Ageing – 4

I went for my compulsory 76 driving test in December and was told his only complaint was I wasn’t quick enough off the mark at lights etc. – which held traffic up – but I won’t push it – I know my reactions and the ability of the car best. An old boy of 88 locally went into the side of a car and wrote it off, the second car in 2 years.

Slow on the off

I am distressed I have not heard from my cousin for 2 years; as he is my only remaining relative, I would like to know if they are still in the land of the living. Would you be a dear and phone them for me? My address book has suddenly disappeared – I will have to put their number down later in the letter.    … X has found my address book though so here is their phone number – no, it isn’t – I haven’t got it!! Here is the address. She is more with it – it’s a pity I’m not! – so I hope she answers the phone.

They came out to tea on Saturday – he is pretty sick with cancer though of which bit of him I don’t know – but he battles on very cheerfully – so we enjoyed their coming.

Poor old X, it’s so hard when she’s helped everyone for so long. It must be hard for Y – she said in a letter when she goes to the nursing home the father sits with his head in his hands saying he wishes he was dead, and X bursts into tears – so unlike her.

Now I’m on 2 different anti-bs, to be taken at different times, so I have to write when down carefully, or I certainly wouldn’t remember if I’d taken them or not.

Isn’t getting old sad? I’m not going to put anything in writing or help any but mine own in future – the stress is too much. The most trivial things put me in a tizz – making hair appts, then cancelling them, and the like.

He’s in a bad way, looks awful and really isn’t all there – and [wife] keeps telling him so. I’m sure he shouldn’t be driving

Today we didn’t wake up until 9.30 so had to put a move on to get to church. Lovely little building and a good service. One of the congregation was to be 96 this week – she walked down the v. steep path to the church in a more spritely way than I!

She had to take over the driving on the motorway as I was sleepy. It’s incredible how easily I go to sleep when I sit down during the day, though I find it difficult to sleep more than 6-7 hours in bed!

Nuisances of life 2

A woman had run her car into the side of X’s the day before and had really upset him – especially as it was just after he’d left Y sitting down while he collected the car from parking place – and not only lost her but the car too! and they finished up being driven round in a police car.

The owners will spend only the barest minimum in upkeep. We’re still waiting to have a leaky loo and roof fixed, to say nothing of the bathroom and kitchen redecorating. There isn’t one window ledge that hasn’t got paint flaking off – two grow moss! and the wallpaper is about 12 years old – and looks it. The carpet is worn down to the felt in a number of places and the previous tenants not only smoked very heavily, but apparently kept various animals locked inside all day while they worked…

[Re irritating habits of the public touching display of painted silk goods] I forgot to tell you about a card with a piece of similar weaving with ‘Feeling swatch’ written on it! Would this keep your customers’ grimy hands off?!

At least I managed to find a couple of books and a pleasant card for X’s birthday – though at the moment most of our ferries are carrying the same cargo backwards and forwards several times across Cook Strait because the shunters at Picton are not working overtime in protest at a new roster, and the Union refuse to fill the place of any man who is absent for any reason, and then the whole gang say they can’t safely unload any wagons! Anyway the card went by air.

My new pullets were no sooner given the freedom of the field than they wormed their way through the hedge in order to grub about under the blackberry and other scrub on my neighbour’s side. What’s more, though five of them returned for the night, the sixth insisted on roosting in an inaccessible bush – so that if it started laying I certainly wasn’t going to get the eggs.

Making a run for it

I don’t know why, but all my greens have come to nothing, and though we got beans they never really recovered from the sheep’s attack. There are lots of tomatoes, but I doubt whether most of them will ripen now and quite a number are infested with caterpillars that make large holes in them – though whether to go in or to come out I haven’t discovered and it is a matter of some importance!

Care home 2

Tomorrow I’m going to X for a cataract op on the second eye and there for a couple of nights. After that I hope to drive better but doubt I shall dare take on the motorway. Impossible to enjoy Y [care home] but it’s a huge relief to have Z [partner] reasonably well looked after by exceptionally nice overworked carers… Sorry such a dull letter but life here is fairly limited!

