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December 21, 2009

2nd Jul 2008

Something has been bugging me the last few weeks. No, not Mrs D (she’s been doing that for years!), but something about her. Since she lost her hair, she’s put me in mind of someone – someone famous. I’ve turned various possibilities over in my mind – Sinead O’Conner, Annie Lennox, Britney Spears. No, it isn’t one of them, but I was sure it was someone famous – someone I’d seen on the TV, or in a film. The other night it finally came to me . . .


Mrs D organised a birthday for our eldest grandson at the weekend. It’s not actually his birthday till next Saturday, but her time is running out now. She wasn’t taking any chances. We brought the birthday party forward a week to make sure she would see it.

It was to have a pirate theme.

Well before the appointed time, the grandkids had donned their costumes ready to set off for my brother-in-law’s house where the party was being held. Of course, we arrived far too early. No-one else was there yet. So for a time, they had the slidey-doon thing to themselves …

Then the other kids arrived, dragging parents behind them and the party began. Kids were running everywhere, pushing, shoving, whacking each other with makeshift cutlasses, screaming.

The terrified dog ran and hid behind the settee in the living room where a few parents (of the male variety) had retired to watch the cricket on TV. The sound of wild whooping and hollering could occasionally be heard from the garden – we turned the volume up on the TV.

Later, a small girl child, wearing a pair of white knee length trousers, a black t-shirt, a black eye patch, her blonde hair tied in a red bandana, and a fake moustache painted on her face ran into the living room, crying her eyes out. The moment will be forever etched on my memory. For at that precise moment, Vettori cunningly delivered a quicker ball, completely deceiving Wright, to hit the top of off-stump and dismiss the hapless English batsman for 6, thereby setting the Kiwis on the road to victory.

‘F*ck!’ said one of the adult males.

‘Bollocks!’ said another.

‘Tosspot! said a third

‘A*sehole!’, said a fourth.

‘Language!’ cried another adult male (the miserable one in the corner – the one without a drink in his hand, because he was the designated driver). ‘Children present!’

‘What’s the matter, Babs?’ asked the father of the distressed girlchild, one eye still on the screen.

‘The boys want to play football’, the sobbing tot cried. ‘I don’t want to play football. I don’t want to go in goal. I want to play statues, or hide-n-seek’

The other adult males present nodded approvingly as the father of the sobbing child dealt with the problem in a decisive, time-honoured, approved fashion. Turning the volume of the TV up with one hand, he turned to the weeping wean and said ..

Go speak to your mother.’


In the car afterwards, I asked Mrs D if she had enjoyed the party.

‘Oh, yes’, she replied. ‘But I’m tired. So, so tired. I want to go home now. It’s the only place I feel ‘safe’. I just want a bath and then go to bed.’

‘I’ll make you a drink when we get home and we can sit out in the gazebo while I’m running you a bath’, I replied.

‘No’, said Mrs D. ‘I’m too cold. I don’t think I’ll ever sit in the gazebo now. I’m dying. I know it now. I can feel it – my body’s going into meltdown. It won’t be long now’


When we got home, I ran her a deep bath, filled with ‘smellies’ and put a glass of red and her mobile within easy reach. The mobile was Mrs D’s idea. She can’t get out of the bath unaided now and on one occasion – which she constantly reminds me of – I was in the garden playing with the dogs, having completely forgotten she was in the bath. I didn’t hear her cries for help and by the time that little niggle at the back of my mind that there was something I should be doing crystallised into a recollection that I had left her in the bath, she was none too pleased (plus, her fingertips had gone all wrinkly). Hence the mobile, so she can call me when she is ready to be lifted out.

Later, I went to see if she was finished. It was then that it struck me. That elusive similarity I’d been trying to draw to mind. When I popped my head round the bathroom door, Mrs D was sitting in the bath, back to the door, her knees drawn up to her chest, her head in her hands, quietly sobbing. I knew then who she reminded me of. Such a picture of abject misery, loss, and suffering: The emaciated body, the hairless head, the dark rings round the eyes …..

One had already lost his ‘precious’. Mrs D was in the process of losing her’s – life, itself.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2009 1:53 am

    Duncan and Anita:
    What witnesses you are to life and love and loss. The fact that you share these wrenching poignant moments with us is a gift. A testimony to the strength both of you possess.. tears aside.. and the willingness to be so open with all the emotions.

    I’m crying at the image you present of the Mrs. as Precious…. and what I should do is rejoice in the stronger earlier image of you both organizing a birthday party, making sure you have time with family. Or the humor presented in the middle episode. I guess it’s a good reminder for us, your readers, of the ups and downs of life… precious indeed.

  2. December 21, 2009 11:57 pm

    Of all the ‘MrsD’ bits that you’ve written, Duncan; this one has always stuck in my memory.

    Now, all these months after I first read it, it is still as poignant and powerful as ever, and it takes DF to put into words, exactly what I have tried and failed in the past to say about it.

    I can’t recall what I said last time, elsewhere, but it wouldn’t have been a patch on what DF has just said.

    • December 22, 2009 2:22 pm

      You’re being exceedingly nice NobblySan. I think we all feel the anguish here, I’m just the superior wordsmith!! (teehee) OR: I’m just the typical woman, all gushy and mushy with words..

  3. December 22, 2009 9:52 am

    The image of MrsD that you painted was haunting enough. What really got me was the juxtaposition of this against the bright, fit, young girlie at the party. There is only one certainty in life and one can only hope that it is painfree and calm.

  4. December 22, 2009 2:14 pm

    Sorry for the grief, I typed the wrong email and got moderated, sh3te.

  5. December 24, 2009 7:54 am

    It seems Duncan you are living every moment as people should but never do. So many people get caught up in denial and grief they forget the person they love is still living. It isn’t the time that counts but the quality of that time. I wish you and Anita all the light and love there is 🙂

    • December 24, 2009 10:46 pm

      thanks, loon

      We could certainly do with some light right now – the strong bright light that was Mrs D is a stuttering candle flame now 😦

  6. December 25, 2009 3:45 pm

    I , too, think DF has nailed what we all feel when reading your poignant memoirs of the everyday travails of cancer. It is always amazing to me to read them, then look at the date and realize she is still with us after so many months….. a miracle in itself.

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