Winter Chill

Winter Chill

Many years ago I used to visit a lovely gentle lady. She had been blind for a few years and then a stroke made it difficult for her to talk. But somehow we managed to communicate. I visited her twice a week on my way home from work. I would sit next to her and read from books that took her out of her darkness into a world of light, of action, conversation, memory and imagination. She loved these times together, and so did I.

This dear lady did not live alone, her elderly husband cared for her with the help of relatives and others. From our talks I discovered that in their ‘late in life’ courting days they would walk the local lanes. On the mantelpiece there was a figurine of a couple under an umbrella. I was told laughingly that people in the village saw it as being them. This dear lady had been a member of the choir until old age and blindness made things difficult. But my strongest memory of her when she became blind, but before she was housebound, was of her husband leading her up the aisle to receive communion. I think everyone in the small church was struck by their mutual devotion.

As I said, when she became housebound, I visited her twice a week. The visits were on regular days. But one week I called on an extra day. I gave no thought to what her husband would think of it. After all, maybe he wanted to watch television instead of having to switch it off. It was a thoughtless action of mine and one which I lived to regret. I saw another side to the relationship that I had never suspected — one I kept to myself.

I wrote this poem a long time after the event, in fact many years after they had both died.

Winter Chill

She sits there…

June in the December of her life:

withered skin,

eyes unseeing

speech mangled,

a stroke deadening half her brain

leaving her part vegetable,

part human,

the human crying out to walk and talk again.

….

Not yet rotting in dark grave

but compelled

to dwell in darkness

inside a swift decaying shell.

‘Bell. Someone’s at the door,’

June tries to say

in garbled words

desperate to be heard.

….

‘No one’s at the door,’

her husband bellows above the din of

shouting crowds

and thundering hooves

of horses at a racetrack many miles away,

brought into their room

courtesy of BBC

on a TV screen

that June will never see.

….

‘Bell… door… bell,’ June insists,

frantic to let her caller in —

a hand to hold?

a voice to cheer?

a friend to read?

Awkwardly she struggles

to loudly speak the words —

‘Bell… open…the… door.’

….

No one’s at the bloody door,’

her husband, minus hearing aid,

yells in rage.

‘You’re always hearing doorbells ring

when no one’s bloody there.

For god’s sake, woman —

Shut up!….

I’m trying to watch the race.’

….

I do not ring the bell again,

I walk on home,

James Herriot book in bag…

sad for June, for whom I read

and for a gentle man

that once I knew

but would never be the same again.

Yes, weeping for the suffering endured

when life with meaning is no more.

Gladys Hobson….

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2 Responses to “Winter Chill”

  1. geoffnelder Says:

    Thank you for sharing your emotional time with your friend. You needn’t beat yourself over your good intentions even if it backfired on that one occasion. Lovely poem – such a refreshing change from many other poems where deep emotions are missing. Well done.

  2. James Tait Says:

    Hello Gladys
    I stumbled on your blog whilst looking at images of Aldingham church and foreshore and found your writings very interesting indeed – my interest peaked somewhat when I read of your visits to Rev Geoffrey at the Aldingham Rest Home and he looked vaguely familiar – it was not long before the penny dropped and I remembered ………………….
    I had not thought of him in many many years and to discover he is now in Aldingham Hall – confused and lonely made for sad reading.
    I was formerly the Rector of Aldingham, Dendron and Rampside (1984-88) before it was reorganised many years ago and from there was Vicar of Flookburgh (1988-92) before returning to my homeland of New Zealand.
    I came across Geoffrey whilst I was involved in the Deanery life of those places – and, although I did not know him too well, I recall his ministry amongst his fellow clergy and the areas of that to which you refer in your blog. He was indeed a most learned man although not too bound to his books.
    I simply have to write to wish you well with your blogs – they are excellent – and to say, also, I remember Geoffrey, and indeed your continued ministry of support and encouragement in my prayers.
    Richest blessings
    James Tait
    Retired
    Bribie Island, Queensland.

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