Focus

Focus is such a small word, but it encapsulates a huge concept. No photograph would be meaningful, bar in the abstract, nor would anyone’s life be meaningful without applying it to some degree. I would add, again in the photographic analogy, that our minds are not unlike a camera and that expressions like depth of field, blurring at the edges, over-exposed and many others like that, can have real-life counterparts.

I am, of late, conscious of the contrast (!) of my current lifestyle to that which existed, just a few short twenty years ago, when my wife Dorothy and I shared our lives intimately, all day, every day, so happily and with such love. See how easy it is to reminisce when you live alone and constantly recall the ‘old days’? Fortunately, in my case I have nothing but happy memories of our lives, well lived, together for so long, as we developed a caring family whilst earning and learning, loving and living, and scraping and saving. Those basic life activities and priorities changed and morphed over time, and the memories of each chapter (exposure!) are etched forever in my mind, for easy recall. But not in Dorothy’s.

That’s the cause of my melancholy. And I am reminded of it every time I am with her and yet, now, I will have to learn and re-learn to overcome the feelings of loss and sadness. Time for that after her death, I guess, if that should happen before me. But now is not the time for constant re-living the past or grieving; now is the time for me, like thousands of other men facing this kind of separation by dementia and other afflictions, to be strong (or at least not weak!) and rejoice in our ability to think positively about ourselves and what we can do to add happiness, and not despair, to those around us. I never stop thanking God for my blessings – sufficient means to live comfortably, a fine, loving family and friends and neighbours who are priceless!

So, I am learning, albeit slowly at times, to accept whatever complexity of isolation is wrought upon us all by separation, even this Coronavirus thing. That kind of loneliness is not a big problem for me but I know it will be hard for some, and even harder for couples, and beyond harder for some families with children of all ages, stuck at home 24/7! We who live alone, should find it easier. Especially these days with modern electronic communication and TV available to most folk, even the elderly like me! I do feel sympathy for those elderfolk who are not computer literate, and it always brings me joy (and sometimes welcome funds) when any of my cohort ask me for computer help!

This ‘ageing in place’ and alone, should be set to improve as we learn to grow with it and not try to change that which cannot be changed. I am determined to overcome those devastating and negative thoughts and feelings of depression. I know I should aim to strive for the fuller life that I know Dorothy would wish for me, but….I always have a feeling, sometimes overwhelming, of guilt. Is it right for me to be happy when Dorothy is not? It’s at that time I need to remind myself that she is wonderfully cared for and respected in a clean modern, well-staffed local care home and is ‘happy in the moment’; and that’s not a bad place to be.

So, maybe, that’s the prescribed camera lifestyle for me: it’s OK to focus on the scene ahead, but use a wide-angle lens! And keep out of the Darkroom, we don’t need them any longer!

Expect the unexpected

When my phone rang about 7 yesterday morning I automatically went into damage control (or some similar state!). Nobody normally phones me at that hour, so I knew it was going to be Dorothy’s care home to tell me that something was amiss….

I was right. She had fallen heavily on the carpeted passage outside her room that morning. She was dressed and had her shoes on, but probably still not fully awake, when she tripped over her own feet on a perfectly smooth carpeted floor. The staff were there in a flash and were disturbed to discover she was unconscious, so they lost no time in arranging for an ambulance to take her to our local hospital where she was carefully checked. No broken bones and she soon regained wakefulness and after a few hours in the emergency ward, was transported back to her care home, bloodied but whole.

Last night she was somewhat agitated, but with the usual kind and skilled attention from the staff, and a mild sedative, she rested well and was ready to get out of bed, at her own volition, a bit later than normal this morning and, after I arrived, she was soon ready for a walk, inside, of course. Although we walked for ages, she wasn’t much interested in lunch but, a bit later, she happily enjoyed a sandwich and a cup of tea. Surprisingly (to me) she was ready, not much later, for afternoon tea with a slice of cake!

When I left later this afternoon, she looked absolutely awful – two enormous black eyes that were only able to open as slits, two dressings on her swollen nose and forehead and a ‘fat’ lip. Despite all that, she was in good spirits and assured me she had no aches or pains and was able to chuckle and laugh as we engaged with the other residents. If that were me, I don’t think I’d have felt like laughing, no matter how good the joke! Like her father would have said, “she’s as tough as old boots”. I’ve come home feeling far more tired than she seemed when I left. Well, let’s see what tomorrow brings. Our lovely daughter will visit Dorothy tomorrow, and I will have a ‘day off’. Just so I will be rested and ready, as always, to expect the unexpected…

How often is enough?

