Sometimes I wish that I could clone myself. I could have one Rebecca to go to work to give my poor colleagues a break from an editor who ricochets in, messes up their plans, and then rushes off. Another could be with Nick all day, every day, holding his hand, reassuring him, getting involved with all of his therapy session and drying his tears of terror and frustration. I’d wish into existence a domestic self, one who could get on with everything that’s crumbling at home. She’d conquer malfunctioning burglar alarms, grouting, sorting out the boxes of belongings that teeter around my bed, dealing with bills and paperwork. I’d have one for pleasure, to go on walks, meditate and catch up with friends and family, and then I’d have an avenging version of me who could take on the fury-inducing litany of things to do with Nick’s future care.
The Armstrong army would surge into action whenever anyone said “You need to...” This phrase, and its variants, have become something I dread. To give you an idea of the “you-niverse” in which I now live, here are some examples of how it sounds.
Have you got in touch with a brain-injury support group?
Have you called up that woman with the disabled son?
If you’re lonely, why don’t you go to an exercise class?
You need to get that signed by someone at the hospital.
Can you come back with a medical certificate later?
You need to ring each time you want to make an appointment to have medical documents scanned.
No, you can’t set up a direct debit to pay Nick’s bill. You need to call us each month.
You need to make sure you’re looking after yourself.
Have you read this article about the beneficial effects of [insert hokey natural remedy here]?
Why can’t you visit me every day?
You should get a second opinion.
Are you able to come in during the middle of the working week at noon?
You need to get a formal prognosis, then you have to contact all of Nick’s credit-card companies.
You have to apply for a special bond to become Nick’s deputy. It will cost you £100.
Have you read that book I told you about? The depressing one about someone’s life after a coma?
Have you got any identification to prove that you’re Nick’s wife?
You need to fill in these documents again.
Can you give me an update about Nick?
You have to contact HMRC if you want us to look into Nick’s tax return.
Why don’t you have a few days off visiting? I’m sure you can organise some other people to go and see Nick.
If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. If my dreams were answered, then Nick would be better. I wish that there was more than one Rebecca to take on all the things I’m told that “you” she, I, must do. But there’s just me. And I’m doing my best.
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