Friends

21 May 2017

MY WINNING STORY


The room is so quiet that if you stood outside the door you would suppose it to be unoccupied; but there is an abundance of sound: crackling firewood, squealing chair springs, the vibrating window when a plane takes wing, the tap of steel needles, and the expletives when I drop a stitch. You might hear these sounds if you listen hard but you would not see Jeffrey's wicked endeavours to make me lose count, my voice rising with each enumeration as I walk two fingers along the pin, determined to outwit the arm-waving comedian and cursing the misfortune of being saddled with an imbecilic brother. The mantel clock proclaims its own opinion, issuing dull thuds, which are supposed to be reverberating chimes. Two o'clock, and the rest of the day to get through. Even the fire-logs serve to emphasise the hour, a pair of charred timber chunks spilling to the hearth. I toe to safety the smithereens of charcoal and inhale the intoxicating smell of burning wood as I study the flames, remembering my youth, when Jeffrey persistently devised new ways to destroy my concentration and the strife at school when homework was inadequately completed.

The dreadful clacking of Jeffrey's dentures infiltrates the reverie, transporting me to present time like an exploding bomb. First I am ensconced in daydreams, then, suddenly, I encounter reality head-on. Unexpectedly, my brother's grinning countenance brings a swelling to my throat. Family features: grizzled hair, bristly brows and pointed nose, except that Jeffrey now has pendulous jowls, skin dark with liver-spots, and hazel eyes mottled with age. At eighty-five he should be past indulging in puerility, but it is too late for him to change and, anyway, I am fond of his desultory ribbing. Occasionally.

While he gazes at me in his silly fashion, I set the rocking chair in motion, anxious to start the next stage of the complicated pattern yet hesitant in case Jeffrey renews the struggle for power. He looks docile enough, sitting erect like a spectator waiting for the show to begin, but I never know when he will embark on another wild prank. In two minutes I could be despising him; in three, I could be storming to pack his bag and return him to the home from which I delivered him, beseeching the dear Lord to explain why a man in my life is so essential.

My confession might shock you. If you could witness this scene of cosy domesticity you might think I am satisfied with my life, that my days consist of snug tête-à-têtes and happy reminiscences or that the daily woman's duties give me ample time to knit and amuse my brother. But how can I expect her to clean the mess that incontinence affords, or supervise his eating, and encourage him to aim for his mouth instead of his shirt? And yet, on reflection, your assessment could be right. Beneath the grievances, you might detect a glimmer of the affection I feel, for despite intensifying bouts of wrath and irritation I love the old fool to pieces.

Pleased that Jeffrey has settled to read I resume my occupation. Pins clicking furiously, my thoughts roam the years, evoking instances of his outlandish behaviour. Though his impaired mental state drives me to distraction he can be enormously entertaining; like now, as he absorbs the printed word, contorting his lips and nose as if they are moulded from rubber.

In the shadow of a frivolous father and two ebullient brothers, Jeffrey grew vague and bewildered before his time. As a consequence he relied on me for support, seeing me as an island of sanity in the midst of a chaotic existence. That's why I never married. The concept of leaving my guileless brother to fend for himself was inconceivable, though lately I long to be free of obligation. Notwithstanding, the good days outweigh the bad. In fact, until the onset of true dementia, most were agreeable; funny even, if an old man's waywardness can so be called.

As dotage accelerated, Jeffrey became quite adventurous. At seventy, equipped with his pensioner's pass, he toured the county for bargains. But his logic left much to be desired. He once travelled a distance to save twenty-pence on melon, then spent ten times that amount on chocolate. I still remember his gleeful look when he produced the melon and the box of chocolates, and my incredulity.

The fingers are flying now and the rocker's going like a swing as I call to mind that day we waited in Woolworths for our brother to end a discourse with a chum. Thirty minutes trudging round counters, failed attempts to resist Jeffrey's pestering at the photograph booth and the endless wait for obscure pictures. Secretly chuckling, I recall Jeffrey's restlessness and his entreaties for a go on the weighing machine - several times - for the sheer joy of cramming weight cards in his pockets, which on the journey home were distributed among the passengers on the bus, his laughter so infectious that the whole of the upper deck joined in.

My feeble eyes are filling up; it always happens when I reproduce the images of bygone days. A pity they couldn't stay the same.

You should see Jeffrey now, playing peek-a-boo around the Daily Mail. I pretend not to notice his buffoonery. I could curb him but he's been in enough trouble since the episode next door. Unbeknown to me, on the days when I allowed him out alone, he developed the custom of going in the neighbouring gate and walking into Miss Smedley's house demanding tea. Initially she humoured him with biscuits or a cake, but when he burst in and ordered tea and toasted soldiers, with no regard for her undressed state, she ceased to think it amusing. He's now on tight rein lest the woman carries out her threat to call the police.

The room is dimming now that the winter sun has disappeared, and the fire needs banking. The clock thumps its message home. Four o'clock, it says. Time for tea. My daydreaming has taken me to girlhood and back, through teen-years to adulthood. And Jeffrey's cardigan is almost done. If the Almighty is willing I will finish it tomorrow, that is if Jeffrey deigns to let me get on. But then I'd worry. Since silence is an alien characteristic I wouldn't know if he was behaving or indisposed. Oh, if you could see him playing his game, retreating behind the paper like a guilty schoolboy whenever he catches my eye. I cannot help sniggering at his expression, a fooled-you kind of look, the sort meted out when my counting goes completely awry. I am tempted to teach him a lesson and leave his cardigan sleeveless but I cannot succumb to spite. You see, he won't have many more birthday gifts, and I won't have the foolish fun that life with him has brought.

