Those of us without kids often think about our old age. Lisa recently wrote some thoughts about it here. I'm very conscious of this, as my elderly mother is deteriorating fast, and her condition could possibly be passed on to me. (I'll find out in due course, no doubt!) I'm visiting her this week as I won't see her at Christmas, and the last few months my sisters and I have been looking at what provisions we need to put in place for her future. The head in the sand routine would be tempting, to avoid all the complications and sibling issues and guilt. But we can't do that, and we won't.
So yesterday, as part of the week I'm spending with her, I took her Christmas shopping. She has always hated Christmas shopping, especially as she has aged, finding the decisions too difficult, and keeping track of everyone is too confusing. I, on the other hand, find it fun (mostly). And we knocked it off in about an hour. On the way home, we stopped at the supermarket and ran into one of my mother's friends. When she heard we'd done all the Christmas shopping, she sighed with envy. "You could make a fortune coming down here every year and offering your services to Christmas shop for us oldies," she said laughing. Turned out her three daughters live quite close but, as she said, her face dropping sadly, "they're very busy."
Now of course if my mother's friend needed her daughters badly they'd be there I'm sure. As I'm sure if I desperately needed help and was alone, my nieces would be there too. But it was yet another reminder that the elderly can be alone - and a bit lonely - even when they have family, even when their family live close.