If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve been told I’m an angel I would be flapping my wings in riches. Now before you think I’m blowing my own trumpet, so to speak, let me explain.
I worked for a Registered Charity that exists to care for the terminally ill, usually in their home and at night.
Each situation is different. There are no rules other than to consider ourselves guests in that person’s home.
Occasionally the Nursing Service was requested before the patient reached the final stages of the illness which meant that I had the privilege of getting to know some amazing people.
There were sad times but lots of laughs too and some characters remain indelibly etched into my memory.
Mr Winterbottom and his wife Jocelyn were an elderly couple who lived in a former coal mining community. The house was in a dilapidated condition but Winty, being an ex-miner, qualified for free fuel so there was always a welcoming fire crackling in the grate.
I told this endearing couple that I was reminded of childhood when it was commonplace for us kids to sit by the open fire toasting bread at the end of a long handled toasting fork. The following night I stepped from the car to be greeted by the appetising aroma of a bygone era. Sure enough, there was Wee Willy Winky, aka Jocelyn, wearing an outsized white nightie and curlers, squatting on the shabby rug by a glowing fire toasting my supper, while Winty stood by, armed with a knife and huge slab of butter.
Two weeks of feasting by firelight and my waistline was popping buttons off my pants. I jokingly made a comment and Winty’s solution for weight loss was another golden oldie.
After Jocelyn had retired upstairs to sleep, he crept from his makeshift bed by the fire, placed the stylus onto an old gramophone record and to the strains of Nelson Eddy’s ‘When I grow too old to dream,’ snatched me up close and led me into a midnight waltz around the living room.
Such feisty characters and what mutual love and devotion permeated every crack and crevice of that ramshackle home. It transpired that Jocelyn passed away two weeks after her husband. She had breast cancer but had never told a soul.
Now Mrs Edwina Parker-Bailey was at the distant end of the spectrum. I pulled up in the courtyard of the impressive stone built detached house and rummaged for my referral letter. Surely I had the wrong address; this was not the home of an eighty year old widow – Wrong!
I was greeted by Edwina’s timid sister Ruth.
“Eddy’s sleeping.” She whispered nervously as we climbed the stairs. The moment I stepped inside the bedroom I sensed a presence.
I felt ill at ease!
Glancing over memorabilia bedecking the dresser, I studied the picture of a silver haired, distinguished looking gentleman who was peering right into my soul.
“Don’t worry Sir,” I muttered under my breath. “I’ll look after her well.”
I’ll swear he winked at me!
Night shifts play peculiar tricks with the imagination. I dimmed the light and closed the curtains. He followed me with mischievous eyes.
“Sorry about this Mr Parker-Bailey,” I chuckled facing his picture to the wall. “See you in the morning!”
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek I shrieked! And scarpered like Jack Flash.
I’m never wrong! I have alarming presentiment structured into my bones.
There he was, one of God’s horrid little predators, resplendent with eight legs, each poised threateningly with elbows high above the gross body. Ugh!
If anyone says these nasty black beasties are harmless - DO NOT believe them! One step forward from any one of those primed pins could stop my heart beating instantly.
Ruth appeared minus dentures and hearing aid and stared open mouthed as Edwina slid out of bed, wielding a walking stick above her head.
“RUTH … BURGLARS … LOOSE THE HOUNDS!” She yelled mockingly.
“NOOO SPIDER!” I squeaked frantically. Ruth couldn’t hear; Edwina didn’t care!
The monster parachuted from behind the picture and charged me full on. Edwina reacted with practised precision and speed, grasping the Yellow Pages and stalking her prey like a seasoned hunter.
SPLAT! Mission accomplished by direct blow to head delivered by telephone directory!
Edwina shuffled over to the late Henry and face to face with him berated,
“BEHAVE YOUR SILLY SELF - OLD FOOL!”
I wonder does that qualify me for Angel status? I surely feared to tread!
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