by Cecily Lynch © 2014
Old age is so touching, so gentle, so dependent, so sweet, so irritating, so pathetic in its failing powers.
I entered the gates of a large and beautiful house. I could see the patient at the window, waving at me. My heart sank. I faced eight hours of forced smiling, of choking back resentment at his criticism of my clothes, my accent and appearance. ‘In you go, girl.’ I addressed myself sternly, ‘Get on with it!’
The odour of urine met me full on. The elderly gentleman was in his underwear, his shrunken limbs blue with the cold. He looked very cross.
‘About time you came’, he spat the words at me viciously, ‘It’s five past ten already!’
‘Well Thomas’, I gushed, although my temper was rising, ‘Aren’t you the early bird this morning.’
‘Bah!’ was his only answer.
‘We’ll soon have you nice and warm, won’t we?’ My professional patter sounded false even to myself.
I got on with my work.
He was particularly difficult, limp and uncooperative.
I paused, looked carefully at him. His lips were blue, his breath fluttering.
I spoke into the emergency button quietly. Then I took his hands in mine. He trembled and whispered very faintly,
‘Forgive me, you have always been so good.’ His voice trailed away and his eyes closed in the long, long sleep of death.