by Lizzie A
The elderly and why they don't deserve their fate.
|To start on a rather negative theme, I am constantly amazed by how unjust the world is. If I were religious, I could at least have some consolation for this, thinking that there were some higher order at force, but alas, I am not.
When I see the elderly and frail, I feel an overwhelming sadness come across me. It isn't pity, I wouldn't be so self-righteous, but the thought that the people who have lived for the longest, had the most experience, the wisest, are the ones who are subjected to being almost childlike again is unfathomable to me. Shakespeare in his "The Seven Ages of Man" declares the elderly to be 'sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything' and he's not wrong. The body in the course of nature has to wither, that is the way of the world, but must it be so cruel? To rob the most deserving of their dignity and to make them lose their bodies and minds is horrific.
Today, I was travelling on a bus and a man nearing 90, I'd say, tripped and fell when paying his fare. No one helped him up, indeed some children starting sniggering. I'm not condemning everyone in their reserve in helping him, it is the way of the British, sad as that is, but surely his struggle to bring himself to his feet sparked some reaction to those behind him? To laugh at the misfortune of someone who is over four times their age is despicable, and though I'm far from believing that 'today's youth' are unruly (especially after being subject to these prejudices myself), I do believe there is a general lack of respect across the generations.
My grandparents, for example, all worked hard at bringing up their families. My father's parents, though living in a deprived area of Birmingham and having low-paid jobs, encouraged their children to work hard and chase their dreams. As a result, my dad and his siblings are successful with excellent jobs. Sadly, both my father's parents have passed away now, but my gratitude to them is infinite, without them, I would not be here.
Similarly my mother's parents instilled the same life ethics in my mum. My grandfather was born, and still lives, in Oldham, which though still deprived, was an extremely poor industrial town when he was born in 1924. He was the son of a cotton mill worker and his wife and they, together with his sister, grew up in a single bedroom of a small terraced house. In fact, they even had a lodger for a time, with the room curtailed into different make-shift bedrooms. He knew real poverty, knew what it was to feel hungry and without trying to be too melodramatic, didn't always know when or where his next meal would be. On Sundays, for a treat, bacon sandwiches would be on the table, but there would be one rasher for the four of them. His father, my great-grandfather, got and deserved this single rasher, with his wife and children having the meat pressed onto their bread to give the flavour. Though this paints a rather dreary image, they were a very happy, very loving family. Every penny they earned went into my grandfather's education and after leaving school at 14 and serving as a cook in the war, he returned to Oldham Polytechnic and began studying to be a surveyor, paid for by his father's meagre wages. Here he discovered a talent and passion in architecture and by the time he was 50, he was married with 4 children and owned his own business. He and my grandmother were successful, with my grandfather owning his architectural business and as a couple being very socially active. They are truly wonderful people, and yet now, well into their 80s, my grandmother has had a stroke and is left deaf in one ear, my grandfather suffers with terrible chest and lung problems daily and are both now really quite doddery. Their spirit and liveliness lives on, but their bodies prevent them expressing it.
Frailty is one of life's biggest tragedies. And it's inescapable, which makes it all the more heartbreaking.