May you live all the days of your life
May you live all the
days of your life
She lies and waits trembling for the impending boom of thunder. The colossal crash is a reminder of her tragic loss. She looked out the window watching the rain
drops trickle down the glass. Her life was flashing before her with each jolt of lightning.
She remembers the good old days, when things were simpler. That the problem with getting old – everybody you know dies leaving you to weather the storm alone.
She had had a wonderful life full of love and affection. Her husband, Aidan, would do anything for her. He was completely devoted to her as was her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
After her stroke she lost her sence of identity. Her personality changed. Her mind was fading fast and she was hardly able to string a sentence together. She aged quickly. She was eighty six years old and looked every moment of it. Her skin got loose and pale and like leather.
Her husband Aidan was also in his late eighties. He has a fresh face and a full beard. He doesn’t look his age. He was a man who used to be heavy set. You could tell by his clothes that he had recently lost a good bit of weight. Marian was a great cook and now that Aidan is living on his own he just lost his appetite. He misses his Marian. The house was so empty that even the walls were quiet. It’s not like they made a lot of noise in the house, it’s just that when you know someone else is in the house it makes it that much cosier. Now it’s just an empty shell.
Marian was lonely as well. Even though she was in a mental health hospital surrounded by other patients and nurses, she felt alone because her Aidan wasn’t there beside her
Every morning the nurse would wake her up for breakfast at half eight. She would be out of the bed in seconds and be whizzing toward the dining room in her shiny
aluminium zimmer frame. It had two wheels on the front and two rubber ferrules on the back to enhance the grip and avoid the frame slipping on the yellow linoleum floor. She could really move when she was hungry.
After breakfast she would take her tablets and get her blood pressure checked. Then she would speed back down to her room where she takes a nap. The doctors have said she could have naps throughput the day provided they were for no more than 30 minutes at a time. The nurse would wake her at about 1015
The nurses would help her wash which was so embarrassing because Marian was a proud woman. The nurse would help her and pick out something to wear, she insisted on getting dressed every day. She was depressed but she still had her pride. She was exhausted after the morning schedule. She was easily exhausted lately.
The physiotherapist would get the nurses to wake Marian if she was asleep when she came around. Her name was Lauren. She was a lovely young woman. She came 3 times a week. Her main focus was on Marian’s mobility. She was trying to
strengthen her legs and get her to the point that she could move around in her Zimmer frame on her own.
Marian is a very proud woman. She just wants to be normal again. Every day at 1pm she was accompanied by a nurse to the dining room for lunch. She didn’t eat much. She had also lost a bit of weight. The food in the hospital was crap. They kept giving her mashed potatoes and mince. She hated mince at this stage. Who
wouldn’t if you were given it day after day?
She was always the last one in the dining room. The nurses were giving her as long as she needed to try and eat something. Most days there was no success. She was escorted to the chair in her room and the tablets were brought to her at 1.45 pm. She gets excited this time every day is because she knows that she had to take her tablets just before Aidan would arrive.
Every time he comes into visit her her face just lights up like a Christmas tree. He
kisses her on the cheek and says ‘hello my love’. She lifts her head and looks him in the eye. She raises her hands and puts one on each cheek. The words ‘hello my sweet’ comes out of her mouth. A bit of drool comes from the corner of her mouth. Aiden reaches into his pocket and wipes it away with a tissue and smiles.
Like always Aidan goes up to the nurses to see what kind of a night Marian had. This particular day he ends up talking to Ellen the agency nurse. There were no staff nurses available to talk to him so Ellen went and checked Marian’s notes. She takes them from the office to the desk and has a look at them. ‘Well Mr. Smith
it looks like your wife had a good night and it appears that she slept.’ ‘Ok’ Aidan
says knowing that Ellen had no idea about Marian’s night.
‘Is there someone else I can talk to?’ Aidan asks. ‘Um, well I’m afraid everyone is
on their break’. Aidan says ok and gets Marian ready to go to the coffee shop.
He would escort her on the zimmer frame to the coffee shop every day. Today it was a bit chilly so he put her cardigan on. He put on her shoes and started getting
her up out of the chair when Ellen comes over and asks Aidan what he is doing. ‘I’m bringing her to the coffee shop’ Aidan said. ‘oh well’ Ellen started ‘she’s on level 2 she can’t leave the ward without a staff member’ aidan starts to get upset and explains that every day he would bring her to the coffee shop where she would have a cup of tea and a cake. ‘Oh no sir she can’t leave the ward!’ Aidan gets upset ‘get me a staff member then’ ‘they are on their break sir’ Ellen replied and left the room.
Marian looked up at Aidan puzzled and in desperation. He bent down to her and tried to reassure her. Tears start streaming down her face. ‘Right that’s it!’ Aidan
said, I’m going to see a nurse. Aidan stands up and goes back to the front desk. He is not a violent or aggressive man. He is passive and gentle. Today he just really needed to spend time with his wife, time he spends with her every day, the highlight of both of their days.
He stands at the desk until a staff nurse appears. ‘Mr. Smith’ he hears ‘are you alright?’ it’s a nurse he recognised. ‘Why can’t I bring her to the coffee shop’ he said in an angry voice. ‘What? Of course you can!’ said Anna the nurse who was beside him at this stage wondering why he was so upset. ‘Why did you think you can’t’, she puts her hand on his arm. ‘This nurse said I couldn’t’ he said gesturing towards the agency nurse. ‘Don’t mind her, of course you can.’ She says with a throw away gesture. ‘Come in here with me’ she encourages and they go into Marians room. ‘It’s the high light of the day, isn’t it Marian?’ Marian had heard all of this. When Anna asks the question Marian smiles.
Anna explains that Marian had had a good night overall. ‘She woke at about 3 am for about an hour and had a yoghurt and a glass of milk but got back to sleep at around 430 am, didn’t you Marian?’ Anna asks. Marian smiles and says ‘yes’ with
a toothless grin. ‘Oh Jesus, Marian, we forgot about the teeth.’ Anna goes into the bathroom and retrieves them. She explains to Aidan that Marian took them out for her nap after breakfast and obviously never put them back in. ‘here we go’ Anna says as she puts them back in. Marian smiles. ‘Ahh that’s much better’ ‘I agree smiles Aidan. ‘Thank you Anna, sorry for getting worked up’. ‘Don’t apologise, it’s not a problem were just short staffed.’ ‘Thank you’ Aidan repeats.
Aidan would walk Marian slowly down the hall to the lift to go to the ground floor. They went at Marians pace. When they reached ground floor they walked down the open corridor that was always decorated with service user’s art work. That’s what the patients are called, service users. It was a very respectful hospital. Anonymity was key.
Eventually they would reach the coffee shop where Aidan would sit Marian down and then would go and get 2 cups of tea and a chocolate chip muffin which happened to be Marians favourite. He would stay all afternoon with her. After the coffee shop they went to the garden and sat on a bench and had the sun hit their leathery skin and they heard the birds sing and both sighed at the same time. It was a sigh of happiness. They were together.
Marian took hold of Aidan’s hand and smiled. He smiled back. They were 18 again. They were silent but it was a happy comfortable silence. They had been together 68 years now. They hardly spent more than a weekend apart from one another until the stroke. They didn’t have to say anything to be happy. They were just happy to be together.
Aidan would walk Marian back to the ward for her tea. He made sure she was settled before he left. He would walk her to the dining room, sit her down and pour her a glass of milk. He would then get her 2 poached eggs and some brown toast before leaving for the night. He kissed her on the cheek and said ‘I love you my sweet’. ‘Goodbye my love’ she replied.
The next day was the same until after her wash she got some unscheduled visitors. Immediately she knew something was wrong. Both of her daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren all came onto the ward. They were brought into the manager’s office. Marian’s doctor and the nurse Anna went and brought her to that room where she could see everyone’s face except Aidan’s. They all had red eyes and tissues in their hands. Her heart sinks.
The all came to tell her tell her that he had dropped dead when he reached home the night before. The impact was like a defibrillator to the heart.
Before she would say a few words and she was able to at least answer questions and respond to people. Three months later she will only give the thumbs up or down and looked petrified the whole time. She couldn’t read or watch television because of lack of concentration. All of her thoughts were about him. She was devastated inside but was unable to show it. Some think she didn’t understand. They gave her ECT and everything
He was full of optimism and hope for her to recover. Like clockwork he would have arrived every day at 2pm. They wonder as she stares at the clock if she still waits in disbelief, concern, anticipation, over him. They were married for an eternity.
She had it good. Her husband was bordering sainthood. He did as much for her as he could without much acknowledgment. She wasn’t able to do much anymore. Her memory was becoming foggy. People underestimated her though.
In her life she had been the designated caregiver. She had dinner on the table every evening at 6.15 because he finished work at 6. They lived together in a 3 bedroom semi-dethatched house in the city. Sometimes it was the blind leading the blind.
They had raised 2 girls in that house. She was happiest when all the grandchildren were there and they were all stuck into it like sardines. This is how she remembers it. She every recollection of the two of them rattling around, anticipating a visit from one of the family. Maybe that's a good thing because they never left them alone. There was at least a visit from Pete almost every day. Pete was their grandson. At the end of the day it was just her and him, him and her.
Now it's only her. 2 pm comes and goes. Now there is a nurse who would escort her on the zimmer frame to the dining room for tea, sit her down and pour her a glass of milk. Then they get her 2 poached eggs and some brown toast for her. The caregivers would get her ready for bed every evening at 8. They would put her nighty on and take out her teeth and she would get her medication. Because of health and safety 2 caregivers had to help her into bed. They made sure she was comfortable and turned off the light.
Before closing her eyes she turned her head and looked at the photograph on her bedside locker and
saw herself and her husband on their wedding day. She smiled. Her eyes closed never to be opened again. She was reunited with her one true love. She was back to her wedding day and had her and Aidan were reunited as one once more.