Evie is admitted at nine o’clock on a Sunday night from a nursing home who say they can’t cope with her behaviour any longer. She is 92.
She seems sweet enough, small and frail, a pretty wee face, snow white hair tied up in a bun. I show her around the ward and she nods politely and thanks me when I help her to bed. I leave her to the night staff and head home.
In the morning she is one of the first to wake and we have some quiet time in the bathroom while I help her to wash. She tells me she was Winston Churchill’s cook. Once he chased her round the library. I laugh and ask, “What did you do?”
“I said, get lost; I’m not your Clementine.”
One day she received a telegram to say her husband had been killed in action. I see the pain in her eyes. She later married the postman who delivered the telegram. I ask her, “What was Winston’s favourite meal?” and she says, ”Tripe.” I make horrified noises and she laughs, “Nothing wrong with a bit of tripe my duck, properly cooked.”
We make our way through to the dining room and I sit her down and set her breakfast before her – porridge and a cup of tea, as requested. I say to her, “I’ll leave you to your breakfast and come back for you in ten minutes or so, ok?”
“All right my duck” she says, with a warm smile. I head for the day room, but just as I get to the door a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea fly past me, narrowly missing the back of my head and smashing all over the wall. I go back to her and say, “Why on earth did you do that?”
“My daughter could make your hair nice,” she says and spits on the floor by my feet.
We soon learn that the best strategy is to put her food down, then run for the door as quick as we can. If you get out before she has time to take aim she won’t bother and will eat her food. Whenever we have a new nurse, or a student, we all gather at the dining room door to watch the fun. Sometimes we place bets – she’s a pretty good aim.
One day I am helping her wash and she grabs my hand. “Take me home with you my duck.”
“I can’t,” I say. “I live in a bedsit – you wouldn’t like that.”
“We could live at my house. My daughter wouldn’t mind, not with you taking care of me.”
“I think you have to stay here now Evie, I’m sorry.” I turn to go. “I’ll fetch your cardigan,” I say quickly, not wanting her to see my tears. As I reach the door a hair brush whizzes past my ear and whacks against the wall. I hear her spit on the floor behind me.
© Catriona Windle 2013