being mortal

What I really need is a jetpack. With aluminium legs to hold my equipment as I buzz in low over the traffic. SatNav eyes. An aerial sticking out of my butt. And instead of this insipid blue nurse’s tunic, a black and yellow striped Kevlar onesie, with knee pads.

A busy day, however you cut it.

My happy-go-lucky, hail-fellow-well-met schtick has been replaced by something more sinister. An illegal hybridisation of Postman Pat and Liam Neeson. Helloooo Mrs Coggins. I have special skills.
And so the morning goes. Hunched over the wheel. Two more to go, then back to the hospital for a furious stint on the fax machine….

Mrs Ellis opens the door.

‘Ah! Thank you so much for coming. I’m sorry I wasn’t in yesterday, but then I didn’t know to expect you, otherwise I would have made arrangements. Do come in. I hope you won’t mind speaking in the lounge. My help has come like the angel she is and I don’t want to get in her way.’
It’s a warm and wonderful house, filled with colour and light, paintings and photos and drawings, alcoves filled with curios, a vibrant testament to the many years Mrs Ellis has lived there.
She sits on the sofa and places her hands in her lap. An elegantly dressed woman in her eighties, she has a mauve scarf tied round her head, dark lipstick, and her gnarled fingers are bristling with rings.
‘Now! What do you want of me?’ she says.
I run through the examination, review what’s been done, what’s coming up, who she needs to see next.
‘I must say you’re rather thorough!’ she says. ‘It’s all quite bewildering.’
Just as I’m writing my notes, she picks up a black paperback book from a coffee table.
‘I’ve been reading this,’ she says. ‘Being Mortal. Do you know it?’
‘Atul Gawande! Yes – I have read it.’
‘And?’
‘I thought it was really interesting. A bit drier than I was expecting, but he makes his case well.’
She strokes the cover of the book and suddenly seems quite distracted.
‘What did you think?’
‘Oh – I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s all a bit close to home.’
‘How d’you mean?’
She lays the book aside.
‘I have a friend. Ninety-two, a therapist all her life. Fantastically bright and still got all her marbles. But the thing is, she’s terribly lonely. Do you see? She’s so alone. And then I start to think about my family. How we all used to live here, and how busy it all was and that sort of thing. And now they’re off in China and America and Lord knows where, and here I am kicking around like a spare part wondering what’s going to happen.  It’s different if you have someone to talk to about these things, don’t you think?’
‘I do. Yes.’
‘Society has changed so quickly. Things have moved on. People live apart. You get left behind rather.’
She smiles at me.
‘But I mustn’t keep you. I can see you’ve got lots to do.’

2 thoughts on “being mortal

  1. It’s not all like that.My wife’s Aunt has her 3 children (all married and in their 40s and 50s) still living on the same street as her.It would drive me up the wall.

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  2. No – you’re right. You still come across those close family set-ups. Less frequently, I’d say, but still there. I think the tendency now is to move further away. Jobs &c, everything & everybody more spread out, more dependent on cars. Not necessarily a bad thing (but okay, yep, a bad thing…)

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