My Final Words to my Sister

My Sister Peggy

I previously blogged about my Sister who was almost 10 years older than me. You can read those blogs here and here.

There were four of us in the family, my two brothers Norman, the oldest and Peter and then my Sister Peggy as she was known. (Her real name was Barbara Eileen and I have no idea where Peggy came from).They were all grouped closely together and then there was me, who arrived 10 years after them. Later on in life, I learned there was a lot of chatter about my Mum having an affair with a guy named Basil from Punnetts Town and the gossip goes that he was my real Father.

Anyway, the point is that I really didn’t know any of them very well until much later in life when we were all adults (sort of adult in my case). Back then, there was a war going on and all three of them enlisted. When they returned, they were all grown up and I was still just a kid and I never got to know them at all. Peter died of the after effects of rheumatic fever that he had contracted during his time in service and which left him with a very weak heart. That left Norman and Peggy who were busy getting on with their own lives. My Mother had met a GI and left us to come to the USA and my Father remarried which was followed by my stint at living with my Step Mother, whom I disliked intensely. I moved again to live first with my Aunt Elsie in Sandy Cross until she became too sick and then moved in with Peggy and Ron and her family in Hailsham for a couple of years as I moved around in my earlier troubled life. I remember that I was often called upon to be the babysitter for their two kids Jim and Sheila, a job that I thought of as unfair to keep me from being with my friends and kicking a football (soccer) ball around.

Both Norman and his second family, having divorced his Egyptian wife that he met during the war, and my Sister and her family followed me over here to America and we all settled in at Fort Plain, New York where our Mother lived with her husband Hermie. That was the closest that we had ever been as a collective family and it only lasted a few years as I moved out to Texas following my marital break up. I barely saw them much after that and then only on the very few trips that I made back to Fort Plain. I came back for Normans funeral when he died of Alzheimer’s and for my one last visit to my Step Father, Hermie prior to his death of lung cancer. Then our Mother died at the ripe old age of 94 and after that, I didn’t see Peggy again. She was the only one of the original family left. She lost her husband Ron and then moved to Florida to live with her Daughter and their family. I kept saying I would go visit but much to my regret, I never made that trip. That was all probably 15-20 years ago and although we stayed in touch we never physically made any more contact. We kept in touch either by letter or by the occasional phone call. One day, a couple of years ago, when I called to speak with her, Gary, Sheila’s husband and with whom Peggy was living, told me to say that she wasn’t mentally doing well and was in the first stages of Alzheimer’s and was very confused. This got progressively worse and when I called a couple of times after that and I tried to talk to her she just ranted on about where she used to live in Hailsham and had no clue to whom she was speaking. That was my last verbal contact with her. A couple of months ago, Gary and Sheila moved her into a special old folks home where she was living out her life and seemingly doing very well. On Friday last, I got a call from Gary telling me that my Sister was gone. She had died in her sleep at the age of 93.

All in all not a very good day all around. The truth is that we never grew up together and I was just a teenager when I lived with them and not really knowing which end was up. Now, as an old man I lack the compassion to feel much of a loss as time and lack of contact has eroded much of the sisterly or brotherly feelings between us. All I can say is that she was my Sister and in my own distant way, I loved her. Because of the Alzheimer’s we had stopped communicating a long time ago. Such a shame but that is the way of the world.

Now, I am the only original member left of this family…

Written 3/9/2020

Growing Old and Forgetting things…

Growing Old

Growing Old

One of the advantages of growing old is having the knowledge of all of the years that have passed, stored up in your memory. Useful things like knowing that the earth is round and the sun always sets in the West, that your wife’s birthday was May 4th or was that April 4th? Danged if I can remember.

As long as you can still recall things and are not having too many “senior moments” it is very useful sometimes. You can impress people with your knowledge of a subject and as long as the subject doesn’t change, you do fine. Change the subject and the gears don’t move fast enough to recall anything.

It’s a question of being prepared. Like having to Google your brain to see just what it is willing to give up.

Like when you are at a gathering in the middle of a conversation and suddenly, you come out with something, a thought that just crossed your mind, that has absolutely nothing to do with the proceedings or the current conversation. When people look at you in disbelief you realize you have probably just said something out of line but for the life of you, cannot remember just what it was.

Or you are in a meeting and are plunging ahead with your point of view when you have the floor,only to lose your train of thought and you keep babbling in the hope that it will come back. Usually it doesn’t and what started out as a perfectly good sound scientific argument ends up as complete drivel.

How often have you gone from one room to another to get something only to forget what it was you went into the other room for and end up having to retrace your steps and thoughts in the hope of remembering what was so important to make you want to go into the other room anyway.  Sometimes, it comes back to you and others, it doesn’t.

What is interesting about these minor lapses is the feeling of real pride and accomplishment when you do remember. Instead of it being just a normal memory recall, It is like a miracle moment.

I think the worst “blank” of all with many people is remembering people’s names. I can be introduced  and have this wonderful ability to immediately forget the name of the person I was just introduced to. I usually spend the rest of the conversation looking for clues. Don’t talk to me about names. Smart and intelligent people who are talking to an older person who they haven’t seen in a while, sometimes have the sense, when they introduce themselves, to remind you of who they are and maybe what connection they have with you. This helps immensely as the gears and cogs in the brain have something to guide them to make the remembering process a bit shorter and not so painful. If they don’t, you spend the entire rest of the conversation wondering who they are, as to how do you know them or they you. It’s considered rude to address them as “Hey, you” to get their attention.

When I coached little kids at soccer, I had a set of twins on the team who did look pretty much alike. So the Mother, in order to help me, dressed the kids out differently with one in black boots and shorts and the other in red. Trouble was, I could never remember who was which color so I still got it wrong. At least the odds were good in my favor as I always had a one in two chance I would be right.

You young people out there, if you think I am making this up, make the most of having a good memory as I can guarantee that when you grow old, it will happen to you. I am not talking about anything serious like Alzheimer’s but just normal day-to-day memory lapses that can be both embarrassing and sometimes funny. Just don’t let them turn deadly.

One consolation is that when you do say or do the wrong thing, others put it down to you being “old and forgetful”. It gets you out of a lot of hot water and you can get away with a lot of good stuff.