This blog is very different to my usual tone. I wanted to write about something that affects many of us.
In advance I want to apologise if what I write may cause offence to members of my family. It certainly isn’t intended but part of this blog will touch on personal issues.
Recently I’ve been unwell, a slight stroke highlighted some other problems, which hopefully are now being addressed. However the exhaustion & threat of losing my personal care has causes quite a bit of worry and stress.
Generally I’m still upbeat and positive but my mood is definitely slipping.
I live alone and because of previous life problems, including a 17 year bout of agoraphobia, the plight of those facing loneliness is always on my mind. I am doing all that I can to highlight the problem. I write a column in the local paper trying to address this serious issue. The difficulty that I have is that I literally feel their pain. When I see or hear someone who is alone or feel unloved, it actually hurts me. If I could, I’d wrap my arms around every lonely person, even the difficult and unlikeable and welcome them into my home. No one should have nobody.
I guess because of the time of year, the whole family thing is going round and round in my head, everyone is chattering about how many visitors they will be having and so on. Unlike many, I am fortunate, I do have family, however we are no longer very close and I have in fact lost contact with two of my sons and their children. I find this really hard. Because of the family situation, I spend most Christmases totally alone. I receive very few presents & only one or two cards from my family. I try to act as if I don’t mind, but really I do! It’s not the being on my own for Christmas Day that’s the problem, after all, it’s just another day. I don’t mind my own company. I have a good social life with lots of friends and lead a very full life. But Christmas highlights the separation between us. I don’t complain, you can’t force someone to like/ love you, even your own flesh and blood.
Everywhere you hear of families driving miles to be with or fetch their distant families, people will be getting together, maybe having a great time, maybe not, but at least they are together. I will be alone, like many, many other elderly people. Through my voluntary work in a charity shop I have spoken to many people in a similar boat. Several tell me that they have family that rarely contact them. I wonder why it happens?
Years ago it was accepted that families stuck together. Now through people relocating all over the country, even world, families are not as close knit as the were. Divorce/ remarriages have added to the problem. It is such a dreadful pity. Youngsters no longer have the security of the family elders ( often grumpy or difficult) but usually a source of love and comfort as well as knowledge. It taught older generations how to tolerate and accept the ‘batty’ great aunt or uncle with peculiar habits. Children were taught how to handle these situations, how to accept the differences between the generations. We played family games, knowing that certain elders would insist on winning, equally we learnt who could be relied on and who would help us cheat ( playfully) at times. A bit like Christmas Cracker jokes, memories of past Christmases can often be remembered with a groan, but we understood our place in the family, our role.
How will young children learn to accept and help older relatives if they are kept away from them? One day, they too will be the elders.
Of course there are a huge majority of families who take their responsibilities seriously and include the older family members, whether they are very fond of them, or not. In some families the elders are very much loved, important figures who are totally involved with everything. The children from these families will undoubtedly be more rounded in their attitudes to others.
Since the split up of families has become so widespread, many children will grow up without knowing their grandparents or Great aunts and uncles, maybe even their cousins. This is such a shame. It is a relationship that cannot be found again. Although there are many extremely successful step families, in most cases, somewhere in the background are the now unwanted relatives.
I’ve been as guilty as many others, having been short sighted about my children keeping in contact with blood relatives, when divorce caused separations. I believed, ( wrongly) that consistency, being only with my side of the family was less painful and less harmful for my children. I know realise how badly I got it wrong. Inadvertently I was teaching them that relatives could be dispensed with, or forgotten about. That was such a bad lesson to show them. It’s understandable that I have now become dispensable.
With my generation, we were taught to accept our responsibilities and would travel regularly to make visits, topping up with at least weekly calls. It wasn’t always convenient or easy, at times the cheerful, chatty banter had to be forced, especially as the years went by. Now that all of my elders are gone, my brother and myself are the new elders. He is fortunate that his family is extremely close knit, I’m sure that the family dynamic doesn’t always run smoothly but they get over difficulties and remain very close. I am blessed to be quite close to this side of the family and love seeing how the younger members are growing. My own relationship with my parents wasn’t always easy, in fact at times it was dreadfully strained but now I can look back over those times spent together and feel so grateful that I have those memories, good and bad.
In years to come, there is a real risk of family unity bepreaking down totally. What stories will the children hear from their rambling grandfather or funny memories of their fussy grandmother? Children are richer for having grandparents. The relationship is very different from the one with their parents.
Times have changed, I understand that, the clock can’t be turned back but I really believe that the younger generation will be losing out.
In many countries the elders are revered, known as a source of wisdom which undoubtedly can only be attained by age and has nothing to do with educational knowledge. Here we are frequently treated with indifference.
Most of us have past memories of times spent with our elders, doing things that our parents didn’t have the time or money to do with us. I am so glad that I have mine. I pity the children that won’t have that because their parents are too tied up with their own lives to include the nuisance older relatives.
I will spend this weekend alone, if I’m lucky I’ll get a few fleeting phone calls. I’ll sound happy enough and I won’t complain. I can’t alter their mindset, but deep down there will be a heartfelt sadness, not just for what I’m missing, more for what memories are being lost from the younger generations. Not just in my own family but in those homes up and down the country who have decided not to bother about the irritating oldies.
I will not allow myself to wallow in sadness, I will keep myself busy with one of my many interests, but not everyone will feel the same. I wonder how many tears will be shed? How many pensioners will be dreading the coming few days?
How many will only have a carers company for an hour or so?
Remember, one day, you too will be that oldie and without having anything to follow,there is every chance that you too will be left alone.
As I said at the beginning – No one should have nobody. None of us are islands.
We all need company, some more than others.
I hope that this gives food for thought. Make that unexpected phone call or trip, it may be an inconvenience but think of the joy that you could be bringing.
I wish you all love and happiness and hope that the coming year will b good to you.