For those who have been following Lils occasional essays on ageing, care homes and other themes so little written about. Tender and observational they are a delight. find them in the categories “essays on old age”.
Mollie had beautiful breasts then one by one they were lopped off. Now she keeps losing the National Health replacements. At 98 this causes alarm in a way no one can imagine, unless they are an elderly lady with standards. They lie in her undies drawer or the bathroom and they wander among her blouses. When she needs them they vanish. I love Mollie and couldn’t care less whether she wears her false ones or not, but a man was coming for a drink and Mollie is of that generation who wouldn’t dream of entertaining a man without her breasts. She found them in the basket with the clothes pegs.
Not for Mollie do clothes go straight into the tumbler dryer, if it’s a nice day clothes are pegged outside in the fresh air. Waste not want not and remembering the war too well. Frugality has created her Achilles heel though., She eats like a bird and she doesn’t like waste, so the fridge is full of nasty little dishes with nastier remains lurking till mould take their place. We have a standoff in the kitchen as I refuse to put left over rice into the cauliflower cheese. At 73 I only just win. Mollie isn’t too particular about mould, she just scrapes it off and pop the remains into the next soup, casserole or pie.
Mollie likes damask table napkins, well ironed. She rinsed hers out after breakfast and was about to iron it for supper. The iron was long past it’s sell by date with a dodgy flex just waiting for an accident. Pfff, bang and the house goes black. Mollie is taken back, a little frightened, the iron is unplugged with nervous laughter. A new iron, I suggest. New irons are two a penny, heavy ones, watery ones, holiday ones and not just at electrical stores. You can buy them everywhere. Mollie gets the bit between her teeth, she wants to see every iron in the town and so we do. We have pert blondes up ladders, middle aged men unpacking holiday irons, heavy duty irons, complex settings for cotton, spray and damp irons. But she must have a light one, because of her arm and finally she decides, she’ll wait till her daughter comes back. At not yet 69 her daughter is good at decisions.
Mollie had a plan, she had an appointment to see the Occulist. Macular Degeneration is always an issue for the nonagenarians.
“Would you be a dear and drive me to the appointment” she broke her arm two years ago and can no longer drive, thank god. The arm has never healed.
“I can do the shopping while I wait for you and then lets go out for lunch” I suggest, the bits of mouldy leftovers sigh in the fridge. I can be cunning with Molly.
Clutching worn plastic bags, which Mollie has been saving long before it became fashionable, we sallied forth. I’m not very conversant with the local roads but even I could see that Molly was taking us momentarily to her favourite beach by the sea and not too the town with the Occulist.
“Oh Yes, Quite right”
In her excitement at the outing she had quite forgotten where we were headed. About turn and soonish we sail into Leiston only to find the high street closed to traffic for resurfacing. This unnerves Mollie’s driver, ME. I like familiar roads, and no surprises, although I missed a white van man only last week heading straight for me on the wrong side of the road. My children still think I am safe. But we were running late, Mollie gave me the name of the eye man and a grand salute to show me where she was going, leapt out of the car and beetled down the new tarmacked road. For 98 she moves fast but I worry she will forget where she is going. I can do nothing, gingerly I follow directions and park. How to find Molly in this strange town, I start asking, however the name Mollie had given me belonged to a lovely shop selling daffodils, jonquils and pansies. They suggest the high street which is perilously difficult to get to, what with the resurfacing. Shopping is forgotten, I make my way to the eye place at last but she’s scarpered, left five minutes ago. What direction? I ask panicky, but nobody knows. I scuttle like a benighted beetle round the streets of Leiston till, with my heart in my mouth, I make it back to the car. Mollie is there, a little weary and I am a little teary, but we greet each other with beaming smiles. Thank goodness I never lock my car. We both go home for a nap, lunch being far too exciting.
Mollie is a serious but joyful lady, straight talk is what she likes and what she expects. An elderly neighbour comes round for a drink and we get into a hilarious conversation about our wedding nights, laugh? We almost wept, three ladies, one in her mid seventies, one in her late eighties and Mollie at ninety eight. I love Mollie.