The day after William’s’ query heart attack’ I visited him in hospital and was somewhat reassured. The doctor said that as the same thing had happened to a man in our street, it could be a viral infection. William himself was highly indignant that a nurse had put talcum powder on him; he was never going to be a fan of male cosmetics and as soon as he was able he was sitting up in bed with pad and pencil, asking the medical staff questions. One of the doctors asked him what his profession was and said he wasn’t at all surprised when William said he was a statistician.
When the tests came back and confirmed that he had indeed had a heart attack we went through the trauma once more. I considered that the boys and William were in my care and I felt responsible – as if it were my fault. The doctor pointed out that his parent’s medical history were part of the problem. Meanwhile our lives were on hold until we could get back to some sort of normality.
The boys were great – taking it in their stride and casually dropping in – with their friends – as teenagers do – to visit their father, which delighted William and mesmerised the nurses. No amount of nagging from me would inspire William to adopt a healthier regime so I was relieved when he decided to tackle the problem scientifically and after reading countless books stuck to a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
Heart attack and stroke victims are not the easiest of patients – understandable when you consider the frustrations they must feel- and at times I felt I was walking on egg-shells. Once he was well enough to go home we had a talk about the future. His doctor told him he shouldn’t become a ‘coronary cripple’. In other words get on with your life. He was 48 – the classic age for a coronary – a non smoker, but his mother had always shown her love by giving him enormous portions of food and so he tended to be a little overweight. Once he had read a few diet books (I think the
I asked William to give up his job in the city and stop commuting. We could downsize – the shop was doing well- we could make do with one car and live more simply. William was adamant that he would not give up his job and when I suggested that, at least we should share the responsibility and I take some of the financial worries like paying bills etc he thought I was criticising his ability and went into a sulk so I had to leave it to him.
Slowly but surely he got better and after a convalescence which included a spell in Queen Victoria’s second home on the Isle of Wight, he went back to work. Because of his illness we had missed the canal holiday so I suggested the two of us should have a late summer holiday abroad – our first alone together since the boys were little. We went to a Travel agent in the town and after a while I despaired of our ever agreeing about anything.
At last we settled on a trip to mainland
The first time we were on the beach a grizzled man with a Greek moustache grabbed William’s arm and guided him into the water. Slowly we realised he just wanted to show this stranger what a wonderful place his country was – and we were captivated.
The holiday did us both a power of good and reminded us that we still valued each other’s friendship.
Years later when we lived separate lives, William’s death was a shattering experience. The boys and I decided that, as I was persona non grata with William’s family, it would be easier all round if I didn’t attend the funeral. Vanessa, my old nursing friend who William had been fond of, kindly agreed to go as my representative. William’s brother, at the Wake afterwards, approached and asked her who she was. When she said she was an old friend of Pat he walked off without a word.
On the day of the funeral I sat in our local church and felt quite numb. That summer MTL and I were in