An ordinary conversation
Written from memory shortly after my mother died in June 2011. The script was rehearsed and played many times
B: [picks up the phone, presses some numbers, and waits. There is a sound on the other end, indicating someone has picked up]
[loudly] Hello, Mum, it’s Bonnie
M: [shouting] Is that Jackie? Hang on a minute, I’m not quite in my chair [sound breathless].
[as if in pain] Ooh! Hang on a minute.
Right, I’m with you now.
Who is it?
B: It’s Bonnie, Mum.
M: Is that Bonnie?
B: Yes, Mum.
M: Hello, Dear. What can I do for you?
B: Nothing Mum. I just thought I’d ring you for a chat, ‘cos we’re going up to the caravan tomorrow. Today’s Friday.
M: Yes, I know. I haven’t seen Gilly for a while. She doesn’t come as often as she used to.
B: Did you see her on Wednesday, Mum?
M: Oh, I don’t know. I might have done, I forget. Brain’s not working as it used to.
Can you hear me? Only I haven’t got my hearing aid in.
B: Yes, I can hear you. Can you hear me?
M: There’s something wrong with this phone. I can’t seem to get a proper signal on it. I must get Geoffrey to have a look at it. It’s never been right. Bloody thing. I wonder whether I would be better off with an ordinary phone like you girls have. Nice and small so I can hold it.
B: Do you mean a mobile phone, Mum? I don’t think that would be right for you, sweetie.
M: [far away, sounding wistful] Oh, well, you’re probably right. It’s just me. I’m getting old, Bon. I’m not the woman I used to be. I don’t know, there’s something wrong with my brain. I don’t like it.
Anyway, this phone’s never been right.
B: I think it might be because you haven’t got your hearing aid in, Mum.
M: Well, I’m all ready for bed now – no point in bothering them now. Mind you, I haven’t had it in all day. My fault, I forgot to ask.
B: You shouldn’t have to ask, Mum. They should remember.
M: Well, there’s a lot of things you don’t know.
B: Like what?
M: Like the way I get spoken to. Not all of them, just one or two …
B: What do you mean, Mum? What’s been happening?
M: Oh, just the night staff last night. She really upset me, she did. ‘Do you realise that’s the third time you’ve buzzed this evening, Violet?’ she said. So after that, I took meself to the loo. You see, I can’t help it. I’ve tried sleeping in my own bed but then I wake up all hot. I can’t explain it. It’s as if I’m on fire, and I have to get out of bed. Then I just stay in my chair after that.
B: They shouldn’t speak to you like that, Mum. You pay their wages.
M: Yes, well, don’t say anything Bon. I don’t want any trouble.
B: I won’t say anything without your permission, Mum, but just remember they have no right to speak to you like that.
M: [bright and breezy, determinedly changing the subject] Anyway, how’s things up there? Everyone alright?
B: Yes, we’re OK Mum.
M: Bet you’re all getting excited about the wedding, aren’t you?
B: Yes, Mum. We’ve got two. We’re off to the States soon for Oli and Claire’s wedding, then Joe and Sam’s is next year.
M: Oh, yes, he’s marrying an American girl, Oli, isn’t he? Where are they going to live?
B: They’re coming back here to live, Mum.
M: Oh, that’ll be nice. When’s Rosa coming home?
B: I don’t know, Mum.
M: You’ll have a house, full, won’t you?
B: Well, Dan’s living in Leeds now.
M: Oh, he’s in Leeds, is he? Near Ian then? I’ve got a soft spot for Dan. I think you and Phil have done bloody marvellous, with all those kids.
Still, it’s nice that you got out to see her.
B: Yes, I’m very glad.
M: I know what that feels like.
B: I know you do, Mum. I know.
M: I don’t know how you cope, having your daughter live thousands of mile away.
Anyway, I’d better go, Bon. Me arm’s aching.
B: OK, Mum. I’ll ring you when I get back.
M: Where are you going again? Oh, yeah, the caravan. My brain doesn’t work as well as it used to.
B: You don’t do so bad, for someone who’s 96.
M: No, I s’pose not.
B: Anyway, you take care of yourself. God bless. We’ll speak soon.
M: Bye-bye dear.