Seeing Life Through Eunice's Eyes - Part 4
NOTE: The photos used in the Ms. Eunice series of hubs I have written are NOT Ms. Eunice; but rather Google images of women that reflect the many different personalities of Ms. Eunice I have come to know in our visits together.
Between my busy work schedule, and her son whisking her away to visit her sister for a few days, it had been two weeks since my last visit with Ms. Eunice, and I was anxious to see her again.
On the way to the nursing home, I stopped by the Krispy Kreme and got two chocolate-covered, Bavarian cream-filled donuts to take her, hoping her love of chocolate donuts was just as great as her love of chocolate candy - the usual treat I had brought her on my past visits. As the sweet-smelling chocolate and fresh-baked, doughy aroma permeated my car, I wasn't sure the donuts were even going to make it to Ms. Eunice, however, I somehow managed to resist the strong temptation to devour them as I drove!
It was a pleasant early-fall afternoon, and I was surprised to see only one old gentleman sitting in a rocker on the front porch of the nursing home when I arrived. As a matter of fact, the lobby where most the residents congregated, as well as the halls, were eerily empty, with the exception of a few day nurses jotting down notes at the front desk.
I glanced at my watch. It was about 2:30. Must be afternoon nap time, I surmised.
I knocked on Ms. Eunice's door, but no one answered. I slowly pushed the door ajar and peeked in, so as not to disturb her if she was asleep. She was lying on the bed, but I noticed she was wide awake.
"Hey, Ms. Eunice; okay to come in?" I politely asked, "It's Lisa". She struggled slightly to get to an upright position, all the time straining her neck to "see" who her impromptu visitor was.
"Yes, come on in" a familiar voice invited. I took my usual seat in front of hers, as she sat upright, hanging her extra-long legs over the side of the bed.
"Were you napping? You don't have to get up - I can come back later!"
"Heavens, no, I can nap anytime. Seems like that's ALL I do sometimes!" she answered.
She wanted to sit in her recliner, so I helped her put on her shoes, and pushed the walker in front of her.
"I don't need that thing - I can make it to my chair okay" she proudly retorted. "But I DO have to put this thing back on first", she said, referring to the upper body brace she was still required to wear for a back injury from several weeks ago. She slipped the plastic brace on like a short overcoat, tightened the velcro straps in front, and positioned herself so she could stand up. With two slow, but steady steps, she was sitting in her recliner, ready for our afternoon chat.
"You skipped out on me last week", I teased her. "The nurse said you went to visit your sister! Did you have a good time?"
"Yes, I did!" she replied with a bright smile. And this time I stayed the WHOLE weekend! And you know what?" she asked, childlike excitement bubbling in her voice.
"What?" I replied, with great curiosity.
"My sister said I wasn't ANY trouble at all, and anytime I wanted to come back and visit, I could!" she replied matter-of-factly.
"Well, that's great - I hope you get to go back real soon!"
"I hope so, too, cause it beats sitting around this place all the time!" She peered around at her tiny dwelling and rolled her eyes a bit. "You know, it gets boring sitting around here all the time!"
"I know it does, and I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself! I'm sure your son will take you back whenever you want to go!" She looked off for just a moment and smiled, as if she were reliving her visit with her sister all over again.
As we talked, I noticed Ms. Eunice's countenance was so much brighter than usual, and her usual pale, hollowed-out cheeks, now had a rosy glow, even though she didn't have on a stitch of makeup. The visit to her sister's must have really done her good, I thought.
"Well, now my son is gone to the beach for a few days, and I sure do miss him. I hope he'll be back soon!"
"Oh? Well, why didn't he take you with him?"
"I don't know - he went with his daughter and granddaughters for a few days. They didn't say anything about taking me", she answered, her voice trailing off in marked despair.
"Well, you know Ms. Eunice; he probably needed a break too! Maybe next time you and he could go back - just the two of you!"
