“Tender,” she said again. “Tender is kind and gentle. It’s also sore, like the skin around an injury.”
A few days ago Ben dropped me off at my hairdresser’s, which is in a small suburban shopping mall.
Hours later I sat outside and waited for him to pick me up.
I like the waiting part, after my haircut. I sit on a metal bench to the side of the entrance, and I watch the world walk by.
This week a particular couple caught my eye.
They were both quite elderly and frail – somewhere between late seventies and late eighties. At first it was hard to tell who was helping who as they came to the pedestrian crossing in the carpark and shuffled towards me. She was so thin and tottery, clutching his arm. He was more steady. Stronger too.
But as they came closer I saw that it was the woman in control, steering her husband, talking to him, encouraging him. Her lips were pursed, and she was frowning but her voice was kind. It took forever to cross the road and navigate the pavement. I saw that the man had hearing aids, and he seemed to be reluctant to walk any faster.
‘Come on, Bob’, she kept urging him. ‘Just this little trip and then we’ll have a coffee. You’d like a coffee wouldn’t you?’
Bob kept looking around, and trying to tug his arm away from her to get to a pay phone on the wall. I saw how weary his wife was, how frustrated and ground down, how resentful and angry she was as she tried her best to manage her husband who so obviously had dementia. I wondered if they had any help, any family or friends or some kind of support workers to ease their burdens. As they passed me the man broke free and shuffled faster towards the pay phone.
‘I just need to ring the broker,’ he said. ‘We’re losing all our money.’
I watched as he picked up the phone and began talking.
A look of tenderness came over her, and she let him talk on the unconnected handset. He was adamant that the broker ensure there was enough money for Maggie if he were to die first.
When he was finished she hugged him. ‘Thank you for always taking care of us,’ Maggie said softly. ‘You’re doing a great job.’
‘I love you, sweetheart,‘ Bob said back, touching her cheek gently.
They shuffled off arm in arm, and I sat with tears in my eyes and my heart swelled big in my chest, until Ben pulled up to take me home.
Love is hard and wonderful and beautiful, and it’s such a blessing in our lives.
Wishing for you some moments of tenderness too, Nicole xx