Health & wellbeing

Midsummer madness: “That’s my wife’s name too”

04 Mar 2023 | Written by By Geraldine Durrant

In her latest column, blogger and The Joy Club member Geraldine Durrant injects comedy and wit into a situation which can – at the very least – be described as heart-breaking…

You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.

My entry into Patrick’s bedroom at 7.30 one morning was not greeted with the enthusiasm I had come to expect.

Indeed, far from being pleased to see me, he seemed rather miffed.

“Where on earth have you been?” he demanded crossly. “I have been here all day and no-one has come near me…”

“All day?” I queried. “It’s been night time and you have been fast asleep in bed…”

Patrick was having none of it.

“Nonsense,” he said crossly, demanding my name in the manner of a man about to report me to my superior.

“I’m Geraldine,” I replied, and he seized on the unexpected “coincidence”.

“That’s my wife’s name too,” he said – and I realised that for the first time Patrick was confused about who I was.

“I AM your wife,” I protested, but Patrick was in no mood to be imposed upon.

“YOU,” he said, pointing an accusing finger at me, “are on the staff, and that lady on the left,” – here he gestured at Naga Munchetty presenting the early morning news – “is here helping you.”

Naga, who seemed blissfully unaware of her role in our domestic dramas, was certainly not pulling her weight as far as I was concerned, but I let it go for the moment.

“The staff of what?” I asked, puzzled.

“This clinic,” of course, Patrick replied, waving an airy arm around the bedroom.

I pointed at the bed and asked him if they usually had mahogany four posters in hospital and he assured me that “if your wife is fussy and you are a private patient” they most definitely did…

Then in the manner of a Victorian paterfamilias taking a kindly interest in the life of a kitchen maid, he enquired about me.

Was I married?

Did I have children?

Where did I grow up…?

I answered truthfully, hoping some spark of sense would penetrate the fog clouding his brain, but Patrick was merely astonished at the parallels between my life and that of his wife.

“She grew up in New Cross too. I wonder if you know her…?”

Then he asked me about himself and I explained that he was retired, but used to be in the RAF and had subsequently worked for a commercial airline.

He listened fascinated, evidently astonished by my knowledge of his intimate affairs.

“But how do you now all this stuff…” he asked shaking his head in disbelief.

I explained that we have known each other for 72 years and had been married for 52 of them, but he remained highly sceptical.

And when I asked him later in the day who he thought I was, he made only the grudging concession, delivered with the weary air of a man who would not be taken in by arrant nonsense, “APPARENTLY you are my wife…”

I was also his ‘keeper of the catheter’ and, in this more recent role, I had become more acquainted with Patrick’s – how shall I phrase this delicately?  – wedding tackle than at any time since the early days of our marriage.

As I watched him step out of the shower one morning, I realised all was not well “below decks”.

It took me a moment or two to put my finger on it – literally and figuratively – but I eventually realised one of his testicles was swinging much lower than its lifelong companion.

Disturbed by this sudden lack of equilibrium, I called our GP and described our infelicitous dilemma to the receptionist who graciously agreed the doctor would see us “face-to-face…”

Face-to-face wasn’t exactly what was required in this instance, I reflected internally, but I knew better than to point this out over the phone.

And as Patrick dropped his trousers behind a screen I heard his doctor exclaim “Oh! THAT doesn’t look right…”

I congratulated myself on my powers of observation and appreciation of symmetry as she told me Patrick had either a hernia or cyst, both of which would probably require surgical intervention.

My heart sank…

But luck was with us: an ultrasound confirmed there was a large cyst but as long as it wasn’t painful, the doctor suggested we leave well enough alone.

I sighed with relief.

We were already on a waiting list for Patrick to have a supra public catheter inserted: and I knew that at any moment he could have another blocked catheter, another fall, another urinary infection or a flare up of his diverticular disease…

And living as we now did on this knife-edge of daily disaster, I felt, for the first time in my life, vulnerable…

Geraldine Durrant is a retired journalist, feature writer and children’s author who – since her husband was diagnosed with dementia a year ago – has kept a diary about her experiences as his carer. We have the privilege of publishing Geraldine’s incredibly personal story on our blog every Saturday, so keep your eye out for more on this series next Saturday.

If Geraldine’s writing resonates with you in some way, please do leave a comment to let her know.

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