I was walking round and round the supermarket this morning frustratedly looking for the very last item on my list.
I passed an older couple and glanced at them briefly and smiled.
The woman smiled back and then walked purposely towards me and placed both of her hands on my trolley. I was taken aback and wondered if she had mistaken me for someone else.
She was beautifully dressed with expertly applied makeup and was, I guess, in her mid to late 60s. I looked around and noticed her husband hurriedly walking off in the other direction and around the corner out of sight.
She moved closer to me and held her face uncomfortably close to mine. She looked me up and down and said, “You are very tall my dear, did you know that?” I smiled and said, "Yes, I do know that but I quite like being tall as I can always reach the top shelves.”
She laughed, her eyes as big as saucers. I quickly realised that there was an underlying problem, the nature of which became more transparent with every word she spoke.
Lost in my thoughts for a few seconds I wondered why I had given up online shopping and why the hell this kind of thing always happens to me. She tightly squeezed my arm to get my attention again.
She asked me if I had heard of Scotland. Her voice increased in volume and a few passers by turned to stare at us. I told her that funnily enough I had lived there for some time.
"Do you have a Scottish husband?" she asked. She then told me she was born in Edinburgh but had made the mistake of marrying 'one of those ghastly Poms" (Englishman).
I tried walking away hoping her husband, whom I assumed to be the ghastly Pom, wasn't too far away. She followed behind me asking if I knew how the Scots managed to beat the English during their many wars. She laughed raucously and told me that the Scots wore their kilts into battle but they did not wear anything under them. She said that when they lifted up their skirts, the English were so frightened by their huge penises that they had no choice but to retreat.
All at the top of her voice.
I laughed a little awkwardly and looked around trying to find her husband. I finally found him hovering in a nearby aisle, red faced and no doubt wondering how it was all going to end.
I tried to reassure him that she was fine and that she was helping me find a grocery item I was looking for. She told him that I was looking for a drink that I could pour into an ice cream cone. He winked at me and suggested that I might find such a product in the ice cream section.
She then grabbed his hand tightly in hers. She told me that her husband was very smart for an Englishman, that he had four computers and that he was now working as a paratrooper.
He looked at me, shook his head and the colour instantly drained from his face.
He then burst into tears.
It clearly was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was not sure what to do. She was totally oblivious to his grief and happily prattled on about his non existent life as a paratrooper.
I touched his arm, asked him if he was alright and checked if there was anything I could do.
He said he was fine.
This couple reminded me of something important today. And no, strangely enough, it was nothing to do with the Scottish Wars of Independence. It was something a little more profound.
Carers are our unsung heroes and they have a huge battle to contend with. Many are fighting their wars alone.
Today I made a pledge to do something more for the Carers of this world. A gift, some flowers, a kind word, a meal, a few hours adult/child sitting, a donation, a phone call, whatever, just something positive to show a bit more care.
And with that, Ernie, Sonia and I shared a cup of coffee and had a good chat. About wars, Scotsmen and all manner of varied topics that she wanted to cover.
I say go and hug a Carer that you may know today. This week. This month. Whenever. Just do it.
They truly need all the support they can get to fight the never ending and relentless battle they face day in and day out.
Some quick statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:
2.6 million unpaid carers in Australia more than 770,000 carers are primary carers
300,000 carers are under the age of 24
150,000 carers are under the age of 18
over 1.5 million carers are of working age (18-64)
31,600 Indigenous carers are over the age of 15
520,000 carers are over 65 years of age
estimated annual replacement value of care provided in 2012 is over $40.9 billion
it is estimated that carers provided 1.32 billion hours of unpaid care in 2010 with productivity loss estimated at $6.5 billion
On average carers spend approximately 40 hours per week providing care. It is estimated that carers of someone with a mental illness spend on average 104 hours per week in the caring role.