See his face, see the way he peers at me like the simpleton he is. My throat constricts at the sight of him. Dear God, don't take him yet. For my sake, give him a year or two more.

14 May 2017

CONSEQUENCE OF MEMORY LAPSE


Chaos reigns but not where you would expect it. In this instance it applies to a chaotic mind, where confusion and anxiety go together.

It all started the day I broke my iPhone. Really, I should use the word SMASHED rather than merely broke. It was all the fault of an unexpected caller who literally crept up behind me, causing me to drop the phone onto a tiled floor. You should have heard the crash! You should have seen the mess! You should have seen my face!

Later, but not much later, I got in the car and drove to the o2 shop. o2 is an offshoot of British Telecom, which of course won’t be of any interest to you. I’m just writing this story as it is.

So the short long story goes like this……

I needed a phone, although looking back I ask the question WHY? I have a house phone, which is seldom used except by nuisance callers, and an iPhone in case someone needs to get in touch when out of the house. However, an iPhone isn’t just to make calls on, it is a diary, notebook, timer, news reader, list maker, and a load of other things, like reading email, but … a phone?  So, in order to continue something I was used to having, I needed another one.
 
The model I chose, still an iPhone, is smaller than the last and fits in the pocket easier but everything else is going to need a lot of getting used to.

But I am jumping the gun here…

One thing missing from the phone was the game of Scrabble, which I love, and which goes some way to keeping the mind functioning. I had to replace it, which proved easier said than done.

You will have noticed earlier that I mentioned email. I have three accounts and one of them was the one that kept me in touch with Apple, and Apple in touch with me. Trouble came when my new phone wasn’t recognised by Apple or the other email providers. Even though email addresses were the same, the phone had really upset the apple-cart (a UK expression and nothing to do with Apple the company).

I tried and tried to get through on the old password, but they weren’t having it. No, I had to provide a new one. Several times. Apple needed a new one, Yahoo needed a new one, as did Google. Fortunately AOL and Google were easy to deal with, no problem and as straightforward as they come. Yahoo and Apple needed new passwords because they were linked to each other by me, and Google because..... well, because it was Google! 

I panicked, then panicked a second time. By the end of several more panic sessions I decided to call on Luke. Luke, you may remember, is the young man who does odd jobs for me. It struck me that at his age he would be able to deal with the likes of Apple without the fear I felt.

It took Luke a couple of hours to convince them that I was a genuine case but eventually he managed it. What’s more he downloaded the Scrabble. GREAT!

I am okay now, but goodness only knows for how long. Apple keeps asking for my password as early as switching on the ipad or phone but I have to ignore it because Luke didn’t write down the various passwords! Now I’m wondering how long before it affects me. Next time he comes I will ask if his memory is good. 

Insertion: Did I say Google wasn’t a problem? Well, since writing that comment it has changed its mind. It has decided to BE a problem. Password not recognised – and the brain can’t remember, and it wasn’t written down. I think another call to Luke is due.

All this has affected the brain. I get nervous for all sorts of reasons, mostly silly ones. My friend – who is two years older than me – said it is quite normal and that it would (might?) diminish. She made me feel better, bless her. As for the brain, I guess there’s no hope of it ever behaving like it should. Forgetfulness is now the norm but thank goodness I can still write.

If only I could remember passwords!
A few hours later: Consultation with Luke revealed the password that I'd forgotten. Now noted in black ink, several times. All he does is press a button, whereas I have to sweat it out and get nowhere. Oh to be young again, even a jaunt back to my sixties or seventies would help me out. 

Anyone want to buy a new iPhone?
Valerie

07 May 2017

FORGOT... AGAIN!

Heard on quiz show but which I think applies to us oldies: give a wrong answer, get it out of your mind and move on, do not dwell on it. It is so easy to worry about our mistakes.
A case in mind was when I was asked the name of a certain president in the WI, I gave the answer and was immediately pounced on by others because I had got it wrong. I knew immediately that I was wrong and felt a terrible shame, but I was too slow… the pounce came before I could do anything about it. Okay, I know the others in the group had to correct my mistake and I did try to laugh it off and put the error down to my ageing brain. Actually, in a way I was right, it’s just that I had the wrong WI in mind!
However:
Coping with my mistake wasn’t that easy. My mind dwelled on the incident and the embarrassment I felt. Yes, the matter had to be corrected but the way it was done could have been better and might have prevented hours of anxiety about where my brain was going. Young(er) people don’t understand about
ageing brains. Come to that, neither do older folk!
As a matter of interest, I checked ‘forgetfulness’ online and discovered that it could be the onset of dementia and other alarming conditions that affect the mind, so I settled on the following extract, on the grounds that I am (usually) perfectly normal. I can reason things out, I can do things, I can write, I can compose, I can do jobs around the house (albeit slower than usual), I can cook, feed the cat, talk to neighbours, enjoy music, read books, and go shopping. Here’s the extract:
It's completely normal to become a little forgetful as you get older, however, it can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious, so seek medical advice if you are in any doubt.
Memory loss, also known as amnesia, is unusual forgetfulness. It may affect your ability to recall new events or to remember events in the past - or both. Memory loss can develop slowly or suddenly and may be either short term or permanent. It may involve words, phrases or thoughts only, or affect motor memory - when the ability to perform certain motor skills (movements) is lost.
Mild memory loss is usually a result of the normal ageing process while more dramatic memory loss is usually associated with trauma, such as a blow to the head or a condition, such as diabetes or dementia.
Unfortunately, ageing forgetfulness is something we have to learn to live with and can be dealt with by writing things down, keeping lists and other reminders. Spur of the moment errors are not so easy to deal with and neither is the ensuing embarrassment but we must keep smiling and looking at the positive side of life.
Valerie