I am maintaining my visits to Dorothy at her care home but now I don’t go every day, I have a day off every now and then. Through this pandemic era the management of the facility are vigilant, insisting (correctly) that at each visit I declare my health, and pass the forehead-temperature check. I accept this precautionary approach very seriously as I would never consciously contribute to any added risk to all the other residents and the wonderful staff. There is little doubt that my frequent visits do impact on my wellbeing to some degree and now, after she’s been there for eighteen months, I have come to terms with the reality of Dorothy’s journey – I am such a slow learner! Understanding and acceptance seem, to me, to be like two sides of a coin, they go together, but sometimes it’s heads, not tails! The loving relationship between Dorothy and myself has been forged over a lifetime and is not as ‘clinical’ and easily separated as some would suggest. Now that we are living apart, every aspect of our ‘new’ lives is entirely ‘apart and different’ and, most times, I have learned to flip the coin when it’s needed. Now, finally although I admit not entirely, I am reconciled to the reality of our separation, the understanding of it. It’s the acceptance that’s hard at times. Dorothy and I still have a deep emotional link, not easily explained by logic; a special bond involving many facets of a long-shared life and a particular mind-set which I think is hard for my family to quite understand, and they continue to urge me to decrease the frequency of visiting, but…..

It’s that ‘head and heart’ thing, and it’s so inexplicably complex and it sometimes consumes my every thought; it debilitates and weakens me at times and, yes,  I know that doesn’t change anything – it certainly doesn’t help Dorothy, either. I continue seeking, with God’s grace, the pathway which will keep me grounded and less intense. I am privileged to have a warm bed and sufficient income to exist in a comfortable way, albeit frugally. We all need, and I strive to have, involvements in other things apart from health: family, friends, hobbies, and physical activities, it’s just that, until now, sharing every moment of my life with Dorothy was at the core of my being, and old habits die hard.

The past five or so years have been difficult for both Dorothy and me. I know Dorothy is in good hands now, but sometimes I do feel a bit jaded; it would be good to switch off and especially to not have to plan and prepare meals! At times it’s been stressful and tiring and I have had ‘a few days off’ every now and then, and I know my journey is easier now than it was, even six months ago. When Coronavirus restrictions permit, I am planning to have a break, a time away with some of my family. Beyond that, again when circumstances permit, I will try to have a week or two away from here, away from family too, just to read, relax, and walk while I am well enough, somewhere warmer for a start!

Over the past couple of years I have, sometimes, felt that need to get away and ‘freshen up’ a bit; I realise it will be strange to not share that time with Dorothy, but now I confess I am thinking about it more often, not too often……

Lifestyle choices

Coronavirus restrictions mean that I basically only venture outside my home to visit Dorothy in her care home and to buy some supermarket items, otherwise I haven’t been to many other places since the coronavirus ‘shut-in’ started. I go to church, have a meal sometimes with my daughter and help one or two other residents with computer problems at the retirement village where I live, manage my laundering and the usual household chores (such as the dreaded cooking!). All of that somehow keeps me busy; I am never bored, there is always something to do – I sometimes get annoyed with myself when I don’t even have time to do a newspaper crossword puzzle!

My wife, Dorothy, on the other hand, has no chores and is never busy. It is such a strange thing, this Alzheimer’s disease which has robbed my dear wife of the ability to think of anything other than the ‘moment’. She has no need for preplanning, no pressing jobs, no concerns about food or clothing or, well, anything! Add to that her inability to express herself or to read more than a few words and even those, regardless of their context, evoke little emotion or response. It is so hard for me to imagine, indeed understand, just what is in her mind, and I guess that must be so for so many other partners like me. But, on some occasions, the magic of recognition of who I am breaks through, and the look of joy on her face melts my heart and her smile is enough to ‘make my day!’ and, I hope, hers as well.

Even as recently as six months ago we could flip through a newspaper or magazine and she would remain focussed and seemed to ‘see’ the content of the pictures, even recognise and repeat some words. These days Dorothy more often will lower her head and close her eyes, not showing much interest in pictures or the written stories. She sometimes enjoying using pencils to colour a picture so I persist with colouring pictures (provided by the home) with her because sometimes she still ‘connects’ with it. Watching TV, or listening to me read, just doesn’t often ‘click’ at present.

