It being Thanksgiving day, and my having little else to do, it was my custom to go round to the old people’s home and give them some home made rock cakes, with the emphasis on the word “Rock” owing to my limited cooking skills, and then raise my harmonica to my lips and play a couple of popular national anthems to the seated gathering, in order to spread the sense of cheer and national pride.
The old often have silence on their side, and their response to my visits was a little hard to gauge. Finally, slightly stressed if anything by the implacable detachment and the sight of one of my half eaten cakes in the rubbish bin, no doubt deposited by some elderly sage who considered himself beyond the age of tact, I walked up to one solitary gentleman and asked him, “When was the last time you did something entirely new in your life ?”
He looked at me with those eyes many elderly people have, which seemed to be saying, “How old do you think you will be before you realise you are an idiot” and then a crazy smile lit up his face and he said, “About twenty minutes ago” I was surprised, and no doubt looked it, and he continued, “I asked young Mavis out on a date.”
Young Mavis was seated across the room from us and admitted to being in her early seventies, which means near eighty to you and I: no bad thing as our bold hero was nearing ninety himself, although clearly unworried by the age gap.
“What did she say?” I asked him, all agog at this rare hint of romance in such a place. “Oh she was firm” said our Romeo, “She told me, ‘No kissing on the first date!” . “What did you say.” I asked him, and he said, “And not much dancing I’ll be bound” and we both had a laugh. The only things to be touching may be our hands and wheel-chairs, but that’s enough at my age, and even hers.”
I rose to leave him then and wished him the best of luck with his new romance. He smiled, and as I walked away he said, in a slightly louder voice, “I bet she’ll be the making of me”. and, perhaps unwisely, I replied, “We can always dream” which we clearly we always can. He called me back to him, and beckoned me closer to his head, and said. “Leave the weariness to us son.” We became friends, and he kept me abreast of his dating news. He taught me that being alive is not about being mobile. It is also a state of mind.