Friday, 13 December 2013

95 years old

In the week that the great Nelson Mandela passed away at the grand age of 95, I visited my 95 year old client for her pampering treatments. I rarely do mobile work and just look after a few clients that I enjoy doing and this lady is one of them. No-one's life can read like Mandela's as he was truly one of a kind but that does not make her any lesser or greater. And possibly in her time she may have been racist and pro-apartheid, or maybe not. She is the sweetest frail thing all hunched up and bed bound with a tiny voice. I've seen her picture, in the frame at the far end of her dressing table, of her at someone's wedding and this was a well built looking woman, the sort one would be cautious of messing with so I do wonder how as humans we can be all these different people within our lifetime. From the cute baby through to a crinkly and withered old person with all those different abilities and personalities along the way. Age can really level out a person's life with all their past put to one side.

Her skin is like paper and taught around her skeleton such that it does not take much to see her frame. All my treatments are modified: facials, manicures, pedicures and massage. I also remove facial whiskers and give her ears a good clean with damp cotton buds. She can feel those whiskers and they sure do bug her and are not good for her self esteem. I don't mind working with her bony hands and feet as there is a certain beauty in seeing the body in this way, and knowing that this person and this body have been on this earth for nearly one hundred years.

I'm seeing her monthly and I hear the same stories again and again and each time I listen avidly for I really do not mind hearing them again and genuinely sound delighted each time I hear them. Sometimes I try to gently push the boundaries for something else from her life though not too much so as not to make her uncomfortable. This time I finally took something of me and brought a large framed photo of my wedding day: of Mr Doris and myself. We propped it up so she could see it whilst I carried on with the treatments. She was so delighted and exclaimed it was like being at the cinema!

During the 90 minute session (supposed to be 60 minutes but I always allow extra) we laughed and giggled. Her lungs are starting to wheeze but she does not seem to recognise it as her lungs and asked me if I could hear that voice. She said something was echoing what she said. Then I could hear the wheeze which she heard as coming behind her and she said there was a man with her and kept telling him to shuss. The more she laughed the more the wheeze which lead to more laughter. We wished each other a happy Christmas and talked about my next visit in January.

As I was leaving, her daughter told me what a difference my visit made in that before I had arrived her mother had said she wanted to die and now she was a different person. This is not about me specifically, although I am sure there is something special I bring to the mix, but about the whole role of therapeutic treatments and beauty. It may be labelled as beauty but pulling a few whiskers is not rocket science and gentle hands on smoothing of creams gives a physical touch the human body and soul needs. On many previous visits my lady has cried about wanting to die because of the "trouble" she feels she is to her daughter. I think it is one thing dying because the body has finally had enough but another to just give up. When my lovely old lady does pass, I hope she will do so feeling happy and content ready to go and not because she feels she must.


rashbre said...

As well as the benefits from treatments, there must be something very positive about companionship and hearing a 'different voice'.

I think you taking the picture along was a splendid idea and a great way to 'reach out'.

Doris said...

I think you are quite right Rashbre about that different voice. Although my visits are sporadic they have been persistent over the last couple of years which brings the depth.

And if I go off with a nice glow and after some days am still thinking about things said and heard surely she must have a few of those too.

Jay said...

Oh my goodness, what a lovely post. It makes me realise how much I have missed, not doing the rounds of the blogs.

I almost had tears in my eyes reading about your lady and how much your visits mean to her. So many of our old people are neglected in this way - oh, not starved, or denied medication or general care, or stuck in a corner etc, but denied the comfort of this kind of loving touch and personal interaction that lasts significantly beyond 'would you like a cup of tea' and 'let's get your wash done'. You truly do make a world of difference to this lady, and make her feel valued and cherished - which is what everyone needs!

Doris said...

Thank you Jay for your kind comments. I feel it is a privilege to be able to do something that makes a difference. I think whatever we are doing, whether it is getting the washing done or "making a cuppa" I think we can all make that more into "sharing a cuppa". It is the interaction and truly connecting.

Beyond that though, I know there are others in my field who would be appalled at doing the feet of an older person or think that just because one is "old" then suddenly there is no sense of self or standards that one may have had in their younger days.