Tuesday, May 20, 2014

mr & mrs

‘She had a bad night,’ says Mr Ellery, shuffling back along the corridor, like an ancient oak that’s somehow managed to pull up its roots and drag itself across the common. ‘We both have. Mind your feet. I’ve cleared the worst of it. Eric said he’ll be over to get the rest. I don’t know.’
He’s bare-chested, and every year of his great age is displayed in the sags and valleys of his skin, the moles and scars, the faded tattoos and tufts of wiry grey hair.
He hitches up his trousers that are sagging below the line of his inco pants, then rubs his chin.
‘I haven’t even had a shave yet,’ he says ‘Anyway - she’s through here.’
Mrs Ellery is in bed, holding the duvet up to her chin with both hands.
‘It poured out of me,’ she says.

Despite the unpleasantness of the episode, nothing else seems to be amiss. She’s had an acute bout of diarrhoea, but then she’d been constipated for a few days and Mr Ellery had given her a big dose of laxatives to help things along.
He watches over us as we examine Mrs Ellery, scratching his head and offering encouraging remarks.
‘Sixty-five years we’ve been married,’ he says. ‘Who’d have thought it.’
‘I’ll have to live to a hundred and three before I can say that,’ I tell him.
‘Don’t wish it on yourself,’ he says. ‘I mean – look at us. You’d never think we used to go dancing three times a week. And go on cycling holidays. On a whatsit. On a tandem.’
‘A tandem? What did you do when one of you wanted to go left and the other one right?’
‘Never happened. We never used to argue. We saved up all our arguments till now.’
The phone rings.
‘That’ll be Eric,’ he says, giving a little start and then hobbling over to the sideboard. ‘Hello? Eric?’
The two of them have a shouty conversation about the state of the carpet and when Eric can make it over to sort it all out.
‘Righto,’ says Mr Ellery. ‘Thanking you.’
He puts the phone down, staggers back to the bed and sits on the end of it after first prodding to see where Mrs Ellery’s feet are. She clutches the duvet more closely to her chin.
‘That was Eric,’ he says. ‘Lovely chap. How are we getting on here?’
‘We’re going to get the doctor over to make sure everything’s okay, and see you’re getting all the help you need. I don’t think hospital’s the right place this morning.’
‘No. I don’t think so. Right. Now then – I must put my teeth in.’
‘I thought you had them in.’
‘The upper set,’ he says, drawing his lips back and exposing one solitary yellow tooth in the corner of his mouth.
‘What’s that one for?’ I ask him. ‘Spaghetti?’
‘No,’ he says. ‘That’s for spearing pickles.’


tpals said...

Ha! Nice couple.

jacksofbuxton said...

Lovely couple.Although I suspect Mr Ellery may have put too many packets of fybogel in for Mrs E to take.

Spence Kennedy said...

Absolutely. And they were coping amazingly well for a couple of such advanced years. They hadn't even called the ambulance - their care button service did it on their behalf. I don't know who Eric was, but I got the impression he was a useful guy to have on speed dial...

TomVee said...

Incredivle how they manage to go through all that and more, yet manage to keep their dignity intact.
And then you have some idiot lout next who doesn't even manage it at age 20. Life is strange.

Spence Kennedy said...


Mr Ellery even fought in a world war! (Maybe that's where he lost his teeth...)

You certainly do see an interesting range of people in the ambulance!

Cassandra said...

When I first moved to Idaho I rented a room from a couple about that age, and the gentleman had fought in WWII. They grew a garden behind their house and canned most of what they grew, which is how they survived because Social Security is not enough for them to live on. He still went out and chopped most of the wood for the wood stove that heated their trailer, and they got along famously, dividing the chores and whatnot. They'd actually only been married about 10 years or so, I think. It was really cute to see them still adjusting to one another, but also in "old couple" mode. An interesting blend!

I admire the mr and mrs you wrote about. I know from personal experience that living with health challenges is NOT an easy thing on a marriage, even if it is just getting old. Thankfully I am (usually) in full control of my bowels, and my husband has never had to clean me up like that. Oh, how embarrassing that would be! I know enough about medicine to not let him fill me up with too many laxatives anyway.

Spence Kennedy said...

I've heard about people 'canning' stuff before, but not been sure what it meant. Surely not actual 'cans'? So is it the same as preserves, in glass jars?

Some elderly couples are great like that, really inspiring. I love the sound of your Idaho neighbours. We went to another extremely elderly couple the other day - the guy had worked the Atlantic convoys during the war. Torpedoed twice - so incredible he ever survived. He actually had a letter from Putin thanking him for his work in keeping Russia and the Allies supplied (a side to VP you wouldn't expect these days).

Anyway, hope all's good with you today, Cass.