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This Was Supposed To Be Our Time


steven !

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I suppose reading Tom Glassey's blog, I remembered my visits (as an escort not a patient) to the Cardiothoracic Centre in Broadgreen, Liverpool.

 

Broadgreen Hospital.

Christmas 2003.

 

Robert Owen House.

 

Me and a house full of women. They were all well into their 60s except one who was around 30 and more than 10 years younger than myself. We got on.

 

Her partner was in intensive care.

 

"A split aorta. Brought about from too much smoking and partying".

 

She was quite frank and open about that. I think she was too quick and ready with the answer, as if she had become too used to it by now.

 

Although I don't remember me actually ever asking the question.

 

She went to visit him one evening and I never saw her again.

 

Unusually, no one else in the House was from the Isle of Man. I had been there before, accompanying my mother for various tests and operations, so I knew the form. This time was the big one though - a triple heart by-pass.

 

The others were staying in the House whilst their husbands received treatment of one kind or another, just a hundred yards or so away. For some, things were not looking too good.

 

We were all sat in front of the television. Coronation Street or was it Crossroads? Not one word of the wooden dialogue was sinking in.

 

"Where are you from?" one lady asked me, in an attempt to break the silence and spark conversation, perhaps escape the collective thoughts for a moment.

 

I replied "The Isle of Man . . . . . and you?"

 

"Well, I grew up in Liverpool but we have moved over to The Wirral now"

 

Other than football, I know nothing of the city and all I could think of was The Beetles. I felt like an enthusiastic American tourist as I asked her if she had ever seen them. Her reply surprised me:

 

"Oh yes, many a time, as a teenager we often used to visit the Cavern in our lunch hour".

 

And that was it!

 

Suddenly the atmosphere changed as the company, all strangers to each other until now, excitedly joined in the conversation. It turned out that the ladies were all from the area and during the early 1960s they had worked in various Liverpool city insurance offices and banks. They had more or less grown up with the Beetles and the Mersey Beat bands of the era. And so for the next half hour or so, I felt privileged to listen to the reminiscences as they re-lived the years of their teenage and early 20s.

 

Who was their favourite Beetle and why? Yep, they knew them personally alright.

 

It wasn't just the music but the latest fashions, the politicians, the scandals, the wonder of television, Habitat, train travel and the Modern Art movement.

 

The conversations were spontaneous and the scene would have made an excellent television documentary. A snapshot of being a teenager in the 1960s.

 

The room seemed to explode as so many wonderful stories came out from the time when these women were all young and carefree and living those exciting years. For those too brief minutes they were laughing teenage girls again.

 

And then suddenly the reality of the present, four decades later, struck the room like a big black cloud. One by one they said their cheerios and left, as visiting time arrived.

 

I was left in the room with just the one lady. Her mind focussed well beyond the television as her eyes gently watered. There was no visiting time for her as her husband was at that moment in the operating theatre.

 

"I went to the Isle of Man a couple of times when I was 19. Port St Mary." She waited. I listened to the short silence.

 

I was hoping for a bit of history. Perhaps I would know people she had known and it was clear that she had met someone special from the Island all those years ago. I wanted to know more.

 

"I didn't go back again" she said, "I married a Doctor from home instead."

 

I wasn't sure just what to say but it seemed she was just going back over a few points in her life. Anyway she looked at me to see if I wanted to know more, or if I was even interested. I was of course and glad to be there, allowing her thoughts to flow.

 

"This was supposed to be our time." She said sadly.

 

It turned out that she had married in her early twenties and had had her family in the first few years. She had devoted her life to her children and by the time they had left home and had families of their own, it was time to look after her parents, and then her husband's parents. She had made sure they were cared for and looked after, and it seemed that this was a particularly stressful time of her life. Eventually the parents died.

 

Together with her husband, after giving their lives to others, they could now finally relax for once and look forward to the rest of their lives together. This had been just a few months previously.

 

"This was supposed to be our time," she said again.

 

Some weeks ago her husband had gone to the doctor with chest pains. It was lung cancer and he had been given just months to live.

 

I looked at her. I gave her my best dead pan look. Perhaps some questions can't be hidden.

 

"No," she said "He never smoked a cigarette in his life."

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I've just read your blog Steven and as I tried to read it out to Tom, I found myself very emotional. I know exactly how that lady felt. All Tom and I have spoken about for the last few years is what we will do when we retire. It has been a count down and now it is less than 4 years. When Tom was diagnosed all those dreams disolved in front of us. I can't begin to tell you how it feels other than to say I'm weeping writing this to you now. All we can do to get through this is to take one day at a time and plan no further than the next few days. Everything is going fine for us at the moment, but it is a very fine line that we tread.

 

Toms Cancer was through smoking and it is the same cancer that Roy Castle contracted it through 2nd hand smoke. It is a pity that it took Tom so long to stop smoking, but there is no point in going over that now. We can't change it, but we can make others aware that it can happen so easily and lightening can strike twice.

 

For now, all is well and Tom bought another boat yesterday. I just want him to do what he loves doing now, forget tomorrow. We have to live and enjoy what we have now.

 

Continue with your blog Steven, you are a good storyteller yourself. :)

 

 

Barbara

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At this time, I hope the story isn't inappropriate, Barbara. It is rather pessimistic. The story is very real and I was surprised to find that part of it was used in a recent brochure for Robert Owen House (a marvellous place and charity btw)

 

It reminds me of another time when I lived in Shetland about 12 years ago, shortly before I came back home. I knew someone who was diagnosed with lung cancer and I often wondered what happened to him.

 

I went back last year and caught up with various news.

 

They are very charitable in Shetland, and similar to the Isle of Man generally quite wealthy, although because of the Oil Industry rather than the Finance Industry.

 

Various fund-raising events had been organised for the chap and a very sizeable sum was amounted. It was easily enough to send the lad to Florida for a super holiday. A mate's girlfriend, who was much involved with the fund-raising, went with him as an escort.

 

He never came back.

 

 

 

 

Mind you neither did she.

 

Apparently he made a miraculous recovery as soon as he landed and ran off with the girl and the money. Never to be seen again, well certainly not in Shetland anyway.

 

 

 

ps

My forum name is steven !

 

Steven (without the exclamation) is a different person.

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