Walking is still a thrill for both of us, though! Even when I find her dozing in a chair she will normally rouse and accept my cajoling, fairly readily and sometime enthusiastically, to “come walking with me”. Then we set off, anywhere, inside or out, even on a repetitive circuit, and hand-in-hand we can walk for ages. Although I must add Dorothy is walking more slowly, and it is a challenge to encourage her to lift her head and stand more upright; she is becoming more stooped and tends to shuffle unless I gently persuade her to stand up straighter and pace more quickly. I fear her stability will decrease, and with it comes the increased danger of falls as she progresses through this Alzheimer’s journey.

Only now, eighteen months after Dorothy went into care, have I learned, albeit slowly, to embrace my new, different, unchosen lifestyle. After all, life was meant to be easy, wasn’t it?

Imagine

It is almost, no totally, impossible for me to imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t recall any of my past life, let alone what happened just a few minutes ago; and, as well not knowing, indeed not caring, about where I am and what I’m wearing! And yet I try at every visit to connect with Dorothy, my wife of sixty-two years, in some way, with some words and activities. Miraculously and quite unexpectedly and only on some days, there is that beautiful touch of a connection and we both, I am sure, feel that frisson, if only momentarily. Yesterday it persisted for most of my visit and we had a smooth and happy time together.

And yet, when I said I had to go she happily kissed me farewell and, very likely, reverted to her own ‘moment’ and hardly noticed my departure. Of course, I can’t know how she felt. I only know that as I cycled home, once again I felt saddened by this curse of Alzheimer’s. I know I should be pleased that for Dorothy and almost me, it was a good visit, and it is selfish of me to be forever miserable about how I feel. Putting these thoughts down on paper (so to speak) at least allows me to vent my innermost feelings which I hope might resonate with some other blokes (and heaven knows there must be thousands of us!) whose wife, sister, mother is also separated from them in a residential care home. It is my way to remain grounded, and I am personally so grateful that Dorothy is cared for in, what must be, the best possible environment. It is so good there that I feel as though I am almost at home there myself, although I’m not ready yet to move in!

We were treated to a very special ‘High tea’ yesterday afternoon, a new a fortnightly treat for that group of a dozen or so who share the same living area in the dementia wing. At the home there is a private dining room available for family gatherings, special celebratory meals and the like, and the ‘high tea’ was held there. The room is located on the top floor with a sunny outlook through large glass windows, and the long dining table was laid out with tiered cake plates, club sandwiches, scones and cream and a variety of tasty cakes and slices and, would you believe, fine china teacups and plates! What a different and happy little interlude, and not because it was someone’s birthday – it was simply a special treat for everyone there, and even more so, being in that light and airy dedicated private dining area.

After that, Dorothy and I did some picture colouring (well, mostly me!) in one of the common areas on another floor of the building. A nice quiet time for us and a change for her and, I like to think, it is a help for the staff to have one less person for a while. Of course, we walked inside and outside the building (but not in the street – yet) and even visited another couple who are residents in a different part of the building, so I stayed longer than usual. If I am cycling I have learned to not leave at the school closing times because we are right next door to a school and the traffic at that time is not conducive to safe pedalling for an old wobbly, as I think I’ve mentioned before!

Now I’m home alone again and off goes my imagination, remembering all the happy times of the past, trying to reconcile that with the way it is now; learning to accept that is so hard. Not being able to share our past common experiences, as some of my readers know, is the most difficult and gut-wrenching truth of the moment. I know the only solution is to find enjoyment, fulfilment, in the moment of now. I can still imagine the past and remain forever grateful for it; but now I must learn to live with, but apart from, Dorothy. Now, right now, because it is the most important moment I can imagine.

Turn the page?

One day is not like the rest! Yesterday is gone, today is almost over and, tomorrow – well, tomorrow will be here before we know it! So, while it’s always good to look and plan ahead, sometimes unplanned, unexpected ‘things’ can be hiding around the corner and catch us unawares, and that happened to me a few days ago. I am usually well occupied with plenty to do but, you know, “Idle hands make fretful minds” which also means being miserable and unprepared for what’s coming up!

I have my own little saying, “If you look inwards you can’t look ahead”. I sometimes forget it!

A few days ago, all I could see was the ‘here and now’ inside my head; it all looked dismal, and I was such a sad case when I wrote my last entry here. I was sad, the weather was awful, Dorothy seemed to have regressed and I was not coping very well at all. But what a difference a day can make! Introspection is a great tool to help me analyse where I am, and how I am, and where I am going. But it’s also a place where one shouldn’t stay too long; that’s unhealthy brooding and, for me anyway, can be self-defeating and a sure path to depression and you saw me go along that path with my last blog.

