Friday, 31 July 2015


A regular soft beep from across the room. The sharp tang of antiseptic playing with the fine hairs in my nostrils. The starched weight of fresh linen draped over me. Bright unforgiving light hurting my eyes. The click of efficient heels on linoleum. The distant ringing of a ‘phone somewhere down the hall.

I know where I am, even if I’m not quite clear on the details of why and how I got here.

And yet, somehow I don’t feel here. I feel separate, distant, like I’m stuck somewhere between this reality and an unknown something else.

I remember the pale scared look on my grandson’s face when I tried to tell him something this morning. Something that made perfect sense inside my head, but must have sounded like the ramblings of a deranged space alien to him, judging from the look on his face.

I remember shouts and concerned neighbours crowding round, fussing over me, urging me to lie down and not be scared. I remember wondering why on earth they thought I was scared and getting irate at their refusal to l heed my pleas to leave me alone and stop faffing about.

I remember a flash of white pain, followed by a wave of irritation when my hand refused to do as it was told and just hung there, useless, like a lump of putty.

I remember flashing blue lights, strong men with kind voices.

But I can’t remember what that thing sitting on the table next to me is called. The thing where they put water to drink. I wish I could remember, because I really want to tell my daughter – sitting silent and red-eyed next to the bed – that I’m thirsty.

I wish I could remember my name.

I open my mouth to ask for a drink, but meaningless moans and grunts tumble out. I feel like I’m wrapped tightly in a membrane, unable to move or speak, yet seeing everything, understanding everything. Caught between one world and another.

Maybe that’s what it is.

I’ll tell you what else it is – boring, and frustrating as hell, that’s what.

I want to wave my arms around, scream and shout, break through this barrier of unable that’s wrapped itself around me, let them know that I’m still in here.

“Hush, Mum,” my daughter says, stroking my hand. “Everything’s going to be alright. You’re a little poorly, but the doctors are going to fix you up. Don’t upset yourself.”

I look at her and I’m sure she can see in my eyes that I know she doesn’t believe what she’s saying. That she fears the worse and thinks that the truth would finish me off. She’s wrong. I’m not going anywhere without a fight. I’ve got too many things that still need taking care of before I’m done.

For a start, there’s Him Indoors. After so many years, he can’t be expected to take care of himself, make sure he takes his tablets on time, eat properly, go to bed when he should, lock up at night.  Who’s going to look after him if I don’t?

A tired-eyed nurses bustles in, checks my chart, casts an eye at the drip standing like a sentry next to the bed. Drip-drip-drip, the flow of whatever it is they’ve got me on to keep me alive is as steady as the low beeping from the machines.

I try to reach out, to touch her hand, thank her. But the unseeable membrane trapping me inside myself allows nothing more than a twitch of my hand, an incomprehensible slur and a desperate widening of my eyes as I strain to pass a word and get past this verbal constipation.

“Try to relax, Mary dear,” she says firmly, gently guiding my hand back to the sheet. “Doctor will be round in a while, and then we’ll get a better idea of how we’re going to get you back on your feet again.”

Inside, I’m seething. 
At being spoken to like an idiot child. 
At not being able to tell her I’m an adult. 
At the cruel twist of fate that has landed me between these asphyxiating sheets and my daughter exhausted and tearful in the chair next to me. 
At having all control wrenched from my now useless hands.

But at least I now know my name again.

A flurry in the air announces the arrival of the doctor, accompanied by a gaggle of medical students that don’t look much older or less scared than my grandson. Steely haired, and with eyes to match, the doctor scans the chart at the end of my bed and describes my case – a depressingly routine case – to his protegés, then asks for their prognosis.

“It’s good sign that the patient survived the initial stroke,” pipes up one. “But the danger remains that more will follow. The first 72 hours are critical.”

So, that’s where I am. Somewhere between.

Somewhere between the here and the hereafter.

1 comment:

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