A brass plaque on the wall declared that the hospital extension had been opened by the Minister for Health in 2004. Perhaps it had still retained the semblance of a hospital a decade ago, now its function was as a community care unit, or some other similar nomenclature, reduced to half of its former capacity, it now provides short-term respite care.
Sitting in the day room, we looked out at steadily falling sleet, winter’s latest half-hearted attempt at asserting itself.
“I heard someone won more than fifty million on the Lotto,” he said.
“Wasn’t is sixty-six million?”
“Could have been. Would you want it?” he asked. “Could you be happy with that sort of money?”
“Probably not, how would you be happy with that sort of money? You couldn’t be the person you had been and people might not like the person you had become.”
We pondered the thought in silence, until a thought occurred. “I knew someone who won the lottery once.”
“It was in a parish in the North. There was a man who sang in the choir. He lived with his daughter and son in law in a council estate. They had bought their house; they had lived there for years.
Anyway, they won £3 million, not much compared to €66 million, but a lot of money back in the Nineties. Everyone wondered what they were going to do with the money. Their house was in a very windy part of the estate, so they got a new porch built so the living room wasn’t so draughty and I think they bought a new car. I’m not sure the daughter and son in law even gave up their jobs, I moved parishes soon afterwards.”
Our conversation drifted here and there. Intending only to drop in to say “hello” for ten minutes, forty-five minutes had passed and the staff were beginning to wheel patients to the dining room for the evening meal.
The staff were happy at my offer to push my companion’s chair along the lengthy corridor. A nice nurse pointed out that the task would be easier if the brake on one of the back wheels was released; she smiled indulgently when I said I had never been good at motor mechanics.
As we progressed sedately through the hospital, the thought occurred that working in a care unit would be an occupation that came with a great deal of job satisfaction. It is too late now to change careers.