Monday, October 28, 2019

Old Farts: Fred's story

Old Farts: Fred’s tale

Fred walked in and in one motion safely slumped into the chair and at the same time put down the pint of double extra dry lager. After pondering his surroundings including his drinking mates, he reached for the glass of beer and before getting it to his lips he saluted his fellow drinkers with a somewhat belligerent “cheers.”

Alan was doing his usual SBS cooking review and was going on and on about some new vegetable he had seen being cooked somewhere in Thailand. He was swearing on a pile of Bibles that the veg was the same as that which he had eaten in Kenya called Sukuma weekie.  Various voices were trying to tell him that the vegetable he was in fact referring to was called kail or kael or a spelling to that effect.

Fred smashed the chaotic scene with a thunderous clap of his hands.

“Guys,” he said, “ I got to tell you that today I realized I was officially an old man. I saw the evidence looking at me square in the eye in the barber’s mirror. The mirror could never lie. …”

He was interrupted by Dr Google aka Jake, “You are only young as you feel. You might look old, but if you feel young at heart, you are young.”

"Besides we have known that you have been an old man (by a year more than the rest of us) for a long time ... nothing new about that."

“Bullshit,” retorted Fred. “My face is smaller than a Kensington mango and darker than a small-sized avocado. My head used to be a somewhat interesting mixture of hair that frizzed up long strands of salt and pepper. The pepper has been long gone and the strands of salt are beginning to drop off, almost as if they were leaving a sinking ship. The Elvis Presley curls are today just a dim memory as those wonderful rock n roll jiving days. Having a little trouble even doing the two step these, more of that later. My brow looks like it has been fashioned by mini-road trains that ply the highway to Perth. The tramlines are deep rutted and bone dry/ My cheeks are hollowed and bones are simply dying to find daylight. I sometimes try to camouflage my face with a beard more suited to Father Christmas than a dark tanned former road worker.

“Yea, yea, Dr Google and Dr SBS are going to tell me to use some women’s beauty tips. There was a time when she-who-must-be-obeyed used to put some cream on the bags under my eyes and for a while it worked. But now there crows feet every I look and I even have mini nightmares about them. At 76 it is too late for that … that little bird has flown away and I am growing old and ugly gracefully, preferably with a pint of beer in my hand. Oh, I forgot to mention the eyebrows. The barber was picking the grey hairs out but soon that too will be a lost cause because they will all be grey (white) or none at all or they will all find refuge in my ears, many keep heading there and the barber keeps snipping them.”

Charlie who had been rolling his eyes heaven-wards throughout the evening, simply said: “If you are so conscious of your greying hair, why don’t you just dye it like everyone else?”

“You really want me to answer that daft suggestion?” puked Fred.

“I reckon my cardiologist, gastroentorologist and my orthopedic surgeon are going to have a real blue one of these days.

“Consider this: several years ago, after a thousand tests, the gastro guy declared that I was lactose intolerant. So, no milk, milk products including cheese, ice cream and a lot of stuff like that.

“I have these various bones in my neck pressing down nerves. The ortho has kept me going with a cortisone injection now and then, regular physio (thanks to a very special lady) and regular walking. So, the other day he wanted to try something else and prescribed me a drug which contains … wait for it … lactose. So I am going to see him on Wednesday.

“After an incident with my heart in India, the cardiologists recommended lots of fruit and veg … found out recently that cheeries, strawberries, red apples and, wait for it, pears were cause of my bout of gout and Bombay belly runs … seeing both the gastro and the cardio this week.

“Only discovered recently that the medication prescribed by the cardiologist for cholesterol also impacts on the muscles … another thing I have to clear with them soon.”

“The problems in my neck were caused by many hours working at the computer for a few decades and did not manifest themselves until about 12 years ago.

“Ah the lower back, don’t even mention it.”

"There is one slight saving grace ... since giving up the alcohol and adopting the eat lifestyle of a monk, the diabetes blood tests are below 6 and I don't have to pin-prick test each morning... except a blood test every six months.

“So, guys, there you have it, I am looking and feeling a little old. But I am not dead yet. I am heading off to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam for a few weeks, trying to empty the bucket list.”

Armando, who is often lost in his own thoughts, suddenly piped in: “So what brought on this Grim Reaper’s impending victim feeling?”

Fred: “Hey, I did not say I was going to die tomorrow. It might happen, I don’t know. I was just telling you guys, that looking in that barber’s mirror I was beginning to feel a little ancient, even a little weary.

“Oh, by the way. I finally managed get someone to do the lawns. A horticulturalist no less. Will try and find someone to clean the house one of these days.”

Dr Google: “Well if you are feeling a bit old, why are you going on another long trip. Isn’t that a little dumb? Shouldn't you just take it easy for a while, recharge your batteries?”

Fred: “Batteries are getting old, nearly past their use-by dates. I am going to make the most of it while I can. By the way, I have no complaints whatsoever, there is always someone else, sadly, who is often worse off. Considering all my ailments, I am pretty good and I have missed for nothing.”

Jason, who normally does not really venture an opinion, said rather sheepishly: "I think you are just going through one of those phases ... probably just feeling a little sorry for yourself and a little alone."

"Yes," said Fred, "old age."

"We are all part of a vanishing breed of East Africans in the diaspora. Larry's passing has shocked everyone who knew him. RIP."

Dr Google, quietly piped in, always wanting the last word: "This is not the beginning of another episode of depression I hope!!!!"

"I hope not too."

Here's a note I got the other day:

Jimmy sat down in usual chair at the club with his usual pint of beer but he was not his usual self. Understandable because last week he buried Eleanor, his wife of 55 years. He said he was not coping and head was going round and round like the rotor blades of a helicopter. 

Alan asked him the obvious question: Have you seen a doctor about it?

"Yea," said Jimmy, "they want to fill my gut full of pills and other drugs. I don't need that. I just need to be around people."

Alan: "I think we can help with that. I send an email around to all our people and see who would like to take part in a project called: Caring for Jimmy. I will also speak our friend Dr Badhay (retired) who has had a lot of experience in their area. However, I will see you later this evening Jimmy and by the morning we should start some sort of a routine. A few of us will go round the club and see how many volunteers we can drum up."

Inside of a couple of minutes, 20 couples had put their hand up, some of them starting the next day. Jimmy could not hold the tears back. No problem because they were tears of job because so many people cared.

They gave him some warm pats on the back and told him to cheer up. 

Alan promised to keep everyone posted.

I will let you know more when I hear from Alan.

Well, well. 

Social Services are taking care of his home-care needs, as well as providing him with community support transport. They will clean the house once a week. A whole bunch of people have offered to pick Jimmy up and take him out. A roster is being made.

Another thing, Peter the Real Estate Agent is looking at renovating a couple of rooms and letting them out to suitable uni students. Jimmy liked the idea very much. Peter reckons with proper research he might be able to find the right person.

Oh, Father Mike Denton will give him all the support he can.

How wonderful to see so many people going out of their way to help a dear friend without worrying how much it is going to cost them. Good deeds are not always meant to make money.


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