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A friend of dorothy. Sunday July 23, 2017

Three years ago this week I got up to go to the loo, as usual in total darkness. I took one step too many. An hour later I was in hospital awaiting surgery, hip broken in two places, extensive soft tissue injuries.

I opted to stay awake during the operation, so soon afterwards was fit to move onto the main ward. Still in shock and exhausted, I wanted to be left in peace.

“Oh here’s a nice lady for me to talk to, hello my duck!” came from the next bed.

“Just my luck” I thought. And indeed it was.

Dorothy was 92, and had been in and out of hospital for weeks due to a hip that refused to heal. I need not have worried that I was not up to talking, she talked more than enough for both of us. The nurses loved her. She had visitors waiting for space beside her bed. Among them her daughter, who had been alone for many years following her divorce. Now she was about to remarry, a lovely man who adored her. The wedding was days away, and there was no way that Dorothy would be able to attend.

I could not help but overhear the conversation, the daughter insisting she could not get married without her Mum being present, they would postpone it.

Dorothy’s response was as far removed from how my own spiteful, self-obsessed mother would have behaved in those circumstances as you could get.

“You have been a wonderful daughter to me, and a wonderful mother to your own family. Now it’s your turn for some happiness. Nothing will make me happier than to lie here knowing you are marrying that lovely man. We will celebrate again when I’m back home, but don’t you dare cancel!”

By the second day I had to hold a pillow against my broken ribs, I was laughing so much at her stories.

We stayed in touch for the remaining 18 months of her life. I wish I had known her longer, but am so grateful I ever knew her at all. I used to joke that I needed to request an audience, she had so many visitors. They say if you want to be a nice old person, you need to start practising when you are young. She had not had an easy life, suffered much sadness and illness. Yet not one word of self-pity crossed her lips,and the harshest criticism of others was “The least said about them the better”

Her last words were “I think I could manage a cup of tea”

It was standing room only at the funeral. She was such a good and decent woman, a kindly Christian in the real sense of the word. I look at her photo every day, kiss her dear face.

Have you had inspiration from an ordinary person, met someone who left a deep impression on you, showed you the true meaning of humanity?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 12:39am

First to comment again, I must get a life! Or sleep! What a lovely blog Valerie, it genuinely put a smile on my face. I know of two people like this. Well one has now passed away but he was so very positive I am sure that is why he lived so long (101). The other is similar, looking after a very poorly wife with parkinsons and dementia, he himself being in his 80's but he never moans, he just gets on with it and says how lucky he is to have had such a good life. Oh I have just thought of another person as well, she is 90, so fit and active, great sense of humour still, and likes to talk about her life and makes fun of herself. Is it something to do with the generation? I am sure I will be a miserable old person! How nice that this lady made your stay in hospital more bearable. "Hello my duck" says it all. Think I would have said "quack quack". But seriously, a lovely story. Molly xx

Sally Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 7:03am

What a lovely story, Valerie. It was heartwarming to read.

David Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 7:13am

Thank you do you ever sleep well Molly?

Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 5:24pm

Ha Ha David - yes I do manage some sleep, at very odd hours !

David Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 7:18am

I had Fred at Weztminster City Council he taught me so much about Politics he was my second father. His spirit lives on in me every day.

Marmaladegirl Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 8:18am

Hi Valerie - What a beautifully written, uplifting blog! MG xx

Orangeblossom Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 8:30am

Thanks for this inspirational blog Valerie. Loved reading it. I do have a couple of friends both called Anne, who have been a great inspiration to me over the years and stayed by me when I was at my worst.

Angela Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 9:03am

Thank you Valerie for this lovely story. Food for thought :)

Jul Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 10:28am

Hello Valerie. I laughed when you said you just wanted to be left in peace. It's strange isn't it when we want that solitude but someone invades our space and actually it turns out so well. I can't think of anyone who has inspired me really except perhaps my parents in their different ways, both dead now. Thank you for your blog. A lovely story and tribute to Dorothy. Jul xx

Mary Wednesday Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 10:38am

Oh Valerie, your blog brought tears to my eyes and immediately reminded me of Granny Dewey. Granny was actually my cousins' granny (their father was an only child and had married my father's sister), but she was granny to the whole world. She came from humble roots and had to work hard all her life.She was so proud that my Uncle John had done so well in life (he ended up as Head of Department at Oxford University - a testament to the Grammar School system). Her husband was never well mentally, but was gifted with his hands. I still have the toy farm he made me; it is a work of art. When her own grandchildren left for America she took us on (our surviving grandparents were an austere and unloving lot on both sides) and it meant that we had a proper loving and understanding granny; such a great gift. There was always cake in the tin and a warm welcome; she sent us christmas presents right up until the time she died and she was just lovely. At her funeral (like Dorothy, jam packed in the church she attended) we discovered just how many lives she had touched and just how many people loved her. When I read that wonderful book, The Great Divorce, by C S Lewis and the character of Sarah Green, I think of Granny.

Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 11:34pm

This is a lovely story Mary. It reminded me of my step nan - who was more of a nan to me than my real ones. She lived in Plymouth and used to make the best cornish pasties! Sometimes she would give me one of her little ornaments and tell me not to tell the other grandchildren (as she didn't have enough to give them all one). Unfortunately at my grandad's funeral she thought I was someone else (my first experience of Alzheimer's) but I have lovely memories of her and grandad xx

The Gardener Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 11:22am

Valerie, what a lovely blog - so lucky to fall on a 'Dorothy' - I think there are some around me, unfortunately I have 'missed' talking to them while still lucid (me or them? ambiguous!). I've had bad luck. I had a Nuffield scholarship, finished up having to get a boat from Palermo to Genoa and then drive on to Switzerland. Boat delayed, of course, I was stuck on the quayside at Palermo for the night, with a high temperature and bronchitis. Some students saw my UK number plate, said I coult NOT stay there the night. I brushed aside fears of kidnap as they took me to their sister's house, where she put me in the child's bed, kept me warm, the students led me back to the port and I fell on to the boat. In my cabin was an Italian lady. Noticing my English accent she announced that she had a sister in Birmingham and what a nice chat we would have. The crossing was 22 hours - I got a cabin to myself. After my mother's death and funeral I got back to France very stress and with a racing pulse, and was bunged into hospital. It was excessively hot - my room mate was 92, in for breathing problems, and she kept tearing her oxygen mask off making alarm bells ring and staff to rush in. They agreed I could not stick any more stress, particularly if the dear old thing should die with no air, so they move me. My room mate was quieter but the ghost of Mummy - non-stop grumbling about hospital, food, bed, staff. Mary W, we all need a Granny Dewey

David Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 12:39pm

I have reread your blog Valerie and realisee I did not take in all the details my mother was also remote,now living in Austraiia with dementia at age over 80 but I forgive her.You have to live your life with no regrets.

Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 11:57pm

David, I try to live my life without regrets as well and some things are out of our control. You have put a new perspective on the word 'regret' for me. I often attributed it to myself and my actions in life rather than other people's actions. Got me thinking now !

The Gardener Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 1:00pm

My mother's mother was lovely. Sadly war years (I was 5-10, best years for Grannies) then my parents' separation when I was 15 meant I did not see her much at all - then, when I was 'free' to see her again, and to introduce my own children, she had dementia. She taught me to knit, to love horse-racing, but not Guiness. She took me down Brixton Market - she in a hat like the Giles Granny - and introduced me to the badinage with the stall holders. Loved markets ever since, now I am in the middle of a market and love it as much as 'Nanna'. She had nine daughters, 4 fat happy ones, four thin miserable ones, and one fat miserable one, my Ma - Nanna had little patience with her moaning - and I don't think my Mum liked HER Mum's cackle - not genteel at all.

Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 11:41pm

Gardener, that did make me laugh - 4 fat happy ones, four thin miserable ones and one fat miserable one. Your poor Mum :-) Some good memories there though xx

Mary Wednesday Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 12:22am

I liked that comment too! Actually, it is the fat, jolly, comfortable people we all love to hug. So why am I bothering to lose weight again? And - a my heroines so far are carrying a bit of extra, my current Gina included. My current hero just longs to lose himself in all that softness; to take comfort in her peace. She is a woman happy and content in herself, but she could never grace a catwalk, nor would want to.

Molly Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 3:09am

I am not fat or jolly. I am the thin miserable one. I must be miserable - because I am thin. I cannot help being thin though. I did find Gardener's comments funny but I wonder why people judge thin people. Am I not huggable then because I am thin? Are fat people happier than thin people? I would not want to walk a catwalk either but I am thin. It is the way I was made. Sorry for that. I have been told many times "go eat more" etc - I always had a healthy appetite. I found these comments offensive. I am thin. I am sorry. I cannot do anything at all about it xx

Lexi Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 2:31pm

So lovely,Valerie. I wish I had a Dorothy in my life right now. But perhaps I can aspire to be one. I think your post has made many of us reminisce about loved ones long gone. xo Lexi

Molly Sun, Jul 23rd 2017 @ 11:46pm

Lexi, I thought that you were Lex for a moment there and wondered why Lex would want to be a Dorothy! I was going to tell him that he can keep what he does at the weekends to himself. Sorry Lex! But yes I agree that Valerie's blog certainly gave us a good think about loved ones gone and inspiring people in general. M xx

Mary Wednesday Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 12:23am

Im sure Lex would chuckle over that!

