In November it was my old ex-neighbour’s 80th birthday. Joe and I had lived next door to Doug for 26 years but he is now in a home. I was going to say a home for the bewildered but that isn’t quite true, the home isn’t strictly for people with poor memories but they look after them the same as elderly folk who are mentally hale and hearty but incapacitated in other ways. Along with a couple who lived the other side of Doug’s bungalow (that’s the one that’s been ripped apart and practically rebuilt) I was invited to and attended his birthday dinner at one of my favourite eating places, Moor Hall. Yes, that’s the one I’ve written about many times before. The other invitees provided the transport for which I was truly grateful. It meant I could drink some wine and not worry about driving.
Doug was married once but it didn’t work out. After the divorce he returned to live with his parents and stayed there for the rest of his life, leastways until last year when he moved into the care home. After his parents died he made no effort to redecorate the bungalow, nor did he splash out on modern equipment or anything that would have made life easier. Every week he took his laundry to a laundromat, he never redecorated, and he had nothing to make his life more comfortable. He had a gardener to do the mowing, but then so do I. I used to think it was awful but now I’ve reached the age when I don’t want to be bothered with these things. The difference between Doug and me is that I still know it and can still get things done.
The first thing Doug said to me when we were seated at the ‘birthday’ table, was ‘Did you move into the Close, which is a cul-de-sac opposite our bungalows. I reminded him that I lived next door. Oh, says he, you must know Joe. It was difficult enough talking to him without having to explain that Joe, my husband, had died so I left it. Gradually though he started to recall things, for example our dogs. He looked after them when we were away, in fact over the years he looked after many dogs in the neighbourhood.
Despite communication problems we got through the evening and it was enjoyable watching him open his presents. He got tired of doing it half way through but his family made him carry on. I felt sorry for him then. It is so easy for people with no memory problems or ageing hands to think they know best. For me, it was a relief to know that others have the same sort of forgetfulness, particularly this morning when I picked up a bowl that had been washed and wondered where to put it. Everything has its place in my house but it seems I am slowly forgetting where those places are. Perhaps I should make a list! I told myself to get a grip but whether I listen to my own advice remains to be seen.
So, seeing Doug as he is now and remembering how he was all the years Joe and I knew him was quite sad. I am thankful that I manage to find solutions to overcome some of the problems … I have plenty of paper - I can write notes. Just praying I will remember where they are…. grins.