You're not alone
If it's not enough that all proceeds go to Macmillan nurses, well let me entice you with the story I contributed. It is very loosy based on my mother's story, but let me stress that she isn't one of the silver surfers from the book.
Never Too Old
Patricia Turner’s children had wanted her to do this years ago. They said they were worried for her, all alone in that big house. They didn’t realise that you can’t just sell a house that holds forty five years of memories and move to an apartment.
Forty five years of seeing the children grow up, thirty five years of blissful marriage with Frank, and in the last few years seeing the grandchildren enjoying the garden all over again. But Patricia had to admit that the garden Frank had always kept so pristine now looked a little over grown.
Then one morning, Patricia slipped on her bedside rug; fell and broke her hip. She lay there in agony for four hours. A concerned neighbour with a spare key let herself in, having noticed that at 11am, the curtains were still drawn.
Once Patricia had recuperated from the hip replacement surgery, she told her children that she wanted to sell the house and move to the sheltered apartments on the other side of the village. They told her they were relieved she had taken the decision. They pledged their help in tidying up and packing. Carloads of superfluous goods were dispatched to children and grandchildren until all that remained was what she needed in the new apartment.
Patricia had moved into the apartment yesterday. Once all the furniture was put in place by the removal men, a small army of relatives started opening boxes and putting her things in the empty cupboards. She quickly exhausted herself by running after everyone, trying to direct her things to the right places. She gave up. Out of breath, she sank into a chair.
Let them be, Patricia, she told herself. They mean well and you’ve got the rest of your life to put it right.
“This is a lovely view,” said Patricia to her new neighbour, Sheila Smyth.
The two were standing in the bright hallway outside their apartments, looking through the large glass windows at the village below. When Patricia stretched onto her toes, she could see the roof of her old house. She hadn’t moved far and even the new neighbour was someone she had known for years; their children had gone to school together.
“I’ll take you down for coffee hour. Management puts some tea, coffee and biscuits on every weekday. Residents can go down if they want,” informed Sheila.
Patricia nodded her approval and the women set off down the long hallway.
“It’s great you’ve moved here. I heard Mavis Barnstable might be coming too,” said Sheila.
“That would be nice; she’s an excellent bridge player,” and then after some thought she added “Mind you, her husband Colin, likes his whiskey. Frank and I used to play the Barnstables, but by 10pm we would make our excuses, as his play didn’t make much sense anymore.”
“What, you haven’t heard? Colin died a month ago from a heart attack,” said Sheila surprised.
Patricia found it hard to say something nice about Colin Barnstable; instead she just left a respectful silence. Then when it seemed appropriate she asked cheerfully, “Do they have a bridge club here?”
“I think they meet every Friday in the recreation room,”
The two women stopped in front of the lift and Sheila pressed the call button. When the door opened there was already a man in a wheelchair inside.
“Morning Mr Walker,” said Sheila cheerfully, “This is Patricia Turner, she just moved in.”
“What a delight to have another lovely young lady in our residence!” he said, beaming.
“Gosh, no one has called me a young lady for a very long time,” laughed Patricia.
“Mr Walker is going to be ninety nine next week, at seventy five we’re just mere spring chickens to him,” explained Sheila.
Just then Patricia felt her bottom being pinched. She looked at Mr Walker in his wheelchair. He sported a grin stretching from ear to ear. To her relief the lift stopped and the door opened. The man in his chair left through reception and the two women headed to the recreation room.
“I think that man just pinched my bottom,” whispered a shocked Patricia to her friend.
She roared with laughter, “Ninety nine years old, in a wheelchair, but he is still a randy bugger.”
They entered the recreation room and found about a dozen residents already there. Most of the people living at Lower Hallerington sheltered housing were female, and Patricia only spotted two men in the room. Sheila first introduced her to the men.
“This is George Willoughby,” she said to a bald-headed heavy set man,“ did you not work at British Gas, George?”
“I did indeed,” he answered, shaking Patricia’s hand.
“So did my husband. You might have known him - Frank Turner?”
“Not very well as he was in a different department, but yes I’ve heard of him. Delighted to have you with us Mrs. Turner.”
Then Sheila introduced a thin grey-haired man as Victor Lambert. Patricia and Victor shook hands and they moved on to the women in the room. Most of them, she already knew from church or via her children’s old school. After the introductions were done, she noticed that the men were having an argument and she leaned in to listen.
“I’ll tell you it was a fellow called Corleone,” George argued.
“I’m not sure that was the fellow that played Fredo in The Godfather,” replied Victor doubtfully.
“It was! Donald Corleone. I think he even got an Oscar,” said the bald one with certainty.
Victor shook his head sadly. “Maybe it was. It frightens me how forgetful I am these days. I used to know all the Hollywood actors.”
“Well, my mind is as sharp as an eighteen-year-old’s,” stated George proudly and without a shred of sympathy for the other man.
Patricia did sympathise with Victor. Altzheimers was the disease that she was most afraid of. Every time she caught herself forgetting something, she would smile wryly;
I’ll be able to hide my own Easter eggs soon!
Patricia turned her attention to the women. One particular lady had caught her eye because she was wearing bright red nail varnish and her cheeks glowed with pink blush. Sheila noticed her staring.
“Betty here is all dolled up for her fancy man,” she explained.
Grey-haired pensioner Betty, giggled like a little schoolgirl.
“Paul is taking me dancing later at the town hall,” she said bashfully.
“Well done you, going dancing! I couldn’t imagine doing that with my replacement hip,” said Patricia, full of admiration.
“That shouldn’t stop you, dear. I just had my second one done last December,” retorted Betty cheerfully.
“How about your fella, Harriet?” said Betty turning to the woman on her left.
“We’re meeting up this Thursday,” replied Harriet, smirking like a Cheshire cat.
“Harriet met Nigel on the internet,” explained Sheila, with a wink.
“Aren’t you afraid to meet a complete stranger you met online?” asked Patricia.
Harriet smiled, “I hardly think that the man who told me all about the heartbreak of losing his wife to cancer, is going to rape and kill me.”
This isn’t what I expected. Patricia began to think in the lift, on her way back upstairs to her flat. She had expected talk about grandchildren and knitting patterns, not Skype, online dating, which Scholl shoes are best for dancing, and which of the men in their sheltered housing complex were single and not going senile. She hadn’t realised how far from the modern world she had become removed, rattling about alone in her big house. She felt happier than she had done in a long time.
When she got in, she phoned her son. She asked him if he had a spare computer; an old one the grandchildren no longer needed.
“I thought you didn’t want any of those ‘contraptions’?” He said in surprise.
“Absolutely everyone is on the internet now, I’m not just some grandmother that knits socks all day,” said Patricia expertly.
She was still puzzled However, as to how you could send letters through a computer.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” said her son concerned, “promise me you won’t do any online shopping and give people your bank details.”
“I won’t and my friend Sheila has offered to help me with Skype. Apparently you can then phone the entire world for free,” explained Patricia innocently, her mind buzzing with the possibilities of the Internet.
Her son promised he would set her up with a computer and an Internet provider.
She sat back in her chair after she ended the call and looked out of her living room window. From the fourth floor, she could just see the river and some fields with horses behind the trees. The garden in front of the flats was well tended and Patricia thought with relief that she no longer had to do the gardening herself. So far, she had not regretted moving in there. She would get a computer set up next and try and become, one of those…oh what did they call it downstairs? Oh yes a silver surfer.
She decided it was time to take the next step and to move on from all the wonderful memories her husband Frank had given her; time to make some new ones.