Spring evening

By Nick Gilmore

Published: 10 Apr, 2024

Wednesday

A lovely start to the day. Bright sunshine, not too windy and not so much rain overnight that the footpaths would be a complete quagmire. Lesley was intending to go to see her dad but as this was a day centre day there was no rush. That meant the dog’s main walk would involve the whole team. Even though the level of the water in the brook had dropped more than a metre I guessed that the Number One Favourite Walk would still be too wet. The dog was amenable to taking the Number Two Favourite route. Just.

Out through the woods to the next village, across to the Village Hall, back down the lane, through the fields and then home. It’s a decent walk. I rarely have a day when I do fewer than 10,000 steps.

Our postmen work as a team of two and John replaced a retiring postman a couple of years ago. The Dog was still a bit of a handful back then and she wanted to kill him every time she saw him. The process of rehabilitating her after years of abuse and her getting used to him culminated in her greeting him with a full-on wag a couple of weeks ago. She even took some treats from him. She’s a fast learner though and now every time she sees their van she wants to get in it to check for treats.

As we were coming down the lane, who should we see? A postman at the back of his van, re-organising his parcels. The Dog stood behind him expectantly.

“Come on! That’s not John and he doesn’t need your help”

The Postie turned around and we explained the situation. The Dog tried her cutest One Front Paw Lifted With Head Tilt pose. Still no treat.

“Who are your postmen then?”

“Dave and John”

“Ah, yes, of course. Dave’s got a dog too, hasn’t he”

“Yeah, he left ours some home-made dog -treats that his wife made on our front doorstep last week”

“Yeah, typical Dave. Where do you live then? I’ll tell them that I saw you.”

We told him and I thought that he’d never remember as we identify dog walkers by the name of the dog rather than by where they live. But of course he’ll remember an address. He’s a postman.

The most important thing, though, was the behaviour of The Dog. Meeting a different postman and not having a complete meltdown is a huge achievement.

I’m so proud. I swear that keeping your concentration 100% focussed on making sure your dog is safe and out of trouble for a couple of hours every day rather than worrying about everything else is what is keeping us sane.

Lesley took the train to her Dad’s. Too tired and distracted to feel safe driving. She had some difficult tasks in front of her. Some of the new equipment recommended by the OT had been delivered so there would be new toilet seat lifts and handrails, new grab rails, new walking frames and new supportive cushions for him to get his head round. Plus, some of his current stuff would have to go. He would not be happy.

Consequently, as per usual, I’m later getting to The Home than I wanted to be. As I signed in I could hear sobbing coming from Eleanor’s room. I walked through the lounges hoping that wasn’t going to set the tone for the visit. When I got to the rear lounge I found that it might.

Audrey’s gang had changed. The gentlemen had made themselves scarce and Lily was with them. Voices were raised. Fingers were being pointed. I kept walking.

Mum was more awake than yesterday.

“Uncle Tom?”

“It’s Nick”

“Oh, Uncle Tom was here earlier. And Uncle Arch”

Arch is, or was, her dad.

“Well that was good of them to come. They’re good blokes those two”

She nodded.

“I’ve been lying here thinking about the woman over the road”

“Who’s that? Do you mean Mrs Street?”

“Oh yeah!”

OK, so that set the timeframe for where she was. We were back when she was a little girl.

I adjusted her pillows, she had a good drink and we chatted a bit more. I mentioned it was Youngest Sister’s birthday.

“IS IT!!! Blimey, that’s come round quick!”

“Why don’t I take a photo and I’ll send it to her so you can say Happy Birthday yourself?”

“Yeah”

“Ready? Smile for the camera!”

Her expression didn’t change.

“Are you going to smile?”

“I AM!!”

The photo is taken and WhatsApped. A ‘thumbs up’ comes back.

“She says Thank-you”

“GOOD! Good.”

She seemed satisfied with that. Very satisfied.

We talked some more. Uncles Dick and Harry were mentioned. Mum’s family is huge and there really are Uncles Tom, Dick and Harry. We’ve got Eric and Ernie too.

The voices in the lounge were now loud enough that even Mum could hear. We sat and listened for a bit.

“YOU GO!!”

“NO!! YOU GO!!”

“BUT I CAN’T GET UP!!”

“YOU’VE STILL GOT TO GO!!”

Mum looked at me, puzzled.

“That sounds like Lily and Audrey. Unusual for Lily to be like that. She’s usually so sweet and kind”

It was obvious Mum didn’t know who I was talking about.

“Lily told me off the other day. Asked me what I’d been doing, told me to stop playing with the girls and that I should behave myself”

“What did you do??”

“Just some daft comment to Audrey. Lily heard the uproar afterwards. But it was just a daft, silly-arse comment like Dad would’ve made.”

“Oh. Silly arse. He was here the other day.”

“Who? Dad?”

“Yeah. He comes from time to time.”

We carried on talking and then she asked me to read. I listened to the night shift arriving and their attempt to separate the warring parties. Then I heard them coming up the corridor with Lily. They were telling her that she didn’t need to stand outside for the bus. She should wait in her room and they would knock on the door when it had arrived. That’s what I always tell her too but I hadn’t ever heard anyone else use those exact words before. Sometimes I’ll add that I wouldn’t advise going out in the dark and the rain or that the bus timetables have changed and she’s missed the last one.

Having parked Lily, however temporarily, they came in to change Mum so I went and made sure Lily stayed where she was.

When I got back to Mum she was all set for the night. Still talking but she wasn’t intelligible at all. Then she took my hand and pressed her face to it. I thought she was going to cry.

Bloody hell.

As I passed through The Home on my way out I wished everyone a peaceful night even though I knew it wasn’t likely. In the front lounge, Eleanor was in her chair, deep in conversation with another resident.

“And how are you two? Are you alright Eleanor?”

“WE’RE ALL MISERABLE!!”

“What!? AGAIN!!??”

At least that made her laugh. I took that as a win.

Bibliography

Tales from the Parish: 31 humorous short stories about community, family and village life, set in the English countryside

Kindle Edition

by Stefania Hartley

Author’s Note

My Mum is in a nursing home in a small village in the Thames Valley. The photo is not of the home. I used an AI image generator to give the reader some idea of the home she’s in.

All, some or maybe even none (you’ll never know!) of the names have been changed to protect privacy and hide real identities. If you think you recognise someone then let me know and I’ll edit the post or remove it entirely

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