My primary school Junior 3 teacher Mrs Bezam told me it was always best to write about what you know, so I’m doing exactly that.
It’s just that the serious illness of someone you love contracts your world in short order so, save for a brief flirtation with the festive season, my choice of subject matter is, for now, restricted to visiting the hospital.
The first time I ended up there was in 2014 in the wake of my dad’s singularly unsuccessful tussle with a ladder on a roof, following a nurse in a panic to intensive care to find myself resembling a a bit part player in Casualty whispering desperate entreaties into my unconscious father’s ear to bloody well wake up. When the time came to leave I had no idea where I was, bereft of bearings like a skier in an avalanche not knowing which way was up and which was down.(This initial disorientation is not aided by Derriford’s ground floor also being Level 6.)
But it’s startling how, before long, the alien becomes familiar: the transition from panicked novice to seasoned visitor happens swiftly and soon you know your way about – the opening hours of the newsagents and the location of the nearest loos are quickly ingrained. And you finally click that the wheelchairs resemble a recalcitrant shopping trolley less when you pull rather than push.
Now it’s you showing a new visitor how to unfurl their MRSA-repelling red apron just as you were shown a couple of weeks previously or paying for an elderly man’s parking just as a kind stranger stumped up for yours when despair at a particularly worrying visit got the better of you at the ticket machine.
You start to look for ways to liven up the whole sorry business – given the festive timing of my dad’s latest hospital stay large swathes of the Christmas shopping was done within Derriford’s environs – a disproportionate amount of this year’s presents coming from the Body Shop and WH Smith and much of my family’s nourishment is being provided courtesy of the dinky M&S at the entrance.
Add to the fun by challenging yourself to find as many different ways out as you can – I found an entirely new exit this evening and I was not unchuffed.
Or play my favourite Twitter game: Faces In Things – yesterday it was the turn of the telly in my Dad’s room.
Or, while your visitee is asleep, you can play word games with the names of their medication.
Fresubin was today’s – providing not just a rich source of calories but also anagrammatical opportunities (this one’s probably just me).
Be careful not to develop a car park-related obsession, setting superstitious store by aiming to park in your favourite car park , if not your favourite row or, best of all, your favourite space. It’s easy too, to become fixated on the shortcomings of other parkers even taking photos of their malodorous manoeuvrings to upload to Twitter (again, this could just be me).
It’s easy to think every visit is the same but each has a slightly different focus: sometimes it’s reassurance for the patient, sometimes for you. Sometimes it’s about providing quiet company and others about lifting flagging spirits – but what each visit does have in common is neither of you really wants to be there.
Despite uttering daily thanks for the existence of the NHS and the committed staff caring for my dad (and counting my blessings that at least I get to leave every day) my abiding hope is that this most recent intense relationship with that grey building on the outskirts of Plymouth will, sooner rather than later, come to a fruitful end.
And if you’re a fellow visitor, long-serving or newly-minted, I wish the same for you and yours.
Reminiscing – old school
The Missing Map of My 70s Childhood
Here Comes The Son
The Boarder Line
Some things you shouldn’t say to new parents
One Month In To Operation Osper
On Closer Examination
I’m One Of fashion’s Silver Darlings
Mad About Magnolias
Why I’ll Never Sit On The Iron Throne
How I Missed My Mother