It also means that, as the (white-haired) man about the house, I sometimes feel that there are certain tasks I have to fulfil.
A few weeks ago I noticed she hadn’t changed her calendar from February to March, and as we were already quite a few days into March, I thought I’d better turn it. After all, you don’t want to be living in the past, do you?
I leaned over the rocking chair and turned the page. The nail that was holding the calendar onto the wall fell out and the calendar plummeted carpetwards. “The nail’s fallen out,” I said, unnecessarily. “It does that every month,” my mother-in-law replied. I leaned over and, like a benevolent time traveller, rescued a year from where it had fallen.
The nail, however, had disappeared. I crouched and began to run my hands across the carpet like an improvising jazz pianist. I didn’t feel the satisfying tickle of nail on palm. I made a decision which was to have far-reaching consequences: I leaned over and moved the rocking chair.
Except I must have leaned over at a funny angle, or the chair was heavier than it looked, or I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, and as I lifted the chair I felt my back give a little groan and then a click and then some pain ran up and down my spine.
It wasn’t so bad at first; it was just a dull ache and I thought it would go away. I found the nail, in the magazine rack, and put the calendar back up. We went home and the pain seemed to ebb like the tide.
Until later that night when the tide came in with a rush and my back started giving me some gleeful truncheon. There followed several days of discomfort, during which I walked like a puppet with the strings half-cut and attempted to sleep in a twisted position that an outsider would have said was impossible for a 65-year-old.
Usually my narrative, the story that I live by, is one of ceaseless optimism, especially as far as my health is concerned because I’m of the quaint belief that saying you feel well actually helps you to feel well.
On this occasion though, I started to experience a different kind of narrative, a story of illness and pain, which started to get me down. For want of a nail, a back was lost.
Then, however, after a bent-double week, as I staggered through my morning stroll my back suddenly and unaccountably felt better and the wellness narrative was restored, thank goodness.
And the moral of the story is: don’t go lifting rocking chairs. It’s a piece of advice I’ll try to heed from now on.