Enid's Birthday

'I can't stand my birthdays, I don't want to be eighty. I'm eighty today. Phew. Phew. Eighty can't be happening to me. And look at me, I'm a frightful mess. They washed this blouse with all the other patients' clothes...and now I feel dreadful...feeling dreadful on my birthday.' More tears furrowed her face, she was still fraught with anxiety that she will 'catch' the other patients' illnesses.
'Your blouse is a nice Marks and Spencer's one. You can't beat their quality. Have you always bought Marks and Spencer?'
She then told me of her many happy years buying Marks and Spencer's clothes, in particular red cardies which lasted 'for donkey’s years'. She even reached the conclusion that it was 'safer' to put Marks and Spencer's clothes in with the other patients. We talked about how the Pope is over eighty and Enid remarked ‘he’s going strong’.
Enid surveyed the cards, the soap-sets and the flowers that she had been given for her eightieth birthday, and started crying again. Her birthday is a very hard day for her -she can't stop thinking about where her sister ‘has got to’. She started reminiscing about her younger sister. That ever after her sister's strange disappearance, no birthday was ever the same. In birthdays past, when the cake was cut, Enid grieved that her sister was not there to take her slice. Enid still misses her sister's voice when the Happy Birthday song is sung.

Friends and I took turns visiting Enid on her birthday, so that she would have a constant presence, and be up-lifted throughout the day. I am beginning to notice that the quality of care-staff varies a lot, and some are very gentle and talk softly to her. Others swish past and ignore her when she tries to talk to them. At times when I visit, some staff ask, 'are you a relative? A niece? A granddaughter?' Maybe it's just me, but isn’t this a tad insensitive. Enid has Absolutely No Family, and she has never come to terms with her sister's suspected murder. Would it not be kinder if there were a general consensus among the relays of care staff that asking questions about a family that she doesn't have will wreck any potential relationship she may have with them?
At the moment, when they ask any such questions or when one of them points out to her (as if she needed it pointed out to her!) that she 'got no family', she turns away, takes on the look of someone who has been slapped, and won't talk to them for the next few hours. They alienate her like this, and it is more difficult for her to trust them, and I doubt if she will ever believe that they are not playing tricks with her clothes! To be fair, I know that some of them forget the details of her personal circumstances.
Maybe if they listened to her, they would know which conversation topics are best (Elvis, Marks and Spencer, growing roses and Christmas dinner) but that anything to do with her lack of family or loud questions about family will only distance her from them.


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