Seeing Life Through Eunice's Eyes - Part 2
(The following is Part 2 in my journal of visits with a very special lady who just recently moved to a nursing home, Ms. Eunice.)
On my second visit with Ms. Eunice, I discovered we had several things in common - besides our mutual love of chocolate! She had been married twice - so had I. She has a stepdaughter - I have a stepson. She doesn't like to be in noisy places - neither do I. And until she lost her dear husband, Albert, she loved to get out with him and go places. Didn't matter where, just as long as she was with him. I, too, love the companionship and sense of adventure my husband and I share.
So we talked about how difficult it was to deal with stepchildren, and how often we, as stepmothers are mistreated, despite the tremendous love we share with our stepchildren's father.
We talked about how we hated to be in a room with a blaring TV or a lot of noise. She pointed to the room across the hall from her.
"That woman over there - I visit her sometimes and she has her TV on so loud you can hear it clean over here! I asked her why she keeps it turned up so high, and she said, "To drown out the quiet".
There is nothing louder than the deafening sound of loneliness, I thought. I guided Ms. Eunice back to talking about Albert. The love of her life. As painful as it was to be reminded of her loss, she still loved to talk about him.
"What did you and Albert like to do?," I asked.
"Well, we went places...to see my sisters...to the beach...to see friends. Albert would take me anywhere I wanted to go," she replied. "But I can't go anywhere now. If only I could see to drive, I could get out and go. I wouldn't have to stay stuck in this place all the time!"
Not only had Ms.Eunice lost her husband, she had lost the "independence" she had through Albert. He truly was her second pair of eyes, but more than that, he guided her through life with his heart and soul. No wonder she yearned to "go onto Glory"; she wanted desperately to reconnect with the guiding spirit who led her so lovingly and safely through the dim and vision-less roads in her life. She wanted to go and to be reunited with Albert.
I remembered back to the first time I met Ms. Eunice and Albert. What a lovely couple they were! She glowed in his presence, and he basked in the love that poured from her heart to his. Albert was a kind and gentle man, but so bright and intelligent, too! He amazed me with his knowledge of news and financial matters - both of which he kept up with daily. He was also a proud veteran, having served his country in the U.S. Army in WWII. As Ms. Eunice talked about Albert, it was almost as if she was bringing him back to life - his presence so strong in her memories. But after a few minutes, she got quiet, the memories now to painful to repeat.
I reached in my purse and pulled out a giant chocolate bar I had brought with me.
"Oh, here, I almost forgot - I brought you some chocolate! This is a GIANT chocolate bar, so maybe you want run out so soon!"
"Good! I need some - I was getting kind of low!," she replied with her usual response.
She asked me what time it was.
"About 11:30," I answered.
"Lunch is at 12," she reminded me.
"Oh, okay, would you like me to walk down to the dining hall with you?" I knew with her failing vision, she might have trouble maneuvering her walker down the hall, and thought she might need some additional assistance.
"Oh, you don't have to - I can make it - it just takes me a little while to get there. But if you want to go, you can," she replied.
"I don't mind - I'll be glad to walk with you," I answered back.
"Okay, well we better get going - it'll take me about twenty minutes to get there." I knew it wouldn't take that long, as the dining room was just down the hall, but Ms. Eunice was a stickler for being on time, and I wasn't about to make her late!
I helped her up and guided her to her walker. She shuffled slowly, yet tenaciously toward the door, instructing me to turn off the light and pull the door to behind me. I walked slowly alongside her, down the drably painted, florescent-lighted hall. As we walked, I noticed the other wreaths that hung on her neighbor's doors, each one hung in the hopes of bringing a touch of "home" to it's resident.
"I think your wreath is the prettiest one of all," I announced. (And it REALLY was!)
"So do I," she replied, a proud smile beaming from her lips. Her told me her son had brought the wreath, as well as her favorite chair and other decorative items from her home, in an attempt to make it feel more like "home". "But, I don't think I"ll EVER get used to this place," she informed me as we walked.
