In sickness and in Health: I miss the way we used to live, and the places we lived it

Last year, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

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The Independent Online

I don’t think that the nurse meant to sound accusatory when she saw me the other day and asked, “do you live here?” Still, I assured her that I do have my own flat, in case she thought I’d taken up residence at the care home full time. But to be honest, I don’t really know where I live any more.

On Sunday evenings, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I live in London. I go to work and I come home to sleep in my own bed. When I get in, I sift through bills, I feed the cat, I wipe the work surfaces and try to find something to eat in the cupboards. I do my washing, I file paperwork, I read my book and then I go to sleep. I don’t watch much TV because I’ve cancelled the cable to save money and I’ve seen all of the food programmes on BBC iPlayer. Sometimes I go to the pub, but more often I sit on the sofa looking at the things that need tidying, fixing, selling or throwing away. I don’t know if it really counts as living - it feels more like I exist there for the few hours when I’m awake and not at work.

On Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and during the day on Sundays, I live at the care home. I arrive laden down with bags – suitcase; handbag; tote full of paperwork, diaries, notebooks, laptop, work stuff; supermarket shopping to try and stop hemorrhaging money on takeaways and usually a carrier bag of things for Nick.

I tidy up, unpack, clear out our section of the communal fridge, take Nick’s clothes to the laundry and kiss my lovely, lovely husband. I move my bed next to his and check that it hasn’t disintegrated  during my time away (it’s a camp bed that I’ve modified with two foam fold-out mattresses. It’s much comfier now but needs maintenance to stop its layers from coming adrift). I water the plants, charge Nick’s gadgets and settle in to catch up with him – this usually involves hearing what he’s decided that I’m going to buy for him.

Sometimes we go to the pub, sometimes we sit watching TV or in the garden. Sometimes I bring our pet tortoise to visit to make things seem more homely. Sometimes I get fed up with the lack of privacy, and sometimes doing everything for Nick drives me nuts.

Despite this, every day, whether I’m at home or at the home, I am beyond grateful that I am allowed to stay with Nick. Every time that I reach out for his hand at night and it’s there, every time that I leave feeling guilty but tell myself that he’s getting good care, every time that I make him a toasted sandwich and a cup of tea, I am thankful. When his carers make him laugh, when the staff at the local pub make him feel welcome, when friends come to visit, I am so glad that he’s here and that, for some of the time at least, so am I.

But when Nick tells me that he misses his old life, though I can’t begin to imagine how his new situation feels to him, I understand the sentiment. I miss the way we used to live, and the places in which we lived it.

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