My wife, Joan, and I were just about to leave the house to go to her sister Phyllis's home for the usual Sunday dinner when the phone rang. Phyllis called to say that she needed a cabbage so could we pick one up in the way. We drove to the store. I parked on the other side, because it would only take a few minutes. Joan got out and crossed the road. She was wearing a bright red coat. I was just learning over to the glove department when I heard a crashing noise. I looked up and saw my wife flying through the air. I rushed out with a lump in my throat. Within a few minutes there were police cars, two ambulances and a helicopter above. I rushed over to Joan who was lying on the ground soaked in blood. A lady constable was bending over her. She told me to keep her awake by talking to her making sure she didn't fall asleep until the ambulance men arrived and took over. She was shivering so I put my coat over her.

(Joan's accident was on November 24th 1996.)

After the checking and bandaging the ambulance dashed her off to hospital for some emergency surgery. I was taken in the second ambulance in case I was in shock. There was a man with me who encouraged me to keep talking - obviously it was to soothe my nerves. I had seen many casualties and even been injured myself but this was my wife. It felt so much worse in spite of my experience and toughness. I was almost out of my mind. When I got to the hospital Joan was already in surgery and being x-rayed. I called her sister to tell them and they came as soon as possible. We stayed while she was in emergency. They found that the back of her head was split, her right shoulder had been crushed and the bone in her leg was broken. They were fixing the head but the surgery to the shoulder and leg was left for a couple of days

Jack (70) and Joan (71) in 1986 

at their grandson Danny's Bar Mitzvah

The hospital was quite old and so full that men and women were sharing the ward. Luckily I had an insurance policy. The following day my son arrived. I did mention that I had insurance but I was told that they had better equipment. When my son came and saw the mixed, crowded ward, he said, “My mother is not staying here.” The sister was about to argue when the doctor appeared. He said, “What's the trouble?” My son told him and mentioned the private hospital near where we lived. By good fortune the doctor was a resident doctor at that private hospital. My wife was moved there the following day. He was the one who joined the broken leg and fixed a rod inside. The shoulder was too bad and had to heal itself gradually. 

She was there for ten weeks and still limping. The rod was taken out later but we needed a carer. The first carer was not trained. We had to get a paid carer with more experience, which proved better because she lived close by. My wife fell and hit her head on a table leg. The carer called an ambulance which took the both of us to the hospital. They stopped the bleeding, dressed it and we came home. 

Some years later, It was arranged for Joan to go to a nursing clinic. After a couple of visits the doctor examined her with some mental tests. After two more visits she was examined again and I was told we would hear from them soon. The next day my wife was all flustered and told me thieves had come into the house and had taken some of her clothes but left other clothes in their place. This happened three times. I heard from the doctor that my wife had dementia and would need to go to a home. 

I was not able to pay the fees of a nursing home. I had no idea what to do. My son came to the rescue. He made enquires and made arrangements to meet people. He saw them and they had to check everything. It all took time. He had to keep going until I was called to confirm all the details. Eventually it was arranged that I was to pay some and would be getting help for the rest. I was happy with the arrangement but the home was so far away that it would be difficult for me to visit her. We were both old and couldn't drive any more. In fact I was walking with a stick. Back went my son and found a small apartment much closer. It was subsidised and we had to pay the difference. I was able to obtain help with transport. We took Joan to the home and I was pleasantly surprised. The staff were extremely friendly and very committed. They cared for all the inmates both male and female. I went to see her every day and stayed there till evening. 

Being there all day I was able to observe the behaviour of the inmates. It was a heart-breaking. experience. Some were crying, some were laughing, some were screaming, some were quiet. Everyone wanted to go home as they missed their homes and their families. The staff were good to me. They fed me and were happy I was there to try and comfort my wife, even though it was a little extra work for them. By now Joan could only walk with a Zimmer frame. But everyday and many times a day she would ask me to take her home. I cried all the time. I kept saying that I would take her home as soon as the doctor told me I could. 

It was a having a terrible effect on me. I was crying all day and thinking about it all night. No sleep and all worry. I began to think what good is all this, I can't help her and I am suffering. I would be better off dead. The carer could see that there was something wrong and arranged a special doctor to see me. The doctor and a nurse examined me and asked me several questions. Their decision was that I had become suicidal. But they couldn't tell me what to do about it. I still went every day. One morning I went and as I walked in through two doors I glanced through the first and saw her looking my way and she was smiling. She was waiting for me. I burst into tears. That was happening every morning. She was watching and waiting for me. My appearance meant so much to her, how could I not go? What was my discomfort compared to the pleasure she got from seeing me come and be with her. My suicide would have to wait. 

I had a bit of a consolation. The home moved nearer to where I lived and saved me a lot of travelling. I continued to go every morning but, in all cases, dementia never gets better only worse. However at the age of 95 I suppose like me she had had a long life. It's no good complaining. Gradually she was becoming worse physically and mentally. I continued to go every day, even when she was unable to recognise me, until she died. Because I thought she was asleep I left a little earlier. Fortunately our granddaughter came to be with her until she breathed no more. (Joan died on 11th December 2010.)

She was given a wonderful funeral. Many people attended and my granddaughter made a lovely oration. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium where my parents and brother were also cremated. I have a little plot of land which is kept so nice and where my ashes will be placed by Joan's side. Hardly a day goes by without me thinking of her and my mother too. I sing, “We've been married for seventy years and not a day too much, my dear Old Dutch.” Oddly, Joan's ancestors came from Holland.