15 December 2017

Card

Do you remember a post I wrote in July titled "Norma"? It concerned an elderly neighbour who had lived on our street since the early nineteen thirties. She's now over in Lancashire living in a residential care home for the elderly not far from her only son's home. This morning I received a surprise Christmas card from her:-
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Dear Master Pudding,


It was so kind of you to send me the card of Winnat's Pass and your good wishes hoping I would settle okay at Longridge.

It has taken a long time getting used to being cared for. It will never be home to me but am looked after well although now I have begun to walk again with two sticks. I insist on looking after myself - i.e. washing, dressing, toilet etc.. It has been hard work with the help of the physios but I was determined to walk again and have managed it!

I see my son every day so that is nice and he has been a wonderful help. Had a time in Preston Hospital but now apart from having to run to the loo a lot I am much better. Of course at 92 body parts start wearing out.

I wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and hope that 2018 will be a happy year for you all.

Again thanking you for the card and good wishes.

Fondest regards,
Norma
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In the unlikely event that I ever reach the ripe old age of 92, I hope that my mind functions as clearly as Norma's still does. I plan to send her some questions that will tease out her earliest memories of this Sheffield suburb. I know that when she moved here at the age of just four, nobody on our road owned a car and milk and coal were delivered by horse and cart. She has seen a hell of a lot of changes in her long life and I think she will enjoy my planned task.

26 comments:

  1. Just to let you know beforehand, I have done workshops with elders and it's sad but true that if a person was boring in their 20s, they will still be banal in their 90s. So many people seem to glide through life without ever noticing what a miracle it is to be alice, and when they hit old age all they want to discuss is the aches and pains and how things used to be, without drawing any conclusions or summing-ups (I love Somerset Maugham's boo by that title) or even any notice for the detail that would make a reminiscence come alive. I guess what I'm talking about is self-knowledge, which face it, human beings try their hardest to avoid. I write this because there's a hint in that message you posted that indicates a lack of narrative ability on the part of your Norma: What story teller would think it was pertenant to include her loo habits???

    Expect an inventory of her ailments, and the minutia of her lunch menus and doctor appointments and visit from progeny. Dear God, I never want to get that old.

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    1. I really should proof read. Not "alice": alive.

      Not Somerset Maugham boo: bio.

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    2. What an odd response to that post! She was speaking to an old friend, and certainly did not dwell on her "loo habits," but reminded those of us who may be lucky enough to live to an advanced age that the needs of the body are always with us, and often quite difficult for the aged to deal with without embarrassment.
      I regret that I did not ask my grandparents more about their lives, but just whined (as I think you are doing) about hearing the same old stories. Did I really listen, and ask for details? No. And I so wish I had. I don't want to be harsh, but if this is your view of crumblies, why do you choose to do workshops with them?

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    3. As a secondary school teacher, as well as teaching English I was in charge of a programme called Community Studies. One of the modules I devised involved my teenagers visiting old people living independently and old people living in residential homes. There were questions to ask and reviews to write. I led this work for almost ten years.

      Norma is a unique individual like each and every older person you might meet. I wouldn't dare to put them all in the same basket.

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  2. All right, Mr. Pudding. As an cultural anthropologist, would you allow me to offer a few words about how to structure your ethnography? Firstly, I would go to see her for a few minutes each week over a period of a few weeks or a month or two. Let her know that you will be recording your conversations for your benefit so that you don't forget anything. You are in your 60's, you know. Ask questions as they relate to her life in chronological order. After your first few questions, you will find the next week that she has already compiled lots of information in her head to tell you that was sparked by your last visit and that she has been mulling over for a few days. Then in a few months, you can begin to transcribe her story and visit places she has talked about or look up information about people she knew then. And off you go to a very good story (hopefully) that could morph into a book of fiction based on fact.

    You never know what will happen when you mine the memories of the elderly. I have worked at our tiny little village's senior resource center for a long time. Just in speaking with the few daily visitors over the years, I found a gentleman who is a wonderful artist whose job in the 40's and 50's was to drive new autos to dealers all over the United States. He had amazing stories. I have also met a woman who was in the Woman's Baseball League after the war. Can you believe it? We also had a patron who was a pro football player during the late 50's and early 60's. Such a wealth of living great lives in this little town! Stories, stories, stories. What gifts they gave to me before their final rest.

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    1. Thank you for your reflections and suggestions Donna. Trouble is that Norma now lives eighty miles from here. At present I don't plan to drive over there. I just plan to mail her perhaps six questions to focus on and ask her to write her responses. I believe she will enjoy doing this. She is a good writer and the job will give her a good focus for a day or two.

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  3. Isn't a winnat a poo bit?

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    1. Winnat's Pass is near Castleton. It has nothing to do with what Framer Winnat passed each morning in the outhouse .

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  4. I feel like Vivian is being quite harsh. When we enter a relationship with a person it means taking an interest in what concerns them and if that means their lunch menu, their toilet habits and the visits from progeny, well be honoured that they want to share their world, even if it is diminishing.
    I hope your history project goes well, I would be delighted to be asked my reminiscences and I'm sure she will, too. Be sure to report back!

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    1. Thank you for your understanding Kylie. We are on the same wavelength.

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  5. That's lovely. Kindness shown and received...by both recipient and giver...and vice versa. :)

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  6. Most of the time we are too slow to ask questions. I started asking my Dad thing when He had forgotten them. So ask questions. Norma has the answers.

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    1. Norma is as sharp as a pin. Of course she might say "No" to my request>

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  7. A personal note is very different from reminiscing, with regard to Vivian's comment. I think you should do just as you wish in getting some of her memories on paper, Mr. Pudding Man. Good luck and I bet Norma will enjoy it very much. I'm very impressed that she has persevered to the point where she is walking once more. What a gal!

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    1. I tried to work a fourth "very" in there but failed :D sorry for the repetition

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    2. I also think that Norma will enjoy the task. Life can get very tedious in a residential home. People with active minds need focus to keep them sharp.

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  8. I assume that Vivian talks from experience but it still comes across as somewhat hard-hearted and cold. Doing what you intend sounds great and could lead to giving that lady another incentive in life - well done.

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    1. Thank you for your understanding Derek. In a few years time I might send you some questions but I guess that some of your responses will need to be censored.

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  9. Hats off to Norma for being so determined about walking again, and taking care of her personal needs herself as much as possible!
    It will be very interesting to read what you learn from her.

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    1. That woman has got guts. Six or seven years ago she had two hip replacements. She fiercely resisted residential care until she just could not cope any more.

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  10. She sounds like an old lady I would enjoy knowing. Yes, what a lot of changes. I'm already realising how many I have seen and I am a long way off 92 at present. I wonder if she ever saw a muffin man. My mother remembered one coming down the street in the evenings ringing a handbell. And a gaslighter.

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    1. A muffin man? Was he something like a gigolo?

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  11. During the 1930's we lived in a one-up and one-down and next door lived two maiden ladies and their brother. They made pikelets and the brother sold them. He had a wicker basket with a white cloth over and would go round all the pubs and did a good trade. If they were not all sold, he would go round the streets, ringing a bell, until they were.

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    1. That's a great memory to have of past times. When I first came to Sheffield you would get fish men going around pubs at the weekend selling seafood from wicker baskets - such as cockles and mussels and crabsticks. They don't come round any more.

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