Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sunday 31st January 10

Got up slowly and late, enjoyed Country Tracks on the BBC with my cereal. There was a good bit on the Hockerton Housing Project, which was good.

Soon after this finished I got dressed more smartly than usual as I had an invitation to attend the remembrance service for my friend Jean Dower who died three weeks ago. It was a Quaker meeting, as she was a fairly regular attender at various times during her life. It was held at The Retreat's main hall.

Jean married Arthur Dower in 1939 and they had four sons, one of whom, Hugh, I share quite a few interests with, including cycling, and I'm fond of him partly as he has inherited some of his mother's free-thinking. Arthur was the treasurer for The Retreat, and, as far as I'm aware, was responsible for turning the place around when it hit the doldrums... and in memoriam, they have a part of the building named after him, Dower House. For quite a while, they lived on site, at Lamel Beeches, but also had a house out in the Dales in Countersett.

I met Jean when she was a widow in her late 70s, when she hosted AVP meetings at her house in Wentworth Road, and we chatted, got on well, and she invited me to pop in whenever I was passing. She invited me to come to philosophy classes with her. She was lively and intelligent, we could talk about anything and everything, and for about 10 years she was an important part of my life. But about 7 years ago her health had deteriorated enough for her to need sheltered housing, and whilst she was at Grimston Court, about 10 or 15 minutes cycle away, I was a very regular visitor. But when she was at Abbeyfields, and after Grimston Court, at Amarna House, I was not able to visit as often as I'd have liked to. Her Alzheimer's disease got worse and worse, and eventually she seemed not to recognise anyone, which was very sad for those who loved her and remembered the 'teenage rebel' she had been for most of her life!

The service was lovely, with music, then quiet contemplation and various people standing up and sharing their memories of her, some of them reading something relevant to the occasion. This wasn't a funeral... Jean left her body to medical science, and she would I'm sure be interested to know that Newcastle University are doing research on Alzheimer's and will be grateful for her gift.

The service was followed by sandwiches and a chance to talk to people. I was pleased to meet all four of her sons, and one of her grandsons whom I got on well with, and the partner of one of her lodgers, and I was happy to see Joyce, who has been so wonderful and reliable and caring for Jean right up til the end, and Jenny and Elizabeth, both of whom I know through AVP, and John and Bronwyn, also with the AVP connection. There were others, too, some of whom I may meet again as I was quite liberal with my business card...

Sometime after 3pm I cycled down to Country Fresh and bought vegetables and picked up compostables, just one 30kg sack. Home by 4pm, got changed and spent nearly 2 hours in the garden sorting compostables and also putting kindling sticks in paper sacks.

Tea was some of yesterday's pizza, reheated, and potatoes, baked beans, simple but nice. I took bathwater upstairs for one of my sons to have a soak... the other prefers a shower.

I enjoyed the Mo Mowlem drama on Channel 4... Julie Walters played the part really well.

After that, a gentle wind-down with facebook and blog, memories of Jean in my mind. I will miss her, in fact have missed her for several years as her deterioration meant that the Jean I knew wasn't really there any more. I will remember the Jean who discussed and argued, listened and learnt, shared and laughed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely tribute to a special friend, John. Very well written. Alzheimer's is such a thief. My Auntie died from it a few years ago and just like Jean, for some lengthy time before her death, it wasn't her. Certainly hard for all of us who love our friends and relatives, but I also think hard for those who actually experience it too.