Seeing Life Through Eunice's Eyes - Part 3
(This is Part 3 in a journal of my visits with a very special friend, Ms. Eunice)
It was Friday afternoon about three o'clock when I made my next visit to see Ms. Eunice. The weather outside was hot and muggy, and I was grateful for the opportunity to "sit and talk a spell", in Ms. Eunice's air-conditioned room. On the way over, I stopped by the local Walgreens, and picked up two bags of my favorite chocolate - Ghiradelli; dark chocolate with sea salted almonds for me, and milk chocolate truffles for Ms. Eunice. Who knew that one day I'd share my great love of chocolate with an 87 year old woman? Yes, God certainly works in mysterious ways, I thought.
I pulled into the parking lot of the nursing facility and parked. As I walked up to the front door, I noticed several residents sitting in the rocking chairs under the sheltered front entrance. It seemed mighty hot to me to be sitting outside, but I guess sometimes they just had to get out and get some fresh air! As I walked in the front door, I understood why. The urine odor was exceptionally strong that day, and the ammonia smell nearly knocked me out as I made my way to Ms. Eunice's room through burning, bleary eyes. Her door was closed shut, so I tapped lightly, so as not to disturb her if she was sleeping.
"Come in," a feeble voice called from the other side. I slowly pushed the door open to find Ms. Eunice standing there with, one hand on her walker, and holding a cellophane wrapped cookie in the other. She looked up in lost confusion as she struggled with her poor vision to see who her impromptu visitor was.
"Hey, Ms. Eunice, it's Lisa!" I cheerfully called out. She squint her eyes and cocked her head toward me to try and catch my voice.
"Who?" she asked, still unsure who I was.
"LISA!" I said louder, trying not to yell, and remembering that Ms. Eunice is only partially blind, NOT deaf!
"Oh,... Lisa", she repeated slowly. "I didn't recognize your voice".
"It's okay - are you going somewhere, or just coming back?" I asked.
"No, just got back. Went to get a snack." She held up her cookie for me to see.
"Oh, you got a cookie! Must be snack time!" She nodded her head, as she slowly eased down in her recliner, laying the cookie down on the table beside her. Holding her hands to the constricting brace around her upper body, she let out a groaning sigh. She looked weak and tired, and I wondered if maybe I should come back some other time. But she also looked thirsty for company on this hot afternoon, so I decided to stay. I took my usual seat in the cane back chair facing her.
Have you had a good week?" I asked.
"Not really. It's been boring!"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Have you had any visitors?"
"Well, lets see. My pastor came to see me, and some friends. I think that's all." She strained to sit up, confined by the upper body brace she was still wearing to protect her back. She was in obvious pain and fidgeted constantly as we talked.
"Does your back still hurt alot?" I asked, noticing her discomfort.
"Yea, and this thing is so uncomfortable. And hot. But the doctor said I can't walk two steps without it! But I think I'm going to have to take it off and lie down on the bed for a while." She quickly starting ripping the velcro straps from the front of the brace, as if she were Houdini, trying to escape from an asylum strait jacket. It seemed Ms. Eunice was imprisoned in so many ways since losing her dear Albert.
"Here, let me help you", I offered. I went over and helped her get out of the cumbersome apparatus, and over to the bed so she could lie down.
"Are you ready for a nap? If so, I can leave." I suggested.
"No, I just got up from one. I don't want to sleep now. I won't be able to sleep tonight without a pill!"
She positioned herself on the bed on her side, in a fetal position and moaned as the pain still flooded her body. It didn't seem to matter if she was standing, sitting or lying down - pain was a constant companion. And that was just the physical pain Ms. Eunice suffered. Her emotional and mental pain over losing Albert was even more unbearable, as it was a silent pain that haunted her day and night.
"Here, I brought you some more chocolate - This if my favorite kind - Ghiradelli! It's the best!" I took the bag out and put it on her nightstand.
"Good," she replied. "I needed some - I think I'm all out!" I wasn't sure if Ms. Eunice was even eating all the chocolate I brought her, as she had been losing weight since our first visit. But it seemed to be a special treat that brightened her otherwise mundane days, nevertheless.
"So, did you get to go see your sisters last weekend? I asked, trying to get her mind off her nagging pain. Her son was supposed to have picked her up and taken her to spend the weekend with her two sisters - ages 87 and 93, Longevity seemed to run in her family, much to Ms, Eunice's dismay, as she often repeated that she wished the good Lord would just "take her on", so she could be with her beloved husband, Albert.
"Yes, I went. But I didn't get to stay long as I wanted. But my son is going to pick me up next weekend and take me back for another visit!" she replied excitedly.
"Oh, really - well that's something to look forward to. So what did you and your sisters do while you were there?"
