Uppers and downers

“She has been busy organising her exhibition. Busy doing a million things in fact! She’s been enjoying the burst of energy these drugs have brought, I think, and has been quite funny about it all. He seems to be standing the pace too!”

“X got asthma but we got some medicine and he’s heaps better now. Just hope we don’t get a hyper reaction to it – sometimes he loses whatever sense of responsibility a 3 year old can be said to have!”

“… won’t be independent for shopping etc. if I have to give up the car – I can’t really quite decide if I ought to stop because of eyes but in the meantime go on! So glad to hear that your eyes were ‘better’ with the different man – it is a completely hit and miss game as far as I understand it and one just to trust them.”

the paediatrician

“…there was time to get X gooed at by the paediatrician at the hospital (‘Isn’t he lovely?… Yes, quite well… Bring him back any time -$31 please!’)”

“I cured myself eventually by announcing to the consultant that his precious blood pressure pills were killing me and I was getting lower and lower in spirits – so had tried without them on my own and found myself feeling better. So we abandoned them and I revived at once and am now full of beans – still short of puff but that is now put down to smoking all my life, until a year ago, instead of ‘heart’ which it was first thought to be… The greatest joy is to feel alive instead of permanently half dead and blacking out at the thought of doing anything… thank goodness this nice consultant is amenable to being told that I don’t want too many of his pills – still having 3 different things to take each day despite knocking the worst one off: what would Maggie [Thatcher] think? I am sure they all cost the earth, and being ancient I get them for free.”

Going, going, gone

“I hope your parents are as well as age allows – it is hard to see loved ones fall apart.”

“I can appreciate how you miss your parents, I have had two husbands, but my mother meant more to me, and it is so natural to wish we had done better for them.”

Dead & buried

“… I miss X a great deal – in a very strange way. And this year I have found more letters which she had written to me. I do not know why I kept them because I am not a ‘keeper’ at all. But of course I know that you must miss her in a very different way and that it cannot be easy for you. It all seemed to happen so suddenly. I think that she found it difficult to cope without X as she had always been dependent on him. And of course all the time she was seriously unwell – a matter she never mentioned and which I sort of forgot about I am ashamed to say.”

“We are going to have to try to talk to my father about selling his house, which won’t be a very pleasant task. He is permanently hospitalised…”

“Yes, I understand how you feel having lost both parents. I also have regrets of not appreciating them fully and of things left unsaid and undone which should have been expressed and put into practice. But that is life.” [And death!]

Partner is getting old and a bit senile, but in a beautiful setting!”

“We’re kept pretty busy, partner endlessly repairing the house and me trying to keep the garden under control. We love the house, and so here we stay, despite the family thinking we should move to something more convenient. In fact they’ve given up, and we have more help, particularly in the garden.

Advancing years bring change

“I have been entertained by X. Her questions have kept my brain ticking over: seven or eight questions on the trot, I am about losing the plot and forced to answer the original one and then managed to change the subject… But, the process starts all over again with the next lot!”

“They came at 3 p.m. and left at 7 so think that was a success – v. pleasant couple. He has something terrifying wrong, with internal bleeding of the brain at intervals when he’s rushed to hospital.”

“…the garden is tiny too and even if far nearer to neighbours than I like I shall have the consolation of being able to shout for help if in despair, and would be heard.”

“I tried to give my brain a brush down and went to Oxford for a residential week. I did a course in Literary Criticism and lived in Somerville College. Quite wore me out…”

“Oh I do wish I had your ability to like living alone.”

“…most of whom I hadn’t seen since we left X [14 years ago]. Many of them were sprightly early-retired in those days; and it was rather strange to see them again after this gap, all looking distinctly elderly. (I of course haven’t changed a bit!)”

group of older people
distinctly elderly

“How is the homespun jersey going? Shall hope to see it on you one day if I ever brave the stairs again – I got so comparatively-able-to-breathe-deeply during the summer, but I think I ought to live in the South of France or somewhere as I am panting again now and appear to be developing asthma or something sinister every time I try to ride up a slight incline on a bike. The answer is to walk of course and I can pant more gently then!!”

“We heard from X… I got a nasty shock to hear he’s 80 – it’s almost into-the-chasm-sounding, rather than over-the-mountain.”

Nothing is certain but…

“… about a year ago I wrote saying (more or less), ‘nice to have known you, goodbye’. He wrote back, having recovered from his latest bout of rigor mortis, saying he was bird watching and going off to Italy!”

“It was such a sudden and tragic loss that I suffered when partner passed away.”

“She was happy at his ‘easy’ end, and I can attest to that as husband was in and out of Hospital Emergency for 17 years before he died – and it was awful to watch it all – and of course more awful for him.”

[re bout of rhinitis] “…and those pills were the ones I didn’t bring. I reluctantly bought some quick relievers – which did work praise be. Horror story of X’s about a visitor who did the same and they didn’t go with some other medicine he took and he died within hours made me a little apprehensive!!”

“I was to and fro all the time and mother died last month just before I arrived back in X. It has all been too depressing for words. I know it was all for the best but it still knocks you for six.”

“Unfortunately X’s grandfather was hit by a car recently and he died a few days later. He was 80 years old so would not have been around much longer anyway but it was not a nice way to go.”

[re X’s garden after her death] “X had lovely iris stylosa – they are gorgeous but I haven’t been out to croon over them for about a fortnight. They made me burst into tears anyhow so perhaps it is as well to leave them uncrooned over.”

Wonderful well for the state we’re in

“…independent for shopping etc. if I have to give up the car – I can’t really quite decide if I ought to stop because of eyes but in the meantime go on.”

Two years ago I slipped and broke both bones in an ankle and was in a wheelchair and incapacitated for almost a year. Though I recovered completely in the physical sense I think that I have not entirely recovered in the psychological sense!”

“So glad to hear that your eyes were ‘better’ with the different man – it is a completely hit and miss game as far as I understand it and one just has to trust them.”

She does have to have radiotherapy… and I am trying to say that the reaction won’t be nearly as bad as it used to be in my day when we centred the beam in a very haphazard way compared to modern techniques.”

“I cured myself eventually by announcing to the consultant that his precious blood pressure pills were killing me and I was getting lower and lower in spirits – so had tried without them on my own and found myself feeling better. So we abandoned them and I revived at once and am now full of beans – still short of puff but that is now put down to smoking all my life, until a year ago, instead of ‘heart’ which it was first thought to be… The greatest joy is to feel alive instead of permanently half dead and blacking out at the thought of doing anything! …thank goodness this nice consultant is amenable to being told that I don’t want too many of his pills – still having 3 different things to take each day despite knocking the worst one off: what would Maggie [Thatcher] think? I am sure they all cost the earth, and being ancient I get them for free.”

“Did I tell you that the eye-man had another go at me? I think with some improvement. This time he did it under a local anaesthetic. I must say it is not natural to allow someone to poke a needle into your eyeball!”

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.”