As the Aussie soap theme tune goes – I still think of Janet every time I place an online grocery order. I used to do it for her when we were neighbours.
Janet was one of life’s amazing women. By the time I met her she was in her late 80s and stilly fully everything, but caring for Tim, her completely incapacitated partner. When I say fully everything I mean it – she was fully engaged, fully functioning and fully fantastic despite Tim’s frailty and her own health issues.
She and I became great buddies, initially chatting at the front door about the usual neighbourly stuff such as her amazing front garden. By the time Tim died I knew her well enough to help her with arranging the funeral, from talking to the vicar to organising the order of service and arranging the post funeral wake. After Tim’s death we became good friends. She continued to take in post and parcels in for me, and I’d often pop in for a cup of tea or a drink. I started going to the supermarket for her, and took her to buy a Christmas tree one year. We even co-hosted a street party.
As her health started to let her down so Janet became increasingly frail, with ever longer stays in hospital. When she was at home, her grocery order got shorter and shorter, and dare I say it, increasingly weird – not unhealthy – just weird. She loved smoked mussels in a tin; and peaches; and sometimes sherry. I tried to sneak a few extra things into her basket, but was always told not to bother.
The point for me was that we were friends. It didn’t matter that she was older than my mother or that she needed some help with dull things like groceries. It was never a chore and always a pleasure to be with her. She told me amazing stories about her life, and certainly taught me a thing or two about adversity.
I think what I’m trying to say here is that I expect it might all have been more of a chore if Janet had been a relative. I don’t know. I was able to choose the relationship I had with her, and shall always be thankful for her friendship. I never had to feel the guilt of “not doing enough” or being somewhere else because that was never part of our deal. It was just lucky for me that she became my neighbour. There’s no moral to this tale – just a thought that being part of someone’s life who welcomes some company and support can be a really great thing. It doesn’t need to be a burden. It can most certainly be a two way street.
I still miss Janet. But not quite enough to include smoked mussels and peaches in my grocery order! Yet.
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