I have just returned from another visit to my uncle in his nursing home*.
These visit always leave me feeling sad and angry. Sad, because to see a once-vibrant, fiercely independent, highly intelligent human being reduced in ths way is an insult to us all; angry, because he shouldn't be alive.
About three years ago, he was found unconscious in his own chair in his own home. Up until then, he had managed well, with the help of his devoted houskeeper and her husband, but things were begining to fail. If only he hadn't been found. If only he had been able to die, like that, where he wanted to be, ignorant of the real indignities of old age.
But he was found, and taken to hospital, and then started a round of hospital treament and spells at home, his frail wits gradually departing, together with his physical strength, until he was admitted to the place which is now his "home".
It's a pleasant place, the staff are kind, and he is well cared-for. Some might say he is fortunate to be able to afford a place like this (although it was not of his choosing). But it is not (dreadful expression) "what he would have wanted". Incontinent, confused, not knowing where he is or (as today) who I am, he seems to live in an ongoing nightmare, from which he emerges from time to time to manifest a few brief moments of normality. I'm not saying he's unhappy all the time. He's not. But I can only imagine what goes on in his head; the un-joined-up thoughts, the discomfort, the bewilderment, the time travel (sometimes, he's in the here and now - almost; at other times, he's in a past I never knew). It is cruel; it is horrible; it is not the way anyone should end their life. My family (they include three doctors and a nurse, so they should be able to manage it) have strict instrustions as to what to do if this ever happens to me.
At one stage this afternoon, he told me I was 107 (he is much preoccupied with people's ages); at another, he thought I was my mother. As I hugged him good-bye, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said: "I miss you so much. There's so much to make noises about."
Isn't there just.
*I know I've posted about this before, but it's on my mind today.