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​Shane! Come Back, Shane!

WHEN WE were small children, my father’s job took him outside of Trinidad very often. One year, he was at home for only two weekends, those of his annual vacation. Consequently, my mother took us to the movies.

We loved drive-in cinemas. At $2 a carload, neighbourhood children would pile into our big rambling Viscount and we’d be having a ball even before we left our driveway.
My father would never have been in that. He hated leaving home once he got there. If forced into going to the cinema, he embarrassed my mother in box seats at De Luxe with his rasping snores before “Directed by” came up. He hated the drive-in more, probably because he couldn’t fall asleep with the steering wheel jamming his belly.
But, one evening, my mother insisted he come with us to Starlite. He fought my mother like the British in WWII, in the kitchen, where she made the contraband hot dogs in lieu of the expensive drive-in version, he fought her in the corridor to the back door claiming a headache coming on, he fought her in the garage itself pretending to lose the keys – but he reluctantly got into the driver’s seat and we left Sydenham Avenue.
Approaching the St Anns roundabout, perhaps 90 seconds’ drive away, he appeared to accept his fate ungraciously and asked, “What we going to see anyway?” “It doesn’t matter,” snapped my mother. “We’re going as a family!”
But I was too excited to take the time of day from my mum. Our movie was the biggest Western to thrill St Anns kids since High Noon.
“Shane!” I declared! “We’re going to see Shane!”
My father whirled in the driver’s seat to look at me, then whirled back to my mother. “You were hiding that deliberately!” he accused.
He began mocking the film’s climactic moments, when the titular hero rides off alone into the sunset, leaving behind the forbidden woman who loves him, and her young son, who cries out for the hero to stay.
“Shane! Come back Shane!” sneered my father. “The worst movie ever made. Shoot me in the head before I sit through that again!”
And he swung the steering wheel into a hard U-turn in front of the Queen’s Hall entrance and headed back to his scotch-and-water.
My friend Shane Collens died suddenly last week.
He had emailed me the week before to say he had joined my “Big C Club” and was entering St James Oncological Hospital to treat the “golf ball stuck up my arse, which is agony and I can’t wait for it to shrink. After three months I will probably have developed Tourettes.”
BC, he wrote, “You must have had a "life is too short" thought yourself!”
I have now.
I had been looking forward to the overlapping chemo that would have given us last Wednesday night together in the ward.
And now he’s gone before we could share even a single hospital giggle.
Shane, Shane, come back Shane.
(For more of Shane’s interesting life, see next Monday’s reprint of Shane’s 2021 appearance in my Trini to the Bone series in Newsday’s Features section.)
My father died at age 61, four years younger than I am now.
He had a massive heart attack and spent most of his last week in the ICU at Mount Hope, so we were on death watch for sure – but his death was still a shock.
There’s a remarkable difference between something you’ll always remember and something you’ll never forget and I’ll never forget the last time I saw my father alive.
He was gripping the handrails of the adjustable hospital bed so tightly, I was sure he was awake, but the ICU nurses assured me was heavily sedated. I know I saw a man fighting for his very life, even under the debilitating fog of painkilling chemicals.
In my own time at Mount Hope in February, for my cancer treatment, I occupied the same type of bed my father did.
Could hospital beds last 35 years? Might I have slept in the very bed my father did, moved now from the ICU to Male Adult Surgery?
I got out of mine.
Shane and my dad didn’t.
Send not to know for whom the bell tolls.
And don’t quarrel with your wife.
Even if you have to watch the worst movie you ever saw again.

BC Pires is playing all three lead roles in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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