"I know... that's what he said... and I know he needs a break, too. I just miss him when he's not here. You know he comes every day and walks up and down the hall with me!" She glanced up at me, the tears of abandonment in her eyes glistening like early morning dew on red velvet rose petals.
"I know, and you have a wonderful son - I'm sure he'll be back soon! Why don't you tell me about your visit with your sister - what all did you do?" I asked, trying to get her mind back on a happier subject.
"Well, we sat around and visited, and then went up the road to visit my nephew who just lost his wife. And we went to the grocery store, although my sister wouldn't let me buy anything. But I haven't been eating much anyway. See - I just keep losing weight," she said, tugging at the waistband on her pants.
"Oh, well I can fix that!" I said, pulling the Krispy Kreme bag from my purse. "Here - I hope you like donuts! Chocolate-covered with cream in the middle! These ought to fatten you up some!"
Ms. Eunice's eyes widened in happy delight, and her face broke out in a smile as warm as the donut she already drooling over! She threw her head back and chuckled. "Donuts are my weakness!" she confessed.
"Well, I'm glad I brought them, then! Would you like one now?"
"Oh, no - I just had a snack a little while ago. But you need to hide them somewhere, or my great grand girls might get them when they come to visit! Isn't there a drawer in there?" she asked, pointing over to a nightstand beside her bed.
"Yes, it is - want me to put them in there?"
"Yes, that will be fine." I put the donuts in the drawer, as she requested. "Now, don't forget they're in there!" I reminded her.
"Oh, no, I won't!" She laughed again and I could tell she was already looking forward to a sweet after-dinner snack!
We chatted some more about her visit with her sister, and how her week had been thus far. Ms. Eunice seemed more relaxed and at ease, and not in nearly as much pain with her back as on my previous visits with her. I remarked that she seemed to be adjusting better, and she agreed. I was glad to see some marked improvement in her mental AND physical state. But just when I thought she might be turning a corner, she drifted back to that dark and foreboding place where she buried the insufferable pain of losing her beloved husband, Albert.
"You know, Albert would have never brought me here. If he was still here, we would still be at home, and he would take care of me as long as I needed him."
"I'm sure he would have. But you know he would want you to be taken care of now, too, right? And they do take good care of you here, don't they?"
"Yes, they are very nice, and will do just about anything I ask them to. I guess I'm better off here...." she said, her voice once again quietly slipping away.
Then, quick as a flash, she clapped her hands between her legs and said, "Lets not talk about all this depressing stuff!" Her request took me by surprise, but I was only more than happy to oblige her!
"Okay, lets NOT!" I agreed.
"I think I want to take a walk down the hall," she asserted. "You know I can walk all the way to the end!"
"Okay, then, lets take a walk!" Without asking or even needing my assistance, she stood up and grabbed her walker. "Hand me my glasses - sometimes the light bothers my eyes." I slipped her glasses in her hand, and with Ms Eunice leading, we walked out into the still nearly empty hall. Suddenly, a loud moaning and wailing sound came wafting down the hall.
"Help me, somebody please help me!" the catter-wallin' voice called out over and over again.
"What in the world?" I asked, searching around for the obviously distressed woman.
"Oh, that's that old woman in the room down the hall" Ms. Eunice replied. "She does that ALL the time - she gets on my nerves sometimes so bad - especially at night when I'm trying to sleep!"
Fortunately, the old woman stopped wailing and once again, peace and quiet set in as we continued our long journey to the hall's end, where we turned around and promptly headed straight back to Ms. Eunice's room. I noticed Ms. Eunice walked a little faster and with much less pain in her back. As I watched her glide almost effortlessly back down the hall, I was amazed at her physical agility, despite her recent back injury. I was also equally amazed at her mental acuity, compared to the dazed and befuddled demeanor of most of the other residents I had seen there. More and more, I could understand WHY Ms. Eunice had had such a hard time adjusting to her new "home". She was about as "out of place" there, as a flounder in a fishpond! But her strong will and determination was not about to let her give up - not just yet, anyway!
