Mother and I agree we are going to ignore the advice of the ex-Minister for Loneliness to ‘take your grandparents on holiday’. She used to take her parents on holiday with her and wants us to follow her lead. It’s part of a strategy to ‘beat loneliness’.
Mother does not think the Minister’s advice is bad per se. But she hates trains, planes, automobiles, ferries, lorries and cars. So getting her anywhere is a Herculean task.
She also detests bicycles. Or rather bicyclists, whom she regards as thoughtless hooligans who enjoy scaring old people by riding on the pavement and not stopping at pedestrian crossings.
The only way to get her to the south of France – which is where we’re heading – is to hire a sedan chair and a team of muscled youngsters to carry her there. It would be slow but the journey would leave almost no carbon footprint and employ some fit, young people for a fortnight or more. I wonder if the new Minister for Loneliness would finance this as an innovative initiative and policy making? The company slogan would be ‘Sedan and Enjoy the Ride’.
‘The last time I went to France the dog had diarrhea for a week and your father drank a bottle of a brandy every day. At my age, I can’t risk reliving that all over again,’ says Mother.
My Son thinks she has hodophobia, a rare disease, which makes you fear travelling and should be taken to the psychiatrist. My Wife thinks she’s being selfless and should be allowed to make her own decisions. I am trying to remember if Father liked brandy that much. The bit about the dog is true.
‘If she were a dog, we’d put her in a dog home. Why aren’t there dog homes for old people?’ says my Son.
‘We could set up CCTV in her flat so we can keep an eye on her from our iPhones,’ says my Daughter, trying to lessen the guilt we are all beginning to feel for going on holiday.
‘We could just respect her wish to stay at home by herself like a million other adults,’ says my Wife.
The worry that something bad might happen while we’re away doesn’t disappear. However, my son has given me an idea. I investigate the options for respite care while we are away and talk Mother through the concept of her signing up while we are in France.
She looks at me forgivingly as if I was an untrained puppy that had just wet the sofa.
‘If I drop dead in this so-called respite care home they’d be obliged to tell you immediately. Which means you’d be obliged to come home and cut short your holiday, which would be distressing for the family, who will feel oblige to come back with you. But none of that will bring me back to life.’
‘Do you see what I’m saying, darling? You may as well go and leave me here. If I die while you’re away, they’ll just put me in a giant freezer and you can deal with all the funeral arrangements when you come home, sun-tanned and relaxed. When you think it through this holiday respite care idea is a pointless complication and expense.’
Her logic is faultless, though it is missing something, I can’t put my finger on.
‘What you’re saying is you’d rather be by yourself at home?’
‘Yes. Why do people always assume us oldies need to be with other people? The politicians and those busy bodies need to remember that.’
She pauses for a moment.
‘L’enfer c’est les autres.’