The nursing home, which is run by a church organisation, has a number of celebratory events at this time of year. Last Tuesday was carols evening, attended by residents from all the organisation’s nursing homes in the region. The home’s vast garage is hung with tinsel; there’s a gigantic throne for when Santa makes an appearance, and a number of life-sized Santa statues. A troupe of school children sing carols (some of the same ones that have been piped in from a CD player as the masses assemble. A chaplain (or ‘Director of Pastoral Services’) gives a brief talk about ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, which apparently is that her allocated time is far too short. There’s ice cream and cupcakes and softdrink. Mollie joined in the applause and waved her cup of lemonade in time to the singing, and that makes the event a success. Personally I’d rather have teeth pulled, or even listen to Bob Dylan’s latest album.
On the weekend it was the residents’ Christmas party: more softdrinks and carols, though this time sung by a crooner with a finely developed sense of his audience, and mingled with other less single-minded tunes. There were lots of visiting relatives, including young ones, and a genuinely convivial mood. The dining room was cheerfully alive.
And yesterday morning Penny decided we should experiment with taking Mollie out. She’s been pretty much living a wheelchair for a couple of months now, which has its own disadvantages, but paradoxically creates opportunities for greater mobility. When Mollie used a walker, her progress was so painful that to walk any further than the small outside garden would have been an ordeal. Yesterday, we dared to wheel her out – through the front doors into the astonishingly bright sunlight, down the short street with its occasional rose pushing through a cast-iron fence, across Balmain Road, and to the ultra-cool DiVi Cafe, where Mollie drank a cup of not-too-hot hot chocolate and watched a number of small children playing on playground equipment. She smiled and nodded (language has pretty much deserted her) and I realised that the simple, basic pleasure of being around small children is something that nursing-home residents have very little of. Those couple of minutes sitting in the sun, feeling the light breeze, sipping a lukewarm milky drink and watching a little girl play on a slide and a little boy try to give his father a fright had an awful lot of joy in them.