Who are we?

One of my favourite writers, Joan Didion, once stated, “I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be…”. I’ve often felt this about myself. But these past seven or eight months have flipped that quote. I’ve actually discovered a couple of people I didn’t know I was.

When you live with someone for a very long time many of your conversations take place in the abstract, usually prompted by a simple, sometimes random, question. What sort of person might our daughter grow to be? How would we spend a substantial windfall? Can we ever truly prepare for old age? What’s the point of a career? Is enough really as good as a feast? How would each of us cope without the other?

We, like many others, have speculated and tested our imaginations. Then we have sighed and got on with our daily business while the unknowns and inconclusions pooled around us only to quickly evaporate, until next time.

Recently there has been a been a lot of form filling for us, and questions that demand concrete answers. A recurring one has been, “Martin, are you Mags’ primary carer?”

My response, on first hearing, was “Hold on, what? Primary Carer?”

“Well, for the record we need to know,” comes the reply, or “To complete the process, all fields on our form must be filled. No questions left unanswered.”

So, according to officials I’m a primary carer. But the reality is I just care, the way we have for one another these past 46 years.

The other person I’ve discovered is the one who had to learn quickly about signs and symptoms, chemical concoctions, and the pitfalls of prognostication. Medics are, on many levels, miracle workers, but they cannot, by their own admission, foretell the future of a cancer patient with any certainty. Neither should they be expected to.

Mags has a CT scan on 23rd of this month, and a follow up with her oncologist a few days later. Whatever the outcome, it’ll be faced by the people we now are, and maybe some of the people we were, once.

4 thoughts on “Who are we?

  1. A thoughtful post.

    The older we get, the more people we are — or have been. I’d love to have back my twenty-something body but not if it meant the loss of the magnificent accumulation of knowledge, experience, etc. that is my almost 77 year old self.


  2. It’s interesting how form-filling and other types of red tape force us into labelling ourselves like this, or maybe acknowledging those labels. I’ve been recently considering whether to take my teacher pension early and looking at the application process, but the very idea of being someone who’s taking a pension is so hard to take on board!


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