08 November 2017
Wrath. Anger. Fury. I do them all every day. Expertly. And it’s all very well St Paul, a single gent who didn’t have to live with Ms Alzheimer’s, telling the Ephesians – many of whom would have been married – to resolve their quarrels before bed. I bet some of them were jolly irritated. “What does he know about it?” I can hear them muttering crossly down a couple of millennia.
Of course, if your life, marriage and home is invaded and occupied by Ms A, then you simply have to learn to put up with rubbish, recycling, food waste and garden stuff being put in the wrong bins. And it’s infuriating. Then there are the items on (very short and simple) shopping lists which are ignored, drawers and cupboards left open and things being “put away” in all the wrong places. You know it’s all going to get worse, too.
Add to that what’s said or not said. When you’ve been asked the same question – such as “Is anyone coming today?” - four or five times it’s hard to answer with calm patience and equanimity. Nick would really, in his heart of hearts, like me to give up work and everything else I do so that I’d be continuously available with kindness, cups of coffee, chocolate biscuits and various other forms of sweetness and light, but that is not on the cards, I’m afraid. If I didn’t work I wouldn’t be me and then there would we be?
The frustration is dreadful. I explain over and over again, for example, that a company’s coming to collect some rubbish this afternoon. Or that I have two tickets for a show tomorrow so we’ll both go. I do my utmost not to make a fuss when my best (almost new) omelette pan is burned out because Nick tried to make himself an omelette and walked away from it.
Then there’s speed. Or lack of it. I have always been a fairly nippy mover when I’m walking along a street or round the house for instance. And I’ve had a rule for decades whereby I don’t use the car if it’s less than a mile. I routinely take stairs instead of escalators as a way of trying to get some exercise as I go along and all that sort of thing. Until recently Nick was the same. Now he does everything very, very slowly and I’m constantly looking over my shoulder to see where he is. If I hang on to him, it’s like taking a very reluctant dog for a walk.
I automatically went bounding down the long staircase from the new platforms at London Bridge the other day. And then had to wait for two full minutes at the bottom until he had cautiously negotiated every step. I should have put him on the escalator of course but didn’t, for a moment, remember how things now are. Then I get stressy and remind myself that when I plan these excursions I now need to allow an extra half hour from the time we leave home. And the awful and devastating truth is that these days it’s actually much easier and better all round if I go on my own.
I try very hard not to let any of this show. But of course, after a bit, human nature bursts forth and I blow up like a volcano about something really trivial. Then, like Etna, I’m inclined to smoke and smoulder for days. My personal tectonic plates are pretty volatile. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath? If only. Ms A. meet St Paul. St Paul meet Ms A.
At the weekend Nick was upset because I’d done my Etna thing about something very minor that he’d forgotten to do. “I try bloody hard to look after you, be there for you, do everything else that has to be done and keep smiling but it’s an uphill struggle” I snarled.
“Well you’re failing” he said. Great.
Then, the next day, a bit diffidently: “If I could remember what I said that upset you, I’d apologise.” Well, in the end the sheer ridiculousness of life with Ms A made us both laugh.
PS Sunday Telegraph (5 November) had a strapline about a “vampire cure” for Alzheimer’s. A leftover from Halloween or is 5 November morphing into the new 1 April?
05 August 2019
I’m no poet really but sometimes one bursts out of me. This one has been tapping me on the shoulder, demanding to be written for days.
You lie, dying
Inch by inch,
While I am brightly, tightly alive
In my rainbow summer clothes,
Smelling of outdoors and real life.
Your fingers fumble, like Falstaff’s
With the soft white hospital sheet.
Your lower lip trembles as you breathe softly in your deep, ever deeper, sleep.
And the gaping gulf between us continues to widen.
The ship you’re aboard is sliding slowly away from the quayside,
Leaving me on dry land, alone.
I kiss you.
I murmur “I love you”
I stroke your head, hands and arms.
I try to rouse you.
You slumber on, oblivious.
Never have I felt so close to you.
Never have I felt so far from you.
Once you could make me laugh
Or arch in ecstasy.
Now a massive hole yawns
Where communication once was.
I sit, queasy, uneasy
Or I chat cheerfully to other patients and staff
Because they have a future
And my professional manner is a useful mask.
And then back to your bedside
For a quiet, private tear.
Don’t linger, my love.
It’s time to go.
Your job here is done.
I’ll manage without you.
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