Monday, May 26, 2014

sixty-five years

‘You see, what happened was, the old fool was moaning as usual about not being able to get to sleep. I couldn’t stand much more of it, so I said why don’t you take one of my sleeping tablets? Well, the truth is, he’s just not used to them. The next thing you know, he’s gone back into his room, left all the lights on, and started mumbling away in there like a madman. I thought he was having a stroke, so I got out of bed to go and see about it, and switch all the damned lights off. And that’s when I fell over. It’s my hip, you see. It’s just no good any more.’
We’ve already got Mrs Darlington off the floor. She’s propped up on a pile of cushions on the bed, a little scuffed and bloodied, but otherwise okay.
‘What a nuisance!’ she says, dabbing at her nose with a handkerchief. ‘I only had my hair done yesterday, and now look at me. I must look a fright.’
But in fact her hair wouldn’t look out of place on a punkish model, artfully teased out in spikes and curls and dyed a silvery purple.
‘You look lovely,’ says Mr Darlington, watching the whole thing from his vantage point at the foot of the bed, propped against the wall with a walking stick. ‘Shocking really,’ he says. ‘When you get to our age, falling over and wandering around aimlessly at night. When I rang I thought they might send someone round to shoot us.’
‘Shoot you, maybe’ says his wife. ‘You old fool. It was your fault for leaving the lights on. And being so hopeless about sleeping pills.’
‘Well they didn’t work. I’m wide awake now.’
‘Yes. You are – you and the rest of the block. It’s a wonder they’re not all standing outside the door with pitchforks.’
‘I went all through the war,’ sighs Mr Darlington. ‘Joined up at sixteen, served my time on the Atlantic convoys. Sunk twice, once by U-boat, once by plane. And now this.’
‘Oh don’t start blowing that old trumpet,’ says his wife, shaking her head. ‘We’ll be here all night.’
 I start cleaning Mrs Darlington up.
‘For a minute there I thought you were getting into bed with me,’ she says when I sit next to her to examine her knee. ‘Don’t worry about that old duffer. He’s deaf as a post and half-blind.’
‘I see well enough,’ says Mr Darlington. ‘And so can he.’
He adjusts his position.
‘Why don’t you sit down, Mr Darlington?’ says Rae, moving some stuff off a chair.
‘Yes, before you fall down,’ says his wife, wincing a little when I dab at her knee with some gauze and sterile water.
‘That’s your department,’ he says. ‘Oh. Well. I might just rest a little. It’s so damned late.’
After a while he says: ‘Sixty-five years we’ve been married.’
‘You’d never guess,’ says Mrs Darlington. ‘But we’ve had some nice times, haven’t we, Henry?’
‘Oh ye-ess. When I finally made it back from the sea. Out dancing. Carrying on. You know. Or maybe you don’t.’
‘I must say it’s nice having a young man in bed with me again,’ says Mrs Darlington.
‘Don’t flatter yourself,’ he says. ‘Shooting. That’s what we really need.’
He laughs, shakes his head, then pushes himself back onto his feet with his stick.
‘Now then,’ he says. ‘Who’s for tea?’


jacksofbuxton said...

Nice couple.

When Mrs Jack (not her real name) can't sleep I go to the bottom of the stairs and shout up to her "When I get upstairs,I'm going to give you the longest,most fantastic love-making you've ever had in your life"

Hey-presto,she's fast asleep.

Sabine said...

godlovethem - I think we are sometimes like that, and only been married for 32 years.
Anyway, Spence, a proper change from the rough and nasty and the bonkers ones.
Hope the cuppa was decent.

Heather said...

65 years, obviously a lot of love and humour between these two, its nice to hear. :)

tpals said...

Treasures, the pair of them.

I got my parents talking about stories their parents told them last night. Driving the buggy to town in the thirties to sell honey for supplies.

Spence Kennedy said...

Jack - Nice technique. Eco-friendly (probably neighbour-friendly, too)

Sabine - Only 32 years?! Amazing!
(And yes, it was a great cup of tea - mostly because I ended up making

Heather - It was lovely to see such a loving & playful relationship surviving so long. They've seen so much together. An impressive couple, that's for sure.

Tpals - It's such a good idea to ask these things & get these stories whilst you still can. Are you writing them down? It's so easy these days to put together books online, with photos & reminiscences.

* * *

Thanks very much for all your comments! :)

Cassandra said...

I find it funny how the give and take of a relationship can seem hostile out of context; "you old fool", "don't flatter yourself", etc.

And here I am at 1 year and some change, patting myself on the back for my grand accomplishment. 65 years. Hmm. Maybe shooting IS the thing!

Spence Kennedy said...

Hey Cass

It's so difficult, getting these things across - the sub-text of it all. How people say one thing but mean another. If there was one thing I wish I could do it was that.

With Mr & Mrs D, so much was below the surface (and I don't just mean that U-boat). Even though what they were saying sounded snippy & snarky, it actually felt full of love and good grace. Especially given that they both recognised their situation - all the problems, indignities of old age. They'd been through so much, and still had this last little way to go.

I bet Mr D was much the same when he dragged himself out of the freezing Atlantic onto that lifeboat. I think if I'd been there too, I'd have found it as reassuring as anything else (maybe not as reassuring as the flare-gun and the beef tea, but damned fine nonetheless...)

Cassandra said...

No, you did a good job with the subtext. I could tell that there was affection beneath the apparent snark. I just find it amusing that if you take JUST the words, it sounds so terrible. My grandparents tease each other in much the same way. I used to think, "Oh no, their marriage must really be in trouble!" Now that I'm married myself I just kind of smirk and think, "Aww. That's cute. They really like each other."

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks, Cass.

That's why I think Pinter is such a great playwright. On paper his words don't look all that, but when they're acted out they really come alive.

It's amazing how tough & near to the mark banter can be with someone you're completely relaxed with. It's a sign of a healthy relationship (in a perverse kind of way!)