Lil reflects: An experience of old age and ageing in the 21st century.

I swung the car into the drive and the first thing I saw was my friend spread eagled on the grass.   She’s nearly 98 and very frail.   No, she hadn’t keeled over, dead as a dodo which was my first reaction, she had simply tried to bend down to weed a garden tub full of flowers, felt a little dizzy and had a lie down clutching some vicious secateurs. There is a limit to the tut, tut, tutting one can do, so I laughed, my friend laughed and we tottered into the house and had a cup of earl grey.

Mollie is a menace, she scuttles round the house and garden then falls fast asleep leaving me peering cautiously to make sure she’s still breathing.   Our mornings are spent picking up pieces of paper, ornaments and other treasures, then hiding them.  The afternoons are spent finding where we’ve hidden them, only there is always something that remains stubbornly hidden.   Luckily Mollie eats little but she has her standards, table napkins, the silver and candles in the evening. She lives alone, she has a daily once a week and someone to cook meals for the freezer.   She had bundled my linen sheets into the washing machine before I left the house.   Did I tell you that Mollie has only one arm working, the other she broke very badly last year putting the kibosh on driving the car. Her old bones have yet to heal. Yet another dent in her independence.

My own parents died relatively young in a car crash, so I have no experience of caring for the very elderly.  Mollie is no dear little old lady, her mind is clear, her observations candid and usually accurate, she enjoys telling wonderful stories of life in India during the war, she follows the antics of her large family and is frustrated she can’t always join in the weddings and junkets associated with family life.  She’s planning to go to Italy this summer.  Mollie holds court to endless friends and grown up children she’s known since they were so high.   Her own age group have died and Mollie has to come to terms with the inevitable loneliness that entails.   But family and friends rally round, she plays host to many people who stay with her, her visitors book is chock a block.   I love Mollie dearly, I am not alone, I only hope the future is kind to her. And I hope my old age is done as gracefully should I live as long.

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