I miss him.
Brian was in his 90’s and very proud of the fact. We walked past his house every morning and evening to get to the fields where we walk the dog. He was a friendly man. When you walked past he would stand and wave or turn and wave from his chair. He always had a smile and he loved a pretty lady. Although I do believe his eyesight wasn’t quite as good as it should have been. He always said I was lovely. We talked two or three times a week. We had a set conversation. “You are lovely, what is the dog called, what’s your name, are you married and if I were 30 years younger.”
I wasn’t surprised the first time he waved at me from his chair in his living room. My mum used to do the same thing. She would know who everyone was that passed, where they were going and who they would go and see. As the dementia crept over her she became less aware until the day she wasn’t even sure who I was. Brian didn’t have dementia, he just had a gammy leg and “when it’s better, I’ll come out with you. That’s the only thing holding me back.” He would say, “I’m still good for my age.”
And he was, just had a gammy leg, that was all. A carer would pull up in the morning and I would say hello if we met, he was there to help Brian with his wife. “She wasn’t very well.” That’s all anyone would say. Then out of nowhere Brian told me he was going to see his wife in the home she was at. I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t ever seen his wife. If it hadn’t been for the carer I don’t think I would have believed he had a wife, and now she was in a home and I hadn’t even met her. I decided that the same thing wasn’t going to happen with Brian, I wasn’t going to let him go without getting to know him. I started to stop in the morning to see how he was, taking apple pie and cake with me as an excuse to knock on the door. He must have had so many of my dishes and plates in his house. He never would remember them. In the end cake and pie would go in kitchen towel or foil.
And there was an end, a very sad one. I never realised how much he meant to me until this morning when I had a quiet cry in the rain as I walked the pup.
The first time I took two pieces of pie with me and he handed me one back was the day he told me that his wife had died. I wasn’t shocked, nor overly affected, I didn’t know her and he spoke very little about her. I was more concerned about Brian. I made a point of going to see him the day after the funeral and he didn’t even mention it. I know that there is a stiff upper lip thing about the British but this was different, it didn’t even seem to register with him that there was anything different in the world.
Months went by, he would wave, I would knock and take cake and pie, he would ask the same questions. He knew who I was in a way, he always welcomed me so warmly and he always said I was such a good girl, as though I was still a child. He never mentioned children until one day he told me that he would have liked to have a daughter like me. That was it, I did ask if he had any children but he just went on to ask how old I was and if I was married and the subject was talked over. I enquired of a neighbour about Brian’s family. He still had a carer come to see him in the morning and the evening and I managed to recover some of my dishes and plates. They knew of no other family other than his departed wife and my heart went out to him even more.
Last year as I was getting out of my car, Molly came past the house, she was in her slippers and her hair was a mess. She had on an old coat and really wasn’t sure where she was. “I’m going to Aldi.” She declared. That never happened, I managed to talk her out of it and get her back to her house. “I’ve got dementia, don’t you know?” She declared. “But I think it’s the doctor that has a problem. I know I’m OK so we will just carry on.”
“Yes Molly.” I replied as I left her at home and called in across the road to tell them what had happened. I was thanked for my help and Jan went in to see to Molly.
Brian was getting slimmer and slimmer and not in a good way. The carer just shook his head as I headed towards the house. He saw me approach the gate and looked sad as he signalled that it wouldn’t be a good idea.
Days went by, and no Brian. I knocked at his neighbours and they informed me that he had been taken away in an ambulance. Where to, and what for they knew not. They had tried to contact the local hospitals but there was no sign of him. We assumed the worse and then one morning Jan came out and told me he was in a care home. She would give me the details when she returned as she was going to see him. I hesitated before deciding that the washing was more important and I’d go to see him another day.
That other day never came. The FOR SALE sign stands outside his house. I have no idea where he was buried or whether he was cremated, whether he had family nor who to contact to give my condolences. I’m the one at a loss, I’m the one suffering. And this morning more so than ever. Brian’s house has been sold. I looked in at the bleakness of the dull walls and tatty curtains. The crack down the side of the building and the broken gate. The garage doors that are rotting at the edges and the disintegrating paintwork. It couldn’t possibly have got that bad that quickly, could it? Or was it that I had never noticed it before. My heart broke, for a man I hardly knew, and in some ways, for myself as well. You see Brian’s bright smile; his gentle flirting and his joy of life had hidden away all the things that had been wrong with his home.
We had some good conversations over the three years I’d known him. He didn’t talk about the war, the state of the country, the weather. He talked about life. How he would be going for a long walk with me and my dog once his leg was better. How he had to clear out his garage and things he wanted to do. He loved woodwork and would like to make me a bench one day. He was going to go out to town, and to the pub. He just had to wait until his leg was better. There was always something we were planning to do together. I knew deep in my heart that we would never get any further than his front yard but his dreams and mine would take us everywhere.
I’m sad today. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, I don’t know anything about his family, and I don’t know where they have laid him to rest, and now a whole new family will move into the house. The house where I met a wonderful man who only ever looked forward to the things he wanted to do, never looked back to what he could have done.
I’m sad today because as I walked home Molly’s curtain were drawn and there was a car outside I didn’t recognise. She has family and friends, I am grateful for that much. I am sad today because as life changes, we lose those we have known.