a tango was a solo dance for male dancers...never even asked
if that was so, it seemed.
So, I helped out of and into his dream, and the rashly offered and
accepted tango for the capping show of his university was assuree
of success, for, at great expense a couple from Argentina had been
engaged to perform, and Uncle Lalli became Don Luis de Hidalgo and
his partner, previously known as Master Donald D, became the lovely
Doña Donatella, of this parish and elsewhere... FINIS