Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Layer 236 . . . Goodbyes

If we're fortunate to have parents who live to an old age then we probably start saying our goodbyes to them over a long period of time. We say good bye to the people we used to know each time they pass from one stage of life to another.

Late Old Age is when someone can no longer take care of themselves properly, and they need help with a growing number of mundane and everyday chores and responsibilities. This final stage of life is when people can no longer deal with responsibility, either for themselves or for anyone else. I remember my mother entering late old age around the age of 78, when she suddenly realised she'd become one of the “old people” she always felt so sorry for.

She couldn't accept becoming one of those frail figures who shuffle around with the aid of a stick, sit in the same chair for hours on end, for day after day, have little to say to anyone, have no-one or virtually no-one who cares to listen to them, and often can't remember what they wanted to say anyway. How she loved it when grandchildren and great grandchildren would pop in and chat and play. She also smiled at the eager friendliness and playfulness of their dogs, and willingly gave them the pats and strokes they demanded.

Old Age, or the penultimate stage of life, is what precedes Late Old Age. Old age, as far as mum was concerned, lasted from about 72 to 78. During that time she would still go out, still catch buses, still do her own shopping, still pay her own bills, still do her own cooking, still take a bath without help, still catch trains to distant places, still remember to transfer money between her pension account, her savings account and her current account.

The mum that I said goodbye to at the end of that stage was still in control of her life and still able to enjoy life. She still had much of her old confidence and determination, her self-reliance and her physical strength. It was a sad thing to say goodbye to that person.

Late Middle Age probably ran from around 60 to roughly 72. This was the first phase of retirement and of  living on a pension, when every day held promise and opportunity, and was for enjoyment and fulfillment. The grandchildren were still quite young and could be taken out and indulged. It was an age of still feeling needed, an age of still being of some use and some importance to other people. An age before weight loss and serious wrinkles and loss of vitality set in. It was a good age, and one that was hard to say goodbye to.

It was hard to say goodbye at the very end, as well. She was still my lovely old mum, a very dear and very lovable old woman. With a little help from others she still lived in her own home, still made herself (and me) cups of tea and slices of cake, still smoked her cigarettes and still watched her favourite TV programmes. She still came to the door to wave goodbye as I backed the car out of the drive when it was time for me to travel home, and still stood there waving when I drove off, thinking to myself that this could be the very last time I see her alive.

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