My dearest step dad sleeps and barely speaks.

My tired mother has shrunken further into the role of carer.

It is indeed a painful joy to visit them this week.

Only four months ago I was shaken by a decline, that now seems like a time of erudite conversation.

After that visit I wrote the following:


Edward and Mrs Jones

He gently asks his wife of 31 years

‘excuse me

but do I have a bed for tonight?’

No longer sharing evening TV

dinner soaps

picking at his food with bare fingers

he smiles at her or

un-certainly launches a friendly face in

that direction.

‘Do you remember who I am?’ asks

my mother

that she, that other sitting

and eating there

all by herself in the distance.

‘Yes, I think I do’

and they return smiles within a

pause of concerned and bemused


Looking above his half rim specs

‘I think,’ he says

‘a long time ago

we probably

had sex


‘Oh good God’

silently with pierced heart my

mother tries to start, to start,

to restart them both.

Showing him a recent

anniversary card upon the table

‘there, there,

there,’ she says

‘look at it then,

it says grandma and dad, step-dad,

father and mum,


31 years gone by,

see, that’s you and

that’s me.’


‘Oh yes,’ he says

‘um yes

very nice indeed


very pleasant.’

And brushing the embossed lettering

he says,

‘hard with things on it.’


‘Yes my love it’s our anniversary

card,’ she says, ‘remember?’


And after staring into the far

cornicing for another split second of

for ever, he adds

‘excuse me’

placing the card to one side

‘but I must go now,


looking for a bed



‘Yes, ok Ed let’s go do that’

and Mrs Jones stands taller than she

has been all day.


‘Come along then my soldier,’

he hears that other person say

‘let’s go wash your face and brush

your teeth hmmm?

before I have to send you on your



‘Yes,’ he says, beaming within her

sing song voice

‘I used to put happy on my…

here,’ he says rubbing bristles and


‘yes put happy

happy, and go out, out’

Eds points to a place beyond joint

pain and yellowed teeth.

‘Are you talking about aftershave my


‘Yes, happy,’ and reach, reach

reaching to stroke her face

‘happy, on here.’

‘Yes, yes my dear,

I remember that too, but

your breath stinks, so

it’s off to the bathroom

and then beddy-byes for you