13th May


She thought, I am in my ninth decade.

She thought, I am nearly in my tenth decade. I should not be having to do this.

It would have been nice to pause for a few moments, to contemplate what she should have been doing, but there wasn’t time. She had to take the sheets from the washing machine and put them in the dryer. She had to make up his bed. She had to clear away the breakfast things. She had to help him to the bathroom, leave him there, go back to check that he hadn’t fallen, go back again to get him properly dressed, help him from the bathroom to his chair. Everything was so slow, everything took so long. Then she had to wash the dishes, think what to have for supper, prepare it, phone the doctor, order more logs, phone the plumber about the tap . . .

The list stretched away into what was left of the week. She had a pad on which she wrote down the things she had to do, not because she was losing her mind – no, she was sharp as a tack – but because there were so many. Someone half her age couldn’t remember them all. And meanwhile what precious time was left went faster than ever.

She was his carer. That’s what she did: she cared. He didn’t like or want her care, but without it he’d be finished. If it was the other way round, she would be finished because he wouldn’t be able to cope. He’d manage for a week or a month but he wouldn’t be able to sustain it.

I don’t have a choice, she thought, but suppose I did? Suppose I could walk away and leave him in somebody else’s care? Well, I wouldn’t, because he’s mine and has been for all these years. I wouldn’t trust anybody else and neither would he. That’s why he shouts at me. He knows he can and I’ll still care.

She thought, How could I ever say, ‘I don’t care’? I do. I can’t help it. It’s why I’m still here, not having time for the things I thought I would be doing by now.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
Subscribe here for more stories & music