Ageing 6

Did X tell you he’s had tennis elbow? Sawing, I think. He had a cortisone shot which nearly drove him up the wall but it cleared it quickly until undoing a coffee jar set it off again. I think it’s made him realise there’s a lot of heavy work that won’t get easier here – sad.

dangerous coffee jar

Old Mrs X who’s now at a nursing home at $10 a day [obviously a big cost at the time!] came over for the birthday partly. Poor old duck bursts into tears on the slightest thing and her daughter-in-law gets so cross with her. I think she’d far rather die and the latter keeps saying ‘she’s revoltingly well’ – poor dear. When I’m incapable of looking after myself I trust I will be allowed to retire quickly and gracefully.

Life here 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.

Did I ask you before if you ever knew the X family – the old man is here and was a great friend of your uncle years ago. Alas, he’s awfully nice, but has lost most his memory.

I keep remembering that one friend’s mother started a sheep farm when she was 50, and was still going to sheep breeders conferences when she was in her 80s (and when her friends were moving into nursing homes). She is now in a home, and I think her memory has gone. However she would be over 90 now.

One of the things that I think of is that I don’t have any children, and who will look after me like X has her father? I do have nephews and a niece who would probably do the legal things for me when and if necessary. But it does look like a lonely sort of time as an old person if you are housebound or less active than you were in younger days. I keep hoping that as I am a baby boomer and there will be lots of us, there may be other old and lonely single people to keep me company.

Last year she had a stroke. Went in a hospital and then in a rehabilitation programme in an elderly home. But it did not work out. Her balance was gone and her dementia gets worse. Now after almost a year she had another small stroke, and it is difficult to talk with her. We believe this is almost the end. She is 88 and it is all right for her and for us that the end is coming.

Everything seems to disappear! I am now in the nursing home. I will get in touch – please don’t forget me.

Loss and condolences

[With news of a friend’s death] She got such pleasure from your visits, your friendship and your wonderful letters and, on her behalf, I thank you for that. She was very fond of you.

I know you will be shattered by the news that X has gone – and I send you much love and sympathy.

I seem to have had a catalogue of misfortune in my Christmas mail. I heard from X this week. His wife recovered from her stroke a year ago, but the Alzheimer’s is worse than ever and she just doesn’t know him. Poor man. And Y – old colleague – lost his wife just before Christmas. There is no understanding how the good Lord arranges these things! The moral seems to be to keep one’s possessions and affairs tidier than I generally manage to do.

I am afraid you are going to miss X terribly and I am so sorry. I do think strokes are the absolutely worst thing that can happen to a person – but if it does happen, it’s best to go quickly, don’t you think?

I feel it is like a sort of club when we have lost someone very close and when it is someone in the family: father/sister. A bit of life has gone that no one else can possibly know about us. That sounds v. muddled but you know what I mean. She was my sister and he your father.

Do you recall that nice and long-suffering woman X who prepared the salmon lunch at my cousin’s house? I heard from her a few days ago, returning my Christmas letter to my cousin, and reporting that she had died quite suddenly when she had been planning a party for her 90th birthday. She wrote very kindly of her patience etc. in ‘the many years of physical pain allotted to her’ and described her as ‘a great woman’ but it seems to me that X herself deserved the accolade as much.

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returning your letter

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