Z is alone for the morning

The Sage is out, viewing an auction. The phone has been ringing all morning with people desperate to speak to him. No one wanted to speak to me.

“Is it too late to put a few pieces in the next sale?” enquired one caller. I said I wasn’t sure and, indeed, it will depend on what they are – the Sage accepted a piece last night, but that one is a bit special and worth moving things around for.

I’ve just delivered Meals on Wheels. One old lady, well in her nineties, is losing her memory. She looked anxious when I went in and, as I always do, I cheerfully said I was from Meals on Wheels and had brought her lunch, before she had to ask me. “I get confused” she said sadly. I said, sympathetically, that when she doesn’t go out, it’s hard to remember what day it is and who is going to call. She was grateful that I took it seriously, maybe she’s had people trying to jolly her along.

It’s a sad stage to go through, that she knows there is something wrong but can’t do anything about it. A year or two back, she showed me her diary. Her daughter, who visits daily, had written who would call, what should happen that day, the night she played whist, the day she had lunch at the pub, the evening she went to Bingo. Other evenings, she had written “You do not go out tonight.” A few weeks ago, she showed me the diary again. “You do not go out in the evenings” was written. But she still has callers, the home help, the hairdresser and the chiropodist, and she still has her Thursday fish and chips at the pub. She is clean and tranquil and loved. But her mind is going and her body isn’t. She has a lovely face and looks far younger than her age.

She put her hand on my arm gratefully, and asked if she should put the food on a plate. Then she hesitated. I dished up the food – a beef pie with cabbage, carrots, peas, mashed potato and gravy, followed by apple crumble and custard. The cafe does lovely food – the veg were not overcooked and I, who am fussy about quality, would have enjoyed eating it. There was a jug of orange squash ready on the table, covered by a plate and labelled, so I poured some in a glass, took the trayful to the living room and gave it to her. Before I went, I put my arms round her, hugged and kissed her, and she was happy and thanked me for my kindness.

But she is a sweet old lady and invites kindness. I hope, as her mind drifts away, she doesn’t become more agitated. Her daughter loves her very much and looks after her well, but it must be a constant anxiety to her. But I’m sure she is glad to have her mother still.

22 comments on “Z is alone for the morning

  1. martina

    My bosses see a lot of elderly patients. I’m the designated hugger-my favorite duty. It is wonderful to see the smiles and get the hugs back. Even if the people are mentally slipping, everyone needs a hug.

  2. Z

    Yes, a good way of putting it, afc. She has always been so sociable and young for her age, and it’s sad to see her mind going. But she has not lost her personality, which is a lovely one, and I hope she won’t.

    Martina, I think that’s something few people realise, the comfort that touching brings. Many old people receive few hugs or kisses and it means so much to them. You are lovely.

  3. badgerdaddy

    I was just about to write ‘Bloody right, Martina’ and you trump me again, Z. Are you my arch nemesis? Or are you the Bond to my Blofeld?

    Great story. The cafe does indeed to damn fine food, really good value meals. It’s a testament to the place that it is the hub of the community for people of so many different ages.

    It’s also a very lucky meals on wheels that has the likes of you to deliver and to take the time to connect with people. The world moves too damn fast.

  4. Z

    You have to be a bit quicker off the mark, Badge. Four minutes late. Anyway, I thought you were Penfold, but whether that makes me Danger Mouse or Baron Greenback, I’m not sure.

    I think the days of voluntary help of that sort are on their way out. Now that people are going to have to work longer before they receive a pension, and more women work full time, who will be there to do it? It’s already being changed – Bungay’s meals are cooked at a central depot in Beccles and chilled (maybe frozen, not sure) and then distributed to local towns and villages. It’s not the same – the cafe’s food is freshly home-cooked.

    Taking time to connect with people is what blogging’s about, isn’t it?

  5. How do we know

    šŸ™‚ One more warm post for us to remember.. this one i will remember for a long time.

    Right this minute, my mother is around to help, and my fave one liner these days is: You need your mother the most on at least 2 occasions.. once, when you are getting born, and second, when ur kid is getting born.

  6. Wendz

    I have only skimmed this post….partly because I am replete with good food and wine…partly because I am tired….but what I wanted to say is happy belated birthday…and hello again.

    I shall pull up my blog socks, and get with the program and start reading blogs again quite soon…just a bit distracted at the mo…but thinking of you (oddly, I suppose, because I don’t know you).

    Anyway, I’ll soon be back into blogging properly…and will do your lovely posts justice.

  7. Z

    I felt really warm and loving towards her, because she was so sweet and was trying so hard to be brave. I used to be so reserved, and would not venture to embrace someone I hardly knew, but I suppose it’s part of moving up a generation…

    Mothers have their uses! My best wishes to yours (if she knows about your English friend).

    Wendz, hello again! You have other things on your mind, and I’ll still be here when you have time. I’m a bit busy myself for a while, but (this is sad to say, but it’ll probably be November) maybe we can meet up sometime when I’m in London?

  8. elizabeth

    I wanna do this! How do you get into this? Seriously? I love older people. I miss them. I used to have a lot of elderly clients at the firm I used to work in and often had to visit them at home as it was harder for them to come in (stairs).

    I think this was a lovely post btw.

  9. Z

    Elizabeth, hello and thank you. Do you have Meals on Wheels in Canada? Here, it’s run by the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service. But it’s primarily to deliver hot meals to housebound people, not to spend much time with them. I’m sure there are volunteer associations where you can spend time with people and really get to know and help them.

    What I think would be rewarding would be to spend time with someone so that their primary carer – spouse or son/daughter – could have some free time. That way, I’d help two people.

  10. mike

    Ah, the Anxious Daughter Writing Notes In Diaries With Important Words Underlined Stage… my aunt used to do that for my grandmother, before she went into the home.

    I don’t think either of them gave or received many hugs, though. Then, or at any other time…

  11. Imperatrix

    There is an older lady across the street from my sister-in-law’s house. When we were living there, I made a point of going over and chatting every day. It made her so happy, and it really takes such a little amount of time.

    You’re right z, we too often forget to hug.

  12. Z

    It’s because she is now childlike that she has forgotten her Great British Reserve. The writing down helps for a while.

    I’m hopelessly soggy and sentimental, but isn’t it heartwarming to see two old people walking along holding hands? Even if they are simply holding each other up.

    Jen, it was for a moment only. I didn’t really do anything at all.

  13. PI

    Z when I’m in my nineties and even dottier than I am now I hope there will be a loving angel like you. Somehow the kindness of strangers is easier to accept than from one’s nearest and dearest.

  14. Z

    It can be easier on both sides if you are not related. Not that a relation isn’t devoted, but being a carer is a strain and one can’t help becoming emotional sometimes, while needing to tone down one’s responses to be able to cope long term.


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