Friday, June 15, 2007

Under the weather

The summer is slow in staying with us. After hot Chamsin days we have unusual cold days. I now understand what the British mean when they answer to the question: “How are you” with: “I feel under the weather”. So do I feel under the weather, when my bones are creaking and I can hardly straighten my back when I get up in the morning.

The struggle of how to fill my days is on. With the approaching summer many of the regular Inter-Faith activities come to a halt and will only restart in the autumn.

For the moment the Birthright groups (student) from America are still coming to Yad Vashem. This last Friday morning there were about 200 of them in the hall and you could have heard a pin drop during my presentation. I got a standing ovation after my talk.
Quiet a few of them came up to me to say a personal thank you. That keeps me going.
Among them Jossi from Shorashim, one of the organizations that are is involved in bringing the groups to Israel, who came up to me to me and asked if I am the mother of Manja Yoel from “Chavat Eyal”, the Petting Animal Farm in Ramat Rachel, a memorial in the name of my grandson Eyal, who fell 5 years ago in action in Je’nin. Jossi told me that he often takes groups there.

The world is really small, just a global village. There often is somebody in the crowd who has heard about me, or verifies my story because he knows somebody who arrived on the same boat as I did, or was in the same unit with my grandson, or whose father was part of the delegation that visited Auschwitz a couple of years ago. Some have heard me before and were pleased to get a chance to hear me again.

Over the years I have spoken to thousands of people, but it is these personal encounters that mean a lot to me.

They give me strength and help me get away from feeling under the weather.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

How will I manage if it gets worse

Days pass and I have a lot of time to think.
Actually I day dream a lot, or better said, I am half awake and half asleep. Some of it might simply be wishful thinking. In that state I can write an article or even a whole book. I can visualize each character in the story, where it is taking place, what is being said, where it all ends and can already see it published.
Once I am fully awake, it is all gone. I don’t remember a thing. This has been going on for several months.
Probably this is just part of growing old. I would still like to accomplish something, but what ever it is, it is out of reach for me. I do not have the strength that I had before.
Through out the day I often have to take a rest or lay down. The pain that is all over my body gets the better of me. The pain is mainly in the joints of my legs and feet, in my shoulders and fingers, and of late also down my spine. There are times when it is hard for me to straighten up. Once I stand up it is difficult to take the first step or two. Getting dressed becomes daily more and more problematic. I can neither bend down nor can I reach up. It is hard putting things unto the lower or upper shelves. I am so handy caped that it often worries me.

How will I manage if it gets worse?

For the moment my computer is my best friend. I feel that I have to tell somebody. It is always Danny who has to listen to my aches and pains. Sometimes it scares me to burden him with that.
Loneliness in old age is not only subjective it is also objective. Many people around me have died within the last few years. In the house that I live in three people died, all within a short time. Another one can hardly walk. Most of the others old people I know are in a bad shape. One has gangrene and kidney troubles, one has been in a wheelchair after a stroke an can no longer recognize anybody, the other is 96 and has pneumonia, the next one is in a depressive mood and no longer goes out of the house.

I visit and listen to them, but cannot tell them about my own calamities, which to me are real and often burdensome. They may be mild in comparison, but to me they are real. I do all in my power to cope, have adjusted my diet, go regular for medical check up, try to go for a walk as often as possible. A short walk only, as when walking any distance, I tire quickly and need somebody to hold my hand to help me along.

It is 9.10 o’clock in the morning. I just got out of bed. I have been up since 6.15 , slowly sitting up, straightening my back, rushing to the toilet, sometimes I make it and sometimes it drips and I have to change my pants. Opening the shutters to let the sunlight stream in, putting on the kettle for my morning drink, opening my computer to see if there is a new message and then back to bed to read. Before long I get tired and drop of to sleep or daydream for a while.
It is easier to get up, shower and get dressed on days when there is something I have to do. I do try hard to make arrangements on a day- to- day base.

Sundays afternoon a young German volunteer comes in for just an hour or a bit longer to talk to me, asking me a lot of questions about Israel and Judaism, sometimes going for a short walk around the block with me.

Tuesday mornings a friend comes to pick me up to go to the club where I am part of the organizing team.

Wednesday at 2.30 a volunteer comes in for an hour to massage my feet and vacuum my carpets.

Thursday morning at 9.15 till lunchtime I go painting, together with a group of old people like myself. Usually I come home with a finished painting.
Friday evening I walk over to my son for dinner, that is, if his boys are at home. My son walks me home. There is always something that needs to be seen to by him. To put things up on the upper shelves in the cupboard, to help me change the sheet on the bed, to pick up something that fell down in a corner, or just to listen to my tales of vow.
If he can he drops in on me during the week to check something on the computer, to correct a bit of a Hebrew text for me, to teach me new tricks on the computer like power point or opening a new file so that I can find easier what I am looking for what I have written long ago and want to retrieve again.

For Shabbat lunch I used to go to a religious family around the corner. But of late they are seldom home. So often I am all- alone all day long on Shabbat.

Whenever I get a call from Yad Vashem I am glad to give a talk to soldiers or pupils or students from abroad. That gives me the feeling that I am still useful to somebody.
There are periods when they call on me a couple of times a week and there are periods when I wait in vain for a phone call from them.

That may sound a full schedule, but it leaves many hours when I get depressed and the feeling of loneliness gets the better of me. I get aware of my aches and pains and watch television for hours on end.
Going out on my own to a lecture or a concert is no fun for me. Most people come in twos or a group. I go alone and come back alone. There is nobody to share a thought with. I have tried it again and again and gave it up.
Evenings seem especially long and lonely. But if I go to bed before 11.00 o’clock, I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall asleep again. That makes me very irritable for the rest of the day.

Often I go to the computer for not having anything better to do. I look up in the inter-net about Loneliness in Old Age. And what do I find?
That objectively seen, it is something that many old people suffer from.
Objectively the social network gets smaller with age, while the need for social network increases with age.
The big question arises who should be held responsible for creating a better social network for the old people. The old people themselves are not really in a position to do so.
Society at large is no longer aware of the need of this marginal group. Old people are considered to be marginal although they increase in numbers as never before in history, while society is more and more oriented towards furthering the young. What they are inclined to forget is that before long they will be old as well.

Society is not going to solve my problems. It is up to me to deal with them. On the whole I seem to manage, but not all the time. There seems to be little more I can do, except to accept things the way they are. That is not always easy.