Sunday, June 22, 2014


‘You can’t go yet. You haven’t finished my cardigan,’ says Rosie’s daughter, June, an elderly woman herself, snugly dressed in a pleated skirt and something sensible in stocking-stitch that, from my chair opposite, looks suspiciously like another cardigan. June’s husband Geoff is sitting next to her, garden-brown, inflated with bonhomie.
‘Not long now before the telegram,’ he says, nodding towards the fireplace.
‘I don’t care a stuff about that,’ says Rosie, but still she can’t help glancing over at the portrait of the Queen that’s been set up there, a vase of red, white and blue flowers at the side.
Gemma, a Cocker Spaniel so inert I half expect to see a line of wool running from her tail up to Rosie’s knitting needles, twitches an ear as the carer comes in.
‘Have you decided what you’re doing yet?’ she says, putting down a tray of tea things. ‘Staying or going?’
‘Staying,’ says Rosie.
‘I thought as much. I’ll carry on with lunch.’
‘I can quite understand why you’re reluctant,’ I tell Rosie. ‘But of course our advice is to come up the hospital for a check-up. It probably was a TIA, but even though it’s all resolved, you’re at a higher risk of stroke.’
‘I know, dear. It’s kind of you to come out and see me like this. But for heaven’s sake, I’m ninety-nine years old. I don’t want to be dragged up the hospital, left on a trolley for hours, poked and prodded by a bunch of doctors, fed through machines, and then discharged home for someone to keep an eye on me, whoever that might be. What earthly good is that? If it’s my time to go, I’m ready. I’ve had a marvelous run, and I’m grateful for it. If I’m to have a stroke, so be it. Cheerio n’all that. But I’m not going up the hospital, as you put it. Or down, neither. I’m quite comfortable where I am, thank you very much.’
‘You always were a stubborn so-and-so,’ says June.
‘And you wouldn’t expect me to change now’ says Rosie. ‘I’m almost one hundred years old. Think of that! There must be some benefit to’t.’
Geoff smiles, grunts, and starts the awkward process of manoeuvring himself to the edge of his chair so he can reach the biscuits.
‘I’ll need you to sign our paperwork,’ I say to Rosie.
‘I don’t care what I sign,’ she says, putting her needles down and giving me a gummy smile. ‘So long as I’m here for lunch.’


Cassandra said...

Interesting. I was just speaking with some friends about that, and my husband as well. Kind of makes you think along those lines when you're in the hospital, but anyway… I think it's marvelous that she has the mental acuity to MAKE that decision in the first place. Good for her.

She's right. Emergency rooms are a big hassle, everything she described happens, and what are they going to do? Monitor her for… the stroke. The one that's probably coming. If it came down to being monitored and having death prevented (but at her age and with already having one TIA probably resulting in at least a semi-vegetatitve state, yeah?) or just settling in comfortably for the "long haul", I'd hunker down and wait it out myself.

I'm only 26 now. That's why I fight tooth and nail. But at the end of a good, long life, and with tea and sandwiches waiting for me… I'm fairly certain I'd choose lunch as well.

Spence Kennedy said...

She was pretty amazing, thoroughly independent &c., perfectly able to weigh up the facts (better than me, actually). And she was right. That's exactly what would have happened in hospital. The worry was that later on at home when everyone had gone she'd be reliant on her care button to summon help, and she might not be able to do that. Still, like you say, she had the mental acuity to understand the facts.

And anyway, you can't argue with a good lunch... ;)

jacksofbuxton said...

It must have been a good lunch on the menu for that day Spence.

Sabine said...

More power to her, I say.

My granny died age 103 and she was anything but the cuddly type. Always put you in your place and no nonsense, you hear me.
But she knew a thing or two about coping and life and I hope I have some of that genetic make up.

Spence Kennedy said...

Jack - Actually it was a Sunday and it was a roast dinner...!

Sabine - 103! That's quite an achievement. I think there's a certain amount of luck involved, (esp. genetic luck), reaching that age - but bloody-mindedness & self-determination must play a huge part, too! Certainly all the 100 yr olds I've met have been sparky (and spiky) as anything. :)

Blair Ivey said...

All of my relatives have died in their mid/late eighties, but with mental faculties intact. I expect the same. I'm close enough to think about it, but if you live to be 100, why worry about anything?

Spence Kennedy said...

Rosie's the ideal of course, living to a great age but as mentally sharp as ever. There are so many variations on a theme of ageing, though. It's still a scary subject for a lot of people (incl me), esp. now that the medical emphasis seems to be on keeping people alive regardless of their personal circumstance or the prognosis. (In other words, start saving for that ticket to Switzerland now...)