- Aging & Longevity
Seeing Life Through Ms. Eunice's Eyes - Part 5
NOTE: The images used in the Seeing Life Through Ms. Eunice's Eyes hubs are NOT those of Ms. Eunice; but rather images that depict the many different attributes and aspects of the real Ms. Eunice.
My Latest Visit...
On my next visit with Ms. Eunice, I found her to be much stronger - both physically and emotionally. While she still has to wear the back brace to support her back, she seemed to be getting up and down a a lot easier and faster, as well as able to maneuver her walker quite a bit better. She had also just had her hair done and although it was still snowy-owl white, she looked at least twenty years younger!
"You've had your hair done since I was here last! It looks very nice!" I said as I entered her room that afternoon. She clasped her hands around the snow-white mound of curls atop her head and scrunched it a few times with her fingers.
"Yes, I went to the beauty parlor the other day. Everyone keeps telling me how good it looks!"
"Well, they're right - its just beautiful!", I complimented her. "And I bet it feels so much better!"
"Yes, it does!", she replied matter-of-factly. She stood up to move over from the bed to her recliner, and as she did, I noticed it looked as if she had lost a few more pounds.
"Ms. Eunice, you've lost some more weight since I was here last! Why are you losing weight?" She reached down, patted her pants legs, then pulled her pants up closer to her waist.
"I don't know why. I'm eating all the time!" she grumbled. I looked over at her bedside table and saw empty cracker wrappers, along with a few stray crumbs; a half-eaten bag of grapes her son had brought her, and the rest of the chocolate candy I had brought her on a prior visit. It did appear that she was eating, but nothing very substantial! I feared the treat I had brought with me wasn't very healthy, either, but a treat, nevertheless.
"Well, maybe these will help fatten you up. Do you like Whoppers?" I asked her, pulling the box of candy from my purse.
"What?" she asked back, cocking her head to one side, straining to hear me.
"Whoppers - you know, the chocolate malted balls?" I spoke a little louder, noticing her hearing was somewhat poorer than usual.
"Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they're my favorite!" (Of course, that's what she said about EVERY treat I had brought her, and I finally realized that it was because everything I had brought her was CHOCOLATE, and THAT was her favorite sweet treat!)
"Really? How about that? I'm glad - I was afraid you might not like them!"
"Well, I do!" she replied, chuckling just a bit.
"I'll put them right here beside the grapes in case you want some later, okay? Although, it looks like you've already been snacking today!" I said, noticing a half-eaten bag of big, dark purple grapes on the bedside table. Something healthy for a change! I was glad to see at least someone was bringing her healthy treats!
"Okay, and you take those grapes with you! My son brought them yesterday and I've been eating them for two days. He'll probably bring me some more today, so you take the rest of those, okay?" They were giant dark purple Muscadines - my favorite grape! I opened the bag and popped one in my mouth. It was as sweet and juicy as honeysuckle nectar, and left my tongue yearning for more.
"Oh, wow, these are really good. Are you sure you want me to have the rest of these?"
"Yes ma'mn, he's got plenty more and I know he'll be bringing me some more. You know, when I was younger and could see better, I used to put up grape preserves and jelly! But I can't do things like that anymore." Her eyes shifted down and a sad look came over her face.
"Well, its much more fun to eat them just like this, anyway, don't you think?", I cheerily replied, not wanting her to get depressed over a silly bag of grapes!
"I guess so, but I've eat all I want, so you take whats left, there." I pulled the plastic zipper on the bag and stuffed the grapes in my oversized purse, looking forward to indulging in the sweet treat on the way home! (See, big pocketbooks DO come in handy sometimes!)
"Well, thank you so much, Ms. Eunice. I'm going to eat them on the way home!" She smiled, satisfied that she could give ME something for a change.
"So, what have you been doing the past two weeks? I missed you last week!"
"Well, its good you didn't come by, cause I won't here!"
"Oh, really? Well, where were you?"
"I went to see my sister and stayed for three whole days this time!" He eyes brightened up and a warm glow came over her face. Ms. Eunice was very close to her older sister, Margaret, and it was evident their visits were like a therapeutic shot in the arm to her every time she went!
"Oh, yea? Well, that's great! I'm so glad you got to go back and see her!"
"Me, too. And she said anytime I wanted to come and stay with her a few days, I could come. My son said it would wear her out for me to go and stay longer, but she don't think so. She gets lonely just like me, all alone in that trailer, and I think she likes having someone around to talk to!"
"I'm sure she enjoys all your visits, Ms. Eunice. And I don't think she'd invite you to come if she didn't feel up to having you!" I had actually met her sister Margaret, right after Ms. Eunice's husband Albert passed. She came to stay with Ms. Eunice for a few weeks til her son made arrangements for her at the nursing home. And although she's older than Ms. Eunice; 92 to be exact; she was in good physical health and got around exceptionally well for a woman her age! It was also evident that Margaret deeply loved her baby sister, and enjoyed her visits herself.
"Well, I'm going back just as soon as my son can take me back. But you know, he's got so where he don't drive that much either. His eyes are getting bad like mine, and he don't like to drive too far anymore." I remembered that her son had told me he, too, had signs of macular degeneration, the same progressive disease that had robbed Ms. Eunice of most of her eyesight over the past years.
"You really enjoy going to visit your sister, don't you?" I asked.
"Yes, I do. It gets me out of this place. You don't know how lonely and boring this room can get, just sitting here all the time. I mean, I think its a nice room - at least that's what they tell me - but it ain't like being able to move around your own home; like I used to be able to do."
