len’s war

As distances go, it’s not all that.
Certainly not as far as Dunkirk to the Middle East and back via the deserts of North Africa.
‘Churchill didn’t believe in time off’ he says, grinning toothlessly.
We’ve done as much as we can to make it easy. We’ve put the commode up close to the side of his chair and his zimmer just in front; if he shuffles to the edge of the cushion and takes a good hold, weight bears on his left leg, he should be able to skooch across. But whether it’s his chest infection, the pain in his right leg, a lack of confidence after a recent bout of falls, or simply a function of his ninety-four years, he just can’t manage it.
‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute,’ he says, casting his massive hands right and left for any kind of purchase.
‘The thing is, Len, it’ll be easier to manage things if you’re in bed and not in the chair,’ I tell him.
‘No! I don’t want to be one of them bed-bound people,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to be a burden.’
‘You’re not a burden. It’s a pleasure to help you. Come on, look. We’ll show you what we mean. It’s only temporary – to get you over this hump. When you’re feeling better you’ll be up and about again.’
‘Wait a minute,’ he says. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again – and if you still can’t do it, take a handful of pills and end it all.’
He reaches for his wife’s hand and squeezes it.
‘I don’t want to be a burden, love.’
She strokes his hand but doesn’t say anything.
After a moment he lets go and grabs hold of the commode and zimmer frame again.
‘Come on, Len!’ he says to himself, shuffling forwards. ‘Now then. If at first you don’t succeed…’

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