Tall stories and goodbyes…more from the ward

Chapter 24: Canterbury Tales

There’s a new kid on the block. From the town not too far away. Married at 18 for 72 years to Dorothy who died earlier this year. Three children and countless grandchildren and god knows how many great grand kids.

You can’t keep up in the end, says Joan. Every Christmas it seems there’s another one. Of course you love them but you think surely not more.

My new lunch partner has had a stroke but he seems sprightly enough.

He tells us stories of being stationed in Inverness when he was in the army.

After the war he worked in a local print works in the typesetting department.

He says he can’t see very well anymore but he can see the lettering on the ketchup sachet without too much problem.

I used to set 5pt print.

Wow, I say, that’s tiny, thinking back to my very first job in newspapers 30 odd years ago when typewriters, blacks and setters were king.

And then Murdoch’s fight with the printers a few years later.

All single lettering, he says.
No block set words? I ask.

Oh no.

I can only use a computer now, I say.

I’m not sure of his name and feel too embarrassed to ask. I can’t see his wrist band so finally I ask.

What’s your name?

Jeffrey like Chaucer

Oh, can you write like him? I joke

No, but I can tell a damn good tale.

 Chapter 25:Departure hall

Into God’s waiting room at the nursing home went Marjorie 91.

She’d become increasingly confused after being told she was going to a new home.

Trying to get up in the middle of the night. She’d wake me calling for help but I chose to ignore her. She wasn’t really my problem, and besides I wouldn’t be going with her.

I tried explaining that she was changing homes, but to try tell her she wasn’t going home to her daughter Gillian’s was too complicated.

She was exhausting and I tried to steer clear in the last few days.

How she didn’t fall I don’t know.

She keeps crying fearing she has hurt someone.

Gillian tells me she and her husband can’t cope any more.

He won’t come to see her. My daughters will only come every now and again.
We want to go away for few days. I feel terrible but a nursing home is best for all of us.

The care assistants ask her if she needs the toilet after finally answering her calls for help.

I don’t know. I’ll do what you want.

No Marjorie we’ll help you do what you want. So what do you want?

I don’t know. I might need the toilet.

Shall we go then?

Ok if you say so.

Then later I’d hear the rapid clank of her walking frame as she climbs out of bed and is half way to the loo before anyone notices.

I could have called out, but again when and why should I take on the responsibility of looking after someone I happen to share the same bed space with?

Betty had gone the day before. Now her daughters were back from vacation there was no reason to keep her in.

At night she’d be in a snore-fest with Joan, the pair snorting a duet loud enough to wake the dead.

Then competing in a choke-cough off also with Joan. I tried to guess which of the pair might expire first. Betty choking on her lungs or Joan coughing them up.

There was no point waking them to tell them to be quiet.

It would be dawn soon.