Learning

Two days ago I at last managed to remember and get to a session of a seminar I signed on for, and paid (!), on the gloomy sounding subject of ‘Practical Preparation for my last years and my death’. I managed to miss the first four of the six sessions (which perhaps says something about my subconscious?)  I think I really joined because the syllabus set out in the blurb didn’t appear to say anything at all about preparations for death, as opposed to dying. This session was led by the doctor in charge of palliative care at the Hospice where 90% of their patients are dying from cancer; and she was very consoling about the process of dying, but brought a nun along with her as she was no expert, she said, on the spiritual needs of patients.

I think as far as algorithms are concerned my mental age is about 3. When my study notes gave us the one for finding a number out of 100, it seemed to me that I had never been taught the heuristic method (that is a lovely word, which I have never before come across; I was quite surprised to find it in my dictionary at all!)  It didn’t help that the study notes kept on talking about larger, when it meant smaller, and vice versa. That particular set must have been prepared in a hurry: it had several similar mistakes in it, making the whole subject all the more confusing.

What’s the number?

We were led by a German professor of the most phenomenal and terrifying eruditeness. It was really quite a strain listening to him for more than half an hour at a time – though in fact he had a pleasant light touch and remarkably good colloquial English (thanks to living in Glasgow for 8 years and New York for 12 – without a trace of either accent, would you believe?)

After qualifying for one profession and trying others, he’s now half way through studying to become a doctor whilst the wife is the main provider – quite a thing with 4 children with the eldest 13.

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!

Keeping fit – 2

I am taking fresh carrot juice and raw veg and fruit a lot – no meat or milk or eggs, but I do have nuts and tinned fish. It is supposed to help the arthritis in my back, and I am feeling better after 6 months. Also I have given up blood pressure pills and am a bit lighter too.

The boys have had 6 of 7 lessons and have making good progress. X is working so hard at freestyle and backstroke but is somewhat hampered by a natural tendency to sink!

A tendency to sink

What went awry with your dentist’s efforts? I’m lucky as X (who isn’t everyones choice) is as good sculpting teeth as rock and clay and will do odd things like sticking the front tooth that flaked apart together again tho’ he admitted it was unorthodox, and he charges me mates’ rates.

We had 3 large boxes of chocs given us at Xmas and I can’t resist them. I’ve bought an exercise video but I fear it hasn’t helped just sitting beside the TV!! I must get up and do some NOW.

She goes back to the clinic for a check-over on Thursday, and provided the bones are still in the right place, she will be having the pins out and a change of plaster – hopefully to one below the knee. Over the last couple of days she has been putting weight on her leg quite unconsciously and on Sunday was doing slow motion ballet leaps across the sitting room – her crutches providing the wherewithal whilst she was in the air.

I haven’t heard about your mini jogger – is it round and about a metre in diameter? X has one like that under the grand piano – I can’t really see him or his wife bouncing on it tho’. [Both about 85!] I am doing my exercises and I’m sure they loosen me up – but I don’t walk as much as I’m told to – there are so many things to do that you can see the use of the time.

Characters 2

He sounds an odd character – I’m astounded you managed to refrain from crowning him for long enough to get to like him!

I’ve got a terrifying new help – X phoned to say she’d been asked to work in a school library starting right away – 2 days notice after 4 years but she did give me this woman’s name who lo and behold came the next day – large, loud and bright red lipstick. She got going with great gusto and from various remarks obviously thought my house was ‘feelthy’. She keeps running her hand over lamp shades and saying X must have been v. short. How she manages to take up twice as much dirt in the cleaner I can’t think – and she likes cleaning the oven! Anyway she said she’d been with my friend so I phoned her and she told me how lucky I was and she liked her so much she’d left her something in her Will – so I’d better try harder!

The people who went there are falling apart. The old man is evidently impossible – won’t let his daughter or her husband have any friends there, let alone the children’s friends, won’t let them use the telephone. When the grand-daughter was baby sitting for the neighbours, X said had grandfather done anything about getting a ram for the sheep as it was getting late in the season, and he was told Grandfather doesn’t like anything like that, he won’t even watch kissing on TV.

We made the former president who was such a trial an honorary life member – perhaps in the hope that she would thereby be persuaded to adopt more statesmanlike attitudes and keep her fingers out of the day to day running – but I think it’s unlikely to happen. She has been putting about that when the treasurer goes off to X halfway through next year as he is planning to do that she will become treasurer in his place (on the rather odd grounds that it would be good for her husband, who had a stroke last year, to have to concentrate on some of the detail of it!)

We heard from X this week, and were amused to hear he listened to the Test Match with the radio under the bedclothes at 3 a.m. – he doesn’t age much!! He must be at least 75.

