I’m accompanied by my husband and daughter, who, between them, have spent large parts of the past two years recovering from major surgeries, including on the brain.
My daughter and husband are determined to be my caregivers. I am as determined to get rid of them.
“You don’t have to come in with me,” I tell my daughter.
“You’ve always done hospital with me,” she says.
“You’ve had more than enough to do with hospitals,” I say.
“So have you,” she says, “because of me.”
“I don’t want you to worry,” I say.
“I won’t,” she says, resolutely, looking quite, quite faint.
I turn to my husband. “And you don’t have to come in, either,” I say.
“You’ve always done hospital with me,” he says.
“For which you gave me very poor ratings,” I say.
“Well, now it’s my turn to show you how it’s done,” he says.
“Tit for tat,” I say.
“Not at all, Florence.”
“Florence?” my daughter says.
“Nightingale,” he says.
“A stick he likes to beat me with,” I say.
“Settle down there, Beverly,” my husband says.
“Beverly?” my daughter says.
“Allitt,” I say, “and don’t ask.”
In the hospital, my daughter’s complexion pales when the nurse writes my details on an identity bracelet. Her colour drains as the nurse places it on my wrist. When the nurse leaves, no colour remains.
I dispatch her to the canteen to get coffee. I would dispatch my husband, but he has found a wheelchair in the corridor and his absorption with its workings is complete.
After admission, my daughter returns. We stand for a while in a corridor.
“This is nice for me,” my husband says. “I’m never really in this position.”
“What position’s that?” I say. “Doing wheelies with a wheelchair?”
“The position of being your carer,” he says.
“I’m having a small leg op,” I say, “done under local anaesthetic. I don’t need a carer.”
“You’re having your leg sliced open with a scalpel,” he says. “You might not be able to walk afterwards.”
“Stop, Dad, I feel sick,” my daughter says.
“Maybe you’ll need one of these babies afterwards,” my husband says, getting into the wheelchair and fiddling around with the brakes. “And, if you do, you’ll need someone to push it.”
“What do you mean sliced open?” my daughter says. “And you’re not going to need a wheelchair, are you, Mum?”
I am called to the operating theatre. I move quickly.
“I hate the smell of hospitals,” my daughter whispers.
“Wait,” my husband says. “We’ll come with you. You don’t want to go there on your own. Look, I’ve got this wheelchair now. Shame not to use it.”
I look at Ayrton Senna and Paleface. I pick up my pace.
“Slow down,” he says.
I take one last look at my caregivers.
I have nice chats with the surgeon, as he slices open my leg. And there’s a lovely nurse who doesn’t mind me holding her hand very tightly.
There is no tit for tat in here. It is very peaceful. The surgeon sews me up. I walk out of the theatre.
Ayrton Senna and Paleface are waiting anxiously, behind the wheelchair.
“You’re walking all wobbly,” says Ayrton. “You’re shaking. Sit down.”
I look around for a seat. My husband pushes the wheelchair behind me. They wrestle me into it.
“Let me out,” I say.
“Just let yourself be looked after, for once,” Paleface says. “We’re taking you to a cafe. There’s a nice one just up the road.”
Outside, I am bounced up and down pavements at speed. The wind rushes past my ears. I feel very powerless, but Ayrton just says, “relax.”
At a major road junction, Ayrton shouts, “The light’s gone red, but we’ve just got time! Hold on.”
I stop feeling powerless and start having major trust issues, instead.
“Shit, if I run, we’ll just about make it!” he shouts and pushes me out into the road.
I hear engines roar as the waiting traffic approaches. I close my eyes. I hear a car-horn beeping.
“Come on!” he shouts at my daughter, “or you’ll get knocked down.”
We reach the other side.
“J-walking with a wheelchair,” he pants. “That was quite a buzz.”