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A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018

Throughout it all — Devotion
Andrew Hall
Highly Commended

They are sitting on the sofa, side by side, at approximately 8.15pm on a Tuesday. Brian has been back for a day and a half and has already, in that short time, started to show the benefits of being back at home rather than in hospital. He is sat upright, half turned towards his wife, and carer, Yvonne. Brian appears alert, or as alert as one can be with advanced dementia, his face is searching hers although she's looking straight forward at the television.

The tiredness and stress of the past week has drawn itself out of Yvonne's countenance. She lounges back, exhausted, as if the energy requirements of the hospital visits, the worries and the concerns of whether Brian would ever come home again, have vampirically eaten away at her dwindling energy reserves. The programme on the television speaks of great natural vistas, wooded legions and snow-capped peaks and there's a painful realisation for me, if not for her: Yvonne, a lover of travelling and nature, will never be able to visit these wonderous places, not whilst Brian is at home. It strikes me that the price to pay for truly caring and loving for someone is the sacrifice of not just your time, energy and patience, but also your future dreams and hopes.

Brian reaches his hand over to Yvonne's leg, his voice hoarse through lack of use this past week but I can hear the undertone of gentle passion in his voice,

“I love you, duck.”

After 18 months of caring for Brian single-handedly, day in and day out, with mostly quiet, unspoken resolve, I sit and watch this interaction and wonder whether this past week has been the final straw for Yvonne. Whether it has finally gotten to the point not one of us wanted ever to face with this situation, whether the strain of caring for Brian, the tiredness, the waking nights, the falls and the outbursts, the anger and the rambling and the incontinence and the pacing, whether it all has begun to strip away and outweigh Yvonne's love for Brian. Whether it has finally destroyed what brought them together 26 years ago.

Yvonne turns her head from the cushion that cushions it, to face her husband who is, and isn't, the man she's known for all those years. And she's holding his hand, utterly exhausted, but for him at least, she's holding his hand,

“I love you too, darling.”

A small laugh from Brian, a tap on her hand and he's back to staring at the window again, the moment has passed for him and he's now escaped to his secret place that occupies him more and more with the people who live in his reality, but not in ours. Yvonne turns back to the television, to the mountains and the seas, distant lands full of wildlife and exploration, the places she chooses, for the sake of Brian, to never go and visit.

(The piece is about my mother-in-law who asks for no recognition or reward but has my utmost admiration.)

Andrew Hall © 2018