When I’m sitting beside Don’s bed he usually drifts in and out of sleep, sometimes has to be woken up for his meals, might ask what’s on the news but then shuts his eyes within a couple of moments when you try to tell him.
On Sunday I was sitting beside the bed half watching the TV and half skimming the newspaper. He seemed asleep. Then, without moving and without opening his eyes, he muttered, Nobody talks to me.
What do you mean, nobody talks to you? I asked. Don’t the nurses ever talk to you, is that what you mean?
He was motionless for quite a while, with his eyes still shut, and I thought he had gone back to sleep when eventually he said, You don’t talk to me.
I realised he was right. I said, No, I haven’t been talking to you, you’re quite right. I sit here and do the Sudoku or watch the news or read the paper, and I don’t talk to you. He gave a tiny nod, so I added, So will I tell you about church this morning? He nodded again.
He kept his eyes shut but I told him things such as, that the sermon had been fairly pedestrian even though it was on doubting Thomas, that there had been a couple of children there as visitors who took great pleasure having the job of collecting everybody’s cups after morning tea and in fact had been standing hovering and pressuring people into swigging the last dregs so they could rush off to the kitchen with the cups, that there had been one hymn nobody knew and one that I thought was a dirge and some very good ones, and that Shirley and Joy had asked after him.
He didn’t respond in any way, so after a while I said, So what do you think about everything I told you about church this morning?
After a long pause, eyes still shut, he said, I didn’t hear a word.
All the same, it was very cheering to me that he wants a conversation and wants people to talk to him.