Fortunately, such a frame of mind doesn’t last long with me. I am (well, I think I am!) of a normally happy disposition but, like (I suspect) most of my readers, I do have those ‘down’ days when everything I see and do just seems to be, or go, wrong! And, what I write here has to be honest and be the way I am when I write, which means you see me ‘warts and all’. Today, we are back to ‘living the moment’ and not living in the past, and I hope that those of you who are reading this are ready to march forward with me.

Today, the visiting podiatrist had just finished cutting Dorothy’s toenails when I arrived, and she was in good form. We walked, we sang community songs with her group, we played games, we had afternoon tea together, we visited another couple we know who also live in the same premises. It was a happy visit, and it wasn’t raining when I rode home on my (electric) bike, but It was bitingly cold both ways on that journey.

Now I’m back home and determined to write these words of encouragement, both for me and for my readers. Yes, it’s cold and bleak and getting dark early as winter creeps into Melbourne, but it’s time to open a can of soup, warm and tasty to precede the last serve of home-cooked lasagne kindly provided by our daughter. With that comfort-food in my belly, it will be time to try for a good night’s sleep, ready for whatever tomorrow brings, which will include a Probus meeting via ‘Zoom’ on the internet in the morning, and a long-awaited eye test in the afternoon. That reminds me, Dorothy and I will have been married sixty-two years next Sunday, and that speaks volumes! “Turn the page”, you say? Yep, I can see that page is already full, but this book has more pages to come…..

Down in the dumps

I see, on review, that I wrote the following words well over a year ago. Today, more than ever, I am trying to believe it!

 ‘Aged Care’ and ‘Ageing’ are not just words….they are processes that can be daunting and stressful…but not without some hope for us who are involved……we can recover our dignity and find lots of happier aspects!

Yes, the theory of ‘recovery’ is absolutely correct but applying, indeed believing it, is nigh on impossible for me right at this moment, today. It’s cold and dark and raining – and that’s how I am. Having spent a couple of hours with my wife, Dorothy, in her care home today I needed to sit down and dry the ‘rain’ from my eyes and, somehow, express my thoughts. Mainly to get them out of my mind, and partly because writing about them might strike a chord with one of my readers and, hopefully, help us both regain some of the cheerfulness that has totally slipped away these last few days….

Finding dignity is not a problem, it’s finding the hope and happiness that’s daunting and stressful. Being there today with Dorothy and not being able to enjoy each other’s company let alone any discussion, was, let’s face it, a disaster. It didn’t help either of us but, ironically, I think it did help one or two of her fellow residents who recognise me as a frequent visitor. It might even have helped a couple of the attending staff; heaven knows they deserve any distracting help they can get! Dorothy seems, these days, to have withdrawn further into herself, often sitting in a sleep-state, reluctant to stand and walk with me and even then, won’t lift her head and walks in a stooped position. She is also susceptible to stumbling so I always walk hand in hand. Sometimes one of the other residents walks along with us and we all try to have a conversation, usually unproductive; but I guess any interaction is better than seclusion and mental isolation.

Because of the coronavirus restrictions we can’t go for a drive or walk in a park which, a few short months ago, was a treat we both enjoyed. Because Dorothy doesn’t walk upright and sprightly now, I wonder how we’ll go with such walks if they ever become possible again……..See? There I go again, all negative and sad! Well, that’s the way it is – and, like some of my readers are probably agreeing, that is not a good place to be.

Here and now, I’m going to break out of this tiny world of self-pity and declare some positivity, because today’s epistle has been all doom and gloom – I’m sorry about that – let’s get over it….and remind ourselves that nobody wants to be with a miserable old bloke, so cheer up Bill (and whoever), go and make yourself a nice hot cuppa tea, heat up your pre-prepared meal, maybe have a sherry later and watch a nice happy travel or sitcom on the telly tonight. Take your little sleeping pill, warm up the bed with the electric blanket and sleep this misery out of your system, ready to start afresh tomorrow, out of the dumps, back to living and finding joy in a new day and keep on looking for those ‘happier aspects’!

