I take the Goldfish shopping for new trousers as his fall down all the time because he is losing so much weight. I park, unload the wheelchair and transfer the Goldfish from car to chair. En route to the shopping centre he announces he needs to move his bowels.
The first public loo we come to is one of those weird metal can things. I’ve never used one, convinced the door will open while I’m on the loo or, when I’m finished I won’t be able to open the door. I’ve no idea how the Goldfish could use it. I push faster to get to the shopping centre loos.
The toilet for disabled people is locked so I have to push him on to the gents. At the door, the Goldfish gets out of the chair and totters off inside. I move the chair out of the way and wait for him – and wait, and wait and wait. Men who have gone in long after the Goldfish have come out again.
A cleaning lady heads for the ladies’ loos and I ask her if she is going into the gents but she says she can’t. She asks what the problem is. I explain about the Goldfish having dementia and I’m worried he can’t find his way out again – that’s if he hasn’t had a stroke and is lying on the floor inside. “Oh, dear” she says. “I’m sorry to hear he has dementia. Is he in the early stages?”
“Well, he’s gone past the early stage but it’s not really severe yet,” I say, wondering what level of dementia he has to be at before she’ll agree to help. She offers to find a male security person and disappears.
She returns, shaking her head. “Typical, isn’t it? When you don’t need one they’re buzzing about but as soon as you do need one, they’ve all disappeared. Has he not come out yet?” I shake my head in sympathetic understanding. She trots off again.
I hear the door of the gents open and the Goldfish’s voice calling “Is anybody there?”
He’s struggling to hold up his trouser with one hand, open the door and manage his walking stick with the other and in danger of falling flat on his face. I push the chair as close to the door as I can and grab hold of him. He’s worried about his trousers. I’m worried about him falling but somehow manage to get the trousers pulled up and get him to sit in the chair.
By this time one man is trying to get out of the gents, while two others are waiting to go in and as I bend down to help the Goldfish put his feet on the footrests, the contents of my handbag shoot out all over the floor. The man trying to get out retreats inside and shuts the door: of the two trying to get in, one tries to help me, the other looks at the ceiling and pretends none of this is happening and he’s not really desperate to get to the loo.
As I scrabble about on the floor scooping up keys, pens, purse, notebook, mints, tissues, lipstick the Goldfish looks on then asks, “What is all that on the floor?” When I explain he shakes his head. “Why don’t you keep your bag zipped up?”
With no room to turn the chair I squeeze round to the handle side reverse past the now several-man-deep queue. The cleaning lady re-appears with a security man in tow and looks disappointed to find I have the Goldfish back safely in his chair.
I thank her profusely and set off towards the lift to M & S. The Goldfish says, “I need to move my bowels.” I tell him he has just been, whizz round the menswear department gathering up trousers and jackets and head for the fitting room. I have him half out of his trousers when he says, with a greater degree of urgency, he needs to move his bowels. I zip him back into his trousers, re-settle him in the chair, tell a salesperson we’ll be back and rush to take the lift down to the toilets.
I usher the Goldfish into the accessible loo and step outside. He hasn’t locked the door so I stand guard. I wait. I wait and I wait and I wait.
It’s a busy place with the ladies loo next door and the gents opposite. I’m not concerned after the first five minutes go past. It can take him a while. Ten minutes later and I start to check my watch more frequently. Several people approach the accessible loo – some looking pretty non-disabled to me but then you can’t tell and I shouldn’t be judgmental but I suspect because it is a nicer loo than the ladies which has only two cubicles so there is often a queue and it gets a bit smelly. I indicate the accessible loo is occupied and they look disapproving as they go to join the queue in the ladies.
I tap on the door and ask the Goldfish if everything is all right. “Yes, but it’s not coming out yet.”
“Do you need any help?” I ask, mentally sending up a prayer, please god say no. Prayer answered I go back to waiting. DH phones to say he has finished his work and is coming to meet me. Good, I need some support here.
A security man goes past. Nods at me. Opens the door of the gents, glances in, retreats and disappears back into the shop. Five minutes later he reappears and once again opens the door of the gents, pops his head inside and comes back out. I wonder if he is looking for someone in particular. Maybe, I ponder, shoplifters go in there to conceal their stolen goods or sell them on. Security guard gives me an odd look as he goes past. I check my watch – it’s been almost twenty minutes. Wish I’d brought my Kindle.
Security man comes back and this time, after opening the door of the gents, asks if I’m waiting for someone. Does he think I hang around outside public loos for fun? I look at his face and realise he is indeed thinking that, and worse, which explains the odd look he gave me. I hastily explain the Goldfish is in the loo, resisting the urge to fling open the door to prove it – and that he seems to be having some trouble evacuating his bowels. The security chap looks like he’s just received more information than he needed but visibly relaxes at the explanation of why I’m hanging around outside the loos. He becomes quite chatty.
DH arrives and is not happy when I tell him he must go into the loo and help the Goldfish wipe his bottom but he does as he’s told and emerges with an exhausted Goldfish. All that time, all his hard straining resulted in a paltry couple of little blobs about the size of rabbit poo. We decide he needs laxatives.
Back upstairs in the changing rooms we help the Goldfish try on trousers. It takes ages but we finally find two pairs of trousers which fit him. They are two sizes smaller than the ones he is wearing. We head for home, all of us exhausted. The Goldfish has forgotten everything by the time we reach home – the shopping trip, the toilet visits (sometimes his memory loss is a blessing) and his new clothes.
I make an appointment with the doctor to discuss the possible causes of the Goldfish’s weight loss.