Molly Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 2:56am


Lex Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 5:42am

...and I say, "Why keep it to the weekends, Molly?!!!" Happy to be 'Dorothy' any day of the week, but you can call me 'Dot' or perhaps... 'Dotty'! x

Molly Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 9:30pm

Lol, glad you enjoyed that Dotty xx

Lex Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 5:38am

This is SO beautiful, Valerie, thank you for such a heart-warming and inspiring example. x

Valerie Mon, Jul 24th 2017 @ 10:10am

Here is one of Dorothy's stories that had me begging for mercy (among my injuries was a bashed bladder!)
For her 80th.birthday her daughter booked them both into Droitwich Spa for a day of treatments.First off,a session in the famous saline baths.The drill is,go down the steps,hang onto the rail,let go and then float,blissfully relaxed.Dorothy,shortish and solid of build,followed the instructions,but the moment she let go,she,in her own words "shot like a torpedo" the whole length of the pool.

An attendant got in and held her hands,but as soon as they let go,she hurtled off again.
After several attempts,with everyone in hysterics,it was decided to go off to the next therapy.

Dorothy was guided by her daughter towards the steps,where an elderly couple were about to descend.As the man was lowering himself in,the strange force kicked in again,and Dorothy shot towards him,her arms and legs wrapping around him,as she put it,like a crab.His wife was screaming and slapping at Dorothy,who could not let go.
No one who worked there could recall such a thing ever happening before.
The male nurse who was with us when she recounted this sat down howling with laughter,while I begged for a bedpan!

Melanie Wed, Aug 2nd 2017 @ 8:01pm

I love your blog Valerie. Thank you!! Here's to celebrating older people who improve our lives in their final years! - and hoping I can be such a person.....xoxox

Anonymous Sun, Aug 27th 2017 @ 10:52pm

So many elderly people touched my soul when I was in the wards. They are full of wisdom and stories that I could listen for hours. My own relatives bar my own grandmother, who literally preferrred an unrelated friend to me, weren't very close until the end.

I worked with the elderly though.

There was a "funny" Dorothy too!! Who insisted on rubbing my face in her breasts at the age of 95 daily, when I tried to help her shower. And when I offered her coffee it was an ordeal.
"Oh - you want to take me for coffee do you? *wraps up dressing gown, coyly*"
"It's ready made here Dorothy. Would you like sugar and cream? *scarlet*"
"Are you saying you'll make it sweet and smooth for me young man? It's how I like it!! *begins undressing*
I had to close the curtain and run from the ward with mortification, and I remember he day after that shift I remember the hysterics recounting the story, of which that is one example.

And there was an Evelyn who I loved as much as my own grandmother who I looked after every shift for months and months. We'd steal the radio and see if we could guess the symphonies on classic FM. It was forbidden but I'd take her flowers to her nursing home on Fridays sometimes, but never told anyone in case I got fired. It was gross misconduct to do so you see.

And then there was Mary, whos husband went home down south and she wasn't going to make it before he got back. She was scared and alone and was suffocating. I got off shift, burned their song to a CD, put it on repeat and sat holding her hand 4 hours after my shift had ended until she passed talking to her about how great heaven would be even though I didn't believe it existed.

I rarely talk about these moments because I cherish them so much and don't think others truly get their meaning to me, but I have so many of them. I remember coming home one night when my first patient that I cared for and came to love was dying and had given up. I begged her in tears to fight for her husband, who came in all day to try to keep her spirits up and feed her. I begged and begged and begged to fight and stay alive for all of us, since she was such a lovely woman and brightened all she touched. She died two nights later, and I remember I sat by the window at the flat I stayed at and sobbed for a good ten minutes with a candle. I don't think the people my age understood why I was so upset, but I had just realised I loved my patients too dearly, and I'd never be able to reconcile that with being a good doctor. I bought an extra candle each time I lost a patient from then on.

I decided to have children would be unwise, at any point, and I vow I shall not, so I lose that immortality parents get. I carry my own motes of eternal life though - the quiet ones, that nobody was there for, the smile on a 100 year old woman's face when I managed to surprise her. I'll remember each and every one, and that will be my gift to them.

Tangent, but sharing is cathartic. Maybe I'm not a monster after all.

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