When we got back to her room, I told Ms. Eunice how much I really admired her strength and determination, and that she inspired me with her bold independence, as she was much like me, in that respect.
"Well, there was five girls and two boys in my family growing up, and when Moma and Daddy said do something, we did it, or got our behinds beat! I've never known anything but to be strong-willed and independent. But sometimes, my son says I'm TOO strong-willed and want to do too much!"
"Well, I don't think you can ever be TOO strong-willed, Ms. Eunice. That's why you've been able to adjust so well to moving here after all you've been through!"
"I guess so...but I don't know how much longer I'll be around. I can't have TOO many more years on this earth!"
"Why do you say that? Only God knows how much time any of us have!" I replied.
"Because I'm an old woman - I can't have but so many more years! And I've already outlived my Moma and Daddy!" she said. "You know, I got so depressed the other night, I prayed to God that He would just take me on to Heaven, so I could be with my husband and my daughter. You know, I lost a daughter, too."
She had told me once before that she had lost a daughter many years ago, but never told me the story of how she passed. She seemed to want to talk about her, so I prodded her to continue.
"What happened to your daughter, Ms. Eunice?" I asked. She looked down at the floor, then up at the ceiling. She struggled to speak, the words coming out mumbled and confusing.
"He said....she was attacked... on the way home.... ", her words falling off as she tried to put bits and pieces of the story together again. She looked me straight in the eye, her conviction of the truth glaring at me loud and clear. "But I know, and HE knows what happened. HE done it to her - I know it he did." Her face turned an ashen gray and tiny tears formed in the corners of her eyes. I could tell the memories were still raw and painful, and I discouraged her from going on with what sounded like a heinous and murderous crime.
"I'm so sorry, Ms. Eunice. But you're not going anywhere until the Good Lord says its your time!"
Once again, the conversation took a depressing tone, and once again, Ms. Eunice slapped her knees with her hands and exclaimed, "Well, we're not going to keep talking about this sad stuff! What time is it?" she asked, deliberately changing the subject. I glanced at my cell phone. It was almost 4:30.
"4:30. And I guess I need to be leaving. It looks like you might need to lie down a while."
"No, I'm not going to lie down - they will be serving supper in about an hour and a half! You don't have to rush off!" she replied.
"I know, but I've got some other errands to run. Is there anything I can do for you before I leave?" I offered.
"No, I can't think of a thing; but you sure are a sweet girl to come by and visit me. You certainly have perked up a dull afternoon! Thank you!"
"Thank you, Ms. Eunice. I really enjoy coming to visit you - AND bringing you chocolate!"
She looked up at me with the same tear drop-filled eyes as before, and I felt my own eyes become wet and blurred. I leaned over and hugged her tightly for several minutes. She embraced me, almost as if she were embracing the daughter she had lost so many years ago.
"Well, since you're leaving, I think I'll walk with you and go sit in the lobby and visit with some of my neighbors." she said, as she broke free from my hug. She got up from her chair, pulled her walker in front of her, and requested her glasses, just as before.
So, once again, I led Ms. Eunice out, and down the hall to the front lobby. Retrieving a chair for her from the adjoining room, she took her place beside a small, frail, elderly black woman. I reached over and gave Ms Eunice another hug, then smiled at both ladies.
"I hope you'll be back soon, Lisa", Ms. Eunice replied with a wishful smile.
"I'll be back again next week, Ms. Eunice! I hope you have a good weekend! You'll be in my prayers!" I answered back. I looked over at the little old black lady sitting beside her, who was drinking in our tearful goodbye.
"You'll ALL be in my prayers!", I said, casting the old black woman a cheery wink. Suddenly, the old woman's eyes lit up like fireworks in July, and a toothless smile spread across her face. I returned the smile and waved goodbye to both ladies as I turned to leave.
Maybe next time, I'll need to bring more chocolate!