I never really said them before. I was raised in a household where "I'll swing for you" or "Jesus wept" were the most common words of affection.
She spoke them a lot. I'd either give a world-weary "thank-you" or even a long and lazy "I know".
I just could not bring myself to utter those upposedly three magic words.
I could nevcr say them to the kids either. When they were little and craved affection I'd brush them off like flies or tempt them to stand away from me by offering bribes of money or sweets. When they grew older they knew to keep their distance.
To tell you the truth I've never liked to be touched. A long line of psychiatrists, each carrying a screeching monkey called Freud on his shoulder, agreed that there was something not quite right but something not quite wrong either. A touch of Autism perhaps? Take this or swallow that. "Bugger off you sick bastards," that's what I'd say.
Despite all that she's put up with me for years. She's ill now. The doctors say she's dying and won't be long in this world. She's been ill for some time but at first you wouldn't have guessed from the outside. Why is it that women don't moan when they're ill? Why do they take it all in their stride like some mute, punch drunk boxer?
She's wasting away right before my eyes. i tried to look after her but, in the end, the professionals had to take over.
Her family told me to pack her off to some respite home. They said I couldn't manage but surely that was down to her? She just continued to refuse to go. I could never win, particularly with that lot. As soon as she's gone it will be. "Did she have any insurance policies?" or "I've always liked that brooch she wore." Little do they know that they'll have to suffer great discomfort and embarrassment to even to talk to me soon.
She's so weak and brittle now that if anyone tried to move her she'd break into tiny pieces; just like a fractured china cup.
She's begged and pleaded for me to do it but i've always refused. How could I do that? But now, looking into her sunken yet still beautiful eyes, it's the only thing I can do to really show her.
She's smiling and talking of Jesus. I guess that's the morphine. The levels have been raised so much that even the most hardened junkie would corak. "Enough. Too much!"
I raise the pillow and before placing it gently but firmly over her face I whisper those three words. "I love you." There's no sound, no leg spasms or arm twitching like you see in the movies. She just stayed still and silent. I could almost feel her smile under that soft downy pillow. Did she whisper. "Thank-you."
Now she's gone. Her suffering has ended. Will I ever say those three words again? I doubt it. If I do I just hope it's not to some cellmate in exchange for an ounce of tobacco,
(c) David Stansfield 2008