Another starting point

After I’ve made any decision, about whatever, I know what needs to be done, even know how to do it, but it’s often difficult to know when. Of course, it depends upon what we are talking about but in a way, it doesn’t matter, because everything all of us do has an impact on another person, maybe even lots of people. None of us live in a vacuum and, even though I live a quiet, lonely and unimportant life, anything I do will affect someone; usually, it will be unintended and mostly inconsequential. But there are times, though, when even a small action results in a profound reaction. This coronavirus environment is a prime example, and my visit to see my wife in her care home requires me to observe a range of protocols to keep that place free of infection, especially by me, and if I don’t adhere to  healthy conduct I imperil her and, potentially, all who live and work in her care home.

On that personal level, my activities don’t usually have any repercussions or dimensions on a large scale; even at my micro-level they probably hardly ripple anybody’s surface. Although yesterday when I resumed visiting my wife, Dorothy, in her care home it did cause a tiny ripple, certainly felt by me, and reacted to by the reception staff. I was happy to have my temperature taken, to show proof I’d had my ‘flu shot and declare that I’d not been (sadly!?) anywhere overseas or on a plane or a ship, etc. Incidentally, just the day before, I’d been refused entry, quite rightly, at another care home when visiting an old friend because I’d forgotten to take the letter from my doctor proving I’d had the ‘flu shot. The receptionist there suggested I should photograph it with my phone, thereby having it with me all the time (and these days none of us is without our phone!). I did that as soon as I got home!

Strangely, and sadly, my absence from Dorothy’s care home, because of visiting restrictions for so many weeks had not really been noticed by her, and my presence now was not considered by her as a ‘special’ occasion hardly even registering my presence, at first, even as a welcome visit. It is so hard for me to understand how Alzheimer’s works, with Dorothy anyway: it means no memory of anything further back than a minute or so. Nothing. And my heart is bursting, and Dorothy is so serene, hardly even acknowledging me. That always has such a profound effect on me, it makes me feel so terribly sad and helpless and swamps my happiness at just being with her. I thought that by now, nearly eighteen months into her residency, I would be over all those negative aspects. I know I should be happy that she is where she is, getting the care and attention I can no longer give, and I am incredibly grateful for that, but I am grieving the loss of my partner, and when that surfaces it can float under my eyes and in my mind for days and nights. Not visiting every day does help, but only superficially and after a day or two I am drawn like a bee to the nectar, or should that be a moth to the flames? Which brings me back to where I started. Thinking about how soon I must go back and visit. I know why and how, but the hard bit is when and for how long. Because after every visit it takes a while for me to recover from that burst of melancholy and remorse……. I am trying to learn that every day is a new one for Dorothy, and for me it should be a bonus – a chance to create a new starting point!

Clapping quietly

The staff at Dorothy’s care home won’t hear that applause but, like all the other families of those they care for, I am clapping out loud for them! Being isolated at home is comparatively easy, especially for those of us retired people who have learned to be mostly at home anyway, quite used to our own company, either as soloists or couples, and able to find simple amusements, interests or ‘jobs to do’.

It’s not as easy as that in the micro-community of a care home, where the population is as varied as books on a library shelf, all different shapes and sizes, flanked by bookends of staff, and fixed in place to prevent them falling over.

At the care home life must go on, the books must be read, maybe changed, perhaps rearranged but always loved and carefully handled as normally as possible, and it does go on, although differently for now. The dozen or so fellow residents in my wife’s dementia wing are in the main solitary folk, although one or two have bonded to a degree with another friend in the same area. Consequently, the task of the staff is heavily centred on creating activities or occasions when all of group can participate, or at least for individuals to feel less isolated. Of course, these activities have been further curtailed in the present pandemic environment which precludes a lot of the normal external stimuli designed to provide opportunities for lifestyle enhancement, variability and social interaction.

The staff, the men and women who tend the residents like my wife, are as varied as their charges. I find, without exception, they are incredibly patient and caring, trained and quick to mediate and minimise frictions that inevitably occur between their disparate resident charges. Because Alzheimer’s doesn’t manifest itself in a constant, predictable set of behaviours, the management and staff do have unenviable jobs! Each resident has a unique underlying personality and with the addition of dementia their behaviour is sometimes bewildering, even frustrating, and difficult to manage. With such a mix of characteristics and personalities, the propensity for even a petty disturbance is ever present – just like in some families! The staff are vigilant, and some are specially trained to assist and develop group activities designed to engender a spirit of cohesiveness and, hopefully, harmony. Their aim, as I see it, is to help that amazingly diverse group find a sense of peace and contentedness in what must now, for most residents, seem such a foreign and different environment, so different to the one which previously shaped and determined their life and lifestyles over dozens of years.