"Oh, we cooked and ate, and watched TV. And we sat around and talked, and visited with old friends. I wanted to go shopping, but my older sister's car was broke down, so we didn't have a way. But it was okay - I didn't really need anything anyway!"
"Well, it sounds like you had a nice time. I'm glad you got to go visit them."
"Yes, me too, But it was sure hard coming back to this place," she said sadly. "Thats the only bad thing about leaving. I always have to come back here." Her eyes looked around at her cracker box sized room in despair and dismay.
"Does your son ever take you back to your old house, Ms. Eunice?" I asked. I knew her son was keeping her house up, as he hadn't decided yet whether to sell it or keep it for awhile. Just in case...
"No, he won't take me back! I asked him to, but he said all I'd do is sit there and cry. And then I wouldn't want to leave and come back here. You know, we tried to hire someone to stay there with me, but all they wanted to do was watch TV. My son said it was costing too much, and that I'd be broke within a year if we kept that up. So he brought me here. I guess its the best thing, but I sure don't like it!"
"i know, Ms. Eunice, but you need to be somewhere you can get help if you need it at any time! I know your son is just doing what he thinks is best for you! I'm sure it was hard for him, too, to have to bring you here!"
"I know - that's what he tells me, too. And he is a good son - He has really taken good care of me!"
Ms. Eunice actually has two sons, but the oldest one lives up North, and is battling cancer. And with the exception of two granddaughters who live out of town, a step-daughter whom she detests, and her sisters, who both live out of town; she really doesn't have anyone else. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren come visit her whenever they come to town, but she never really knows when that's going to be.
I looked over at Ms. Eunice still lying on the bed, her knees curled up to her chest, and her hands folded in a prayer formation against her cheek. She looked so old, but at the same time, she reminded me of a young, scared and timid little girl; frightened and alone in a world she didn't ask to be in. She looked so tired, both physically and emotionally; a lonely old woman left with nothing but her failing vision, frail body and sad memories. In fact, she even made the remark that she'd just as soon die,as she didn't want to "be a burden on anyone"
"You're not a burden, Ms. Eunice - you've got a lot of people who love and care for you! They would be very sad if you died!"
"I know - I do have people that love me. And I love them. Especially my great granddaughters!" Her eyes lit up slightly as she glanced over at their pictures in a photo frame on the wall.
"And Albert loved them - they were the apple of his eye!" she replied tearfully, her thoughts once again wondering back to the happy times she and Albert spent with them.
Not getting any relief from the pain in her back, Ms. Eunice slowly came to an upright position on the bed. She reached behind her and stuffed a pillow behind her for support. She needs a bed pillow with arms and a backrest. I'm going to bring her one the next time I come back, I decided.
I could tell my visit was tiring Ms. Eunice out, so I decided to cut it short.
"I'm going to go now, Ms. Eunice, and let you get some rest. Is there anything I can do for you before I go?"
"No, I don't think so, but if you're leaving, I'll walk out with you. It might do my back good to walk down the hall a ways." she replied.
"Are you sure you feel like walking?"
"Yes, but I've got to put my brace back on first" she answered, I retrieved the brace and helped her position it around her upper body. As I started to tighten the velcro straps, she informed me I had put it on her upside down!
"Oh, no, I'm sorry" I apologized, as I quickly loosened the straps and re-positioned it in the other way.
"I guess it works something like a corset, huh?" I asked as I once again tightened the straps.
"Yes, it does, and its just as uncomfortable!" Ms. Eunice replied.
I helped her put on her slip-on shoes, positioned her in front of her walker, and handed her the black glasses that helped shield her sensitive eyes from the light. Together, just as before, we took off slowly down the narrow hallway toward the lobby, where other residents had already congregated for an afternoon of chit-chatting, socializing or just napping.
As we arrived at the lobby, I asked Ms. Eunice if she wanted me to stay and sit with her for a while longer.
"No, I'm just gonna sit here and visit with my friend here" she said, taking a seat beside another elderly lady in a wheelchair.
"Okay, are you sure you don't need me to help you back to your room" I asked.
"No, I'll be alright; I can get back okay. But thank you for coming to visit. Come back again anytime!"
"I will, Ms. Eunice. You take care and have a good week! And behave yourself!" I teased her.
"I'll try, she said, but I ain't making no promises!" she joked.
So I left Ms. Eunice to visit with her friend in the lobby. As I walked back outside, the same residents were still sitting in their rocking chairs on the porch. They glanced pitifully up at me, their eyes longing for me to take them with me. I smiled shyly and waved goodbye. They smiled, waved back, then resumed their rocking; still content to be outside, even on a hot and muggy, late summer day.
I thought about Ms. Eunice and wondered if she would ever be content there. Probably not, I decided. There was only one place she would ever be content again. In Heaven. In her dear, beloved Albert's arms....