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Peppercorns, frozen peas and other frustrations

One of the saddest things about everyday life with Miss A is watching her polluting My Loved One’s mind. “I’m getting very worried…” he said to me this week. Pause while he struggled for the right words to express what he wanted to say and I paid full attention because this could be important. “ … about the company accounts.”

He meant the accounts for my writing  business Susan Elkin Ltd for which, until recently, he did all the administration. “It’s fine” I said. “Nothing to worry about at all. I got the accountant to do the whole job earlier this year and paid his bill. He’ll do the next lot too. You just have to accept that you’re fully retired now. Drink your coffee and talk to the cat.”

“Am I?” he said, still puzzled. “Fully retired? So I don’t have to do anything?  And so it goes on.

I try, of course, to find things for him to do. It’s not good for anyone’s brain or mind to have nothing to focus on. At this time of year there are shows and concerts I’m involved in either as reviewer or, occasionally, as performer. This week for example, he seemed to enjoy the Messiah I played for and later this week he’s coming with me to review Rapunzel at Chickenshed. But more often than not at this time of year I do these things solo and leave him with only the cat (who certainly earns his keep) and his CD collection for company.

Then there are jobs in the house. Very simple things such as pegging out a basket of washing or sweeping up some leaves are fine. But I was almost heartbroken when the other day MLO snatched up the nearly empty pepper grinder (he likes lots of black pepper on everything because he has no sense of smell and little of taste) after dinner. Bent over my crossword in a vain attempt at a five minute respite, I  could hear cupboards being opened and closed in the kitchen accompanied by attention-seeking humphing and tutting. So I got up and found the peppercorns for him. Then I looked up to see him, sitting opposite me, trying to shovel the pepper corns into the grinder with a teaspoon. Of course he wasn’t succeeding. Had he completely forgotten what a funnel is and what it’s for? Cue for me, rather unkindly, to snatch the grinder, do the 10 second job with a funnel in the kitchen and fetch the broom to sweep the spilled peppercorns up off the dining room floor.And no more crossword.  Welcome to the frustrations of life as a threesome – him, me and her.

She was very present when last week’s supermarket delivery arrived too I’d had a last minute morning review job (children’s show) poked in to my diary so I wasn’t at home at the time. I’d left careful instructions, though. “The delivery guy will give you a little bag of frozen stuff. Put that straight in the freezer. Leave everything else and I’ll sort it when I get in.” I got home early afternoon just in time to rescue the yoghurt, coleslaw, pasta and various groceries from the freezer before they froze solid and were ruined. Of course I was jolly cross and well as incredulous and, worse, MLO was very upset when he realised what a silly thing he’d done. And that’s the hardest part – trying to cut through my own frustrations to understand just how bloody awful it must be not to know what a funnel is or what should and shouldn’t go in the freezer. Lots of hugs required.

When we arrived at the Messiah concert, on my way to the “green room” (bit makeshift in a parish church) I deposited MLO on an audience seat next to a friend. “How are you? ”Friend, who happens also to be a retired GP so he’s more attuned than most, asked MLO carefully and kindly. “Oh up and down” said MLO lugubriously. And I suppose that just about sums it up for both of us.

Recent Daily Telegraph headline made me grin ruefully:  Being married may reduce dementia risk. Well sorry UCL, who led a study of 15 earlier studies and 800,000 people, it hasn’t worked for us. We’ve been married 48 years and counting.

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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