Letter to Robert II ~ The Longest Year
It’s been a year since I heard your voice.
It’s been a year since I felt your arms around me.
It’s been a year since I wasn’t afraid.
The longest year.
I’ve tried everything, sweetheart. As soon as I heard about the Treatment Abroad Scheme I persuaded those who could to apply for us; then when I was knocked back by the HSE I persuaded those who could to appeal that rejection. Got knocked back on that too. But now that the NRH still haven’t given us a date for your admission there I’m – again – writing to the Minister for Health and cc-ing the TAS Director to express my concern, disgust and despair. If they can’t provide what you need they should let us go to those who can.
Unfortunately I’m appealing to a minister who is in the middle of several crises quite separate from the job he’s supposed to be doing. It’s maddening to me that when I was writing to him in February he was more concerned with his nursing home business plan or his impending bankruptcy. Where do we fit in to all this? If it was his wife wouldn’t he want her to get the best treatment as soon as humanly possible?
There have been emails in their hundreds sent to people that I thought might help, or know someone who could; I’ve sent letters, printed flyers and stuck them up on walls and noticeboards and talked everyone I know into doing the same – they’re all over Dun Laoghaire, Blanchardstown, Lucan, the city centre – friends and family have pasted them up for us. I’ve spoken to journalists, done an interview on two radio stations and will do more when I can; I’ve begged and pleaded with anyone I thought might be able to get you into rehab. Yet you’re not there.
Failing you is not an option, I will not do it. I will fight tooth and claw to get you what you need and, although there’s days I feel like I’m on my knees and that my spirit is finally broken, something always spurs me on to get up off my knees and back into the fray. It could be a stranger saying they heard your story and are thinking of us, it could be one of your old schoolfriends who read the article and burned you a bunch of blues CDs, or the lady in the local healthfood store who cuddled me, pumped me with vitamins and new purpose, Most days it’s because you’ll look at me with those sad blue eyes. That’s all I need, sweetheart, just you. And as long as you are here I’ll be fighting for you.
You know that I don’t like cowards, and here I find myself terrified all the time. Every minute I’m awake my heart is like a stone in my chest with fear. When I finally fall asleep I know I’ll wake to the light still being on. You used to close the book I was reading, marking the page for me, and turn off the light. I wouldn’t even feel you doing it, or getting into bed, or hear you on the phone if a call came in. And there you’d be the next morning. Wonderful world.
Our morning routine became one of my favourite parts of the day once I stopped working full time in Dun Laoghaire. Most mornings I’d wake up first and make you a cup of tea, leave it on the bedside table, stroke your forehead and say ‘your tea is there, pet’. You’d smile. Always you’d smile. Then you’d dress to go downstairs while I did some chores, and you’d be back in half an hour when we’d have some breakfast together, just tea and toast (with marmalade for you) normally but sometimes a boiled egg and brown bread. We’d watch the morning news and moan about the presenters’ irritating mannerisms.
Some mornings I wouldn’t wake before you, and would barely feel you get out of bed. I’d wake to find yourself and Paulie in the living room, her sitting mutely on her small cage beside your couch, delighted to have you to herself. However, if you tried to have a lie-in she would not sit quietly with me: she’d squeak and squawk until you finally got up. Then she’d shut-up, satisfied.
An hour or so after breakfast you would decide – especially if you’d had an interrupted night on the phones – to have a nap while I went and did some shopping. I’d ask if you wanted a pillow and you’d say no, but I’d insist: ‘why not be comfortable?’ and you’d allow me to persuade you. Paulie would settle down on her perch, one foot tucked into her breast feathers, happy as a clam once you were there.
The mornings are the hardest, sweetheart, for all these reasons. Not seeing your head on the pillow beside me in the morning breaks my heart every time. The beginning of the day for me a year ago was something I relished, everything we did was just what I wanted. Life could not have been reversed so drastically or painfully.
Going through photos for scanning for the blog has been quite tough. It reminds me of so many times we’ve had together. Possibly people reading the blog may think that we’re the kind of couple that never had fights or bad times, and of course we’ve had plenty of both. But the last decade of our lives together has been so wonderfully peaceful and close – even we knew not to take it for granted: occasionally we’d talk about how lucky we were as if we didn’t deserve it and couldn’t believe our luck.
Darling, I try to be grateful for the years we’ve already experienced and for a future that I know we’ll have together. But there’s days that the loss seems unbearable. It takes me all my strength to keep going and I get that strength from you: I can’t wait to see you – that’s what gets me up and dressed.
So I get to you as soon as I can, every day. I’ve only missed two days in the year and they were the two days I was in the UK with Ritamary. The third day we landed in Dublin Airport at 8pm and I was beside you at 9pm. I missed you dreadfully.
There’s times when you look at me a certain way and my heart flips over, just the way it did before this happened. You’ve always been able to make me feel like that. So thank God you’re here and I’ll keep my promise to you, sweetheart: no stone unturned to get you home to me.