Independent Age
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Independent Age

Tell a story day: Stan

Stan spoke with us about his feelings of bereavement and loss and how having telephone volunteers has helped him overcome this.

“It was my wife Valerie who wanted to live in the countryside, she was always encouraging me to do nice things.

I spent five years extending and renovating the cottage while we lived in caravans with our two boys. I was pretty handy and I did most of the work myself. I took the roof off, put a new roof on, did a lot of the brickwork, the tiling, everything. On Christmas Day I fitted the staircase at the cottage, it was after I’d finished my Christmas dinner. I trained as a carpenter and joiner and I built it myself. That was around 40 years ago. Now, at 87, I’m living alone in the same cottage. I sleep downstairs and I don’t use the upstairs anymore.

My life was always busy. I joined the army at the age of 18 for National Service. Then I worked as a carpenter and joiner in the building trade and for exhibitions. I went on to work as a draughtsman and also as a design engineer. I remember working shifts from 6am to 2pm, then coming home to work on the cottage in the afternoons.

Valerie was beautiful and intelligent and she liked dancing. We met at a dance hall and married two years later. Ours was a homely life, we were not big travellers. We liked the outdoor life. Living in the countryside, what more could you want?

The cottage is on half an acre and we grew our own vegetables, we enjoyed walking around the gardens together. Valerie liked cooking, sewing and knitting. We didn’t socialise a lot or anything like that. We’d go for days out in the car, we picked sloes and I liked making wine. When I was 70 I replaced the roof on the garage. We were happy. We were always together. It was a lovely life.

Valerie died from cancer, in the cottage, in 2016. She was 80 and we had been married for 60 years. Since then I have been struggling on. We used to look after each other.

Sometimes I’m on the edge of depression, just the odd occasion. It’s just one of those things. It’s the lack of interest that puts me there, if I haven’t anything to keep my mind going.

I suffer with osteoarthritis and that makes walking difficult, I also suffer from asthma and I have had an operation on my leg.

I wake up in the middle of the night and as soon as I’m awake I think about doing things, then sometimes when I get up in the morning I can’t do them. That gets to me.

Yesterday I put the washing on, I had a good day. As long as I can do something and see a result then I’m pleased.

I don’t really like watching television but that’s all I have if I want to relax. I have a computer which I use to look up information, I know a lot of older people don’t have that. But I’ve gone off doing that lately. I’d like to be in the workshop building something, or to get out into the garden and grow some vegetables.

It’s over a year since I have been out of the house. I have no reason to go out and I’m quite happy indoors, I don’t like crowds.

I have a nice home, I built the place and I’m quite happy in it, but I would like to have somebody living upstairs, just somebody in the house to talk to, perhaps about something we’re both interested in.

On Saturday I didn’t talk to anyone at all. The following day I had a call from Denise, a volunteer. We chat on a Sunday afternoon. We had arranged to talk at 3pm, and I sat here for an hour before, waiting for her call, because I hadn’t spoken to anyone else all day.

Denise is a teaching assistant, we talk about domestic things, and the children and her family life. I talk to her as though I’m talking to my wife in a way. We have a good giggle.

I also talk to Duncan, another volunteer, on a Tuesday. He is interested in cars and I could talk about cars all day. We laugh about different things that have happened during my lifetime. Duncan has been abroad quite a bit and I haven’t. My wife and I went on our honeymoon to the Isle of Wight. It’s interesting to hear about where he has been. We both like to tell stories and it’s interesting hearing about other people’s lives.

I look forward to their calls, we have good conversations and somehow, we have things in common. It feels like they are friends.

I love to talk to people and I like to have a laugh. Chatting to people is what life is all about.

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