The VIP went to our old people’s home. No one seemed to recognise him, so he approached one of the more alert-looking old dears sitting around the walls. ‘Do you know who I am?’ he asked. ‘No, dear,’ replied the resident, ‘but don’t worry. Just ask at the desk: they’ll tell you.’

The Mayor’s visit

X has Alzheimer’s and, thankfully, is blissfully unaware of his wife’s death. He’s as happy as Larry in the nursing home, and isn’t, thank goodness, at all difficult to look after. He loves having visitors, especially when they bring him sweets and biscuits!

Life in this place becomes more and more of a horror story – about 90% of the inmates senile and the rest have given up interest in much other than their health and the food. Lucky old X jumped ship in good time to avoid all this… Awful as old age is I can escape into books, libraries and pubs – so far!

His memory is alas extremely short-term but it helps in that he no longer remembers long enough to worry.

I hate the story about your aunt – old age is terrible. Our turn is coming and I’m dreading it.

Herewith new address – a sort of old people’s home with extra nursing care. Rather a drear thing but the lesser of two evils as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cope with X’s problems here. We are there on a month’s trial so may well get chucked out as X is not good at cooperating with nurses.

Oh dear – Xmas – what a bore – I can imagine paper hats at the home. My bed-sit in the home is 12×12 so you can imagine I can’t take much other than a bed and 2 chairs!

I am around elderly people a lot and although most of them are interesting and wonderful I sometimes find myself thinking about old age. I have had some absolutely hysterical lunches with X, when I have visited her at the [care home]. It really makes you think when you see how people are treated in these homes and the amount they cost is horrendous.

Ageing

My father died early in the year. It was a sad event, but a release in one way. He didn’t really know what was going on any more… My mother did seem to realise he had died, although she cannot communicate. She just cried and looked very depressed on the day of the funeral. She seems to have recovered her spirits: with dementia it is just impossible to tell what they are thinking.

Did you know that mum’s two brothers died this summer? I’m afraid we are in those years when people who seemed immortal suddenly are not!

Here not much happens so it becomes increasingly difficult to make it happen – staff shortage but no shortage of confused residents. They are now building on in order to take day centre people thus adding to still more confusion!

X has had a minor stroke I think, so shuffles along like a 90-year-old and gets lost for words and gets so annoyed when I can’t guess what he means – I am getting better at it, I think! He still drives to the local shop when I don’t go out – he must have his daily paper! He takes the dog round the garden and worries where the cat is all day and at night too! It is rather trying!

a bit doddery

I got an unexpected phone call from a writer. He’s written a biography of Mary Wesley who was among many things in MI5. Apparently I’m one of the few – in fact only person – old enough to remember her when she was married to her first husband. Having discovered that I’m ninety he was in a great hurry to see me!

I’m getting so dotty that I shall soon have to get a Carer which is depressing – all my old friends seem to be either dead or in nursing homes and not liking the intense loneliness which goes with most old age.

I was so sorry to hear of your mother’s sickness and dying, it’s a hard time to through, the best comfort is to be thankful she has no more suffering and problems. I sometimes wish my mother could see something then I realise she is far better off and happier where she is anyhow!

Time flies by

This year I have been prescribed my first set of reading glasses. I can read quite well without them, however at the end of the day I have to say the world did have very fuzzy edges. So, off I went, and was told that many people required glasses by middle age. How very cheerful. My eldest sister is 60 tomorrow. I have to say that the realisation of this made me pull up with a real jolt. I never thought it when she turned 50: even though I am somewhat younger, that didn’t sound anything like 60 sounds – sort of aged. So there, you have another 10 years of being young.

I am glad that you are doing new things.

new ventures

 

I have to say that as one gets older ones group of friends seems to dwindle, or you see them less often, or something. I too have felt the need to do something different and meet new people.

 

I must admit I also worry a little about how quickly the years seem to be going, the birthdays coming around much more quickly than they used to and the realisation that middle age is not so far off! However I always think of X who bought and started a sheep farm at the age of 50. She is in her mid-70s now, with the farm quite successful… How one avoids or copes with the bodily ills rather than those of the mind I don’t know.

…a year since we set off from Southampton. It is amazing that time can go so quickly. I keep thinking of what we were doing a year ago – getting up and having rolls on deck, having dinner with that dreadful man (remember the sardine appetiser?), charging up and down B deck.

