Sunday, January 08, 2012

a golden, laughing boy

Jean is enthroned on a scallop-backed silver chair, her bandaged right leg resting on a footstool, her arms placed either side of her. Her son William, an efficiently thin man of sixty, gives us a prĂ©cis of the action: arrived back at the house after a day out – wind caught the door and slammed it on Jean’s leg – deep cut - walked on it to the house – put a bandage on the wound – elevation and cetera.
‘I don’t want any fuss,’ says Jean. ‘I don’t like hospitals.’
‘Join the club,’ I say, kneeling down in front of her. If she drew a sword and lay it on my shoulder I wouldn’t be surprised.
‘Mum is terribly anxious about being carted off,’ says William.
‘That’s understandable.’
‘I’m ninety two,’ she says. ‘I’m past all that.’
‘Let’s have a look.’
The wound is a full thickness laceration, a brutal laying open of Jean’s calf.
‘I know how you feel about hospitals,’ I say, dressing the leg again. ‘But this is quite a serious injury and you really need to go in.’
‘If you think so,’ she says, ‘but I’m very anxious about it.’
‘Don’t worry. They’re experts at this kind of thing, and if I say you’re worried, they’ll take extra special care.’
‘I’ll follow in the car,’ says William, scooping up the keys from the sideboard.
Jean flinches.

***

On the ride in to hospital, to take Jean’s mind off the coming treatment, I chat to her about this and that.
‘I couldn’t help noticing the photos on the wall. Who’s that distinguished man in uniform?’
‘My husband, Denis. He was a Major in the army. It was his whole life. Conscripted during the war, stayed on afterwards, retired after forty-odd years. We had such a lovely life together. To be honest, I still can’t quite believe he’s gone.’
‘How long were you married?’
‘Sixty two years. It went so quickly.’
‘That’s amazing.’
‘I was lucky. But then I was always lucky in love.’
‘Really?’
‘Well. Sort of. I was married twice.’
‘Twice?’
‘The first time was to this boy from Devon. One of those golden, laughing boys. We met at a dance and got married about five days later.’
‘So what happened?’
‘He was a merchant seaman and got torpedoed in the North Atlantic the following month. I met Denis just after the war when I was demobbed.’
Jean reaches out to me with her right hand.
‘What will they do to me when we get there?’
‘I’ll tell them you’re worried,’ I say, resting my hand on hers and giving it an encouraging squeeze.
But against the warmth of the blanket, her hand is so cool and slight you’d hardly know there was a hand there at all.

12 comments:

loveinvienna said...

Hi Spence!

Long time, no post. Glad to see you're still on here :-)

Still as compassionate as ever :-) I see lovely old ladies like these everyday, love all of them!

Liv x

Charmaine said...

The poor woman, I can imagine how painful that would be! Very stoic of her to walk on it afterwards, it's that generation though isn't it?

Spence said...

Hi Liv! Lovely to hear from you again. Hope everything's good with you.

Charmaine - I can only think that neither of them realised how bad her leg was when she got out of the car. She didn't walk far, but even so... I think you're right though - the stiff upper lip aspect!

Thanks v much for the comments.

jacksofbuxton said...

As always,don't want to make a fuss.I'm sure Jean was lovely.

Lovely read Spence,Charmaine sums it up nicely.

tpals said...

Lucky in love indeed.

The respect and compassion you have for these special patients shows clearly.

Jean said...

What a lovely, strong lady. Hope she was not too stressed during treatment.

um...after the war she was demobbed...?

uphilldowndale said...

Oh dear, elderly ladies legs are (if our family is anything to go by) a nightmare to heal...

Spence said...

Thanks v much, Jacks & tpals! It's easy to treat patients as lovely (and interesting) as Jean. They're definitely a perk of the job!

Jean - She was in the WRAF - is demobbed the right word?

UHDD - I know what you mean! I think everything - wounds / illnesses &c - take longer when you get older :(

Jean said...

demobbed = demobilized/sent home after WWII.

Sorry, Spence. I should have looked it up. I am a lazy sot at times.

Seems there is a book with the title 'Demobbed'. Looks interesting.

Anonymous said...

Spence, I think you mean WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) and yes demobbed is correct.

Spence said...

Hey Jean - I'll check up on that book 'demobbed'. So many of my relatives went through it, I should make myself better informed...

*blush* Yep - I think WAAF is the thing! My aunt was in it! :)

PaperTigger1 said...

Who will be your favorite patients when the "greatest generation" is gone? Based on the range of people I know, no other generation comes close to that sort of "make do with what you have and be glad for it" attitude.

I hope she heals quickly from such a significant injury. However, the science of wound healing has come a very long way in the last 10 or 15 years so there will be help if she needs it.