Two seniors, poles apart



MY daughter laughs. She says, “Today 95-year-old Lucy told me how she wished I were her daughter. She’s such a sprightly 95-year-old and she is amazing.”

Lucy’s husband was a navy officer and the Second World War took a toll on his spirit. He returned, not quite the same man that he was. The couple never had children. But Lucy’s spirit remained strong, taking seriously the vow she and her husband had made, “till death do us part”.

Lucy always said that work is God’s gift to man. She encouraged my daughter to work, not to overdo things, but work to keep busy.

“You will be happy and have no time to grouch at people,” she insisted. “Live life to the full, like God intended man to.”

Almost a year ago, bush fires ravaged the Blue Mountains close to her home in Sydney. Several houses were razed, except for Lucy’s and one other.

Lucy said, “I have a twin and she has children. I am getting on. The sensible thing is to accept that even though I am able to walk around and do things independently, there’s still the house to maintain, and I didn’t want my sister and her children worrying about me all the time.”

Since moving into the residential aged care facility, Lucy’s nephew takes her every fortnight back to her house, so that she can gradually clear a room at a time. She has given heaps of household stuff to the Red Cross and other charities.

My daughter, who is a physiotherapist, treats her stiff neck and shoulders, for dear Lucy is still sewing at her age! She is downsizing, she chuckles. “I’ve lost weight over the years, and I can’t have my clothes hanging on me.” You will find Lucy bent over, diligently hand-sewing her clothes to make them a size or two smaller.

“I taught the missionaries who had gone far away from home to other lands, how to sew. There were no shops where they could find panties! So I sent them patterns to make up their own, tearing up their T-shirts! They could then hand-sew their own panties!” Lucy said proudly.

To prove a point, she gave my daughter one sample of her hand-sewn panties, assuring her that it hadn’t been used!

Just as you find this not-so-easy-to-beat Lucy still in high spirits, you will find Elfie, another spirited lady, but with a great difference. The staff shrug their shoulders at her every complaint. She will find something to complain about, or someone to complain about, every single day!

For instance, when there was no one to annoy her one day, she went close to the window to examine the curtains.

“Hah! I found a stain! I knew it. They don’t do their cleaning properly in this place!” Elfie screams to ensure she is heard. “And they didn’t clean my toilet either, today.”

When the Cleaning Supervisor was summoned, Elfie, after her round of complaints, declared smugly, “I know for sure that they didn’t clean my toilet. You see, I went to the toilet and deliberately didn’t flush it. When I returned, it still wasn’t flushed. So it hasn’t been cleaned.”

The reply that came was a surprise. With the cleaning chart in hand, where the staff marks the time of the cleaning duty, the supervisor retorted, “But that’s because the toilet was cleaned earlier when you weren’t there. Your ‘test’ came a little too late.”

Why are there senior citizens with such differing attitudes?

My daughter says, “If you never wanted to resolve your anger when you were younger, you just carry it with you till the end of your days. Because you didn’t want to work out your problems, they weigh heavily on you. You age, but year after year, you continue to bark at everyone and everything, because that anger has to spill over. You can see it in their faces, the ones with hard lines and deep frowns, the ones with drooping mouths, resentful eyes and so on. Friends and family have long deserted them because they remain unreasonable and refuse to change. This makes them hate the world, and they take it out on everyone around them. No wonder they moan, ‘oh … why do I have to wake up again to face another day?’

“But what makes my job at this home bearable is people like Lucy, still working and mending and sewing, thankful for each new day that God has given them. They are poles apart and I love the positive pole better.”

Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, it is the realisation of how much you already have. – Author unknown

Note: Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

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