In her latest column, blogger and The Joy Club member Geraldine Durrant tells a shocking story about a gruesome discovery she made in her garage…
You can find the previous instalment of Geraldine’s column here.
Finding the rotting corpse of a dead cat in our garage one morning was a life-defining moment, which encapsulated just how different our lives had become.
Only a few months before I would have fled, screaming “I had the babies”, and left Patrick to do what a man has to do with a spade and a bottle of disinfectant.
But times had changed.
For several months, for example, we had had a minor-but-tricky problem with our roof, and – in happier times – this would have been Patrick’s job to sort out.
Now, like so many other things I didn’t really understand – including the car and the central heating controls – it had fallen to me to resolve.
But as often as I found someone even willing to give the roof a look, they had arrived, sucked their teeth and promised to get back to me – which they never did.
One or two builders refused even to come unless I paid them up front for the privilege of giving me a quote.
While one kind man who did arrive, spent two hours deciding his ladders weren’t long enough to access the trouble spot and departed defeated, adamantly refusing any sort of payment, but having cleaned out the gutters while he was up there.
For which I was very grateful.
Eventually, despairing that I would ever resolve the situation I appealed on the town Facebook page for ANYONE with a long ladder and a head for heights to get in touch.
And, within 48 hours, it was repaired by a roofer for a price so modest it proved what I had long suspected: those builders who had insisted on £500 worth of scaffolding going up before they would touch it were indeed rogues and vagabonds.
After months of worry it was a huge weight off my mind – but it made me realise that having the sole responsibility for absolutely everything in our lives was in itself a mental burden.
There was no cavalry coming over the hill.
No-one to say “Oh, leave that to me…”
Or to utter those three little words I used to love, “I’ll do dinner…”
Everything was down to me – and some days I felt exhausted just thinking about it.
Other days – like when the double garage doors needed stripping back to bare metal – I plain WAS exhausted.
But if this lesson needed ramming home it was the dead cat wot dunnit…
I almost threw up as I sniffed around the garage one morning, trying to locate the source of an appalling stench, which I eventually realised was coming from a loosely covered storage box.
I gingerly lifted lid to reveal the rotting corpse of a dead cat.
I have no idea why the mangled moggy had chosen my garage to die in, but as I shovelled its disintegrating, maggot-ridden remains into a plastic-shrouded cardboard coffin, I knew that whatever Life now threw at me, NO-ONE was going to come to the rescue.
Dead cats, dead car batteries, dead light bulbs – whatever it was, I was just going to have to square my shoulders and deal with it.
But my often disturbed nights left me ragged, and as there is nothing more depressing than an untidy home, I decided I would at least try to find someone to lend a hand with the routine chores.
And in looking for a kindly new cleaner, I bumped – by luck – into a lovely old one.
A decade previously Tessa had cleaned for my late father-in-law and it turned out she had a couple of hours a week she could spare for me.
She is less a cleaner than a trusted family friend, and I was relieved to find someone willing to give the house a quick whip over once a week.
In truth, the house was never dirty; we are tidy, we have no pets, and on those rare occasions when he actually agreed to go out, Patrick still parked his shoes by the front door.
So, as I explained to Tessa, I would hate her ever to think we actually needed cleaning…
But now that every single chore was down to me it was a relief to have someone kind and reliable to help.
So Tessa may have thought she was a cleaner.
But actually, she was a godsend – even if she still does, disappointingly, draw the line at dead cats…
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.