Wednesday, 2 April 2008

'Cause I've Been First And Last And Look At How The Time Goes Past

Barnie & Tara in the pub

When I lived in England, I worked as a barmaid in a pub. I lived in small village and there were some days that I'd have no lunch customers. The only patron would be Barnie - an old man who lived up the hill behind the pub. Barnie would come in with Tara, his greyhound, and sit up at the counter. He was a fan of the ale, but on the rare occasion he didn't like any of the 3 we had on tap he would ask for Guinness. If we had pork scratchings he'd buy a pack and split it with Tara. If we didn't, he would ask for crisps and eat them himself (Tara didn't love crisps the way she loved those pork scratchings.) (PS: pork scratchings = grossest snack food EVER.)

Barnie would tell me stories about the Second World War. He was stationed in Venice and fell in love with a Venetian woman. When he was sent back to England he had to leave her behind because she had elderly parents that she had to care for. He ended up marring a British woman but still pined after his "Venetian girlfriend."

Barnie was lonely, his wife having passed away years before I met him. Tara was his only company when he wasn't down in the pub. I started going to his house on Sundays to clean, but every week I'd end up with a cup of tea in my hand instead of a vacuum. He'd talk about his kids and grandkids (who lived close enough to visit but rarely did), his sweet wife (who died suddenly from a brain aneurysm - something he never got over) and life in general. Barnie had an opinion on anything and everything and wasn't afraid to share it. Tact isn't something he concerned himself with.

I went back to England last May. Barnie had just put Tara down after the vet discovered the reason she wasn't jumping and playing like she used to; she had cancer in her bones and was in excruciating pain. Barnie looked haggard. He'd always looked old but this time he looked defeated. The last time I saw Barnie he told me to hurry back because he didn't think he'd last much longer.

In December, Barnie had a fall and ended up in the hospital for a month. His heart was bad, his legs weren't working properly, his body was slowly deteriorating. Yet he soldiered on. In January he was out of the hospital and back home. A friend who used to live in the same village visited Barnie last week and reported back to me that Barnie's had another fall. J is trying to convince Barnie to go into a care facility but Barnie is resisting. He wants to stay in his home. J asked me to call Barnie this weekend and convince him that going into a care facility is the best option. I think that if I pressed him, he would listen. I feel conflicted though. On one hand, I really believe that Barnie should be in a place where he can be monitored. On the other hand, if it's his wish to stay in his home, who am I to tell him otherwise? He doesn't have much time left. Shouldn't he spend it where and how he wants to? The whole situation makes me sad. I wish that Barnie's family was taking a more active stance in his care. I wish that Barnie had someone nearby who could check up on him more frequently. I wish that I didn't have to try to change his mind. I really wish that it wasn't going to be another year before I can make it back to England.


  1. That was such a beautiful and sad post. Poor Barnie. It's so hard to watch people close to you grow old and lose their ability to care for themselves or bounce back from injury. You are in a hard place about telling him what's best for his health. Is there a way that a nurse can stop by on a daily basis to check on him so he can stay at home? Or is there a retirement community he can go to?

    My grandmother moved into one after my grandfather died, and she's pretty happy. She lives alone and people come by and clean for her. Plus she's made new friends, so she is less lonely. Maybe that can work for Barnie too. I hope everything works out for him in the end.

  2. This is so touching. And it's such a difficult thing. I was thinking the same thing as LITLL--is there a way that he can remain at home but still have someone come in an care for him? It seems to me that it would cost paying for 24-hour available care.

  3. I have a neighbor that finally went into a care facility. I was about to call her children and chew them out when they finally decided to put her in. /sigh

    She honestly couldn't stay by herself anymore. Almost every single day we would get calls that either she or her husband had fallen down.

    She is doing better now... now that she has help. I do believe the decision should be the persons though. I know I would want to make the decision.

  4. This was beautiful to read and a little sad :(

    You have such a great heart!

  5. This was a very touching post. Barnie's "soldier on" attitude reminds me my grandmother. I miss her. Thanks for dropping by and commenting on my blog.

  6. That was beautifully written. Such a good memory to treasure.
    I worked in a nursing home for over six years and I can't help but think how sad it was/is there. I know it's good for people who need that extra care, but it's heartwrenching to watch people 'lose themselves' once they're in such closed corridors.
    Is there any way some one can check on him daily? I hope so, for his sake.

  7. That was so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    I have no advice on home care, etc. but I hope a good solution for him is found.

    He sounds like a fantastic gentleman.

  8. I am not really sure how all of this works over in England, but here in the U.S., it is often more economical and easier to get the person a live-in nurse or someone to check in on folks like this.

  9. C's grandma just moved into a nursing home, and to everyone's surprise loves it. But it was her decision and she was finally ready. I'm not sure pressing her to go earlier would have worked.

    Honestly, I don't know what you could do to help your friend - but he'd probably love a phone call regardless. Maybe his wife was a jam making expert...

  10. How touching and sad. Is there anyway to get him the care he needs at home? Whether part- or full-time? I bet a phone call from you would go a long way either way.

  11. Echoing everyone else: Can he have someone stop by?
    My gramma (she lives in Vancouver) has 2 different live-in caretakers who are just awesome. But I have no idea how it works in England :(

  12. Second World War. He was stationed in Venice

    I'm a bit worried as to what side he was on.

    Barnie wants to die at home and I don't blame him one bit. I'm sure there are NHS carers who would check in on him or at least meals on wheels, its not going to cost him anything the UK being civilised and all, like Canada I believe.

  13. For a while he had a nurse coming in every day but he doesn't anymore (I don't know if he's no longer eligible or if he told the nurse to stop - either is plausible.)

    He's very stubborn and proud so I really don't think that anyone will be able to convince him to do something he doesn't want to do. Which I understand - I wouldn't want someone telling me that I had to move into a retirement home. I would want it to be my decision. That being said, the thought of him falling and not being found for days absolutely horrifies me. He is sick enough that he needs daily monitoring and he's not getting it right now.

    I'll know more after I speak to him this weekend.