Don’t Let Me Grow Old..


At a friend’s house yesterday, the telephone started making its crass and obtrusive screaming, meaning someone on the other end wants to talk to you. My aquaintance abstained from answering it, which gave me so much potential malevolent opportunity… “Hello mini-cab?”? Or maybe “Hello, Helga’s House Of Pain?”, the latter being a suggestion not of my own. But when I eventually picked up the handset, I rather understood quite quickly that the other speaker would not appreciate such a joke.

“… and I’ll be ready for you in, in the morning, will that be okay dear?” said a painfully frail voice. Like really, painfully frail. I started explained that she clearly had the wrong number, and was about to hang up, expecting maybe a “Oh well I’m awfully sorry to have bothered you dear,” but not that put out about the absence of it. But the talker – clearly not having registered she was not talking to the person required – just keep on going. It would be a rant or a babble had she had the energy. Again, I tried telling her she had the wrong number, but talking to old people is frequently like talking to a brick wall. And I just could not hang up. I felt so utterly awful for her.

That, and she was deaf. Two or three minutes of her talking about god only knows what passed, with me trying to explain, as politely as I could, that she had GOT THE WRONG NUMBER, and that I could not help her. It was one of those phone calls where you are miming out killing her, but talking to her in the gentlest voice you can muster. But she was deaf! You did have to shout. How can you be polite and shout?! It does not work.

The worst part was, after listening to her trying to arrange whatever the hell it was she was doing tomorrow, I had to hang up. I actually could not help her. She asked me what phone number it was that she was calling, and said “Is this not [insert number here]?”, FOUR BLOODY MINUTES AFTER I HAD TOLD HER THE ORIGINAL SITUATION. In retrospect, it might have been funny. But not only was she deaf, clearly living alone, obviously with no one else to help her – she could not help herself. And because her declining self had the potential to be so annoying just by its very nature, who would offer to help her? I could just imagine a lonely old granny, getting the paper delivered in the morning, possibly walking the dog if she was able – unless she stereotypically owned cats – and then just waiting for Midsomer Murders to come on after Countdown. And enjoying it with a ready-meal for one. Perhaps she would go for weeks without seeing people. Her husband had long since died, and her children had too much to manage and deal with to dedicate any time to her, despite her bringing them up so well, and dedicating so much time to them.

I may be being ridiculously sentimental her, and I am completely aware of how difficult old people can be, but that does not stop it being so utterly tragic when you realise how lonely some people’s situations are. And how lucky we can be to be young and not have to rely on other people to pick us up for Meals on Wheels. Or worse still, walk us to the bathroom, losing all possible chance of dignity. This lady clearly was at the very end of life, but how much longer will it drag on for her?

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