you are absolutely right, of course, to advise me to slow down. Why declutter now? What’s the hurry? There is no hurry. I can take my time, forget about everything else and concentrate on the only important aspect of the calamity that has befallen us, namely us, me and Beloved. The two of us. Just as it has always been, from the day we met, and will be until the day one of us dies.
Our time together is short; the new GP who looks after Beloved in the Nursing Home is of the same opinion as the previous one. It could be anything from a few weeks to a few months. If the present rate of deterioration continues it will be weeks rather than months. Beloved is no longer able to stand, much less walk. At first, four-five weeks ago, he used a cane (walking stick over here), then the stick became a zimmer frame, getting himself out of his chair was slow but possible. Then he needed a carer to assist him. One carer became two, one on each arm. Now two carers are needed in addition to a contraption which is fastened around his middle and bottom, which hoists him semi upright and from there lowers him into a wheelchair. It is utterly painful to watch.
How is it possible that this could have happened in a few short months? Snowdrop time; when he fell ill in the middle of December the earliest snowdrops were flowering, ever larger patches appeared during late December and January and now they’re dying, to make room for crocuses and daffodils. Beloved’s decline will forever more be associated with snowdrops in my mind.
No two visits are the same. sometimes he is awake, painfully so, restless and sharp; sometimes he is drowsy and sleepy, sometimes he is relatively clear and at others completely clouded. Often we sit in companionable silence, interspersed with a few short sentences, a few questions from him, mainly along the lines of “do you see much of .......” followed by the names of his children. My questions tend to cover his physical state, “what did you have for dinner”, "are you comfortable?”, “have you any pain?”. The weather comes into it too and Millie, of course. She is a fountain of joy in the desert. Short term memory is a big problem, the distant past an open book.
Visits are difficult but not entirely so. There are always wonderful moments of gladness. Long visits are worth it just for these moments. There is still some poetry, and music, of course. I uploaded Pavarotti arias on to my phone, he was rapt, completely absorbed in what he was hearing. Another time we had Marlene Dietrich singing French, German and English chansons. A smile plays around his lips and he sits quietly listening, occasionally stopping to say “lovely”.
And always there comes the moment when I see him sneaking a long look at my face; a cheeky smile appears and he says lovely things, like “you are so beautiful,” or “I am so glad I have you”, or “I like your scarf, you look nice”. And we never forget to say “I love you so”.
I am slowly beginning to do paperwork, letters, bills, official communications arrive and end up on the pile. I am sending emails and letters to colleagues, friends and acquaintances with the news of Beloved’s ill-health. I still don’t like casual phone calls which ask "how is he?” They may be well meant but are an awful drag on my time and my need for silence. I have dealt with Millie’s arthritis, her medication is working. I did an online grocery order today - how strange to be ordering for one instead of two. And how very strange to do an order at all. Life does seem to go on, I must eat. I have sold some minor items of Beloved’s music paraphernalia; two instruments and two bows remain to find a buyer. I have help with that. It’s time to organise the gardeners, Paul has been in a deep depression but is coming out of it. He came for a long mutual session of commiseration, time to get out and start work. Old gardener is as yet unaware of the great change at Castle Moat garden, I really must ring him.
And so it goes. Beloved remains the focus of my attention and my main conversation partners are nurses and carers at the Care Home. But now and then, when I sit in front of some rather boring TV show I feel that it might be an idea to use the time spent away from there a little more productively. I expect it’ll happen anyway. Eventually. No rush.
Next week Beloved’s son from America is flying over for a day in Ludlow, all things being equal. It’s the second of his four children finding the way to their Dad. The nurse in charge of the unit asked me, did they know how seriously ill he is? Yes, I told them, made it quite clear. One is estranged from his Dad, has been for years, is unlikely to come. That leaves just one. Beloved asked after her three times last week, not in any desperate way, just casually. But it means he is thinking of her. There’s nothing I can do.
If he makes it to warmer days I will take him out into the garden at the Home. On Sunday we had bright spring sunshine, we sat by a large window, the sun streaming in and warming his face. "Lovely to feel the sun on me”, he said. How modest we become, how modest our pleasures.