I’ve mentioned the cardiac rehabilitation sessions I go to once or twice a week. Mostly we are men and dispell the myth that it is women who do all the talking. The first twenty minutes of the hour is spent walking, running, marching around the gym and exercising in various permutations; and there is so much nattering amongst us that the instructor’s voice can’t be heard ( we know the routine so well,it hardly matters).
This evening I found myself next to David. Without warning he suddenly said, ‘this is the best period of my life’. But I said ‘it’s not long ago that you were in hospital suffering from acute pneumonia’. ‘Ah yes, he said, that was a cracker’. ‘So why is this such a good time for you?’ ‘Because I’ve no responsibilities’, he replied – ‘although mind you, I keep busy and living with my daughter and granddaughter, I look after the house’.
This was all remarkable because when I first started attending these sessions more than two years ago, I found David very worrying.
Every so often he would retreat from our perambulations and continue to try the exercises in a corner or just lean against the wall to get his breath. And when the next twenty minutes were spent on exercise machines, he would again follow a minimal regime clearly lacking energy and breathing with difficulty. He continues to look a sick man, but gradually I have realised that this is normal for him. Whatever the struggle, these are golden years for him apparently. David is 85.
I am balancing the David experience against what knowledge I have of older people and what I observe about myself. This equation between an enjoyment of life and the lack of responsibility is interesting: even more so because as soon as he had made the connection, David needed to say that he was in fact responsible for the smooth running of a household.
For myself I am glad that I no longer have a working life where I am answerable to an organisation, though occasionally feel a vestigial guilt about it or even regret that everything seems to be working quite well without me! But I can’t admit to a triumphal and fulfilling life in my approaching dotage, as David can.( Well,fulfilling perhaps but a singular lack of triumph!)
I think it must be a wonderful thing to speak so positively about the last years, and I should try and do the same – for my sake but also for the sake of my dear family, who have to listen to my frustrations.
How do you respond to the ‘David syndrome’?