Thursday 20 December 2018

when I get older losing my . . .

. . . hair marbles?
I was talking to my mother in England; she's 98¾ and living in her own gaff in one of those megacute Olde Englyshe villages: a pub, a church, a village hall,  a cricket ground, a little river, a manor house, a postman, even a railway station. When they moved there on my father's retirement in 1983, there was also a shop-cum-PostOffice, since closed. They had a pact that when one of them pegged out, the other would downsize and declutter to more suitable accomodation in the market town where they preferred to shop. Never happened! The Old Man died in 2001 but inertia and familiarity took root and my mother is still looking after herself in the same house she's lived for 35 years - which is by far the longest time she's lived in the same house.

There is a community in the village and they look after their own, as we found last year when she needed drops in her eyes several times a day after a cataract job. But everyone has their own life and, being English, they have their boundaries. The family were concerned that, if a fall were to occur <which heaven forfend>, and the alarm pendant failed, then she might be lying at the foot of the stairs for a couple of days before anyone noticed. Then again, things come in the post, which her failing sight doesn't make easy to read and small-small t'ings need doing for which it is not worth asking a neighbour to come over specially. Accordingly, my sister, who lives in the same country and visits every week or so, found an agency who would sent An Effective round every evening at about 1800hrs. And it was so; the new regime has been motoring along for a couple of weeks. Having that regular injection of assistance [and chatter and care] should be enough to keep the current domicile in place and functional for a while yet.

When my mother stopped driving 12 years ago [failing sight mainly], she gave up the car and adopted a taxi-company. Typically, she'd walk across the village green empty-handed to the once-a-day bus-stop [it was axed in the Spring of 2018], potter about town buying spinach, trout, raspberries and whatever else she fancied and then call a taxi to carry her loot home. It worked fine, the taxi-driver would carry her groceries into the kitchen table for her. In December each year, the taxi company would give back the lucky penny to their loyal clients: they stood everyone a Christmas lunch including, of course, a lift from home and back. A similar thing happened last week with the Care Agency: they picked up all their clients - including newbies like me Mum - and took them into the County Hall for a cup of tea and a mince-pie.

My mother gave me a report: obviously the people at the tea-party were not a random cross-section of the population - there were no Goths or single parents or surfer dudes; or anyone under the age of 60. But they were - here she was a bit at a loss for words - normal . . . by which she meant not obviously demented. That was a welcome change from her wide experience of visiting pals in nursing homes. "But", she added, "everyone had their own reason for signing up with the agency." One of her new friends [co-clients might be a better descriptor], for example, requested and required someone to come round every morning. He was wheelchair-bound and could look after himself but some days he'd wake up all cosy in bed and think a lie-in would be nice. He feared that might be the beginning of a slippery slope of indolence and sloth [chap sounds like a protestant] which would leave him, far to soon, covered in bed-sores and waiting for the end. He therefore called in the agency to ensure that, no matter how bleak the day, he would get up and get dressed.

That reminded me of a 10 Point "motivational" conferring address given a few years ago by Admiral William McRaven. He called this piece to graduates Change the World by Making Your Bed and drew lessons from his experience going through Boot Camp as a US Navy Seal. As well as a brutal, deliberately de-humanising, shouty,  physically exhausting, sleep deprivation hell, elite forces Boot Camp has peculiar pernickety standards. One of those is a requirement to make your bed to exacting standards [no duvets need apply] every morning. McRaven reflected that this deliberate practice was good for moral because - eventually - you started each day with a small achievement. Banking that before breakfast was likely to lead to further morale boosting successes through the day . . . and give you a clean bed to fall into that night.

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