• Michael Noctor

the last phase

I remember 1998. My ma telling me how much she was looking forward to the retirement years. ‘This is your father’s and my time.’ That’s what she said. It didn’t work out how she had hoped. My mother’s strokes put an end to it, for them both. She had her first stroke age 58. I’m six months away from my 57th birthday. I’d rather die tomorrow than go through what my mother went through. It was no fun for my da, either.

I’m leaning towards atheism. A while ago someone told me my parents were in Purgatory, suffering, and in need of my prayers. That played on my mind until I kicked the fucked-up notion to the kerb. I can’t help but see the humour in the idea of anyone relying on my prayers. Anyway, I’m not the praying type. I haven’t prayed much since I prayed for a pass in the Leaving Cert – that didn’t happen coz I wasted too much time praying instead of studying – and I’m not likely to start again before I die an atheist.

Hold on, maybe I’ll be an agnostic, or a bit of both.

If the septic infection I picked up in Málaga in October 2019 had had its way, I’d have outdone both my parents. I was 55. I could have picked up a gold medal for early death – Go for Gold!

My brain took a kicking, but I didn’t die.

I’ve been practising gratitude and acceptance. As I enter the last phase of my life, I find myself thinking about the very, very raw deal my parents got, and it makes it so much easier to be accepting and grateful.

When I first moved into my building, I would listen to the noisy African woman who lives in an apartment below. She’s loud. I thought about documenting the times I could hear her and putting in a complaint. Now, well, her voice, her whoops and hollers, have become part of my S.C.R., Portobello, Dublin 8 living experience. I don’t know her, but I’d say she’s a character. I know she has character.

It wouldn’t be the same without her.

I'm not sure when exactly the last phase began. It's not like there was a warning gun shot, or if there was, I didn't hear it.