She’s gardening mad and has rebuilt the garden too. I play bridge with her, she’s much taller than I am and twice as large! and is a bit overpowering, but I’ve given up making too quick opinions about people and hope we’ll click (tho’ life style is a bit daunting)!!

She’s quite the funniest person I’ve met, and she likes everybody, except the husband of her last boss who would come into the office smelling of drink and be very rude to them and to their clients, so she complained to the Manageress who said she had it in hand and it wouldn’t happen again! And it didn’t.

X’s party was all go. Y home wearing the awful red velvet coat his father wore when we first knew him – and brown suede shoes! And his hair looked as though he hadn’t done it since he left months ago.

party attire

Church/religion (2)

I do still play Bridge on Monday mornings, so I am mixing with some non-church folk. Not getting far yet with them on the spiritual side – but I chip away at it. And next week I start ‘wife sitting’ with a woman in our church who does not dare stay alone when her husband is away. (It is not really a problem since my dog had cancer and I had to have her put down recently.)

Met also one of his daughters who has 6 boys (very Catholic family); we sang grace at the table.

He built his own house and was very proud of it – with first class materials, solid enough to last many centuries. I can’t compete with that, but I can go to church and pray, as he suggested also!

I found the article and subsequent letters about the man with the gift of tongues very interesting. The magazine showed a nice balance between supportive and sceptical letter! It all accorded very well with such experience as I have had. I must confess that I have always been a bit sceptical about the gift of interpretation of tongues, and have regarded the gift itself as much more for encouraging and bringing joy to the person who has it than for the enlightenment of other people. I have occasionally been at meetings where someone has spoken in tongues and someone else has interpreted – but have been disappointed by the rather platitudinous nature of the interpretation, which did not seem worthy of the Holy Spirit (though maybe the Spirit did not think we were ready to accept anything more startling?)

I have just joined a new Church – OXYGEN LIFE! Very lively, described as a New Testament Church, bursting with young families with children. I think I am the only person over 70! No church doctrine to worry about – only the Bible.

We had lunch and then a video of the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury – or at least of bits of it: about 40 minutes worth out of a couple of hours. The atmosphere was not altogether improved by the tape being put into fast forward at intervals, to speed up some of the interminable processions with which the affair started, which invariably caused the clergy widows to burst out laughing.

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the clergy are not amused!

X is on a course with Mahikari – which she has gone overboard about. I fear for her a little and am in the middle of a huge book about it, but have warned her if money is involved be suspicious, there have been so many rip offs with various so called Divine Calls.

It was a stupid meeting, really. We had been asked by the powers that be in the diocese to examine the problem of ‘Sexual Harassment’ – about which I found I had nothing to say, except that it appeared to be another name for temptation which we have known for a long long time. So producing ‘Guide lines’ (not for it, but to counter it) seemed rather a waste of time.

We have had a jolly two days tidying up our wills and tomorrow we’re going to see the funeral people and choose what we’ll have and I hope pay for it – and then we can get on living!!!

Holidays (3)

We’ve been talking about a little holiday for so long I got onto that and was all agog to go to Kakadu up in the Northern Territory of Oz – but the rather dubious promoter wanted the earth for the trip – all based on coach trips. We put it off and really I don’t think a coach trip would be any good for X – he’d sleep his way through Australia and hate being woken up to look at aboriginal paintings etc – and the flies!! So I turned to the Islands again but they look v. artificial apart from Norfolk where we’ve been – and where Y and Z went on their honeymoon. The coach tour was organised for hotels and meals – which appealed to me – tho’ usually I hate the vast amount they expect you to eat. Now X says let’s go to the Bay of Islands.

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asleep on the coach tour

 

X invited Y [younger relative] to stay so he went down on Sunday to come back the Tuesday week. By Saturday X was looking for an early flight! … I gather they went swimming & McDonald’s, hydrosliding & McDonald’s, ice skating & McDonald’s, movies & McDonald’s etc.

8 adults, 6 2/9 grandchildren, 4 cats and 10 bikes, trikes and scooters – a recipe for chaos? We all arrived at a very smart 4 bedroom house … Just at the moment I’m relaxing at the hot pool cafe while the 1st instalment of family change for the pool.

She said X had told her I’d always wanted to go to Georgia and she said it was very handy to Delhi and I must go and stay. I’ve just had a look at my globe and think it must have been Tibet we were talking about, the other place I want to go to! and yes Tibet looks possible.

We think we’ll try and organise ourselves ahead of time and go to Tasmania next year – all the crowd we used to go round with lived there at one time. I don’t think it’s as exciting as some places I’d choose but doesn’t move so fast!

We found a large stand of kauris and found them quite awesome – very odd such huge trunks and funny twiggy branches on top.

