Retired journalist and full-time carer for her husband, Geraldine Durrant, assures us that her latest story does not end as would expect…
You can find the previous instalments of Geraldine’s column here.
I feel duty-bound, in sharing this blog post, to ask anyone kind enough to read it to bear one thing in mind: everything turns out alright in the end…
Trust me – despite every appearance to the contrary – we’ll all come out of this one humming the tunes…
It was just before 6.00am one morning and as I lay in bed wondering whether to have a lie-in or get up and make some tea, the clock hit the hour and the phone immediately rang.
The screen flashed up ‘Caller ID Unknown’ and, with Patrick in hospital, I instantly knew at that early hour it could only be bad news.
Either Patrick was dying and they wanted me to come at once – or he was dead.
“Is that Geraldine?” a sombre voice asked and my heart sank as I reluctantly agreed that it was.
“I’m so very sorry to tell you Patrick died during the night…”
I was too shocked to do more than ask if I could come to the hospital straight away.
“Yes,” said the kind stranger, “come whenever you are ready…”
It is odd the things that come into your mind at times of crisis, but I found myself checking my iPad for the date – a date which would forever be remembered within the family as the anniversary of Patrick’s death.
I recalled that only the previous day I had had three months’ worth of nappies and catheter supplies delivered. Then I said to myself the saddest words in the world: “I am a widow…”
By then tears were pouring down my cheeks and I had to take a deep breath as I rang our eldest son to share the news.
“Darling, it’s Dad…” was all I managed to get out before crying down the phone. But it was all I needed to say and I heard his voice break as he assured me he would be with me in a few minutes.
No. three son was out walking his dog when I rang him with the bad news, while number two son was already at work in Dubai, where I caught him at his desk.
He left the office in tears to go home and tell his wife.
Moments later there was a knock at the door and number one son, his wife and daughter arrived and we all sat sobbing together over tea, already putting together a list of who must be told and who would tell them.
We decided it was still far too early to contact anyone beyond the immediate family so all calls were put on hold until 9am while we tried to comprehend that Patrick – who had been the kindest of husbands and fathers – was dead.
Then at 6.42am the phone rang again.
I saw the lack of ID a second time, and put it on speakerphone, assuming that we would be redirected from the ward to the morgue perhaps.
“Geraldine?” asked the familiar voice from earlier.
“I rang you earlier to tell you that your husband had died,” it reminded me, as though I would have forgotten already.
“Well it seems I made a mistake…”
I was 42 minutes into widowhood and somehow “it seems I have made a mistake…” didn’t quite cut it.
Wrong old man…not Patrick after all…the world has gone mad.
We sat stunned.
We stopped crying.
We were all appalled at such unforgiveable carelessness, but then we started laughing…and soon we were all crying again, but this time with uncontrollable mirth…
But nothing less than “eyes on the prize” would cut it at this point so, until we had seen Patrick for ourselves, I was not sure what to believe.
The handsome, kind doctor who had been treating him, smiled when we arrived on the dot of 8.00am and said cheerily “You two are in early today…”
I didn’t want Patrick – or Lazarus as I now thought of him – to hear, so I put my hand to my mouth and whispered “that’s because they told us Patrick was dead…”
The doctor looked at me for a long puzzled moment and then, when he realised I was not in fact making a joke in very poor taste, made a long howl of appalled disbelief.
“Noooooooooooooooo – that’s bed three…what on earth are they doing…?”
I’m not sure we will ever really find out, but I was so relieved I was not even angry – imagining the heart-stoppingly awful moment when the mistake was discovered and the nurse responsible realised we were going to have to be told.
But the great thing about the English middle classes is our lovely manners.
Number one son and I were graciousness personified, acknowledging kindly that mistakes do indeed happen… although of course that could just have been that the shock had not worn off.
“Talk about taking it on the chin – they must think we are utter bricks…” said number one son as we left.
Well never let it be said that we Durrants can’t take a joke…
But if I have to announce my widowhood again any time soon, will anyone believe me? #widowwhocriedwolf
Still at least Patrick, if we ever decide to tell him, can declare like Mark Twain, that rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated…