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Getting Older Article Response - NL 211

Elizabeth Lister’s Response to NL 210 article 'Getting Older – How do we feel?'

After reading the last newsletter, it really stimulated my memories from years ago; of welcoming my 84 year old mother-in-law into my home as my husband deemed it was the best arrangement for his mother (and him). She had been in hospital with pneumonia and I remember that the nurse at the hospital said she had begged to go to her own home. At that time, I was only 32, had recently miscarried and was newly pregnant. Looking back, I was so much younger and so preoccupied, I was unable to understand her feelings and wishes. My focus was on looking after her in our house by preparing an attractive room for her and cooking. She still had the pneumonia with delayed shock so I was also nursing her. I remember the doctor’s unkind attitude towards an old lady. These things are all the more dreadful to me now when we are discussing attitudes towards old people. I tried to be supportive and sociable. My mother-in-law adored her son but he scorned and was impatient with her. She hadn’t much opinion of me, apart from my housekeeping skills. She and I tried our best to make her residence work but I was very stressed. The irony was during her two-year stay with us, she was prescribed Valium but it was I that took Librium every day and after that for 27 years.

In my misery at my husband’s unfaithfulness, I confided in her. I should never have done that. The end of the story is that my mother-in-law took an overdose and jumped out of her upstairs bedroom window. She died the next day. Detectives came to the house to see if there was evidence that I had pushed her. The only evidence that they found consisted of a foot print made by her slipper on a low table underneath the window. In her suicide note left for her nephew, she said that I was mad. My husband burnt the letter.

 A happier story is that of my six-weekly visits to my aunt in Windermere, which began when she was 97. She didn’t reckon much to me: she only valued male relatives. I cleaned her house, shopped to fill her cupboards, dealt with her messages and from home wrote her a letter every week. I grew to admire her and by the time she died at the age of 101 in 1997 I knew that she valued me!

My mother had cancer, and I shared the nursing of her; she died at the age of 85. My sister had kidney failure and a transplant, lived near me, and I was on call for her until she died in 2010 at the age of 69. I know that most women have stories to tell like these.

Now I am 80! Divorced long ago, I live alone in a two-up-two-down house in Stoke-on-Trent. I have two daughters and a grandson. My older daughter, like me, is a lesbian. I paint, garden, knit, play the accordion for dancers and began to write seriously when I was 70 and am now a published author. I don’t wonder at the moment about what will happen to me if I become frail. I say I’ll be like my aunt and live in my own house until I die – who knows? 

For details of Elizabeth’s novels visit