I surprised everyone, and not least of all myself, by having a stroke in middle of June. At least I was sensible and was able to rest and recover lounging in the garden – I felt like the last of the Colonial Empire – laying back under the trees for hours on end. Don’t be shocked at being 50. I was 70 this year – whatever next!

X’s surviving brother, 89, came over from Spain in the summer and while here did two stints on television – one in ‘The Bill’ and one for a new series of ‘As Time Goes By’ with Judi Dench – great for his morale but stressful.

I thought I felt old when the children of friends started getting married, but it’s even worse when people my age announce that they’ve retired or are thinking of retiring. Where have the last fifty-two years gone to? X’s father died just two days after his eighty-seventh birthday. Although he’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years, and his death was, in fact, a happy release from his torment, X and I were suddenly acutely aware of having moved up a generation, as it were. It’s not that we feel any older (or wiser!), just nearer to the other end of our lives.

 

Telling it how it is

X remarked how well we all looked: retirement must be good for us, and he really must try it some time. I said, ‘What a good idea’ and hoped afterwards that I had not sounded too enthusiastic. But it is really high time that he did – he’s sixty-nine, and so conservative that John Bull would look liberal pink by comparison – and by and large he’s about 80% responsible for whatever failings in morale there are among the staff locally.

You said you thought I might be too young to see the hang-ups, I can see the hang-ups and aren’t blind to them but if a person grows up looking at what they might be getting out of life had they done something else they wouldn’t enjoy the decisions they have made. Anything works if you try. If only you could be here to see… you’d understand. I am young but am really quite grown up too and I like to look at things in a positive sense ‘cos if I always think negative I’ll be a negative person when I’m older.

I proposed an amendment which supported the declared intention to help poor people … I wasn’t allowed to get away with ‘poor people’ – it was variously described as Dickensian, patronising, etc. and ‘lower income groups’ wormed their way in instead.

That reminds me of a decorator that was here just before we moved in. He was meant to re-varnish the windows which were heavily water stained and badly neglected; so what does he suggest? ‘You’re wasting your money on these windows – you’ll never make them look good. Why not re-paint the kitchen instead?’

In the course of the day I managed to drop my old glasses, and broke the frame, which was convenient in that it saved any question of trying to use the frame again (which I did the last time I had a change of prescription). The nice young optometrist looked at it and said it had been a nice frame once – all the rage about the time he was starting work twenty years ago.

the frig

Men are wonderful inventions – X gaily went off leaving the refrigerator full of an odd chunk of bread and a bit of cheese and various jugs of orange and milk – I suppose he hoped Y would deal with it, or perhaps he imagined it would keep for a month. The house seems to be having the clean-up that can’t be managed when he is there, and the sheds have lost a lot of treasures by my unkindly hand. 16 old tobacco tins for storing hypothetical screws and nails went quite firmly… I hope he doesn’t notice that a pair of waders that had rotted over the bunion spots have gone from the shed as I am sure they were very treasured but weren’t ever used judging by the spiders and cobwebs surrounding them.

Second childishness & mere oblivion

“This place is much like an open prison – full of dotty confused people – luckily I get taken out quite a lot. Nearly all the carers and nurses here are nice and just one or two sadists.”

the volunteer choir visits the care home at Christmas
carol singing at the care home

“… the carol singers form only at Christmas and go to various elderly people’s homes in the fortnight before Christmas. This has been rewarding and depressing. Today we went to a dementia wing, to entertain the residents. Half of our audience appeared to be asleep, but the other half really seemed to enjoy it, and were quite attentive. I hope they did, as it must be very boring for them many days.”

“…heard from X today and we are rather glad to hear that he plans to give up the estate – although it is lovely and proved an immense interest for him I do think perhaps it will shortly be a bit much – if he is getting as old as we are as quickly, if you see what I mean!”

“I nearly settled on a Help the Aged flat at X but fortunately they had all gone by the time I got around to writing, as I then began to feel better and couldn’t imagine why I wanted nothing at all to do and a warden to summon when in extremis!”

“Everything seems to happen! I am now in X Nursing Home… Forgive me for not writing – all happened so quickly – I will get in touch – please don’t forget me.”