Birthday Bust But Friendship Triumph

Well, I didn’t exactly finish the run for my 94th birthday finish line with a blazing burst of speed.I broke the tape stumbling forward with a headache from hell, a nose gushing to shame Niagara, rapid fire sneezing and a cough to rattle the walls of the Berwick Royal Oak Retirement Community.

Well trained by a paramedic son in what to do when contagious head colds strike overnight, I retired from the track, locked the stable door and settled in isolation to battle the unwelcome birthday burden with old world remedies – plus a few recommended by modern non-medics. It took six days and a diet of prescription drugs, endless bowls of chicken soup, cups of Bovril and a steady supply of hot meals to my door to bring the unwelcome bugs under control.

It was not a battle fought alone – although in typical male self-pity, on day one I was whimpering this would be the first personal sickness scrap I had ever fought alone. Over the past 9.4 decades there had always been a mother, wife, lover or close friend to supply the edible and mental nourishment required by the stricken.

My fears, for that is what they were – fears this was going to be a lonely fight – were quickly dispelled. On December 27 my mailbox was filled to overflowing with greetings from old friends and colleagues, many now scattered around the world and busy with their own lives but not too busy to remember me. It was quite a lift to the spirit.

Even greater were the phone calls from other residents in this “retirement community” who had noticed me missing from meals or my regular table in the Café where coffee and a read of morning newspapers has become a familiar routine. They wanted to know if I had everything required, and one most gracious lady politely listed half a dozen items missing from my modest medical kit. “I’ll leave them in bag on your room door,” she said, “with copies of the morning newspapers.” I asked for a bill. “No bill,” she said, “it’s just something we do for each other.”

Male “neighbours” were equally kind and focused on my needs. First words over the phone were “Hear you’re under the weather; how’s your supply of single malt?” Practical like-mind friends with ancient remedies to kill or cure.

And then, the never to be forgotten phone calls from treasured friends fighting their own health battles, but caring enough to make a daily call “just to see if you are okay.” Family and friends touching base to reassure me as I stumble into 2018 and my 95th year that:

“When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.

“At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
“Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

“Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone, you’ll never walk alone.”

Saying THANK YOU MY FRIENDS is quite inadequate even in shouted capitals.


  1. Happy belated Birthday, Mr. Hume. Hope you are feeling better. Thank you for a beautiful column, esp. the poem. It comforted me a bit in the sorrow I am going through . Happy New Yrear to you 💙💜💙

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