‘You can’t go yet. You haven’t finished my cardigan,’ says Rosie’s daughter, June, an elderly woman herself, snugly dressed in a pleated skirt and something sensible in stocking-stitch that, from my chair opposite, looks suspiciously like another cardigan. June’s husband Geoff is sitting next to her, garden-brown, inflated with bonhomie.
‘Not long now before the telegram,’ he says, nodding towards the fireplace.
‘I don’t care a stuff about that,’ says Rosie, but still she can’t help glancing over at the portrait of the Queen that’s been set up there, a vase of red, white and blue flowers at the side.
Gemma, a Cocker Spaniel so inert I half expect to see a line of wool running from her tail up to Rosie’s knitting needles, twitches an ear as the carer comes in.
‘Have you decided what you’re doing yet?’ she says, putting down a tray of tea things. ‘Staying or going?’
‘Staying,’ says Rosie.
‘I thought as much. I’ll carry on with lunch.’
‘I can quite understand why you’re reluctant,’ I tell Rosie. ‘But of course our advice is to come up the hospital for a check-up. It probably was a TIA, but even though it’s all resolved, you’re at a higher risk of stroke.’
‘I know, dear. It’s kind of you to come out and see me like this. But for heaven’s sake, I’m ninety-nine years old. I don’t want to be dragged up the hospital, left on a trolley for hours, poked and prodded by a bunch of doctors, fed through machines, and then discharged home for someone to keep an eye on me, whoever that might be. What earthly good is that? If it’s my time to go, I’m ready. I’ve had a marvelous run, and I’m grateful for it. If I’m to have a stroke, so be it. Cheerio n’all that. But I’m not going up the hospital, as you put it. Or down, neither. I’m quite comfortable where I am, thank you very much.’
‘You always were a stubborn so-and-so,’ says June.
‘And you wouldn’t expect me to change now’ says Rosie. ‘I’m almost one hundred years old. Think of that! There must be some benefit to’t.’
Geoff smiles, grunts, and starts the awkward process of manoeuvring himself to the edge of his chair so he can reach the biscuits.
‘I’ll need you to sign our paperwork,’ I say to Rosie.
‘I don’t care what I sign,’ she says, putting her needles down and giving me a gummy smile. ‘So long as I’m here for lunch.’