This is Bink’s nephew.
As you can see, being half-Norwegian he’s a tough little chap. Here he is having a spot of shut-eye in the English weather after rampaging and pillaging and conquering a few hundred Angles and Saxons yesterday morning. His favourite condition for a bit of time-out in his pram is under a lovely eight inches of snow, so he sometimes has to nip back over the sea for the more no-nonsense clime of his ancestors.
(He also has a robust Viking appetite. His preference is for 99%-beef-sausages, rare ribeye steak barely-cooked on the beach, haggis, black pudding, that sort of thing. We haven’t yet offered him raw reindeer bones to chew but no doubt he’ll soon catch his own.)
Shaun and I are in South London with Serena and her family, and Alex, for Shaun’s birthday weekend. Bink couldn’t come. She can’t cope with all the stress of moving, just for a couple of days. She can’t really cope with the loneliness of being left behind, either. When one of your children has an acute but brief illness, you can put everything on hold to attend to her needs.
If you continue this policy for twenty years you can destroy everyone in the family. And not help the patient anyway.
The Christmas before last, Bink’s sister gave her a very special present: a photograph of her own ultra-sound scan.
Children are the love of Bink’s life. When she came out of the Florence Nightingale Unit, she said her love of children was the only aspect of her personality still intact. All that was left, still truly herself and not destroyed by her illness.
Bink looked at her Christmas photograph from Serena for a few moments. Her younger sister had already assimilated the information and burst into tearful shrieks of joy. The reaction we all expected of Bink.
Instead there was silence: just, nothing. Then a deep reddening of the face. Then she too burst into tears. But very different from her younger sister’s tears of happiness. Bink’s tears were pitiful, pitiful, dreadful sobs of sorrow and grief and loss.
The (unworthy, she knew) thought which flashed through her mind like a knife was, Oh, why couldn’t they have waited? Why couldn’t Serena have waited till I was well?
Her dream had always been of all of them having babies together. Of the cousins growing up best friends, as the siblings have been.
Yet another landmark which Bink’s terrible illness has stolen from her. From all of us.
And much as she adores her nephew and wants to spend time with him, she can’t manage a weekend away from home to see him.
But this is Sunday and Sunday is a day for good news and there is: very good news.
Bink has decided, now, a date for going into the Priory. She always wanted to come with us on our family holiday to Scotland for her younger sister’s half term at the end of October. After that she will start inpatient treatment, by 2nd of November.
When she was in the Bethlem Hospital, years ago, her therapist hit on a clever way of motivating her to overcome her OCD.
“What would you like to do more than anything else in the world?”
“Take my baby sister swimming,” Bink said.
Every new thing she managed to touch, every ritual she overcame, helped bring her nearer to that goal.
So it will be this time, in the Priory. Every new victory, every tiny battle won, will bring Bink closer, not just to her nephew, but perhaps even to giving him a cousin one day.
(PS And here he is this morning going to church. It is a twenty minute walk: we were half way there when a complete stranger stopped his car, opened his boot and gave us the biggest umbrella I’ve ever seen not on a stand. All the world loves a baby…)