by Jenny Edgerley
a nice cup of tea with a chocolate digestive
‘Morning dear,’ said the carer, loudly. Her face was uncomfortably close to mine. Her colleague was slouched against the door frame, engrossed in her phone.
‘Good morning,’ I reply, trying to sound cheerful, not that I felt it.
‘Do you want a nice cuppa, dear, while we sort out?’
I hate the patronising tone, the way she calls me ‘dear’. I may well be a useless, forgetful old woman but I have a bloody name and no, I don’t want a mug of the cats piss you make. I want to walk to the café on the corner, order a latte with an extra shot of expresso. I want to sit in the window and watch the world go by. I want conversation, to reminisce, tell stories, wow people with tales from my past that make them realise I haven’t always been a useless, forgetful old woman. But it doesn’t seem to matter what I want anymore. Or what I think. I’m becoming more invisible by the day.
‘Yes please,’ I finally answer as I see she is standing in front of me waiting impatiently for a response.
‘Righty-ho, dear.’ The carer pats the back of my hand.
I sigh. I don’t mean to be ungrateful, but I didn’t ask for their help. I was fine. I am fine. There was just that one time I was confused and couldn’t find my way home. Sheila had been so upset when the police called her. Though I’m not sure if it was because she was worried about me or because she’d had to leave an important meeting to collect me. She’d arranged for the carers to come within days. She didn’t even ask me what I thought about it all.
I hate them being in my home. I never know what time they are going to arrive. I get anxious when I hear the front door open. There seems to be a new one every week. They are strangers. They move my things, nose around. They don’t respect me or care about me. I’m just another visit to tick off their list for the day. They don’t know anything about me and haven’t bothered to ask.
‘Here we go, dear. A nice cuppa.’ She put it on the side table, out of my reach. She doesn’t use a coaster. I feel flustered and my mind gets cloudy. I can’t think properly.
‘Do you know where my handbag is?’
‘Yes, dear.’ She sounds exasperated. ‘It’s at the side of your chair, where you always keep it.’ She leans over me to pick up my navy handbag. She is so close I can smell stale perfume and cigarette smoke on her. She waves the bag in front of my face, then hides it behind her back. ‘Now you see it, now you don’t,’ she says in a jovial sing song voice. My heart is racing. I want to shout, to tell her to get her hands off my belongings but I daren’t. She laughs loudly as she puts it back on the floor next to me.
‘Just a bit of fun, dear. No need to look so serious. Sheila’s coming today, isn’t she?’
‘Well, it is Wednesday, dear. She always comes on a Wednesday, doesn’t she, you silly billy.’
‘Oh, piss off,’ I mutter.
‘What was that dear?’
‘How lovely,’ I say, smiling sweetly at her.
Sheila and I have never had a close mother-daughter relationship, but I love her and I’m very proud of her. She’s a very successful businesswoman. I’m not sure what she does but she does it very well apparently. I’m almost ashamed to say that as I’ve got older, I’ve found that I’m not actually that keen on her. She means well, I’m sure but I can’t help feeling that I’ve become an inconvenience to her. A fly in the ointment of her life. She is intelligent and opinionated with it, likes to get her own way and seems to have very little empathy. She takes after her father. She spends her visits talking down to me like I’m the child and trying to convince me to leave my home, bringing me glossy brochures of soulless care homes to entice me away. I’ve always said I’ll leave this house in a box, and that is what I intend to do.
‘Right dear. Your lunch is in the fridge. Corned beef sandwich today, your favourite.’ Corned beef is not my favourite. ‘And your dinner is defrosting on the side. We’ve changed your bed. Saw you had a bit of an accident, so that’s all sorted for you. Anything else before we go?’
I’m mortified. I feel stripped of all dignity. My mind starts to cloud again and my heart races. I feel agitated.
‘Do you know where my handbag is?’
‘For goodness sake, dear, you know it’s by your chair. Where it was the last time you asked me.’ The carer sounds annoyed, and I see her roll her eyes at her colleague who is once again slouched against the door frame, phone in hand.
‘Is Sheila coming today?’
The other carer sniggers.
‘Yes dear, its Wednesday isn’t it. She’ll be here after lunch. God, if I ever get this bad, I hope someone puts me out of my misery,’ I hear her say as the front door closes behind them.
I’m not sure how long I’ve sat here staring out of the window and only realise I’m crying when I taste the saltiness of my tears. I slowly stand, wincing at the pain in my joints. I pick up my walking stick and close the front door behind me. It’s only when I finally reach the café on the corner, I realise I’ve forgotten my handbag.