I’ve just come back from the doctor’s surgery where I had to wait an hour to see the nurse for an injection that takes around 20 seconds. Normally this would have annoyed me intensely – I’d almost finished my work for the day, I wanted to get back, write some emails, log off and start my weekend.
At 5.10pm I overheard the receptionist say that the 4.10pm appointment was still in with the nurse. I went to check I’d heard right. And at that point, much like commuters becoming sociable when the trains are severely delayed, all of us waiting to see the nurse became comrades.
There were no seats when I arrived so I was standing next to one of the chairs for less mobile people. In this chair was a lady who I now know is 86. She asked me to confirm how late things were running and I explained we would be waiting at least an hour and she texted her husband (it’s probably ageist or something, but I was hugely impressed). I was going to do my emails from my Blackberry, but we started chatting. She’d just come back from her holiday in Norfolk – she does enjoy a spot of bird watching and can walk as far as the little huts, even with her gammy knee. I heard all about her family tree – literally: her granddaughter researched it with her on the internet last summer, and how she had a few noteworthy people in her husband’s side of the family (did that count?, she wondered. She thought it did.)
Then she told me about her experience of World War Two (which always fascinates me). She was 10 when war broke out. She lived in Bristol and was going to be evacuated to Canada, but the boat before the one she and her siblings were due to leave on sunk and everyone drowned. At that point her mum changed her mind, telling them that ‘If they were going to die, they would all die together’. She spent most of the war in Bristol, which was heavily bombed. She remembered the register being taken at school and two of her friends not being there – their house had been bombed the night before and the family was dead.
Her Uncle Willy was worried the family would be short of food, so when war was declared, despite a complete lack of experience, he bought a 200 acre farm. For a month in summer this lady was sent to Uncle Willy’s farm. Aunt Mavis had some illegal animals (only a certain number were allowed to be kept) and she remembered that when the Department for Agriculture came for an inspection, she was sent over a hill with a cow and pig, instructed to hide them…
There was so much more she told me, but essentially, it was the best one hour delay I’ve had in a fair while. And it reminded me that sometimes ticking everything off your to do list isn’t actually the most important thing. Sometimes it’s…well… I made this a couple of years ago and walk past it numerous times during the day, but I never really read it. Sometimes the most important thing is* to:
*That said, this very interesting lady asked where in Bumpkinsville I lived during out conversation. As I left the surgery I stopped in the waiting room to say how lovely it had been to chat to her. She asked me my house number and I told her. ‘I’ll come to visit sometime soon’ she said. It was lovely to chat to her, but I get the feeling that in a chat without an end time those flowers may go through full bloom, wilt and die… Oh well, I guess everyone has to sleep at some stage. As long as she doesn’t ever arrive at breakfast time, well be ok. :o)
Love this! So true – it puts in perspective how we often rush through life, not paying attention to the important things. And I’ll bet your listening to your new friend did her the world of good too. Often, elderly people tend to be overlooked or ignored, but I generally find them interesting, educational, often inspirational, and not to mention grateful for the attention of young people and a good conversation. Side anecdote. I was in hospital overnight a few years ago – utterly miserable and feeling sorry for myself, mainly because I’m phobic about hospitals. An elderly, incredibly cheerful hospital volunteer stopped by to talk to me. Turns out he was a 96-year-old widower and retired doctor, who volunteered there every day for the sheer joy of putting a smile on the faces of miserable people like me! I’ve never forgotten him or how he made me feel.
I’m so pleased I made sense…I thought I might have got a bit rambley!
I think there is so much to learn from older people, and I am really pleased that gentleman made you smiley. What a gem :o)