Marmite . . . Love It or Hate It

Holding Space For Conversation . . .

So I’ve called this blog Marmite. (a thick sticky spread). We all know that you either Love It or Hate It. I’m using Marmite as a metaphor for Retirement so that you can get the gist of the conversation. Retirement is the time to sit back and relax or to travel the world or do all the things you wanted to do without the shackles of the 9 to 5 getting in the way. You’re ready to enjoy life with your beloved husband or partner.

Which brings me to my story. As I sat on a cold perforated metallic chair in the bus station. I placed my carrier bag on the empty chair beside me. I checked my phone for the time 12.40 pm. From the corner of my eye, an elderly man shuffled to the seat on the other side of me, his wife mentioned something a full figured glass eyed woman two seats away.

The wife (I’m going to call the her Margaret) stood in her lime green jacket and dark green top somehow ended up standing in front of me. I moved my bag thinking she wanted to sit down. She refused my offer. “My husband has

“My husband has Alzheimers.” I nodded then smiled as I looked at him. He looked normal, but would I be able to tell either way? “I can’t stand the swearing. I can tolerate everything else but I can’t stand the swearing.” She walked off to check the bus timetable. “I just can’t take the swearing,” she repeated to herself.

She looked troubled. Frustrated I would say. I know people with Alzheimer’s, have a tendency to swear when previously they had never sworn before in their life. And she couldn’t stand it. In fact, she hated it. 

The 140 double-decker bus parked itself outside the terminal. Her husband stood and made his way toward the bus ready to board. Margaret pulled him back commenting that the bus was too full and that she would rather wait for the next one. Her husband grumbled loudly, complaining he wanted to go home. She tried to explain to him the bus was too full and that they would wait for another with fewer people on board. He obedient obeyed and sat down, still disgruntled by his wife’s decision.

I learnt from Margaret that she was a retired nurse and that her husband had the disease now for 4 years. She mentioned with pride that they had been married for over 30 years arriving in the UK from Barbados in the 1960’s.

Margaret is a strong woman her neatly grey hair curled in a bob like style. She was able-bodied steady on her feet, she definitely had her wits about her, as she complained she had worked for years for this country but did not obtain any government assistant because of her pension and the fact that she owned her own home. As a result, she was providing private care for her retired TFL (Transport For London) husband. Margaret laughed as she told me about the day her husband had gone missing. I guess she could laugh about it now, but at the time she must have been terrified. On that day she knew she was tired. She left her husband upstairs while she sat and read a magazine on the sofa. She dozed off for ten minutes but woke up to find her husband had left the house and was now missing.

Needless to say, he was found several hours later.

Margaret was happy to share her story with me. But there was something that she kept referring to during her chat with me.

“No-one tells you this could happen.”

I knew immediately what she meant. This was not what she signed up for especially as she was the one left holding the baby, his children unable to come to terms with their father’s condition. (she didn’t have any children of her own).

If I decided to read into her comment, I would have thought she was resentful of her current situation.

“You marry in sickness and in health, til death do you part. . . so what can I do?” 

The bus arrived, I watched Margaret step onto the bus, leaving her husband to make his own way on. She tucked him into the corner seat like a mother would her child. She continued her conversation with me. Her eyes lit up as she told me of her life as a nurse and her love for travelling. Her love of making round trips to Barbados and Florida where she previously worked.

It was clear that Margaret did not envisage her retirement years to be like this. “This is my life too,” she said vehemently. “His children don’t know how to deal with him the burden is on me. But what can I do he’s my husband?”

Margaret’s story was sad to hear because she mentioned he had retired before she did and I believed that she hoped that she would continue her love for travelling with her husband when she retired too. But sadly this was not the case as she had tried to continue her love for travel, when they went on a trip to Barbados. He when missing the day before they were due to fly back to London. She was frantic. But she knew if she left her faith in God’s hands she was going to catch her flight with her husband by her side. After four hours missing, they found him.

Margaret was trying hard to keep her spirits up. “If I don’t laugh I will cry. I don’t want to have a pity party with the devil.”

She didn’t want to think about how long she may have to live with her husband’s illness. She wanted to take each day as it comes.

”Anyway,” she said. As if she realised she had chatted enough but in fact, it was her stop. “It was a pleasure meeting you.” She ushered to her husband as they descended off the bus with a final wave goodbye.

“It was a pleasure meeting you Margaret. Take care.” I said. The doors closed. She stood on the pavement addressing words that I couldn’t hear. I watched as the two images got smaller as the bus drove off turning the corner. They were gone. I knew that I would never meet Margaret and her husband again.

I felt for Margaret. Because everyone has this romantic notion that once retirement arrives, you are going to Love It. But for some, they are going to Hate It for one reason or another.

Margaret had dreams for her retirement but she was now living with the disease of Alzheimers with her husband herself. Something that no-one told her could happen.

I know by Holding Space with Margaret, I provided her with some respite to have a conversation about how she was feeling and the impact that it was having on her life, a question I’m not sure if anyone had asked her before now. Perhaps people thought because of her previous profession she was accustom to dealing with sick people all the time.

I know within the fifteen minutes of meeting her and our bus journey home, I am glad that I was able to Hold Space for someone who at that moment needed someone to talk to.

Do You Have a Marmite Moment? Something that you either love or hate to do, but you have to do it anyway.

So, if you have something to say and no-one to have a conversation with, on a topic you have been:

  • Struggling with emotionally or
  • Perhaps you have something to say and those around you don’t have the time to listen or
  • Maybe you want to go for a coffee and chat and talk about your dreams and hopes and you’re searching for motivation, then why not get in contact with me at:

The People Whisperer


Join me again for another story from The People Whisperer.

I will help you to stand in your truth and shine your light bright.

Have a fabulous day!