'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’.
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?
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.