Somehow, Mrs P belongs in Rolbos. To those of you who don’t know her yet: Mrs P is in her nineties, insists on living in her house and is one very determined and wise woman. I used to write about my visits to her in the old Letterdash blog, but when she became so frail, I stopped. It felt like I was exposing her fragile and delicate state to the public – and it didn’t seem right.
Now, however, she is much better. In response to the many caring enquiries I received, we break away from the traditional Rolbos story for an update…
Lydia swings open the old door even before I ring the cowbell hanging from the security gate.
“She’s waiting for you,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
Ever since Lydia has been around, the house is spotless. I smell fresh tea brewing in the kitchen and something else – muffins? The drawings against the wall – a legacy of her artistic days – no longer greet me in their haphazard, skew way: dusted and straightened, they now seem proud to tell me about her talent.
She waits in the bedroom, in her pyjamas and the red jersey with the little dog that says I wuf you.
“It’s Tuesday,” she says with a smile as I walk in. “You always say hello on Tuesdays, and I’ve been waiting for you.”
The transformation over the past few weeks is quite remarkable. After a lengthy argument, the family relented and now no longer insist that she should be in a frail-care environment. Lydia – a real angel – was the compromise. She comes in daily to look after Mrs P, and she’s very good at it.
“I’ve had my hair done,” she says proudly, and shows me the new nail varnish Lydia put on. “Do you like it?”
Yes, Mrs P, you actually look very sexy.
She laughs – a genuine, joyful chuckle – and says I’m a tease. Like last week, I have to tell her all about my recent trip into Africa. Her memory isn’t what it used to be, and she gasps and laughs at the same stories she’s heard a few times before.
“Oh, this reminds me so much of that trip I took with my daughter. The one where I met the man called Jesus on the train in Sudan…” She tells me about that journey – again. I gasp and laugh at the same adventures I’ve heard a number of times now.
We spend a lovely hour chatting. Lydia brings in tea. Kitty rests comfortably on the bed – right at the spot where the hot water bottle is.
Before I leave, I ask whether I can take a photograph.
“Oh, my! Like this?”
Yes, Mrs P. You’re beautiful just as you are.
When I leave, I realise an important fact: it doesn’t matter if you have the same chat every week. What matters, is that somebody actually wants to chat with you. Somebody is interested in your story. Somebody cares.
Somewhere, in the 50-odd countries where Rolbos is read, someone has an old relative. Or maybe you have a reclusive, aging neighbour. Or you have a parent in a frail care facility. Or something. If you do – well, take the time to visit; not once, but on a regular basis.
Pay it forward.
Some day, it’ll be your turn…