… “Mabel for the last time this is NOT your house!”
So I have an icon – the ultimate idol of my life. She is my 89-year-old Oma (Grandma – she’s German) Mimi Gertrud Crosbie. She’s the best woman I know; she’s funny, smart and sharp as a tack; she’s had amazing life experiences and always offers the absolute best advice; she has wonderful sayings and the thickest German accent you’ve ever heard despite living in the UK for over 65 years; she is epic, just epic.
She has Dementia and after years of increasing her care package at home (up in Cheshire) to try to keep her safe the decision was made that she should move to a residential care home here in Cardiff. It was sad to take her away from a home she’s lived in for 58 years but for me in particular it was a source of great excitement to have my role model in life living only a 10 minute walk away, instead of a five-hour drive! And as my time is more my own at the moment I have been able to visit The Legend every day – which has resulted in a lot of time spent sitting in comfy chairs, knitting, drinking tea and eating biscuits whilst completely surrounded by old people. Those who know my habits, hobbies and idea of fun would say that this suits me perfectly and they’d be right, however, spending this much time with those in the winter of their lives is teaching me rather a lot, so I decided to write a blog on what I’m learning.
So one of the major life lessons the residents of my local care home are teaching me is the art of the comeback. I think in general we’re loosing our ability to deliver a scathing, argument ending comeback. We swear more and resort to that, or we use weird colloquialisms like “yeh? Well…your mum!” instead of just responding with a clear, concise and well constructed answer to offensive behaviour. For example, a few residents at the care home believe that the home actually belongs to them, I am going to call them Mabel and Edith (lovely names – I thought about it and decided to change the names of those I spend my days with as I thought it was a more sensitive approach to take). On the first night Oma was in the home I was getting her ready for bed in her room which left Chris in the communal sitting room with the other residents (he dresses like an old man already so he fitted right in). During this time Mabel shouted at him “Right, I’m giving you five minutes and then you have to leave my house!” One the lovely nurses said “Mabel, you know that this isn’t your house”. But this wasn’t really good enough for feisty Mabel who went on to shout at Chris about taking liberties and invading her space and how she paid for everything, etc. To which Edith piped up with “Oh Mabel, just stop being so rude.” And that shut her right up! Which got me thinking, what if instead of saying “your mum!” (I don’t know if this is just a Welsh teenage boy comeback but I’ve always found it rather amusing) to people who are rude to us, or “well fuck you too!” what if we just said “just stop being so rude”? Might that not make the person being rude think about their behaviour? That they’re not being offensive to offensive people, they’re not sticking up for their own rights, they are just being rude. Perhaps that would be a changing point in their lives?! Perhaps the next time they think about shouting at someone, or dropping litter in the street, or posting profanities on social media sites they’ll think hang on, am I being rude here? And instead they’ll say “Good Morning” to someone, find a bin and share a picture of a really cute cat. All because of a good comeback!
Also my Oma has always been great at comebacks and being surrounded by old people trying to tell her what to do is exercising this particular skill, for example, the other day I found myself sitting in a room full of really old people watching a bald Michael Buble wannabe singing old school hits to them (he was actually pretty good). At first my Oma had decided she didn’t like this man and insisted on shouting to me (I was sitting in a spare chair a little way away) “He’s very loud but not very good!” But after a while the familiar tunes started to do their wonderful work and she started tapping her feet and hands to the beat. The lady sitting in a wheel chair next to her said “sit still dear!” to which she replied “I will sit still, when I’ve stopped moving!” Perfect. Just perfect.
I didn’t think that I could learn so much from a care home but comebacks aren’t the only thing I’m picking up. Next week: The Power of Acceptance.