6 November 2009


It's a big day today. My father in law, Ted, celebrates his 90th birthday. It's a fabulous milestone, but it is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has been in hospital for more than a fortnight after suffering a stroke.

When a man of such advanced years has a stroke, you prepare for the worst. Indeed, we were told to do just that a few days after he was admitted to hospital. Yet almost from the moment the doctors told us he might not last another 48 hours, he has got a little stronger and a little better and so today his big day has come.

Ted, who already has Parkinson's, caught pneumonia once he was in hospital but has already fought it off with the aid of atomically-strong antibiotics. He has regained the feeling he lost in his left side and, although sometimes semi-conscious or confused, has managed a few conversations which included airing his wish for fish and chips on his 90th birthday, proving to us that he knew who he was and roughly where the calendar was at.

It's little short of miraculous that he has fought his way to this day of all days, ready for his family of four generations to make a fuss of him (though he won't get fish and chips just yet). However, I had a hunch he might see his birthday, despite the initial prognosis. Medical knowledge I don't have, but knowledge of this man I do.

He had not had a day of illness in his life, and therefore boasted a fully paid-up immune system to call upon for when adversity finally hit. He is a tall, heavily-built, strong old widower, rugged and handsome with a glint in his eye and, until recently, a happy capacity for long walks and the occasional drive.

He's not out of the woods yet and we don't know what sort of long term issues will come from this stroke. But that's for later. Right now, we're celebrating a 90th birthday that a few days ago looked like it wasn't going to come. I raise a glass your way today, Ted.

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