He had loved cricket since he was a kid, had played it into early adulthood, but became a spectator once his own kids arrived. Whenever there was a Black Caps game on it was a family tradition to gather around the TV. Potato Chips and the famous Kiwi Onion Dip would materialise. A packet of Maggi Onion soup mixed with a can of Nestle Reduced Cream. The ultimate mix of flavours, salty, savoury, creamy, with a satisfying crunch covering most of the important Kiwi bloke food groups. Not so good for the waistline or the body in general, but so, so good for the soul. Today would be different, he wasn’t at home. He had been admitted into the hospice inpatient unit yesterday.
Just one month ago he had been walking on the beach for an hour easily, then over the past weeks things changed relentlessly. He felt so knackered, and even walking around the house made him breathless. He had been unwell after chemotherapy, which at the time he thought was the sickest he had ever felt, but this was so much worse. At times he thought he was in a nightmare from which he could not wake up. He found himself somewhere which was totally alien to him and his family. A hospice inpatient bed, having being admitted for symptom control of pain and nausea. The doctors and nurses had controlled the nausea quickly, and he was pleasantly surprised at how nice everyone was. The pain was still there but was well on the way to being controlled. Unfortunately they couldn’t do anything about his fatigue. It seemed that no matter how much sleep he had, he still woke up tired. Even talking had become difficult in the last two days, and his usually booming voice had been reduced to a whisper. He still had something to look forward to that afternoon. The Black Caps were going to play the Aussies.
His ever adaptable and thoughtful wife had brought in Chips and Dip, his adult kids were arriving in the afternoon. The doctor asked, “Is there anything else missing? What else would you normally have when you watch the Black Caps beat the Aussies?” He thought of his favourite drink but quickly dismissed it, he hadn’t had one in weeks. His wife spoke on his behalf, “He usually has beer.” “Did you bring any in?” “I didn’t know we’d be allowed to.” “I’ll see what I can do,” the doctor said before disappearing. “Huh, where’d he go?”
He moved out onto the balcony for some fresh air, and to enjoy the warm afternoon sunshine. There was a knock on the door, “Room Service.” It was the doctor who was channeling a waiter. “Sir, our apologies but our kitchen does not stock your preferred brand, we have it on good authority that this will be of similar quality.” The ‘waiter’ produced a bottle opener, and cracked the lid open, right under the cricket fan’s nose. There was that familiar hiss, as the bubbles escaped under pressure. The refreshing aroma went into his nostrils, and took him right back to better, sweeter times. Time spent with family and friends, watching their favourite sport. Many summers spent sitting on the edge of the couch. 8 runs needed from 4 balls! Everyone holding their collective breath as the bowler let loose balled lightning. The batter took a swing, and…”Would you like to take a sip?”
“I’m about to drink beer in a hospice?” he thought to himself. Nod. He just wanted a little taste. The liquid amber glistened in the sunlight as it splashed onto his lips, then it swirled over his tongue. Icy cold, the malty smoothness with a strong hit of hops, and then the familiar slightly bitter aftertaste. He closed his eyes, and he smiled as an involuntary, “Ahh,” slipped out. He was grateful to have been provided his first taste of normality in weeks.