I take a trolley round the local old people’s home every once in a blue moon, we have a well peopled rota. One old chap who comes as a day visitor for lunch and to have his washing done and generally have the once over, tells me he has had more than a hundred birthdays and seems to study me for my reaction. He is as surprised as I am that he has had so many. To have survived is an achievement worthy of a telegram from the Queen.
He has a lot to say for himself. He’s been a stone mason and a shepherd and came from South Wales originally. Love brought him north, he tells me. He usually likes to buy something. His wallet, much thumbed and rather grimy with food is wedged into his pocket and his fingers no longer have the strength to pull it out. He asks for help, which I can give without delving too deeply. He is not short of notes. I suppose, after a while, when you can no longer get to the shops, a pension stock piles.
He settles for two small bars of chocolate, a packet of chocolate digestives and a banana, but because he asks in Welsh and I only have a smattering I ask one of the staff to help. I don’t want to get his order wrong and today he seems most insistent. When the wallet is safely stowed the chocolate bar is immediately unwrapped and enjoyed. In fact it gives so much enjoyment I have to come back to sneak a look. His pleasure gives me pleasure. He asks for help to unwrap the second bar, his licked fingers fumble with this one and he is gently dissuaded. It is nearly lunch time and he sees the sense in keeping it for when he is at home.
All the staff are women and most are young. Without exception they are kind and patient.
I was wondering what it must be like to be really old. Could it be so different from 60, say? ( I am so close now, but can remember when that age was distant and seemed almost obscene.) Affronts to dignity must be no less painful, just more frequent, I suppose. Or is it that the older you get the less you care? Perhaps nature’s way of softening the blow is to let everything decline gradually. You see and hear less, most reactions have slowed, just getting up a task and a half.
We went for Sunday lunch at a local hotel. The Boxer chose roast pork. It was slow going, just cutting up the food is hard never mind eating it. ‘How’s your dinner?’ Not a very original question, but the reply was heartfelt ‘Lovely. I don’t often have a roast dinner.’
How true! We don’t often have Sunday Lunch, the day seems too precious to spend it in the kitchen. I want to be out doing something vigorous, not indoors cooking and eating. But yesterday, I conceded and the Boxer’s pleasure gave us pleasure.