On the pilgrim way: Ageing relatives
I am the youngest among all my cousins; and, as I see them up ahead of me in the journey of life, I find myself taking a keen interest in how they are handling growing old. Perhaps I can get some tips and some warnings. So in March I did a whistle-stop tour, by train, of my remaining German cousins.
Traute (84) has had years of painful back problems and has many screws and plates in various places. Now, standing for any length of time is painful and walking without her rollator (a kind of folding zimmer on wheels) is very limited. However she can still drive. For many years she was a significant lay member of the deanery synod; she continues to manage some of the family business affairs; she and her husband, Hans (89), are very well known in the town as he has been a major benefactor and employer. They are able to afford help in the house and to have a hot meal delivered once a day. I was impressed that she was not too proud to appear with her rollator at a concert or at the shops. She faced ageing, made arrangements, but did not allow it to have the last word.
Her sister, Linde, (87) can no longer see to read or enjoy music because of insistent tinnitus and now her speech has been impaired by a recent stroke. For many years she worked for the church as director of a conference centre. Used to being in charge and also used to being of service to her many friends and family, she is finding dependence on the kindness of others hard to bear: somehow they can never quite do enough. Yet, as the first signs of spring arrived she had managed, despite her dim sight, to paint me a lovely picture of a bowl of primulas.
Gerhard (88) and his wife, Christl (81) are both very deaf. I noticed how they laughed together over their mis-hearings and how Gerhard struggled not to be irritated when he could not hear a sermon he had looked forward to. He merely asked the preacher for a copy of the sermon. He is still passionately concerned about the world and its issues – in particular, at the moment, about the morality of drones. A granddaughter studying theology is coming to prepare for an exam by discussing gay marriage with him – he was Dean of Heilbronn. He wanted to discuss his beloved Teilhard de Chardin with me – but I had not read any. Active as they are – driving several hours to attend the confirmation of one of their 25 grandchildren – they have also put their names down for a local care home “just in case”.
Bless the Lord………..who satisfies you with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles’ Ps.103
Sheila Maxey is book reviews editor for Reform
This article was published in the May 2013 edition of Reform.
Read more articles by Sheila Maxey