The young nurse finishes up writing her notes. ‘Okay Vi, someone’ll be round in about half an hour. Bring you a nice cup of tea. Yeah?’
She doesn’t wait for a reply. They never do. I hate being called ‘Vi’. It seems so vulgar and common. I’m Violet. Always have been. Still, I suppose it doesn’t matter. At least she bothered to speak to me at all. So many of them don’t even try. They ignore me; or worse still talk over me. It makes me want to shout ‘Excuse me, I’m still here!’ I may be a lot of things, but I’m not deaf. In fact, my hearing is about the only thing that does work these days.
I can here someone singing down the hall. ‘We’ll Meet Again’ One of my Arthur’s favourite songs. Used to sing it all the time. He always loved Vera Lynne. Further away, someone is calling out ‘Nurse’, and downstairs the lunch pots are being cleared away. Someone’s laughing. It’s never quiet in this place. I suppose that’s both a blessing and a curse. Peace and quiet is overrated at my time of life. Too much can be torture. Nothing to keep you occupied but your own thoughts.
Of course I get visitors. Before he passed away my Arthur came every day. One thirty on the dot. He always was a stickler for timekeeping. Not like me. I was always running behind. That used to really annoy Arthur.
Little Christine – she’s not so little anymore though – and Pauline come by once a week. The grandchildren stop by sometimes. Always full of stories about what they’ve been up to. James, my eldest grandson has just got a promotion. Stephanie has a baby of her own now. Little Brandon, he’s just turned one. I’ve never held him. I want to tell them all how proud I am of who they’ve become, but I can’t of course.
I just sit here, staring blankly. Sometimes I see a tear in Pauline’s eye. She brushes it away before she thinks I’ve seen. I almost envy her the ability to cry. My body won’t even let me do that.
My voice is one of the things I miss the most, though. It’s one of those little things you take for granted. You never imagine you might wake up one day mute. Or paralysed. You know you’re getting old, of course. Frailer. You just don’t imagine reaching this stage. At least I never did.
I suppose I still feel twenty four in my soul. I don’t think the soul ever ages. You reach one age where you seem to stick. Your body doesn’t hang around though. Nobody lets it in on the secret. There are so many things I miss about the old me.
I suppose it does no good to get so maudlin, but sitting here day after day; week after week, it gives you a lot of time to dwell. Too much time to remember. The good old days. The not so good old days too.
My girls, my beloved Arthur. Walks in the park, laughter-filled holidays. Christmases and Birthdays. So many precious memories.
Memories are funny old things. I can’t remember what was for lunch. Heck, I can’t remember my own name half the time, yet I can remember every last detail of things which happened decades ago. My favourite memory, and there are a fair few to pick from, is one Summer spent in Whitby. Little Christine was still a small baby, Pauline was barely out of nappies. It was the first holiday Arthur and me had been on since we were married, and I remember feeling like I had everything in the world. I suppose I did. I can still smell the salt in the sea air. I can still taste the bitter vinegar on my lips; hear the seagulls crying overhead; see the delighted looks on the girls’ faces. What I wouldn’t give for just a fraction of that moment back. Just the tiniest piece. I’d savour it completely. Hold onto it like the precious time that it was.
Of course, I’m not quite senile enough to forget the bad times. You don’t forget growing up during a War in a hurry, hiding in the shelters as the Doodlebugs fly overhead, surviving on rations. Money was often tight. We got only too used to making do and mending. Though Arthur and I loved each other deeply, we had our rough patches. We argued like every other couple. It doesn’t matter though. They’re still memories. Good or bad. They are all I have left these days: memories. Every single one, no matter how small and insignificant at the time they all add up into something. They all make up my life. Who I was. Who I am.