We Were Young

Entry by: Olivia

14th August 2015
We were young
I remember the day I got the letter in green ink, ’marry me’, it said, more a command than an endearment. He had decided that the time was right, that all would be well, that he liked having his socks washed.
But we were young and I thought this love was built to last. I knew nothing of the necessary adjustments for two people to live together for ever.
There were thirty two patients on the ward that afternoon. The most ill ones were close to sister’s desk. The desk where she presided, like a matriarch, was as holy as any altar. We did as we were told, we hid in the sluice when the esteemed Consultant visited the ward, but we were young and accepted our place and his role in the strict hierarchy of a hospital.
I suppose I had realised that the old man was likely to die on my shift. I had seen death and considered myself to be hardened to it. The force with which he shed his mortal coil shock me. I can see him now, sitting on the commode, blood pouring from him into the pan and forcefully ejecting blood from his mouth. He cursed and swore as he died.
He had lived in a miasma of oaths and blasphemy and he died similarly. That may have been when I realised that I knew nothing of what it is to be human.
We moped up, laid out and stood back. ‘Staff’ sorted out the final details. We were young and no experience of weeping relatives, junior doctors or paperwork. I left the ward that day, unsure of my vocation but I was resilient and surely the man who considered me worthy of lifetime commitment would understand? But we were young and carefree and went to the pub, preferring to join in with some banter than consider the fine details of the mortal coil.
Nursing continued and we rose to the challenge of night shifts, difficult diagnoses and draconian matrons; we were young and we knew we would be different when our time came.
My marriage somehow got planned and we ended up living in a flat, several floors up and no lift. But we were young and we managed fine. We didn’t have much money but who says you need a bath every day anyway? We thought we had all the time in the world. We knew that one day we would buy a new bed and the junk shop one could go.
I got promoted, I became the ward sister, strong, clear but compassionate. He did another degree. We moved, our house got bigger and we filled it with babies. We weren’t so young anymore. He got a job, he got busy, we drifted along in our not so young state, fretful and stressed, we juggled and jiggled. This was early feminism at its best, not only could I have it all, I should have it all.
When we were young we laughed and played, we forgot how to do that. We worried instead. The little ones took our time, our energy and our love.
We weren’t young anymore and our love grew old and faded. It died but not as my patient had died, it didn’t fight, it just laid down and stopped. Its hard to pick yourself up when the flexibility of youth has gone.