Today I am at the day centre. Now, do you know what that is? Many of you won’t, you will one day if you manage to reach my ripe old age!
The day centre is in simple terms a nursery for the elderly. Luckily for me I have tested out a few in my area and by god, some of these places are a pit of despair. What you’ve seen painted across the media, old people in wheelchairs turned to the wall, dribbling, sitting in their own fluids for endless hours.
But my day centre, my nursery! It is fantastic. We have an absolute ball, by we I mean myself and my also elderly and infirm pals!
George! George! I launch a box of ‘soft play boules’ across the room. Obviously the light weight contents spills everywhere, bounding off the wall landing in Marjorie’s porridge, bouncing off the centre staff’s backs.
Marjorie now splattered with milky thick oats giggles uncontrollably announcing, Sarah love you better get me changed before this sets and while we’re there I better spend a penny! Sarah, a young girl working part-time whilst studying towards a degree, whom is always highly amused by us, the rebellious pensioners.
Life is not over because you are old, life is not over because you have married, you have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren even! Life is not over when your parents die or your lifelong friends. Death is prominent as you age. You’ve heard the old saying- as you get older you start attending funerals instead of weddings. Don’t get me wrong it is a most difficult task to out live those people you have shared- lived- your life with! Those people you have made your wondrous memories with, those people whom you once described as ‘there’s only three weeks between us’, they have been gone ten years. Now do not misunderstand me, I’m not suicidal, I’m not awaiting death, sat twiddling my thumbs until the dark hooded creature comes for me as well. But you will one day know exactly what I mean.
For me it began when Joan died. Joan is not my wife. Just to clarify. Joan died eight years before my wife. Joan was Peter’s wife. Peter and Joan were, my granddaughter would say, our Thursday friends! They were obviously far more than this, they had become our Thursday friends. We would meet for early lunch in town and would then amble around some activity for the day and then each week we would take turns in hosting an evening meal. My Granddaughter Holly, our first, thought Peter was a funny old man and Joan was a scary witch lady! It is like I have said once before, I think, I might have… Anyway it interests me a great deal that as an elderly person you lose your identity, you are suddenly just an old person!
Peter was older than the rest of us, he managed to secure Joan at a blooming young nineteen when he was an old man at almost thirty. He often quoted in a high gruff, a young Joan ‘Ohh I don’t believe it you’re having me on, you can’t be that old!’ Oh the irony! We would chuckle. Joan and my wife had known each other their entire lives and we all played an important role in each others wedding days. We had often traveled to Canada to see them while Peter spent twelve years lecturing and researching chemistry and then spent five more years volunteering across Africa teaching and helping children in poverty to get sponsorship through education. What a wonderful couple! But you see Peter was but a funny old man and Joan a scary witch lady!
When Joan died, a huge blow to all of our worlds. Obviously Peter’s world was obliterated. But she was the first you see, the first of those people to go who I had lived my life with. The first of those people who I had shared milestones with, I remember her face before it was splintered with life. You see when this process starts there’s no stopping it. The decade that Joan began was one full of dark suits, flowers, cold buffets and memories spoken out loud as though we knew that these were it, the final page, the last curtain.
So what I mean for you to understand, one day, is that when everyone starts to die- you know that it’ll be your turn sooner rather than later. And when like me you’ve been to everyone else’s funerals, you ready to die when it comes. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to die, I haven’t finished living, my life is not over, but it will be-sooner rather than later.
When it happens, I’m happy to go, I’ve no unfinished business.
Except perhaps, more than likely, I shall have to go to the loo! Speaking of which… Sarah is Marjorie off her throne yet?