Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Still Here

I've spent a good part of this evening reading old correspondence. Letters from decades ago, letters written from before I was born. Pearlie hoarded everything. I cannot bear to throw these old letters away without reading them first so that I can find out what hidden, historical gems they might contain.

Weddings were just as important in the forties and fifties as they are now but maybe not as extravagant. Long engagements weren't common among Pearlie's circle. Husbands were often chosen from the local neighbourhood. They didn't travel far in search of a spouse. I suppose too, better the devil you know....

Wedding presents consisted of pillowcases, bedspreads, blankets and cheval sets. Canteens of cutlery and china were popular gifts. One new bride boasted delightedly of receiving 'a fireside chair'.

They weren't just about weddings. There were letters from far-flung relations in Scotland, Canada and Australia. Some hinted, only hinted, at family scandal. I suppose 'reading between the lines' was a skill better understood in those days of paper and ink.

There was one far-flung cousin whose missives were a litany of woe from start to finish.

Recognising her scratchy hand-writing I said to Bert,


Here's another catalogue of misery from your one that's always sick, or her man's sick or the weans aren't well.

Aye. And if they do happen to be enjoying a brief spell of good health then the weather's shite and he's out of work again.
I started to read. The letter started as usual with complaints about the weather, the strikes (it was the Winter of Discontent) and the dreary Christmas they'd had. Then she started to write about her husband's old aunt. This aunt was in hospital but not doing well. It appeared the old soul had dementia although the word wasn't mentioned. The letter writer and her husband had been having a dreadful time with her. She was waking all night, going out in her nightdress and threatening her neighbours with a potato masher. To make matters worse this old doll was a keen letter writer herself and she was sending missives around all the friends and relatives claiming that the ones closest to her were neglecting her, never coming near her and worse again, hitting her. It seemed that 'cheeky' letters were being written back to to the old aunt's carers accusing them of mistreating the old girl. Little wonder the letter continued '...and I am not a well woman myself. There are days I can hardly get out of my bed.' No doubt she was deeply depressed but depression, like dementia, would hardly have been acknowledged in those days.

I finished the letter feeling a great deal more sympathy for that long dead and put-upon woman.

Our troubles all come to an end eventually.

Pearlie spends a great deal of her time in one room. Her interests have narrowed. Her conversation is dreary and uninteresting. She spends her time doing simple puzzles or reading the bible. She eats hardly anything and is obsessed with her bowels. She is negative about everything. She cares very little for her appearance. She has no interest in the past or the future. Her youngest sister died just over a week ago and it hardly affected her.

Matty is different. She's still full of beans and I pray she will always be like that. She is interested in people and interested in the world. She cares what she looks like. Maybe she's a bit too fixated on her health problems but she tries hard to stay positive.

I wonder what kind of old, old lady I'll be. If it's the Pearlie kind I don't want to get there. If it's the Matty kind it might be alright. No matter what sort I become I hope there will be no-one peeking round my door in the morning watching my shallow, sleeping breaths and thinking to herself, 'Not dead yet.'

7 comments:

L said...

After he retired, my grandfather became just like Pearlie. It was a chore to go and visit him, which made us all feel guilty, so we went to visit him, and we left cross. Before my dad retired he said to us, "If I ever start to get like my dad, please, please tell me." He is NOT like my grandfather because he has interests ... you do as well and as long as Scrabulous is still around, I'm sure you will be the Matty type! Continued best wishes to you ...

m.

Nelly said...

I'll certainly try. Pearlie's interests were always very narrow even in her livelier days.

sageweb said...

Oh I bet those letters are just amazing.

I am thinking...from what I have read...you are more like Matty.

yellowdog granny said...

I think your more like Matty too...
I'm 65 and if I live to be a ripe old age I plan on raising as much redneck hell as possible...I want to drop dead over a pool table or during a football game...

Birdie said...

When a woman reaches a certain age, there are no limits on what she can get away with saying. I plan on articulating a great deal. Why on earth would I waste it on complaining when there is so much else to say? (And besides, complaining replaces laughter. Hardly a trade in my book.)

evilganome said...

I have a feeling that you will be leading your girls a merry chase in your old age. No worries there.

Sometimes my own dear mother is just a bundle of complaints, but damn she can be funny too. I never know what will come out of her mouth next.

Brighid said...

I have a feeling you will be a terrific Matty Jr. My mother resembles Pearlie and I'm praying (saints shudder)that I'm like my dah (85), always busy, interested, learning, Doing...