Tuesday, March 22, 2011

convoy

Mrs Eldridge is sitting in her wheelchair ready to go, an imitation snow fox blanket over her lap and a furry, zebra print poncho over her shoulders. Her hair is gathered up and gelled into an extraordinary beehive, a silvery sculpture so perfect it could be a comedy wig, with a sheen like the gloss on a giant sugared almond. Her expression is as sweet as the hair – a contented, confectionary glaze to her face, as if some current of sweetness was rising up through her, up from the luxurious pillows of the chair, focused by the cone of the poncho, lifting the corners of her mouth, pushing up her eyebrows and gathering in the beehive.

‘She’s been off her legs these past four years,’ says Mr Eldridge, bringing the last of the bags through. ‘But this last week she just hasn’t been able to do a thing.’
‘Has the doctor been out, then?’
‘Oh yes. He said for her to go in.’
‘Did he leave a letter?’
‘A letter? No.’

Mr and Mrs Eldridge are both ninety three, married at twenty one, the world gone to hell, but the two of them making a stand together outside the church, laughing happily into the camera, the bride leaning forwards as she struggled to hold down great layers of white lace and crinoline with one arm whilst keeping the other firmly threaded through the arm of the sailor groom by her side.
‘I see you were in the navy then?’
Mr Eldridge puts a bag down by the wheelchair and straightens up.
‘Escorted the Russian convoys through the war,’ he says, then adjusts the blanket across his wife’s lap.
‘Blimey,’ says Frank. ‘That must have been a tough time.’
‘Well it was fucking cold, I remember that much. But we made it through. Didn’t we Grace? We made it through.’
He lightly fetches on his jacket, and it seems to hang directly down from his shoulders without touching any other part of his body. I pick up all the bags and Frank takes up his position at the back of the chair. As he makes to go I ask Mrs Eldridge if she’s comfortable enough, but she says nothing, smiling exactly as she did before, without the least change of expression.

20 comments:

Krissy said...

Is it bad that I love it when old people cuss? They are just so damn cute. :) Thanks for sharing that with us.

Spence Kennedy said...

Me too! You can see they've still got fire in their belly. :)

Bouncin' Barb said...

Bless their 93 year old hearts. Imagine what they've seen in their lifetime. So sad though that the clock is ticking down for them.

California Girl said...

You bring your characters to life. They are real, I know, and you have the knack of letting us see them for who they are and were. No mean feat.

tamara said...

Her hair, the smile, the way his coat refuses to touch anything but shoulders...your words, ahhh my country for your words...

Tony Van Helsing said...

Ex-Navy man, just like my dad. Only older. I like the image of his jacket hanging from his shoulders without touching the rest of him.

Mollie said...

To quote Planet Terror: "Two against the world."

jacksofbuxton said...

You can get away with an awful lot when you get old Krissy.

At 93....

"Nice tits"

"Cor blimey,he's a go-er isn't he?Plenty of life in that old boy...."

At 38.....

"Nice tits"

"Whack"

72 years of marriage,can't fault them.

My youngest daughter would love the zebra poncho.We're decorating her room at the moment and she wants zebra wall paper.

Alexia said...

Sooo staunch! Love them both. Bless you, Spence, for taking care of lovely people like this (and all the other un-lovely ones)

I can see Mrs E clearly, with her giant-sugared-almond beehive...

Spence Kennedy said...

BB - Such an amazing couple. It's one of the privileges of the job to meet people like this.

CG & Tamara - Thanks v much. Sometimes the characters are so vivid they write themselves! (I'd have never dared to come up with a hairstyle like that on a 93 yo - mind you, I don't know that it wasn't a wig!

TVH - It was only recently my uncle died (93 as well). He had some amazing war stories. I've no idea how I would've coped under the same circumstances. A tough generation, that's for sure.

Mollie - I've just put Planet Terror on the Lovefilm list! (BTW - have you seen Zombieland? Great fun).

JoB - One of the (only) perks of getting old I suppose. That and free travel.

Zebra print wallpaper? I feel a migraine coming on. (Mind you, just thinking about wallpapering will do that).

Alexia - I have to say this sort of patient is an absolute joy and privilege to take care of. It makes up for the more difficult customers.

Did you ever see Mars Attacks? When the alien takes on the form of a woman - it's a beehive like that!

***

Thanks for all your comments! :)

Nari said...

If my features are to be frozen into an expression, smiling would definitely be my expression of choice. Maybe she jus doesn;t want to muss up that fabulous beehive. It sounds extraordinary!

Spence Kennedy said...

It's a shame I can't take pictures. That beehive would def be up there - a work of art! :)

VM Sehy Photography said...

What a sweet protrait of this couple. You can well imagine all the ups and downs they've seen in 72 years of marriage. They certainly made it through and then some.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks VMSP.
I know Grace was pretty unwell (although she still looked fantastic - prob. something that Mr Eldridge had a lot to do with), but he was amazing for his age. The tough & wiry type!

Anonymous said...

aww bless them and you to for sharing to remind us about the real good people in this world
thankyou
xx
lollipop

Spence Kennedy said...

Always happy to write a positive post. Cheers Lollipop :)

Zarko said...

Nice post. Thank you very much !

uphilldowndale said...

Fantastic post Spence, I want to know the practicalities of that hair! Who maintained it?

Crosby Kenyon said...

Isn't it great when people that age still have each other to care for and obviously want to. Something to be said for finding that mate, after you get to see those who are alone.

Spence Kennedy said...

Cheers Zarko!

Hey UHDD - I think a team of elves must work on that hairpiece - it was too perfect for human hands.

CK - Such an incredible blessing for them to have that relationship. And so rare at that age.

Thanks for the comments!