dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

Dementia Diary 23: Must it be twilight?

on November 23, 2012

Aldeburgh

Where I come from, we call them scorries.

Big gulls. Loud, large and ever-present. On rooftops and circling round the fishing boats. Perched opportunistically wherever folk may be daft enough to offer them a titbit – or where they might be able to steal one. And depositing large white dollops on cars, railings, people. ‘There’s luck,’ the old folk used to say.

I actually love the gulls. Yes, they’re noisy and can be a nuisance, but to me they’re brave and rather wonderful. Yes, they’re scavengers, wheeling in the wake of boats to feast on the guts and innards thrown overboard, following the plough for what they can spot, and circling our landfill sites to pick out whatever they can find that is edible. But they survive the most appalling weather conditions and when they skim overhead with the sunlight catching them pure white against a wintry blue sky, they seem amongst the beautiful of birds.

So yes, I love them. I even admire their opportunism. And that raucous croak is one of the sounds of home for me! When I visited my sister, I was delighted to wake to that noise from the gulls that sat on her chimney above my bedroom.

So visiting Aldeburgh on our day out today, I photographed the gulls perched at the hut selling fish on the beach.

The seaside towns of Suffolk throng with tourists and holidaymakers during the summer, at Easter and at half-term. Tomorrow Aldeburgh’s Christmas lights will be switched on by Lenny Henry and I’m sure the town will be abuzz. But when the tourists go home, and the holiday homes empty, places like Southwold and Aldeburgh change. It’s a funny kind of limbo. They can’t revert to thriving fishing towns because those days are over. Half the houses will be empty, awaiting the next influx of holiday people for Christmas. The locals rattle around in the emptiness.

When I went to fetch my husband this morning, he was having coffee in the conservatory. The lady next to him was knitting. She had done a good couple of inches in a cheerful red and white stripe. ‘My thirteenth,’ she told me. Jumpers for children in an orphanage in Tanzania. My husband told me she’s never seen without her knitting, except at meals.

The other two folk simply sat. One recently widowed is also suffering pain from a hip that needs replacement. The other needs a zimmer frame to get around.

The home, while excellent in every way, does seem a bit like the seaside towns when the visitors have gone. Except for the knitting lady who has found herself a purpose.

Long ago, and in other countries where elderly folk aren’t packed off to retirement homes, they have a valued and valuable role in their families and society. I wonder are we doing our loved ones a disservice by insisting they take it easy and focus on enjoying themselves in their later years – in other words focus on themselves, their entertainment… making them selfish, self-absorbed. When maybe they would prefer to be useful, to have something worthwhile to do with their time for as long as they are able. To give them back their self-worth, self-esteem, dignity.

And of course this is much more difficult to arrange than ‘entertainment’. I notice the home my husband is in will be having a day in the kitchen to help make the Christmas puddings. I’m sure the ladies especially will enjoy that. But I do feel challenged now!

Text: “Show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” Leviticus 19:32

Prayer: Help us respect our loved ones and show them that respect. Let us see them through Your eyes and see what we can do to ensure they retain their dignity and self-worth.

Self-care suggestion: The most effective thing we can do to help our loved ones is to depend completely on God our Father and rely on Him, taking to Him our worries and our questions, and letting Him lead us every step of the way. It’s amazing what a difference it makes. (And it’s shocking to realise that the opposite – turning elsewhere for that help, support, guidance – is in fact idolatry! Ouch.)

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