Two posts about my grandmother in two days. Never mind, I think she's a worthy subject.
I was reading Jackie Kay's memoir Red Dust Road last night and one section towards the end particularly struck a chord with me. Kay's mother had just been rushed to hospital after a fall and a constant nosebleed and the way she's treated is unacceptable - to say the very least.
"I shine a torch up my torch up my mum's nose, and he inserts implements. It's all brutal. He talks softly and she can't hear a word he's saying. He's slick and full of himself; he has the horrible arrogance of the young doctor. He's treating her like she's stupid because she can't hear. I want to kill him." (p240)
Apart from linking directly to my post yesterday about my grandmother's new hearing aid, this pretty much summed up the relationship I see between the older generation and many younger people. By no means all. I don't want to tar any group with a single brush. Nevertheless, the implication is that when you're older you cease to be an important person. People talk over you, talk about you. That isn't right.
Kay's rage grows as she tries to engage the doctor who she sees treating her mother like a "second-class citizen". However, it's what happens when she and her mother leave the hospital that got to me most.
"Another hospital orderly appears to tell me a taxi is here for me. She looks at me and then she looks at my mum and says, 'Are you taking the old biddy back to her care home?' My mum doesn't hear her, thank God." (p241)
Old biddy?!! I was incensed, primarily because I see people thinking that about my grandmother all the time. I have the urge to hit people in the supermarket on a Saturday, jostling her small and slight frame as they rush around, treating her as if she was invisible. I also - and at this point I don't care who knows it - resent her daughter for treating her much the same way. How dare they treat her as nothing more than an old biddy? And how dare they think that the only reason you're with an older person is because you're paid to care? Even if she hadn't been her adopted daughter, Kay could still have been a friend - someone not paid, simply someone who cares. Jackie Kay then lists all the things her mother has done in her life that these people disregarding her don't know about. I suppose ignorance is something of a defence (a lousy one) when it comes to this issue. What I'd like to know is how people who have known these elderly people for decades, and perhaps all their lives, can turn around and disregard them as second-class citizens. I can't answer that because I've never had the urge to do it.