By Stephen Brophy
My Hugh is fifteen years dead. I do find the days awful long in this place without him. Today would be our sixtieth anniversary, and I’m going to swallow every paracetamol in my drawer and surprise him above in Heaven. He always liked surprises.
My grandson Ian was in today. That beard of his threw me again. He was already near enough the image of Hugh without it. In my foolishness I started reminiscing with him about the horse and trap ride up through the mountains outside Killarney on our honeymoon, and the way he draped his coat over my head to keep the rain off me. I knew by the way Ian looked at me that I’d lost myself. I wish he’d shave the blasted beard and spare me the confusion. It takes a desperate toll every time I realise it isn’t Hugh sitting there with me, and I’ve to go through the hurt of losing him all over again.
The woman next to Ian got up then, and hugged me so gently I’d say she was afraid I’d turn to dust. She told Ian she’d be waiting in the car and off she went, pushing a buggy with a curly-headed dote giggling away inside in it. And if you gave me a million pound I couldn’t remember the child’s name.
Ian started on about exams then, and at the time I couldn’t keep it straight in my head whether he was teaching or studying for them. Don’t I know well enough he’s a teacher below in Midleton, and that it was little Seamus in the buggy, but the facts of my life and my family come and go from me like everything else. By that stage all I wanted was a lie down, and I’d say Ian could tell. He’d get that look on his face again. It’s not far off from the way I see him looking at little Seamus sometimes, the soft patronising eyes on him. When people start with that carry on, I don’t need telling. It’s time to go, then. Time to put a full stop on the whole thing.
When he got up to leave, he leant in and gave me a peck on the forehead, and I squeezed his hand and told him to take good care of that family of his and that they were lucky to have him, but I didn’t let on it was going to be his last visit.
I sat in the day room afterwards shifting cold bacon around my plate, thinking about how I’d made a fecking show of myself in front of Ian and his wife, may God forgive my language. It’s a thought I’m having all too much lately. I’ll be glad to leave it behind.
The red-headed one who looks after me gathered up my dinner and asked if I’d have my tea and rhubarb tart in front of the news. They think they have me all figured out here, I thought, and I told her I would.
They were on about that oul’ Brexit thing on the news again when she dropped down the dessert. “Will I rise up the volume for you?” she asked.
“Do not, for God’s sake. Aren’t I confused enough without that oul’ carry on?” A laugh leapt out of her throat before she could swallow it.
“You’re some woman,” she said. I do magic, too. Wait till you see me make this packet of paracetamol disappear. Ah, she has a good oul’ heart though, that one. I hope ‘tisn’t her finds me in the morning.
I started nodding off halfway through my dessert and she wheeled me back to my room. She’s still here now in between me and the drawer I keep my tablets in, folding away my clothes, changing the bin bag, holding up the whole show.
I had an awful thought just now, sitting here, waiting for her to leave. I wonder, is this the first time I’ve had this plan? I mean, it’s hardly something I’d manage to forget. It’s not the kind of notion you just sleep off, but these days… I just don’t know. I’m not on the best of terms with my own mind. What if it’s an idea that comes and goes that I can’t keep a hold of, like every other blasted thought I have lately? Anyway, I suppose it doesn’t matter too much at this stage.
It’s a desperate thing to admit, but I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time at the thought of meeting Hugh. They say it’s a sin the way I’ll go about it, but Saint Peter will just have to forgive me that one. Haven’t I followed the rules for long enough? I wonder, will Hugh have the beard when I get up there to him? Will he be the age he was when we first met, or how does it all work? I’m sure he’ll show me the ropes. He was always good to make me feel at ease in a new place.
I don’t know how it can take her so long to tidy away what few bits and pieces I have. All this waiting around has me worn out. I suppose t’would do no harm to just rest my eyes until she leaves.