It’s been a few months since I finished my training. I’ve read through my notes a few times and have been in regular contact with Sue. Still, I’m a bit nervous, the day has arrived – first contact. It’s local so chances are I’ve probably met the man before – surprisingly I haven’t. Sue is a natural at this and within a couple of minutes we’re chatting, laughing and planning our visits. The weeks and months rapidly pass. Visits are always full of chats, laughs and interesting stuff. We’re both artists, me a visual artist and himself a visually impaired writer. Each visit we both learn something new – for me I had never given much consideration to what it would be like to be creative in a world without my sight. Himself does it with finesse, I’m always so impressed by his ability to do so many things. I know people half his age who can’t operate a computer as well as he can, I know life is more difficult for him because of his impairment but he always tries to stay positive and upbeat. After spending visits going to the supermarket and describing all of its many many products, learning how to guide a person through the supermarket maze (with a few bumps along the way), and keeping an eye on expiry dates of stuff in the presses, I really feel like I make a difference to his life – like himself, I have a happy nature so regardless of what we’re doing on any given visit, there’s always a smile on our faces.
We’re both March babies we’ve discovered – maybe that’s why we both have a similar nature! We decided that whilst there are limitations to befriending and boundaries need to be set and followed, we should celebrate our birthdays – they’re only 3 days apart so we agreed to have dinner. It was so lovely to have a holiday from our usual visit (we did still get his shopping in that week and do a couple of other bits). I picked Japanese for dinner, not considering how difficult it could be to navigate what is essentially a mini buffet of food eaten with chop sticks! We got some forks and all was well but it gave me a reminder that life is more difficult when you have a disability. I have learnt so much from himself, before I was so unaware of the difficulty some face with tasks that are so simple to me.
We got to share more stories about the art we write and make, eat some lovely food and enjoy each others company in a more neutral setting. Himself is always so grateful of my time, regularly saying he ‘doesn’t want to take up too much of my time’. I think this is because as an older person alone and in need of help, he feels like a burden. He’s never said that and I haven’t asked him if that’s how he feels but I’ve become so much more conscious of how vulnerable older people are, especially when they are alone.
Well, we think a year has passed. It’s been weird of course but we’ve constantly kept in touch. The summer was easier. Nature is another thing we have in common, all that lovely weather and being within 5k of each other meant we could still physically see each other. We spent visits masked up out in the front garden admiring the plants and the birds, yet again I’m impressed by his green
fingers and his keen ear for knowing a bird by its call, except for starlings because they mimic the call of other birds, another new thing I learnt. The cold and rainy days were tough, winter seems to have gone on for a really long time and most of us are struggling with getting from one day to the next but in usual form, himself reminds me that in a lot of ways we are more connected now than we ever were. Maybe we can’t socialise like we used to but people are keeping in touch more and making more of an effort to consider the effect of their behaviour on those around them. He also reminds me spring is here, we’re not out of the woods yet but the natural world has had a bit of a break from us, the birds are already singing and brighter days are on the way. Thanks to Himself, Sue and Denise and all at Older Voices, what we do makes a difference.
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