Monday, 7 January 2019

An Elderly Shop


Today It was my turn to do some shopping and complete the prescription run for an elderly neighbour  who isn't too well.
I found the shopping list nostalgicly bittersweet in nature
Tinned stew, custard tarts, fruit cocktail.
The foodstuffs my mother used to like when I shopped with her on her weekly sojourn from her nursing home.
This was seventeen years or so ago now but I remember very well, loading up Chris's fiat in Sheffield    with a " loaned" oxygen cylinder from work and then driving the hundred miles to wales in order to take my mother out for a few hours.
Now when I say "taking out" I actually mean driving with her to Sainsbury's car park in order for her to Chain smoke cigarettes whilst connected to piped oxygen ( I know !!!I know!!!) 
As she puffed away I was sent into the store with a list.
After nearly two decades I can share that list without pausing

2 packets of lambert & Butler cigarettes,
Two strawberry tarts ( with cream),
2 miniature Gordon's gin,
A Daily Mail ( newspaper)
Wet wipes,
A Vicks nasal decongestant,
A box of tissues,
Bags of assorted sweets ( to be used as bribes so that the nursing home staff would take her for a cigarette )
Disposable lighter

After I'd shopped, and before we left for a " drive" one of the gins and one of the tarts had already disappeared as had at least three more fags and with the passenger window fully open regardless of weather we'd have a tootle around before she got bored and demanded to go back to the home.
This was the weekly routine until the day she died.
No serious conversations, no angst ,
No On Golden Pond moments,

Just a supermarket car park " gin and fag" picnic
And a hatchback that smelled of smoke on the long trip home



Ps before you think I was lovely read the 5th comment below xx

69 comments:

  1. Good for her. And good for you for obliging.

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  2. Anonymous12:55 pm

    Enough, John. It was enough for her and that is what mattered. She may never have told you so but she was grateful to you for your devotion and kindness. As my 95yr old mother would say, at least you have a clear conscience and can sleep at night . You are a star - and don't forget it! more hugs .

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  3. Very, very evocative. I've known a few people who would disconnect the oxygen tank long enough to have a cigarette or two. Today, vaping is God's gift to them.

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  4. Gemma1:14 pm

    Moving - on many levels.

    Were your sisters as accommodating? And did you do the odd eye roll and/or suppress a sigh to relieve the pressure? I hope your mother, when taking her last breath, went on a breeze rather than a wheeze. Hope you put some of the items of her shopping list into her casket, not the Wicks and wet wipes, the Daily Fail or tissues. No one needs those when dead.

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    1. My sisters had a dreadful time for many years supporting my mother. They lived in the same town so bore the brunt of her needs and requests.
      I only stepped up just a little very late in the day

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    2. Better late than never

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    3. Anonymous5:11 am

      Your mother's world may have been veery small at that point in her life, but, your sisters got a reliable few hours of relief.

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  5. It sounds like you were just what she needed to take away the tedium of her day to day life.

    I should imagine the journey home was an emotional one at times, driving away in a slowly clearing fog of cigarette smoke and picnic fumes. With memories of earlier times breaking up the monotony of the motorway.

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  6. A chap I know who liked to try different brands of cigarettes was on a motor cycling holiday in the hills of Wales in the '70's and had occasion to pop into a village shop. He asked the old fellow behind the counter if he had any 'Peter Stuyvesant'. The man was perplexed and shouted to his wife in the back. She came and there was much discussion in Welsh. The shopkeeper finally turned to my brother who was standing there patiently: Sorry mate, he doesn't doesn't live up here. You might try further up the valley.

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  7. I sometimes think that folk like your Mum had it about right. She enjoyed her fag and a drink.
    I know of people who have taken the dr advice and given things up that they enjoyed and still died a while later.
    Briony
    x

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  8. Another brilliant vignette - you paint a wonderful picture.

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  9. A nursing home shouldn't be a prison, thank you for helping her escape, even if for only a little while. I hope if I ever get to that point, someone will bring me a good book and a a nice bourbon (no rubbish.)

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  10. As a retired RN having worked in Nursing Homes...God Bless you for giving her a special day and your company.

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  11. Apart from the booze that was my mother in law..........

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  12. Cigarettes were like a modern day plague. So many people were infected with the disgusting addiction and though today the amount of cigarette smoking we see is massively reduced it has not entirely gone away. Your mother was a plague victim.

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  13. This story has tugged my heart more than you can know.
    Thank you, John.

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  14. I wonder how old one has to be to delight in canned stew and fruit cocktail.

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  15. I believe it's kind and important to satisfy long established cravings. My uncle used to take his grandfather a flask of whiskey. I always sent me aunt home with a pack of cigarettes. Don't make old folks go cold turkey; it's horrible.

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  16. Good man! Hope that my daughter would be as forbearing with me.

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  17. Angel cake, pickled onions and 'a nice piece of ham'. And tinned tobacco so she could roll her own. My Nan.

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    Replies
    1. Anything strong tasting is popular with the elderly...their sebse of taste deminishes so

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  18. Good for her, having her gin on her afternoon outing. It's important for people to indulge in their little joys!

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  19. Anonymous3:47 pm

    Mom died when I was seventeen, so I have no experience in growing old. No frame of reference. I'll never go to a nursing home or assisted living center. That would be my hell. Is there anything good about being old? Donna@gather

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    1. Sad that you missed the experience of watching and helping family members in later life. For many, advanced age brings wisdom and freedom to say what they really think, and do what they always wanted to do. Being able to say, been there done that, worn out the T-shirt and never have to do that again. There is an old saying that life begins when the kids move away.

