A Storied Life

I had my second session at the care home today. I started last week, all I do is serve old people their food and make sure they don’t die whilst this is happening.

I arrived early today, we had a half day of school and I spent a few hours with my friends eating lots of food and buying presents we couldn’t really afford for people we don’t really like (had to add in that quote, I love my parents). Dinner wasn’t for a few hours so I was tasked with the arduous task of talking to the residents whilst they were relaxing (well isn’t their whole lives relaxing now?)

I get talking to this lovely old woman, I probably can’t give her name because confidentiality and all that, so I’ll call her Bea, all adorable old women are called Bea. We get to talking, well we bonded over her colouring in some stars.

Years of training of how to talk to people on the internet (thank you RSD and your strange, strange videos) suddenly kick in. An ethereal voice tells me “all women were once beautiful” so that’s my first tip at making the old women love you, make ’em feel wanted.

I casually approach, commenting on her drawing, then I use a take back, I turn away and make small chat to another old guy drawing, he can be Tim. Now I’ve met Tim before, I served Tim dinner last week and we had a good natter about how he likes his tea. So naturally Tim smiles when he sees me, boom, that’s social proof. Bea now knows that I’m safe, that I already have the attention and approval of other members of her tribe (bit of evolutionary psychology here). Therefore she wants to engage, currently she’s thinking “if this guy’s talking to all the cool oldies, and I’m a cool oldie, why isn’t he talking to me” So Bea decides to approach me. She opens with the ever-suave line “See I’m good at drawing in the lines, I used to sow my own dresses.” I’m in, she’s put in a little social capital by initiating a conversation, now all I do is add in a little of my own and then we can have a good chat.

I didn’t really plan all these things by the way, it’s just a way of explaining the way things went, a little post-game analysis on my social skills I used today (how Asian of me, analysing the ways of conversation).

Anyway, Bea turns out to be an incredibly interesting person, perhaps the most interesting person I’ve conversed with in a while. I suppose that’s what happens when you gain the experience of a few decades.

I’ll put down a few little vignettes I particularly liked.

Bea used to be in the army, she was a pilot but started out as a chef for the RAF.

Bea had met and fallen in love with a man in the army, he seemed gentle and caring, they married shortly after and had two children. One aged 45 and the other 4o (they wanted them 5 years apart so the elder could help care for her sister).

On a battleship to America she had met a man who had recently lost his wife, he had seemed incredibly depressed and was contemplating suicide. Bea then says “I knew how he felt, if I had lost my husband when I was that age, I wouldn’t have want to live any more” Now I discover the meaning of true love.

Bea has short term memory loss, this one terrified me, she’s an incredibly articulate woman and seemed incredibly lucid when I talked to her, I only realised this fact after she kept repeating things every few minutes. This one really scared me, how unobvious cognitive and mental problems can be.

I learnt a lot today, this talk with one old sage woman has illuminated my mind and left me with a lot to think about, I think this is what I’ll write about every Thursday, what I’ve learnt from my elders.


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