Monday 13-2-12: forty years on

I drove to cousin Naomi’s house, arriving at about 10:30.
Today would be the first time we had met for about forty years. The previous time was a chance meeting in the centre of Peakville, in Tabernacle Terrace, near a bookshop that has long since closed down. This happened sometime between 1971 and 1973.

I knocked on the door, which is at the side of the house. After a while, cousin Naomi appeared, opened the door just a little, and asked, “Who is it?” (I’m not certain that I would have recognised her, either.)
“It’s BLEKE,” I replied. What really surprised me was how tiny she was — certainly less than five foot tall, and very light of build. She was also quite stooped. However, as she had informed me in our phone call on the Saturday, her hair is still dark.
She told me that she was just about to go out, but she let me in. In the hall, I kissed her on the cheek.
I had wondered whether I’d find total disorder — in the style of How Clean Is Your House? — but not so. I’ve seen cleaner and tidier houses than cousin Naomi’s house, but I’ve also seen far worse.
I told her what the main controls on the central heating were for, and I used the radiator-valves to turn off the radiator in the spare bedroom and to reduce the setting of the radiator in the hall from 6 to 3. (Unfortunately, the arthritis in her hands means that she cannot turn those radiator-valves herself.) She led the way to the spare bedroom, and I remarked to her — truthfully — that she was quite sprightly going up the stairs.
We talked while she was getting ready to go out. She said that she finds difficult to get going in the morning. As she got ready, she was giving a running commentary on everything she did — I suppose she normally has no-one to talk to except herself.
She told me how disoriented she had felt when she had woken up in Peakville Infirmary after her stomach-ulcer had burst.
Cousin Naomi turned 62 not long ago, but she looks like somebody’s great-grandmother. The purple lace shawl (!) that she put over her head before going out did nothing to counteract that impression.
It was now time for her to go for her appointment at the local clinic. I gave her a lift. In the car-park of the clinic, I took her trolley out of the car boot, kissed her goodbye on the other (right) cheek, patted her shoulder, and told her to take care of herself. She had left her tissues in the house, and needed to wipe her nose, so I gave her two tissues from the box in the boot of my car.
Cousin Naomi has not done much with her life. As far as I know, she has never had a job, has never travelled far from Peakville, has never had a boyfriend. But she is aware and articulate, and she is intelligent enough to read Virginia Woolf.

At Bert’s, again just the blue car was parked on the forecourt, and just Junior and Tall Woman were on duty. Tall Woman told me that some days earlier, “a man we’d never seen before came in and asked for ‘the usual’.” She opened her eyes wide, and described this as “a guessing-game”.

[Original posting 13 February 2013]

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