Hi, Norman. How are you?
The elderly couple who live nextdoor have become our friends over the past five years. Despite being forty years older than us, we love them. They help us out and we look out for them. Every morning at 8:30 they are standing at their living room window ready to wave at us (well, the children) as we toddle off to school.
These lovely people buy the kids presents (our children are the surrogate grandchildren that they sadly could never have), they look after Leonard (our cat) when we go away and they even come round every Christmas morning to exchange gifts and have a cuppa.
However, one Monday around two weeks ago they weren’t at the window. It was an odd start to the week and I made a mental note to keep an eye out for them. The next day was the same. No wave. The kids asked where they were and I said that I would check on them on my way home from school drop-off but I needn’t have worried because when I got home Norman was waiting to let me know that Dot had been taken to hospital. She was poorly and had been for a month.
Being old school, Dot had ridden out the pain and overlooked it until it got to the point where she could no longer bare it and was now laid up at the hospital down the road waiting on some answers. I went to visit and took her some treats and a card made by the kids and then we waited.
The answer is pancreatic cancer and it has spread.
Norman broke the news to me a week ago. He knocked on the door and Adam answered. He called me down and gave me a subtle shake of the head that said ‘I’m not sure this is going to be good’. I asked the kids to go upstairs with Daddy and as soon as they left the room Norman burst into tears.
This man, in his late 70s, born of a generation that didn’t cry – Boys definitely don’t cry. Men never cry! – this man was in floods of tears and didn’t know what to do. I hugged him and made a cuppa (‘cos I’m British) and talked through things for an hour before he left with a promise that I would go and see him the next day.
Everyday since then I’ve been checking up on him. He’s learning to do things for himself that he’s never had to do such as doing his washing, and cooking (he made his first ever meal today – fish fingers, tatties and peas). I’ve repeatedly offered to do both of these things but Norman seems to need a project and learning to do things for himself is filling the time. He’s also teaching himself calculus which sounds like torture.
Norman has expressed how grateful he is for my visits, how it is helping to talk and that he looks forward to the company. It’s a small gesture, it costs nothing except a little bit of my time but it is a big thing to Norman and I’m glad that I can help.
It means nothing to fill your Facebook and Instagram with ‘meaningful’ quotes from learned people, if you don’t actually help those around you. If you know that someone is struggling or lonely or in need of a friend, help. A warm cuppa and a chat goes a long way towards improving somebody’s day.
Check on your neighbour, ask how they’re doing. It might just turn their day around.