getting it

Matt, Henry’s grandson, meets me at the door. There’s an air of lean and focused competency about him that the lanyard round his neck only accentuates. ‘Luckily I only work round the corner,’ he says. ‘Mum would normally be here but she had to go abroad on business. She’s left me a list of things to ask…’ He waves his phone in the air. ‘I don’t want to scare you, but it’s pretty comprehensive. Anyway, let me make the introductions.’
Henry is sitting in a plush leather armchair. Behind him is a bookcase neatly filled with history books, mostly on warfare as far as I can tell. Jane’s Fighting Ships, Stalingrad, Winston Churchill: The Early Years, and then on a lower shelf, a spread of thrillers by Ludlum, Harris, Forsyth and so on. Henry himself could’ve stepped fully-made from any of those books. There’s something about the way he sits, his stick resolutely planted in front of him, his back straight, his eyes sighted along his nose, his hair geometrically combed and parted. Even his cardigan is ironed.
‘Good morning!’ he says. ‘Excuse me if I don’t get up. It’s this damned hip!’
Matt sits down on a chair midway between us, his phone in his hands, waiting for the right opportunity to jump in. ‘Do you mind if I record this?’ he says. ‘It’s quicker than typing.’
I tell him I don’t mind, although it makes me a little self-conscious.
I begin by explaining who I am and what I’ve come to do. Henry nods and listens, closing his eyes at one point and dropping his chin, so he can concentrate more fully on what I’m saying.
‘Right,’ he says. ‘That’s fine. Excellent. Let’s crack on, shall we?’
I carry out the assessment and record his obs, fielding Matt’s questions as I go. What exactly is the Rapid Response Service? Is it strictly three days, or are there extensions sometimes? Will we be able to advise on packages of care? Will a physiotherapist be visiting? It’s actually quite refreshing to explain all these things. It makes me realise what a great service it is.
‘Thanks!’ he says, pressing the phone. ‘That should do it!’
‘The family look after me very well,’ says Henry. ‘I couldn’t ask for better.’
‘You’re worth it, Grandpa,’ says Matt.
Henry suddenly looks downcast and I ask him if there’s anything wrong.
‘It’s my wife, Jean,’ he says. ‘She has dementia. I’m afraid it all got too much and she had to go into a home.’
‘A good one,’ says Matt. ‘We looked at a lot. Really, it’s the best.’
‘Yes, yes. They’re all very kind,’ says Henry. ‘It’s just – well, I normally make it over to see her every other day. But after the fall I was in hospital for a few weeks, as you know. And now I’m stuck here, hobbling about like a damned fool.’
‘I’ve offered to take him in the car but he can’t manage getting in and out,’ says Matt. ‘Anyway, small comfort, I know, but at least she doesn’t realise he hasn’t been. She doesn’t even recognise him when he’s there.’
Henry raps his stick on the carpet and snaps at him.
‘Matthew! We’ve been married sixty-five years. Sixty-five! It’s immaterial whether she recognises me or not. She’s still Jean, you know. She’ll always be Jean.’
Matt shakes his head.
‘Sorry, Grandpa. Sorry. Of course.’
‘If you can sit in a chair you can always get a chair-friendly taxi to take you round’ I tell him, bringing things back to the practicalities. ‘Worth a thought.’
‘Good idea!’ says Henry. He brightens, and glances over to Matt, who immediately waves his phone in the air and smiles.
‘Got it!’ he says.

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