I couldn't argue with her; the stale stench of urine, and drab, industrial decor was in no way reminiscent of the warm and cozy comfort, and sweet-smelling aroma of her own home! It was like trying to dress up a pig sty - underneath all the fluff, you still had mud and dirty pigs. Not that Ms. Eunice's room wasn't clean and neat; but it wasn't a guest suite at the Marriott, either! And living amongst other aging residents who had various physical ailments and needs, it seemed more like living in a hospital, than a nursing home!
After just a few short minutes, we approached the entrance to the dining hall, only to find a line of hungry residents in wheelchairs waiting patiently to get in. I looked at my watch. It was barely 11:40 am.
"What time is it?" Ms. Eunice asked.
"It's not even 11:45 yet," I replied. "We got here faster than you thought, huh?" I kidded her.
"Well, I can't stand here and wait that long - lets walk back down the hall a bit and come back." she stated.
Painstakingly, she turned her walker around and headed back in the direction of her room. As we walked back, an older, white-haired gentleman passed us in the hall. He looked up and flashed Ms. Eunice a friendly smile. She didn't seem to notice as she concentrated on pushing her walker closer and closer back to her room.
"You wanna go back to your room?" I asked.
"Yes, I think so; I need to rest from that long walk," she answered.
In just a few short steps, we were back to her room. She sat down on her recliner and let out a sigh of relief. Even though It was only a two minute walk to the dining hall, Ms. Eunice was worn out! I guess when you're 87 years old and have a bad back, a two minute walk can seem like a two-mile hike! Still, her determination and energy impressed me!
"We can rest for a few more minutes, then we'll go back," I said. "By the way, who was that nice looking gentleman that passed us in the hall?" I asked her.
"I don't know who he was," she said with a short laugh.
"Well, he was VERY nice looking - maybe you should get to know him!" I urged her with a wink.
"Why? I'm not looking for a man!" she said, very matter-of-factly.
"I know, but it might be nice to have a gentleman friend to talk to sometimes," I replied.
"Well, that's about all we could do at our age," she joked. Her comment caught me off guard, and I blushed, as she let out a playful chuckle.
"Oh, I wasn't suggesting anything like that!" I said. "I was just thinking you might enjoy a man's company sometimes."
"Why, what would we do? You know all men want to do is have sex!" she said with a sly wink.
"Ms. Eunice!," I shrieked, holding my hand to my mouth. "I didn't say anything about that!"
She laughed at me, knowing she had surprised, even shocked me with her blunt response. I was at a loss for a comeback, so I just laughed along with her. It was good to hear Ms. Eunice laugh, as we shared the humorous moment together. I silently prayed God would soon replace her tears with even more laughter in the coming days.
"We better get back down to the dining room now. I hope they got the doors open now - I'm getting hungry!," she said.
Once again, I helped her up to her walker, handed her her glasses, and led her to the door. She seemed to walk with a springier step; her stride a little quicker, and her mood a little lighter. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe a few "happy endorphins" had kicked in, from our "naughty" conversation before!
When we reached the dining hall, everyone that had been waiting before, was now sitting at their assigned tables.
"Where's your table, Ms. Eunice?" I asked.
"Right here in front". She pointed to a table with an elderly black gentleman already sitting there. I helped her to the table and into her seat. A dining room assistant came up and asked if I would be staying for lunch.
"You're welcome to stay and have lunch with us," she offered. I looked around and saw two more chairs at the table, waiting for the other residents who normally dined with Ms. Eunice. I didn't want to intrude on their lunch, so I declined her kind offer.
"No, that's okay, I was just helping Ms. Eunice in, but thank you so much!"
"I have to go now Ms. Eunice; but I'll be back next week, okay?"
"Well, okay.... thank you for visiting - and for walking with me to the dining room. You come back and see me again!" she replied, her eyes begging for another visit soon.
"You know I will!," I reassured her. "You have a good lunch and a good week!"
I stood frozen in place for a few seconds, not wanting to leave, but not wanting to intrude on her lunch, either. It was getting harder and harder to leave Ms. Eunice. There was something in her that seemed to be reaching out to me, and something in me reaching back to her.
I looked back and smiled at her once more, then left. As I walked out to my car, I felt a warm glow rise up inside my heart, and spread through every vein in my body. I knew it was Mr. Albert smiling down on me, thanking me for spending a few minutes of my day with his beloved Eunice! I couldn't wait to go back again next week!