Over the next few weeks, the Dew on the Grass Team is posting on the theme of “Hello!” Our first piece by Chris Yeomans is both moving and insightful.
‘Hello? John? Are you here? Hello?’
I walk through the ground floor rooms and there is no sign of my elderly and slightly demented husband. He was here. I heard him rattling the grate with the poker. I heard him go into the office. I walk upstairs, because always in my mind there is the thought that he might have collapsed on the floor. No sign of him in the bedrooms, nor in the bathroom. He must have gone out.
I can’t see him through any of the windows. Often if he is in the garden, a thought jumps into his mind and he goes off down the lane in pursuit of an idea. Mostly he forgets to take his phone.
I think that the dog might like a walk. I pull on my boots and coat and prepare to set off after him, just to set my mind at rest. Then he walks in through the back door. I am intensely irritated.
‘Why can’t you tell me if you’re going out?’
‘I was just in the greenhouse. Have I got to tell you every time I go in and out?’
‘Yes…’. There is irritable body language.
Another time, I will know that he has gone out, perhaps walking or perhaps on the bike. He doesn’t go far anymore. As it gets gradually darker, I start to worry. He’s been out a long time. Has something happened? I stand and watch the sky behind the trees on the horizon turn pink then grey. The garden is in deep shadow. Then I hear a movement upstairs.
‘Hello? Are you there?’
‘What are you doing up there, for heavens’ sake?’
‘I’ve just been asleep.’
‘You could have told me. I was worried that you hadn’t come back.’ Again, I am irritated. Again, I am made to feel that I am being unreasonable.
I try to explain. I am on 24-hour alert. In my head, I am constantly aware of where he is and what he is doing, in case something goes wrong, in case he needs me. And then I make assumptions, based on the most recent data that I have. I assume that he is in the house, I assume that he is still out for a walk. The difficulty is that my experience moves from some kind of reality (I do know where he is) to a complete illusion (I think I know where he is, but actually I don’t, because he has relocated himself without telling me).
So, when my mind makes an assumption, and the assumption turns out to be incorrect, and I find that I am acting on a delusion, I am cross and disappointed because I believed one thing and actually was completely wrong. And it feels like it was through no fault of my own. And I have worried and fretted unnecessarily.
Our nearest and dearest are the best, if sometimes the least welcome, teachers. I am repeatedly compelled to look at the way my mind works, to question my responses. And I am always fearful that, one day, I will call out to him, and he will indeed be lying on the floor, or by the roadside, and I will have been unable to keep him safe.