Friends just back from there [Cairo] found it dirty and rather frightening – apparently not changed from our time there, except the pyramids are crumbling so much you can’t climb them. I gathered from an article I saw recently ‘they’ had found some new burial places – aren’t we hypocrites? – once the bones are dry or crumbled it’s okay to dig them up – earlier it’s the most heinous crime of body snatching.

Ageing (3)

I really need to keep a diary: the days get all mixed up in one’s mind, and most of their contents disappears into the rubbish bin of Forgetfulness, more or less without trace! I really don’t recommend the 80s!

I gathered he did his faint in the course of trying to pull up a bush he was transplanting, having dug all round it. It sounded as though X had left him inert in the hole while she went for the doctor, but perhaps it wasn’t quite like that.

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pulling up the rose bush

 

Poor old X – when we came here [14 years before] he and his wife used to make themselves responsible for the little church, mowing, cleaning down the walls and windows, etc. – and only two years ago he was still mowing a quarter acre of grass around his house, and walking every day to his son’s house, about a mile each way for his evening meal. Now he’s just about blind, and progressively slower on his feet and finding great difficulty with his vocabulary (aren’t we all?). He was very worried today when we got into church because he had lost his collection envelope, and kept feeling for it. Eventually when we got him home we went and searched high and low but it was nowhere to be found, in drawers or pockets, though everybody said that his son would have got it ready for him last night. After lunch the son rang up to thank us and it appeared that two months ago, to save the problem of losing the envelope, they started a bank order transfer – but X had forgotten that.

Poor dear seems to have completely lost his marbles, it’s very putting offing hearing the queer things people here do and say as they get beyond their years.

I don’t mind how long I live, I’ve lots I want to do, so long as I’m not beholden to someone else for decisions and have to be looked after (and I’m sure the family feel the same!!)

I’ve just been to wake him up – 2.45 – when he eventually came to he said, ‘What day is it?’ I said Monday but he decided we had Monday yesterday!

I shall be able to take my daily walk – which is already having a remarkable effect on the evening size of my ankles!

Our next door neighbour was brought home for Christmas, and we popped in to see him. He looks better than I expected physically, but just can’t get his words together, poor dear – even when she gives him half a chance, and she can talk the back leg off a donkey.

Adult learning

At last I have found a good class to go to. My  85 yr old tutor finally gave up, so this was a relief, as none of us liked to stop going. The teacher I now have is full of enthusiasm and telling us to try every type of medium and painting with cloth, sticks, fingers etc., gouache, that I’d never tried before. Quite a change from my ‘primp-sy’ watercolours.

I have not been to many dancing classes very much at all this year. It has been too much what with everything else. I think I have been rather stressed. The last class for the year should be tomorrow night, so I will go to that, and give myself the idea that this is what I am to do next year. I do enjoy going really, and it is nice to see the others who go, so I must make the effort.

I’ve managed to find time to do a wild flower course one evening a week, mainly because a friend wanted to do it and I went to keep her company. Most of it was far too technical for me (memories of school biology lessons flooded back!) but I enjoyed seeing all the slides the lecturer showed us, and the field trips were good. One beautiful summer’s evening, we went to see a preserved wild flower meadow. After about an hour of being told all the Latin names of everything we were seeing, my brain just seized up! So while all these really enthusiastic botanists were crawling around on their hands and knees examining every last petal and leaf, I just sat and admired the wonderful views.

day-dreamer

Encouragement

[Thanks to the people who sent these letters! All were lovely folk and sadly missed.]

[Quote from Unknown: A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.]

Thanks for the pictures – I am fascinated by them and wish I could do anything as interesting. Please, if it’s not too much trouble, could I have a photo of ‘Tribute to Mr. Campbell’ – I long to see it. I have a feeling that you are developing into quite an impressive artist and that you will soon get wider recognition.

This is to thank you again for the very great pleasure it was to me to meet you… It is a very long time since I have had such a happy afternoon, of so much interest and intense enjoyment… My interest and appreciation were so great that I actually felt a lifting of the weight of years – one of the hazards of extreme old age is a kind of creeping inertia and withdrawal from the present, and you have certainly thrust that aside for me. To see you again is something to look forward to.

creeping inertia

Do not NOT let other artists or critics disturb you – let them rabbit on – pick and choose that which you find of help and do your own thing… I don’t know what you are trying to achieve – be yourself !!!

I saw this gorgeous painting of irises of yours in the window. It really is lovely… When I went past the shop on my return there was a different picture in the window – lovely too of poppies! It seems to me your painting has developed enormously with fabulous colour. Why on earth do you have some people anti, I wonder. It is so refreshing to have flower paintings so full of life and colour which after all is the characteristic of flowers not the neat ladylike little bunches with most colour drained out of them.

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.