Posted on February 9, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair2.9.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Pedro Meyer February 9, 2015: Holding on. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Don’t get me wrong when I say that I wish he’d just let go. I know that’s me wishing him dead and that doesn’t really fit with who I am. I can only say that I don’t mean it quite the way it sounds, but I do mean it.
We’ve been married so long that people look at us funny, their faces soft as bread dough, and their eyes moist. It’s like we are an ancient wonder in this world, and rare as rainbow pots of gold. They lean in and whisper, like at church when the saint’s relic is brought round and pilgrims kiss the silver casket and they ask for a blessing from the dead saint; and they ask me what’s our secret.
He’s got a picture in his wallet, a picture of a girl aged seventeen, and that girl was once me. Old as old he is now, as am I, and my name’s scribbled on the back of the picture, in case he forgets. Nothing is quite what it seems.
And they want to know the whole story, these curious pilgrims of love, like there might be something in our tale that they can hold onto, something that might get them through. On the tv the other day there was this woman aged a hundred and twelve and she was saying how her secret to long life was olives. If only it was that simple.
I help him from his sick bed. He is heavy and he leans on me with all his weight. He mutters under his breath and he asks me the time. There’s a clock on the wall, but he can’t see it properly. I tell him it’s past time and he curses me, for he understands what I am saying.
And I don’t know how we got to where we are. I really don’t. It isn’t olives and it isn’t love, like everyone thinks. It is something else, something my mother put into me, something about the virtue of sticking with things through all the troubled times. She said it like there was a great prize waiting at the end of those troubles. She was known for always saying that you get your reward in heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of him. As fond as it’s possible to be. And I don’t wish him ill in wishing him gone. I see him these days and this is no life. He is eaten up with pain or he is doped up with the painkillers and there is no lucidd in-between. He doesn’t know the year or the day and he sometimes doesn’t know me. And in truth, I sometimes don’t know him, though I have watched him altering by degrees for more than sixty years.
We’ve been through it all, me and Ed, and that counts for something. I know it does. But the time left to us, to me, is short. I help him to the bathroom and I pull down his pants, like he is a child, and I lower him to the toilet. I can hear his bones cracking and my own bones, too. Everyone thinks it is an act of love that I do this, but it is the voice of my dead mother in my head saying how I have to stick by him and how I’ll get my reward some day and maybe it’ll be in this world or maybe in the next.
And I wipe his arse when he’s done, and I shake his shrunken grey cock, shake the last pale drips of piss from him, and I pull his pants back up to his waist and I tell him not to move till I’ve washed my hands. It’s an humiliation that we both bear. He has one hand heavy on my shoulder to steady himself and he asks me again what is the time. And they think it is love that makes me do all of this, and in my head I wish he’d let go and I wish he’d do so sooner rather than later, and it’s as much for him as it is for me, and god and the saints forgive me if this wrong.