I had a funny phone call from a friend this morning. She and her husband had been to an Anzac Day Dawn Service. Somehow with all the items that needed to be plugged in at the Town Hall the power circuit blew and the town descended into darkness. An electrician was called in and finally fixed the power and the ceremony recommenced. But when she glanced up at the Town Hall clock it was slowly going backwards! Her husband is a clockmaker so after a hasty breakfast he went to fix the clock. I won't go into details but apparently there is a switch that stops the hands when the power goes off but it had malfunctioned and the hands started winding backwards instead of forwards. I was taken by this story because it is so similar to our own stroke journey.
Every time my Ray had a stroke our time started to wind backwards, back to hospital, back to the wheelchair, back to therapy. My time would be taken up by putting Ray through the recovery process and when we finally came back to our regular routine large chunks of time had passed and our friends had moved on without us again. I resented this somewhat but realised that it was our life now. We had some good times between the strokes and I look back on those happy memories now and appreciate what we were able to do. But I also regret some of the things we were not able to do, like the travelling we had planned and just normal things like attending the milestone parties (50,60,70) of our friends, the family engagements, weddings etc, a part of what would have been our normal life without the strokes. But for me the learning on the journey is what sustains me now. The ability to overcome obstacles and play down fears.
As I write this jet planes are flying overhead, there will be many Anzac ceremonies today and with some of them there will be a fly past, an acknowledgement of what the Air Forces contributed to the various engagements, particularly in the Second World War. I don't attend the Dawn service these days, I had a lot of years attending with my children when they were Scouts, Guides, Venturers etc. I remember crisp and misty dawns, both in inland towns and on the Central Coast, the brilliant sunrises, the scuffling feet of the young, the servicemen at attention around the Cenotaph, the trumpets playing the Last Post. After breakfast we then watched the handful of veterans marching at 11am with school children, the Junior Red Cross and the various Scout groups making up the bulk of the march with, if we were lucky, the town band accompanying them, depending on where we lived. Now I watch the marches on television. Without that other person to want to be at the ceremonies I find myself unmotivated to attend.
Unmotivated is what I am sometimes. I know now why elderly widows are not seen out and about. It takes an effort to go places that others take for granted. I go out because I have something I need to do, to socialise and to simply be where people are. During the last two weeks, which were school holidays, a lot of my neighbours were away for a week or so so not a lot of movement around my neighbourhood, not a lot of people going by on foot, except early in the morning when the dog walkers are out in force, really no-one to engage with. This is symbolic of the lead up to winter, the time when people will be more inside their homes and less out on the streets. I always find winter a problem as there is less socialising and more time spent indoors. Then it is a real effort to find someone to talk to so my chat group I have joined in the shopping centre will be a good place to go of a morning for coffee and a chat. I really need those places to go to meet people.
As I will be 70 in June I do qualify as "elderly" now. I don't feel that way but when I look in the mirror I see this grey haired woman looking back at me. I could dye the hair but the face, the hands etc would still give my age away. I don't worry about the wrinkles, I have earned those but I do care about the creaking knees and other parts of my frame that do not work as well as they used to do. Like others I sit up, put my feet over the side of the bed and hope everything works for the day ahead. That is why we lump age and disability together as age brings it's own disabilities. And there is no winding time backwards from that. Keeping as fit as I can, eating healthy food, keeping my mind sharp ( I played Carnival Games on my Nintendo Wii this morning as a self-challenge) is what life is all about now. And just going out and about doing whatever seems right for me to do. Today it is gardening, tomorrow it will be visiting nursing homes etc. What I need is a routine with some flexibility so I can do other things if I want to.
In two days time I will have lunch with my Adelaide grandchildren and their mother as they are up with their mother for the school holidays.. I usually see them once each school holidays, that is four times a year. It is not as often as I would like but it works to keep us in touch. Every time I see them I see changes in them, they are growing taller, talking about different things, they change slowly but to me seeing them only a few times a year it seems much faster. They do not show the interest in me they used to, I am just the Granma who lives on the Central Coast now. They are polite to me but not loving. I guess that is partly due to the modern way of life and there is not turning back from that. Maybe if they lived closer we would be more closely bonded but maybe not as family life is much different to what it was when I was young. I don't think my children realise how much I as a grandparent look forward to their visit, that glimpse of what the life ahead is for them as they grow up. I love them and miss them living close by as they once did.
For us older folk who remember way back it is sad sometimes to realise that the majority of our good times are behind us now. That the way of life we once knew is fading and that the generations between the Wars have passed on. Today, as I looked at the veterans marching in Sydney on my television, it was obvious that many marched on behalf of others who were no longer able to march, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents in the case of younger children. That doesn't mean that the march had less meaning or that we shouldn't remember, just that we are getting further from the memories of the two World Wars now and the older folk marching are from later conflicts. I believe in making memorials, I just know that as time passes that they mean less to us. It is good to be aware of the history of our countries and the history of conflict is a part of that.
Lest we forget.