20 July 2017

Norma

Norma moved into our street when she was four years old. Next month she will be ninety two. 

She married a Czech refugee towards the end of World War Two. He was called Pavel. They had just one child - a son who must have been pretty brainy because he became a vet with his own animal practice near Preston in Lancashire.

I often talked with Pavel at his garden gate but in the last few years of his life dementia was taking a hold. In contrast, Norma has always been as sharp as a pin, even as her body was failing her. She had both hips replaced and needed a mobility scooter to get out and about. 

She was fiercely independent and it was only in the last year that she needed carers to support her. With Pavel, it was the brain that let him down but with Norma it was the body.

Recently she became so physically weakened that she ended up in hospital. She will never go back to the house where her mother died and where she lived for eighty eight years. After  temporary care in a local residential home she will transfer to a more permanent home in Lancashire - not far from her son's house.

The other day her favourite handyman was clearing out her house ahead of its sale. I asked him if he'd give Norma a "Good Luck" card from me and he agreed so I bought one at the post office and wrote a nice message inside it. 

Yesterday I received a return message from Norma who is passing time and getting a little stronger before she moves over the hills to Lancashire. Here's her note:-
Where indeed have all the years gone? It's not every day that you get a fluent  little letter from a ninety two year old woman. Hell - when she moved in to our street not one family owned a car and the milk was delivered by horse and cart. Nobody had central heating but every house had a coal fire. As Norma leaves us a piece of social history also departs. I am sorry that I have no photographs of her.

30 comments:

  1. What a sweet note, and how kind of you to send her a card. You're so thoughtful!

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    1. I can be thoughtful but I can also be an idiot.

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  2. Both lovely and sad...such a huge change for her. I hope your friend and neighbour, Norma is happy and comfortable in her new dwelling...and lifestyle.

    On the 24th June, just gone, I joined in with birthday celebrations of a friend's mother. The mother, Dorothy, turned 100; and she was a fit as a fiddle. She's a lady who gets up early every morning; puts on her make-up (never seen without her make-up and lippie!); styles her hair and dresses ready for the day ahead. I also helped with the catering for Dorothy's party that was held at my friend's home here on the hill. A lovely event enjoyed by all those in attendance.

    Two week's later, on 7th July, Dorothy left the aged care facility down on the Gold Coast in which she'd been living for the past 10 years or thereabouts, and she moved into the facility up here on the mountain.

    Now we're all waiting with baited breath because on Monday night this week she had to be rushed by ambulance to a hospital down at the Coast. She has a perforated bowel, and now bacterial pneumonia has been found in her blood. She's putting up a fight...but at 100 years...it's a very worrying time for the family etc.

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    1. What an achievement to make it to 100 - not something that many Australian cricketers achieve these days! Fingers crossed for Dorothy. What a life!

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  3. I don't know what would be easier, to be mentally alert while the body fails, or to be mentally "gone" when it does, so that we would not have such fear to face. Not that we have any choice. I think Norma would feel warmed by your card. It is always good to know someone is thinking of us.

    Norma's note back to you reminds me of the letters I exchanged with a woman with whom I had boarded one summer between university years. We became friends despite the difference in age and kept up with each other by mail. Her handwriting got wavery over the years and her sight became quite bad, but her letters showed she was still very alert and interested in life. I kept her letters and several recipes she wrote out by hand for me, and treasure them.

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    1. Even if I hadn't told you her age I think the handwriting would have told you that the note was from an older person. How lovely that you have kept the letters \and recipes from your former landlady.

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  4. There are the independents like Norma and then the lost like Pavel. It's a heartbreaking situation. You received a note that you didn't expect from somebody still looking foward in life.

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    1. Yes. She is looking forward. An upside of living in an old folks home will be the social side of things. Less loneliness.

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  5. Well done YP, being close to her son will no doubt give the lady some consolation. What a lovely story her life would make, especially the early years and memories.

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    1. I have often thought that I should have been bold enough to record her memories, bringing out the details. But now it won't happen.

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    2. You regret the things you don't do more than the things you do! There is still time and how fabulous to talk to a woman of that era about her history.

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    3. You are right Kylie... but I am shy.

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  6. You could still go and visit her in Lancashire, couldn't you?
    I so like the idea of continuity, emphasized by yesterday's lunch with George and Lilian (80 and 79) who have been married for nearly 60 years and still adore each other.

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    1. I could visit her in Lancashire but she was just someone I had a polite, neighbourly relationship with.

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  7. That was sweet of you to send her the card. I'm sure it meant a lot to her.

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    1. Yes. I think it did and I am not angling to be included in her will!

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  8. I was going to suggest that you could forgive her for moving to Lancashire and coax Clint in that direction but Meike has put it more matter-of-factly.

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    1. Moving to Lancashire could easily feel like death.

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  9. So moving and poignant.

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    1. Thanks for reading this blogpost Justine.

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    2. That is so lovely of you to immortalise her in this way. My own mother is approaching 94 in a few weeks and is still as bright as a button too but also physically failing. She has moved around a bit in all those years. It will be such a wrench for Norma to leave that house after all those years in it. It sounds as though she has accepted it though.

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    3. Yes. She has accepted it. As I say, she is fully compus mentis and a realist to boot.

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  10. She sounds very clear-headed and articulate for such an advanced age. It's too bad she has to leave home, but I wonder if it isn't also a relief to be in a place where she can receive help with daily life.

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    1. Help and social stimulation. Since her husband died she was often lonesome.

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  11. We have one or two similar old ladies around here - they are the real stalwarts - I have a 97 year old friend and she is fit as a flea.

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    1. One day folk in Leyburn will say the same about you Mrs Weaver!

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  12. A kindness on your part YP. The handwriting is absolutely 'older person'....and don't be rude about Lancashire! that is my heritage and hopefully Lancashire will be kind to Norma.

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    1. Chorus: She's a Lassie from Lancashire
      Just a Lassie from Lancashire
      She's the Lassie that I love dear
      Oh so dear!
      Though she dresses in clogs and shawl
      She's the prettiest of them all
      None could be fairer, or rarer than Sarah (Libby)
      My Lass from Lancashire.

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  13. The older generations can surely teach us a thing or two about manners and etiquette. Her words so eloquently written, I miss the times of handwritten thank you notes, and more. Sad that Ms. Norma is having to leave her lifelong home, we have just faced the same situation with a dear aunt, and now her house and belongings, all sold on the auctioneer's block, together with a century of memories.
    God bless her, in her new home.
    ~Jo

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