Monday, 11 June 2012

A quiet chapter

Joyce used to phone me once a day. I used to predict her ring, always coming at a time familiar if only in its inconvenience. I knew it was Joyce calling me at work, just as the local school kicked out. I knew it was Joyce just as I was locking up on a Sunday lunchtime. If the phone was going to ring whilst I was having a fag out front- it would predictably be Joyce on the other end.

She didn’t call today though. Instead, I received a personal visit from a relative, purely on a business level. The truth is, the little old lady around the corner seems to have become too much of an inconvenience to everybody. Her niece has closed the newspaper account. 

Shortly before she did this, I informed her that should she be returning from her stay at a local home, Joyce needs her taps doing. Six or seven panicked phone calls last week led me to pay a visit- I was not too impressed when I found a lonely nonagenarian in a house with no hot water. I had offered to stay for a brew by this point- cue a trip to the shop for non-sour milk- and on my return, was welcomed in by two carers, neither of whom had a clue about the faulty boiler, the lack of running water or the abundance of sour half pints- both however, had a tick chart.
I have been thinking about this half hour for over a week now. It has made me question the very nature of the system we are in these days. At what point does a carer manage to pass on all responsibility- a term that crops up on almost all the dictionary definitions I have checked. At what point do basic facilities and perhaps a chat for five minutes become surplus to requirements. At what point does someone need to step in and say, hang on- that just isn’t right.

To their credit, the young paperboys have been a blessing with Joyce. A few bits here and there have kept her in a steady supply of ‘just passing’ faces. Never one to shy away from a chat, she has snared many a lad into a drawn out conversation. The boys have called her mad. They’ve called her crazy. She has been scary, a witch and often bloody annoying. Almost all of them call her lonely these days.

I would love nothing more than for the phone to ring tomorrow and for it to be her on the line. I know that it won’t go- she has no reason to call us from where she is, and if we’re all honest, the fact she is in there makes me sure it won’t go. As happens with age, things are slipping. Her mind seems to be elsewhere most of the time- stuck in the memories dearest that are still so sharp in her thoughts.

To sit with Joyce was a pleasure. If I can, I will be staying in touch- I don’t feel I can just wander off. She might want to talk about her husband and the champion moustache he used to sport. Maybe she wants someone who actually knows her to talk to, rather than just another new face that matches up to a new badge. I have learnt a hell of a lot from just talking with such a dear old lady and so, I suppose this piece is for her, or the thought of those in her shoes.

Joyce has shown me how important it is to write. The idea of my memories crumbling around me, with only the furthest ones being there to draw from terrifies me. In a way, it kick starts you thinking about just how many moments you can hold in your mind. A single day could be rich enough to create a novel and yet a year may pass with such silence it barely makes a chapter. To be alone and losing your mind, well, I have serious sympathy for anyone struggling with such a disease. I also have serious concern for the sheer number of pensioners out there that share the situation- those with a distant relative that writes the cheques and nobody else.

If I think of myself, sixty years from now, I don’t know what I’ll be remembering. I would like to think that it will be the things I feel are important now, if not quite so clear cut. To write is to keep a journal for myself of all the things significant enough to make it into poems. I look forward to a day I can read them back- and just hope by then there are still people around I can share them with.

The theme this week is Displacement Activities- that is, things you do when you’re doing other things, often unrelated- like how I bite my tongue when I think.

Thanks for reading,



Standard said...

Nicely said. One of my Mum's former jobs was to coordinate carers. Having seen the pressure she was under with the lack of funding and being constantly understaffed I do have sympathy for the carers - they've always got another client waiting but I agree with your point - the system is seriously flawed. Thought provoking post as usual :)

Lindsay said...

Very true. As my parents in law get older and sicker I see just how lacking the system can be, and just how proud old people can be too, they don't always want to ask carer staff to do things, they want to have some control and do things their own way too. There are a huge percentage of pensioners near where I live, and not one day centre where they can socialise. There used to be days centres when I was a kid, what happened to those? Ah yes, they are expensive. They can source out caring work to greedy companies now too whose priorities aren't their staff or clients. Gah.

vicky ellis said...

Beautiful and poignant post, written with sensitivity. A real insight into an individual's plight that highlights a widespread lack in our culture. Great writing.

Ashley R Lister said...

That's a profound start to the week.

Joyce is lucky to have a neighbour like you.