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    2. We didn't have that kind of relationship

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    3. Oh there are lots of good things Donna. My gran said the best days of her life were when she made the final payment on the mortgage that she stuggled to pay for ever. And also when she retired she had both the money and the time to do many things and travelled extensively all around the world seeing all the sites she wanted. And as Travel says there is much to be said for freedom. I hope to be like my gran. she lived well into her 90's and loved life. she also drank at least half a bottle of whisky or vodka a night and smoked like a chimney. I suspect she was pickled and smoked and aged to perfection.

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  20. Barbara Anne3:59 pm

    Better late than never, John. It was a kindness to your mum to make the drive, take her for a change of scenery, and get her the items that she enjoyed.

    Hugs!

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    1. It was my turn to do something. I hadn't for years

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  21. Ah, motherhood. It's not for everyone.

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  22. Cigarettes, lighter and an oxygen tank. KERPOWWWW!!!!!
    That's what my Mum's doctor said when I enquired about Mum having an oxygen tank at home. A very persuasive reason why she couldn't.

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    1. We lived life in the fast lane

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    2. When I started nursing in 1980, some of the old chaps on the medical wards were old soldiers from the Great War. As they slowly died over sometimes weeks, the older wiser staff nurses would pull the curtains and light a fag for them and help them smoke it.

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  23. Oh the bit about the oxygen and the cigarette. Totally typical. I laughed.

    XoXo

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    Replies
    1. We could have blown up half the car park

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  24. Despite your mom’s demons, she raised you to be a good man. I think we are who we are ‘because of’ or ‘in spite of’.

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  25. I have never touched a cigarette since a very good nurse at my GP surgery told me to stick a peg on my nose a straw in my mouth and then do my housework. That is what it is like to live with Chronic obstructive pulmonary/ airways disease. It never ceases to amaze me how many people stand outside the surgery smoking and then come in to complain to the GP about their terrible chest problems. Sorry I have rambled on a bit.
    You were very good to have travelled that distance to do what you did I don't think I could have coped with that.

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    Replies
    1. I love her experimental way of teaching

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    2. My mother said she smoked so we wouldn't.. total lie, but none of us smoke. Second hand smoke is no fun.. and I have asthma today which I blame on that smoke...

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  26. You are tugging on my heartstrings and pulling up memories today.

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  27. I wish my mom was here today so I could drive her around to do her errands. I have her cat so sometimes we talk ,ok,I talk, to the cat about how much we miss mom.

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  28. Evocative indeed. And the comments, as always, are terrific as well.

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  29. I gasped at the thought of the 02 tanks! My neighbour recently blew up her house, herself and her next neighbours house! MY mother had a 100 foot tube on hers and used to go for walks to the neighbours. She would loop her canula on the gatepost and step into the garden to scam smokes from her Cockney pal. We used to smuggle Drambui into Da at the nursing home.

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  30. You're a kind man.

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  31. My hat is off to you for doing that. I find it hard to be with my mom for long now and she is a non-smoker, non-drinker, and takes excellent care of her health. But her mind is going and it is so damn hard to keep listening to the same stories and answering the same questions and having her do things she shouldn't, only to end up in the ER with a pulled muscle which she thinks is a heart attack or a rampant kidney infection . . .

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  32. My mom had liver cancer. We were told to withhold salt. I did it and to this day I regret it. All she wanted was a pan of enchiladas. I should have gone to the kitchen and cooked anything she asked for. Hasten her death, my granny's fanny! She died in 3 months anyway.

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    Replies
    1. My mom had liver cancer and enjoyed drinking her Manhattans almost to the day she died.. why not?

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. I'm trying to imagine what will be on my shopping list. My daughter already takes me out once a week for a coffee (iced coffee in summer) and an almond croissant. I doubt I'll change much

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  35. Chris must have wondered if that car would come back in one piece each week. A veritable bomb on wheels! It's nice that a group of you in the village is taking turns with your neighbour. It is funny how "convenience" foods feature highly on these lists given that the internet is awash with bloggers trying to live like their forebears with everything made from scratch.

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  36. You've made me think of going shopping with my maternal nan, Woodbines, Emva(?)Cream Sherry and 10p worth of "bits" for me. Bits were the manky old end of jar sweets that all got chucked into an old plastic tub and sold off cheaply. Bloody marvellous they were too! x

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  37. You painted a clear picture of your mom and you. It sounds as if your mom's mind was as sharp as ever, even in her last years.

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  38. I am doing my Mum's shopping like you did now and boy..... its not fun and .... I never do anything Right!!! Rrrrrrr

    *How is George going? Kisses to him

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  39. Thanks for doing that. She probably really didn't appreciate it all, but she sure loved her smokes. You were her doorway into the good times.

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  40. How many times I saw residents at some facilities I served, wheeling out to the patio to light a cigarette, then smoke it via their stoma.........there was little enough to give them pleasure in the facilities that they wanted to engage in.

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  41. This goes to show just how addictive tobacco is. I had a friend who smoked and had his lower jaw removed because of cancer. He continued to smoke. Your mom was the best she could be given her circumstances. You and your sisters turned out all right. When you die, you will be missed. You will have left the earth a better place. I would be happy with that!

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  42. My mother-in-law was in hospital with cancer but everyday I wheeled her out for a smoke that's all she had left, you do what you have to do.

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  43. Was it the era they were born into I wonder? My mother smoked and enjoyed a whiskey. A few days before she died I went over to see her with my newly born son. She was in bed, nothing unusual there as she had never been well. She asked me to get her a barley wine from the fridge. My disapproval hung in the air with my two word reply ‘Oh Mum!’ To this day I regret my holier than thou attitude. Three days later she was dead from a stroke at the age of 48.

    LX

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  44. My grandmother always asked for good cheddar cheese. When i see canned fruit cocktail,I always think of my grandparents.

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