I am trying to remember when it became normal here for someone to be naked. It wasn’t like there was a meeting. One day, and this must have been back when dad could get upstairs, nudity became unremarkable. It happened on the landing.
The landing has long been the main intersection of domestic life. Like all crossroads it has known busy periods — when we were kids — and quieter moments. My return, itself sparked by a distant collision of sorts, has bought fresh traffic to this neglected junction.
For a time my needs ran contrary to my father’s*, who, like a slow-moving vehicle executing some precise manoeuvre would spend hours in the bathroom while we, the lesser traffic, could merely fume and queue. Now his needs outweigh his worries about his hairstyle**, and it is from this dynamic that the unbridled nudity (as oppose to the everyday nudity) began.
Getting to the bathroom ahead of him had become a daily mission, and in what seemed to me an attempt to thwart this he would emerge naked sometimes from his bedroom, just as I was closing on my objective (the bathroom), shuffle in before me and close the door. And that would be that. Any plans for ablution on hold, sometimes for over an hour.
The nudity acted as a kind of rebuttal. A technique. You don’t really want to argue with a naked person. I once confronted*** a burglar who could probably have killed me, when I was naked, and they fled, so I am thinking this is true.
Anyway, those were the good old days (and one of the instructive aspects of living with folk in physical decline is that you wake up to what a movable feast our idea of what a pleasent memory can be — today’s anger becomes tomorrow’s sepia dream). One morning he pulled me up on the landing and started talking about something while naked, this was new. Alzheimer attenae ever-twitching I was moved to ask, “You do realise you’re naked?” He just looked at me like I was an idiot, convincingly so. And from then on, naked was the new normal.
We’ve come along way since then, although now upstairs is off limits, we move hardly at all, but a lot of this is naked. I mean I like it****, it’s progressive. Besides, the stuff inside my father forces itself out so often that I now take a certain pride in keeping his nude and blotchy mosaic of flesh in good condition, like polishing an old car. It doesn’t matter if you don’t move it, so long as it shines.
* Mum is usually up first, this has always been the way. I am a loiterer, like my old man, hence the congestion.
** One of the many small sadnesses that accompany old age… seeing someone meticulous about their apperance gradually resign their values, and then give up altogether. Keeping them tidy then becomes a kind of tribute act. And there’s nothing wrong with those.
*** Shouted at.
**** Sometimes I hate it.