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Beware Granny’s brutal “my family is better than your family” competition

One can’t be doomy and gloomy every day. So, today I’ll warn readers about Granny’s fierce “my family is better than your family” competition.

I guess we’re all pretty competitive and many of us spend our lives trying to keep one step ahead of the Jones’s. But I had thought that, as people approached their dotage, this competitive streak would lessen and people would relax about their lives. How wrong I was.

My mother is now 88 years old and possibly not in full possession of her marbles. And I’ve recently realised there is a well-hidden but vicious competition going on all the time between her and her similarly mature acquaintances. Whenever she’s out playing bridge or at a coffee morning or at the club or whatever, there’s always some vile old bat who spends much of the time boasting about what a wonderful family she has and how successful all her children are and how she has fabulous grandchildren and how her whole family loves visiting her and how often they visit her and how happy they all are.

Naturally, when my mother then reflects on how her children are all in quite moderate jobs and how one of them is a failed writer who cannot even get the people who read his blogs to buy his hopeless books, this naturally makes my mother rather sad.

My wife has worked looking after the elderly and apparently this “my family is better than your family” competition is even worse should you manage to pack Granny off to a care home or retirement home or something similar. Then there is a very strict status hierarchy based on which mad old bat gets the most visits from their family members. Those who get few to no visits, of course, almost have the status of ‘untouchables’.

So, if one of your grandparents or parents is heading towards God’s Waiting Room, you can’t relax and expect them to slip quietly into the final stretch of their golden years. Nope, they’ll probably be fighting in a brutal daily struggle for status against the other doddering old biddies and if they’re going to be able to score some points and hold their head up high, then that means you and your family are going to have to troop up with wearying regularity always delighted to endure the faint smell of yesterday’s urine in order to enhance your progenitors’ social standing.

In fact, I’m in London now trying to help my mother save face with her neighbours and ‘friends’. So when people phone she can talk about how she’s being visited “yet again” by her son and daughter-in-law. Be warned.

3 comments to Beware Granny’s brutal “my family is better than your family” competition

  • John Fields

    Mr. Craig, as an 87 year old, I think that you would be a successful writer if you
    wrote a ” Book of Jokes.” By the way, I have bought your books.

  • David Craig

    I thought when I was writing a book about Gordon Brown, I was writing a book about a joke. But sadly, what he did to our country was serious.

  • Keen Reader

    Old people need to have their worth affirmed somewhere, somehow and if pride in their children and grandchildren is the only means left to them, then they should be pitied as much as condemned for their one-up-man-ship. Growing old, actually BEING old in the UK is no fun. Unless you are royalty, when you “lose your marbles” or, infinitely worse in many ways, retain those multi-hued little spheres but lose your physical capacities, you will have little option but to consign yourself to the tender mercies of some “Care Home” at extortionate charge – currently in the region of £2,500 per month where I live.
    With very few exceptions, these “homes” cater for the lowest common denominator amongst residents – the abandonment of title and surname in favour of the ubiquitous “dearie”, loss of privacy, group sing-songs more appropriate to the under-fives, frequent Bingo, and a generally patronising attitude that I know I would find totally intolerable. In addition, many are now staffed by immigrants many of whom, although kind enough, have very limited English and therefore ability to communicate with residents.
    Old people are as deserving of concern for their mental and physical welfare as are younger people. Around me I see many old people, particularly old women, whose deceased husbands were the drivers, therefore the cars and consequent ability to get out and about went with their deaths, whose offspring live miles away, perhaps even in the Antipodes, who lost income with the death of their spouses and who have little option but to reduce their life parameters to a tiny circle of activity and interest. That standby of many retired people, the Adult Education classes in non-vocational subjects, have now (as I wrote yesterday) been “bureaucratized” out of existence – that’s when they had not already been priced out of existence for most retired people.
    Furthermore, while we persist, in face of incontrovertible evidence that many old or ill people wish it otherwise, in the myth that human life is precious and must be preserved at all costs, regardless of quality of life, what you write of, and what I affirm here, will continue. Although now old, I am physically extremely fit and my marbles are all still present, unchipped and gleaming, but my family have clear instructions, stated also in my Living Will, that when the Reaper makes a failed swipe in my direction – I have a life-changing stroke or heart attack, meaning I shall never again be fully ambulant or mentally competent – absolutely no heroics are to be employed to maintain my continued existence. The UK’s “Care” homes are awash with old people who, given the opportunity for a swift and painless exit, would choose the latter. As for my children and grandchildren, the thought that any of them will feel obliged to spend their valuable leisure hours visiting a mentally confused, dribbling and incontinent geriatric _ME – is totally intolerable.

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