Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

Written by:
Wendi Friend

I never thought about going to the old folks home. Mom said that the Lord had called her and she didn’t want to go by herself. Grateful that she wanted to share the experience with me, I agreed to go.

I didn’t much care for the funky smell of medicine, cafeteria food, and fowled up undergarments. It was difficult to let the elderly get close to me, close enough that I could see the bits of food that didn’t quite make it out in the denture soak, and smell the breath of a mouth no longer kissed by anyone.

Sadness in abundance, taking second to loneliness, I walked through the halls listening to the clapping of my shoes against the soiled floor, watching the heads turn one by one. Those who were coherent enough to recognize this stranger, didn’t seem to care for the intrusion.

Mom and I would go to the convalescent center and over time, I sifted through the bitter faces til at last I found the ones I knew I could laugh with. First, there was Les. He was in is seventies and had suffered a stroke. Les could no longer use his left side and his speech was all but gone. Two words remained in his tattered memory and they were “Oh, Boy!” He said them often, he said them loudly, smiling all the while. Mom said it wasn’t really a smile, but a consequence of the stroke. I was only ten but I sure knew a smile when I saw one.

Mom found John, who was eighty-three and incredibly alone. Like Les, John was confined to a wheelchair. Unlike Les, John never smiled. It was when John died that Mom told the Lord that she had answered his call and paid the debt in full. She couldn’t handle the death part. I experienced the loss of several friends I’d acquired while volunteering at the convalescent center. Death came in the form of strokes, heart attacks and comas. Death came in peaceful ways and in painful ways. Death came. It bothered me some, but not so much. Its what we do. We all take a turn and as far as I could see it, these people were lucky that they got to wait so long, really having time to explore the “What If’s” that happen in the pages between the covers of birth and death.

Elizabeth was from Latvia. That place doesn’t exist anymore and she couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t let her go home. I think Elizabeth must have been a wonderful mother. On the days she remembered me, she always touched me as much as she could – on my eyes, my nose. I even let her kiss me on the mouth because her energy was so warm and I knew that if I was her daughter, she would have been beautiful every time she knelt down to kiss me. This time, it was I who knelt for her.

People who have aged are often cast aside into a collective category of no longer useful. Wisdom is tucked not so comfortably away in the nooks and crannies of what we’ve learned to call “Old Folk’s Homes”. Great stories live there. Great benefits come from the experience of taking the time to sit down and listen to things that took place before you were even born. Something happens when we take the time to compassionately read the words from a book that aged eyes can no longer read for themselves. Great benefit is created from giving a smile to a heart who hasn’t received one since the mind can remember.

My debt to humanity will never be paid in full. My respect of the elderly will forever be young. My appreciation of people will never grow old.

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