The show has to end some time

My father’s friendship with B dated from their first year in college together in Perth in 1943.  After my father and B married and both couples found themselves living in Sydney from the mid-fifties on, the friendship continued between the couples and, in a quasi-cousinly way, their children as we arrived.  We spent time together on holidays and every year shared an evening meal on Christmas Day.

Perth was a small town.  B and his wife even knew my stepmother who had also been at UWA with them.

B was the last survivor of this little group.  A few weeks ago I visited him at the nursing home to which he and his wife had moved shortly before her death.  There wasn’t much left of him, at least that he was able to express outwardly.

Last week I went to B’s funeral.  I don’t think there will be any more such funerals to go to.  I can only think of two other surviving contemporary friends of my father – one (they were at school together) is 92 and in Arizona, the other is in Canberra.  (Both of these men also knew B.)  In a way then, for me, it is the end of an era.

Only at the funeral did I learn that B’s father, who had been a doctor in WWI at Gallipoli and later the Western Front, died of an “accidental” overdose of self-administered morphine when B was aged four.

When B’s son called me with the news (“It’s that phone call,” he said, when he was put through to me at work) he told me that one of the last things his father had been able to say to him, about 10 days before, was “The show has to end some time.”

Almost the last thing I remember B saying to me was more than a year before that, when I had visited him at the nursing home.  His speech was already a bit indistinct.  “There’s lots of shuffling going on here,” he said.  At first I thought he meant that there were lots of room changes going on, but then the penny dropped.  It was a reference to Hamlet.

 

 

 

 

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