I spoke to Aunt this afternoon. She sounded well, cheerful, very together. We talked about the weather, the gradually lengthening days, hyacinth bulbs, the promise of spring. We wished each other a happy new year.
We didn’t talk about the fall she had a couple of days ago and the bruise on her head. We didn’t talk about the phone calls she made to my mobile and my landline from half past four this morning until the noise of the ringing phone finally woke me up to listen to a series of scared and disorientated messages. I’m glad I heard the messages before she called me again, as disturbing though they were, they gave me some insight into what was going on in her mind.
I know she knows about the fall, because she talked about it with Linda this morning. I am less convinced she remembers the ‘phone calls and her fear that she ‘had spoiled everything’, that she had lost me and could not find me, however much she searched.
I wonder if her belief that I had been with her and then had unaccountably disappeared was triggered by yesterday’s conversation when I said I should be visiting just as soon as I get three days off together. So today I said nothing about looking at the possibility of coming up by coach one evening and going home the next.
Linda and I talked for a long time tonight. Aunt called Linda when she fell and Linda, still in her pyjamas, raced to be by her side, to dial 111 and get paramedics out to see her, staying with her from midnight until four in the morning. Aunt doesn’t want me, or anyone to know she fell, but the bruise on her head is apparently very obvious, so I will notice. She told Linda it was to be their secret. This makes me very uncomfortable. I am glad Linda tells me, because these ‘secrets’ help no one, and I could almost be cross with Aunt for leaning on Linda in this way. It’s not fair.
Aunt is still refusing carers. She tells the community nurses she’ll think about it, then as soon as they have left, she says no. Linda is visiting her and spending hours and hours with her. It can’t go on. Linda is already stressed, and torn by her deire to respect Aunt’s wishes to keep her independence and her fears of what could happen to her. And now even Linda is saying carers are needed. She suspects Aunt is sleeping in her clothes, too tired, too weak to face changing into pyjamas at night and to dress herself again in the morning.
Aunt’s stubborn determination to do things her own way has probably brought her this far, but now it’s undermining her wish to stay in her own home. She told me yesterday, when I tentatively suggested trying carers for a couple of weeks to see how it was, that she is too tired now to have strangers in her home, too tired to explain to them how she wants things done. I can see her point. I should hate it too.
But without carers she may be forced to do that thing which she dreads so much, to leave her home and spend her last days somewhere else.
Little wonder then that both Linda and I have concluded that we hope her death is soon; that she can keep the control she has fought for so hard, so doggedly; that one day in the coming weeks she will simply lean back in her chair, close her eyes and breathe a quiet and peaceful last breath.