Terry Southern’s son, Nile, wrote an account of his father’s last days in the hospital. The following is an extract from that account, which he calls Grand Dad.

As we stroked Terry’s forehead and held his hand, he would casually remove the mask as if about to shave or sleep. Before his oxygenation level fell below 69, I would gently hold the mask before his nose, careful not to let it chafe and crimp him.

“You’ve got to keep the mask on,” my mother Carol said, “it’s what’s keeping you alive.”

At one point he seemed quite determined to get up and out of bed. After slumping back down, he looked at us with a theatrical mask of helplessness.

“What we need is a nurse and derrick!” he said.

“What do we need?” said Carol.

“ … NURSE … and … DERRICK!” he said.


When the doctor came round — a woman Terry would have liked a lot, sort of a thoughtful Candice Bergen — she took me aside.

“Your father’s heart is huge.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Even so, it is not receiving enough oxygen, and we’r…