Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Errol Hemingson and The Dresser

There was a fabulous British film made about the English theatre during the Second World War, in 1983 starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtney, aptly called, "The Dresser".

Albert Finney plays a formerly renowned Shakespearean actor on his last legs, addressed only as, "Sir"and Tom Courtney plays the man behind the scenes back-stage - Norman - who helps Finney with his make-up, feeds him his lines, rehearses his lines with him, and helps with his costume changes between scenes.

Despite Sir's increasing frailty, memory lapses and clearly diminishing physical strength, Sir rouses himself every time he goes on stage.  Once he is in the full glare of the stage-lights he gives his all to every performance.  I won't give away any plot points, but the film is a gem and well worth seeing.  In fact, Sir's last performance of King Lear, which he has played "227 times", is acknowledged as being perhaps the greatest of his life.  It is also his last. Okay, 'one' plot point...

My Father, of course, is Albert Finney.  I am Tom Courtney.  I have seen my Dad for long hours every single day since he was first admitted to the hospital, when he is weak, when he is strong and every shade and variation in between.

As Dad's illness has progressed and his health declined, he has treasured every visitor he has received, like any great performer or actor, like the great story-teller he is.  There was a reason my father spent his life in sales and was damn good at it.  He too, performs best in the spot-light, at center stage.

I in turn have tried to keep as many people as possible informed of Dad's condition through e-mail messages, phones calls and the like.  People who drop by to visit my father almost invariably come away with an impression that he is in remarkably good health.

Afterwards, nearly every single visitor has called me up and said to me, "Vinnie, what the Hell are you talking about?  He looks and sounds great!  He looks like he could get up off of that bed and walk out of that room next week!"  Everyone thinks I am the great pessimist.

But what they are really seeing is my Father rising to the occasion of their visit or their phone call like the great performer that he has always been.  My Father is an old lion making one last stand.  Giving his Great Mane one last shake.  He still roars, but there is no chase.   Snarls, but does not bite.

Today my Father said he was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  He has had enough.  He has told the doctors that he wants no more treatment, no more pills and no more medications except those that help with pain or nausea.

And to that end, my Father has been transferred to St. Paul's Hospital Palliative Care Unit on the tenth floor.  The Staff are wonderful and it is now all about making the Old Lion as comfortable as possible.  


Blogger dhemingson said...

thanks Vincent for the update on Erroll... the next big journey begins... I've enjoyed your writings, seems you are a chip off the old block. Errol used to tell tall tales to us as children on the farm in Manson. Can't remember what they were but it was dark and they were scary! Give him my love and wish him well... cousin Donna

5:27:00 AM  

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