I admire the sustained efforts of all the staff, even more so as they strive to achieve that peaceful aim under the ever-present threat of the coronavirus and the absence of visitors who would normally provide a degree of variety and moderation (and probably challenge, too!). Yes, I can attest that residents have great meals, a large screen TV, they have outside walks, games, exercise sessions, mini-concerts and innumerable group activities all carefully planned for maximum participation but… none of that is effective if not monitored and directed by dedicated staff who are alert to the personalities of their charges.

Now add to this diversity of residents, staff, activities, resources, the overlay of governmental control, residents and relatives’ concerns, normal organisational disfunction – and a myriad of other influences which when combined present a scenario fraught with unexpected complexities. For all of those reasons and more, ‘I lift’s me lid’ to the owners, management, and staff at BlueCross, I am proud of you all and the work you are doing in the face of such extraordinary circumstances!

I haven’t seen my wife for over five weeks now, as I write this, and I miss her more than I can express but….I know she is in good hands, and if I can continue to care for myself, I can look forward to a day, maybe soon after this is published, when we can resume our new, different, strange, remote but loving relationship again.  That’s what I have to clap about!

“Cut your coat…”

‘Cut your coat according to your cloth’, or ‘Making ends meet’ is another, similar, old expression not often heard these days. ‘Balancing the budget’, ‘Paying your way’, or ‘Having enough to get by’…they all mean much the same to most of us. And yes, I confess – I live frugally but not meanly, I hope. At this stage of life, I don’t have many wants, and my needs are well covered by the Age pension and a small annuity from my super fund built up over my 60 years of working life. Dorothy’s accommodation is almost covered by her Age pension and a small annuity, but sometimes unexpected extra non-PBS medications pop up and can add some unbudgeted costs.

I am still able to drive, and it is my preferred way to do the shopping, go to church and visit Dorothy. Recently, just to see if I could do it, I walked to her care home but, at more than 7Km return up and down the hills, it was not something I would do by choice again! I usually ride my electric bike, weather permitting, to visit Dorothy but I realise the bike trails and particularly the roads are not a good place for an old ‘wobbly wider’ and I know that sometime, down the track as they say, first the bike and then the car will need to be surrendered.

The total costs of living here are only marginally more than if I lived outside this very comfortable retirement village. In return, I have secure and very pleasant surroundings and wonderful neighbours, a car and a little bit available to save or use for any extras. I am well blessed and, if I continue to live frugally, there might even be enough set aside to enjoy a little holiday sometime in the future. But I need to be mindful that, unexpectedly and at any time, there could be the need for extra medical costs, for either or both of us, which could quickly gobble up any little accumulation!

You might wonder why I don’t have a nice fat ‘nest egg’ at this stage of my life. Well, we did have, but that went to pay the ingoing Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) for my Dorothy’s care. We were $200,000 short, so the care home effectively ‘lends’ us that amount, then deducts the 5.96% interest charge out of the RAD and, although I wince at the $1,100 (approx.) withdrawn from the RAD each month, I am pleased to know that Dorothy is well cared for in a superb environment (thanks, BlueCross).

I thank God, too, for my health. Like many, I do have some as yet minor age-related usual ‘complaints’: shoulders, back, knees, and depleted energy reserves! But I try to keep active, walking, cycling, eating fruit and good pre-prepared meals, and sleeping! What more can a bloke do? When the current restrictions are lifted I will be able to visit our children occasionally for a meal and a chat but meanwhile I receive encouraging phone calls from them and our friends and then, as always, I thank God yet again for His incredible grace to an old bloke like me!

Living within your means’ is certainly difficult for many if you don’t have the ‘means’! Nevertheless, those old maxims resonate for me and many other elders in these difficult days. It was drummed into us when we were young to develop saving habits and to be careful with money. They are habits which have, for many of us, persisted and now sustain us in our declining years.

But such platitudes do not change reality. It’s all too easy for me to say, “save when you can – and live sensibly and frugally when you can’t”. The trick is being able to save and, when life can be tough during these ‘coronavirus times’ it’s not going to happen for lots of people. My heart goes out to those who are unloved, unwell, unhoused, unfed, unemployed and struggling, especially those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

All I can do is pray, as I ‘tailor my coat according to the cloth’, that together we will all be strengthened to live through these troubled times with love and compassion and look forward to brighter, different, times in our lucky country.