Time passes. People get older.
And this brings problems. Now, I'm not talking here about the first twinges of arthritis or the way my head seems to be turning into an increasingly grey fluff-ball. I'm talking about the generation above me. People now in their late 70's and 80's and who are becoming dependent upon the good offices of their younger families and acquaintances.
I was talking yesterday with Mrs Ellinas. She has an uncle and aunt in their 80's. The aunt is the more pleasant of the two. On the face of it hers is the most parlous state of health. The uncle is not in perfect health but is one of those extremely thin, wiry types who will remain up and active until the grim reaper swings his scythe. But he is completely incapable of dealing with the practicalities of looking after himself. They are old fashioned Christians - she's always done the "woman's work", he doesn't even know which is the business end of the can opener.
The nightmare scenario is that the aunt dies and, as we are the nearest (in terms of location) living relatives, we end up having to take on looking after the uncle. The uncle's children all live at some considerable distance. He would never move to be with them because of his "commitment" to the church here. The aunt would be off like a shot to be with the kids if she were the surviving partner.
Now, I can say quite categorically that there is no way on this earth that he will move in with us. Mrs Ellinas would not want that, I certainly don't, and I simply would not permit it. The fact is that he would expect to be the family patriarch - and I am not living my life having his Christianity rammed down my backslidden (as far as he knows) pagan apostate (as far as he would think if he knew my current beliefs) throat. But, the fact is that we may well find ourselves providing meals, entertaining him on Sundays and so forth. If it were not for the religious difference between us, this would not be an issue. But the idea of putting up with His Pious Majesty's nonsense on a regular basis is not a pleasant one. I don't think Mrs Ellinas relishes seeing him and me in the same room either.
I did suggest that he might move in with his sister in law (Mrs Ellinas' widowed mother). It was a mischievous suggestion on my part - though Mrs Ellinas (quite hilariously) thought I was serious. As she quite astutely remarked, her mother would not have him, even if he were prepared to "live in sin" with her.
So, the problems of old age appear to be approaching in more ways than one. It makes the grey hair and slightly arthritic foot seem quite insignificant...