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Monday, April 8, 2013

Old and Lonely


It’s really amazing how one minute you’re doing your weekend grocery and vital Easter egg shopping and the next you’re surrounded by ambulances and blood…

Three missed calls and a rude message later I finally picked up the phone. The brother had been rushing me because he was bored of waiting – but you can’t hurry shopping queues. And from last week’s hurrying of the cashier I have learned never to rush them either. They stop what they are doing look you in the eye and lecture you on how your whole life needs to slow down and while it’s embarrassing to have a horde of people listening to it – my cashier definitely had a point: I probably did need to slow down a little, and I think Jeandre’ (the brother) does too.

When I eventually made it into post-queue-freedom I tried to push one more thing with the brother: “Should we grab some beers on the way out?” – Jeandre’ was tempted but replied that he just wanted to leave the shops forever and that it was probably better for us to be healthier anyway so we didn’t.

But after climbing the escalator and descending the stairs (a random exit methodology I know, but yes, that is how the Garden centre works), we walked straight into two screaming woman and an old man in a pool of blood.

We calmed the younger woman down and asked her what had happened. “He fell on his face” she cried. “Do you know him?” “No. He was alone.” A security guard and I asked the man if he was okay to get up, and lifted him to his feet to try and get him into a more comfortable sit down/ stroke recovery position while we sent the older woman to find centre management and Jeandre’ ran to find ice.

Blood flowed in rivers from his nose and mouth as I sat him down and tried to find out how bad the fall was and how aware he was of his surroundings. “What’s your name sir?” I thought he replied Chad and called him that for most of our conversings… but it was in fact Ted. Ted was hard at hearing and softly spoken – the following was yelled and repeated many times over:
“How are you feeling?”
“Am I alright? I fell.”
“You’re bleeding a lot but you look alright. Did you trip over something?” I asked, wondering still if he had had a stroke.
“I just fell over.”
“Is there anyone I can call?”
 “No.”
“Do you have any family?”
“No”
“Do you have any friends?”
“No. I live alone.”
“Surely there is someone who we can call?”

Blood was now forming little meandering streams on the sidewalk.  Jeandre’ returned with a bag of frozen peas he had just shoplifted from Woolworths (He figured throwing a R50 note at the security guard as he fled the scene would make up for it). Now it was my turn to run to get toilet paper.

A crowd had gathered by the time I got back and Ted seemed to be slipping out of consciousness. So I carried on talking to him as we mopped the blood off his face and suit.
“And how old are you?” - “95” - “Do you know where you are?”… The conversation then shifted to actual medical support seeing as nobody with any official medical experience had shown up yet. We didn’t want to call an ambulance because we knew he had no medical aid or much money so we found a good Samaritan with a car and were almost set to go when the centre’s first aider finally pitched followed by one ambulance after the next. The whole street shone with bright flashy lights and uniformed people.

Apart from a big cut to his mouth and a potentially broken nose, Ted also had a broken wrist. He needed a hospital. The paramedics assured us that he would be well taken care of and that he wouldn’t pay a cent for it. Jeandre’ left them with his phone number just in case.

My heart was broken as I watched the whole scene unfold. Imagine having no family and no friends. Imagine living to be 95 without having anyone to celebrate it with. Imagine being taken to hospital with nobody to visit you. Imagine finally reaching the end of your life with nobody to say goodbye to. I tried to imagine what it felt like to be Ted.

Ted spent the entire time clutching his small bag of blood covered groceries. I had sent one of the screaming woman on a mission to find a new bag for him – but even then he wouldn’t let go and finally only gave way enough for us to slip his torn bag into a new one. He’d taught himself to trust nobody. It was as if those groceries were his prized possessions.

“Am I alright?” Ted asked the first paramedic on the scene after various tests and questions had taken place. The paramedic looked him I the eye and said a very respectable “Sir, if I were your age and I still had a heart rate like that and still walked to the shops, I would be very happy indeed.” A smile cracked across his face for the first time.  

In retrospect we probably should have stopped to buy beer (we would have made it home a couple of hours earlier) – but meeting Ted changed my life in a weird way. If I am lucky enough to make it to 95 in good health; I want a life filled with people, with trust, with meaning and a life filled with constant smiles. Without that it doesn’t matter how old you are - you’re pretty much dead already. I hope Ted finds that before it really is the end. 

The grandmother and the other Ted - she seems to get younger by the day - Teddy on the other hand  is starting to look a bit worse for wear.
Grey haired and old or uber young - we ALL need people!
The oldest pizza I've ever met - there's a reason it is now lonely in a garbage can somewhere.

1 comment:

  1. i do not think you end up like that but than again - you never know. start making friends with young ppl - that way even when your older friends are dead you still have some ;-)

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