The frequent sound of a hacking cough told her husband’s story. It was not a smoker’s cough, but the sound of lungs full of darkness, losing their fight for health. A chest that had inhaled too much asbestos, unaware of the death sentence it would bring with it. He only left the house to shuffle to the front gate and back. As time went by, the sound of him would make you pray for release, an end to it. And that end came, torturously slow.
But Betty would have told you a different story. For her, it was unbearable, and yet, she didn’t want to lose him, her childhood sweetheart and only ally. She didn’t want to handle their difficult son by herself; she was already worn out trying to stand up to him when his dad was too weak to say or do anything.
Davy had just got out of prison for attacking another man after an Old Firm match. The man’s only offence had been to wear the wrong colour, to support what Davy viewed was the wrong team. In a drunken, and Betty guessed drugged, rage, her son had taken out a knife and stabbed the Rangers’ supporter three times in the stomach. He was lucky to be alive. Davy had got 3 years for that. Afterwards, he had come home unrepentant, slurring on methadone, and an unwelcome presence in the already darkening house. When his dad died, he cried for a while, and then took the emergency money from Betty’s purse to go and drown his sorrows.
Betty was a strong wee lady though. Her troubles did not beat her down, but forced her to learn how to carry them. The more Davy pushed her, the tougher she became. It took years for her to get him out of the house. Years of hoping he would change, and years of thudding disappointment. Yet all the while, Betty cooked her Sunday roast and cabbage, took her tartan trolley down to the shops, and hung out her washing. I’m sure she did more, but those were the only visible signs of her little, heroic life.