"I know, Ms. Eunice. I can't imagine how it is. You're a lot like me; you like to go places, and don't like to be cooped up in one place all the time. I can't imagine having to stay in this room and not be able to go anywhere." It was true. I KNOW I couldn't stand being confined to a tiny pill-box sized room all day long, or being around strangers who were in worst shape than me! Poor Ms. Eunice - she had lost so much in the past two months!
I glanced over at Ms. Eunice and could tell the conversation was bringing her down, so I quickly changed the subject."
Have you seen your son today?" I asked her, knowing his visits always cheered her up.
"No, I haven't, and I don't know WHERE he's at! Can you find his number on that paper and call him? He's usually been here by now!" I glanced over at a notepad by the phone with a two or three page list of handwritten names and phone numbers. His was the first one on the list. I dialed the number and handed the phone to Ms. Eunice. The line rang on the other end, finally picked up by the answering machine. The voicemail she left was priceless:
"Hello, Son, this is YOUR MOTHER (emphasis, hers!) Where are you? Do you realize you haven't been to see or called me today?? When you get this message, you call me back, you hear? I want to know why you haven't been to see me today! I love you... Bye!" Even at 87 years old, she STILL demanded to know the whereabouts of her 62 year old son! How priceless is that?!
"I can't imagine why he hasn't been today. He's usually here by now!" The worry in her voice was tinted with a hint of desperation. She depended on her son so much - especially for emotional support. It was almost as if she were scared she was going to lose him next. I decided to get her to talking about her family to pass the time while we waited for her son to call back.
"Ms. Eunice, tell me about your mama and daddy. What were they like? Who are YOU most like - your mama or daddy?"
"Well, my mama was a big ole fat woman, and my daddy was a drunk. He used to get drunk at night and pass out on the couch, and me and my sisters would go through his pants pockets and steal his money!" She laughed as she remembered the childhood prank she and her sisters pulled on their unsuspecting daddy.
"You KNOW you didn't do that!" I teased.
"Yes, we did, too! It was the only way we could get any money to spend! Then, the next day, my daddy would fuss and fuss about someone taking his money. He would ask us girls if we took it, but we always told him NO. He never did believe us though!"
"What about your mama - what was she like?"
"My mama was mean; she was bossy and controlling. She was always telling us what to do - she told EVERYBODY what to do. I didn't get along with my mama real good. I was much more like my daddy."
"How many children were in your family? I asked
"There was seven of us - five girls and two boys. Of course, all of 'ems gone now, except for me, Margaret and my other sister."
"Did you get along with all your sisters pretty well?"
"Yes, all except my oldest sister, she was snobby! She always thought she was better than everyone else."
"Why was that?" I questioned.
"I guess 'cause she was the oldest, and she got whatever she wanted. Me and my younger sisters had to wear handi-me downs and she always got new clothes. I sure hated wearing those hand me downs to school!" She cast a disgusted look off to the wall, the embarrassment of having to wear someone else's clothes, still fresh in her mind.
"Well, tell me about when you met Albert". I knew his passing was still raw in her heart, but I also knew she loved to talk about her dearly, beloved Albert.
"Well, his former wife and I were best friends. But he left her - said she wanted to have sex all the time. Turns out she was having sex with ALOT of men. She done him a favor! And me! Then, he asked me out and wanted to start dating me. I just figured he wanted sex, and I told him if thats what was on his mind, I won't interested. I told him I wouldn't have sex with him unless we were married! So he moved, and asked me to come with him. I asked him was he asking me to marry him, and he said if that was the only way he could get me to come with him, then YES! So, I bought me a new blue dress and we went and got married!" By now, she was beaming with memories and I prodded her to tell me more. She went on to tell me about her and Albert's early years and she always felt like they were just "meant for each other". It was definitely a match made in Heaven, and that's where she wanted to be once again - in Heaven with Albert.
Ms. Eunice - The Artist!
Although the memories were sweet, they were starting to bring her down, so I once again changed the subject. I looked up and noticed a painting of a farm scene on the wall behind her bed. It had a big red barn with a pond in front, and a old wagon wheel sitting beside a pump and well.
"That's a beautiful painting - did you do that?" I asked, remembering she had told me on our last visit that she used to paint.
"Yes, I did. I used to paint a lot. I even taught my next door neighbor how to paint. People have told me my paintings are pretty good."
"They are! They are VERY good!" I complimented her. I looked around and saw another painting of a large tree against a beautiful landscape. Another one of Ms. Eunice's works. I walked over to examine it more closely. I noticed the detail was sharp; the colors fluid, and her painting seem to convey a tranquil and peaceful mood. She obviously at once time, had a natural talent for it.
"Well, these are very good paintings - you have quite a talent! Do you have anymore at home?"
"Yes, there are several more, unless someone has gotten them all. I used to paint a lot, before my eyes went bad. I can't do it anymore, though." Sadness spread across her face once again, as she was reminded of yet something else she had lost over the years.
"Well, I'd be very honored to have one of them, if you could save one for me."
"I'd love for you to have one, if my son don't take them all. I'll tell him to save one for you!"
"Oh, thank you, that would be great!" Her paintings were really very good, and it saddened me to think that someone with such talent could no longer do the things that brought her so much enjoyment.
"I used to be able to do a lot of things - knit, crochet and sew. I wished I were able to do some of those things now, but I can't see well enough now. I can't even go play Bingo with the others 'cause I can't see the cards. One of the other ladies said she'd watch my card for me, but that's not much fun for me!" I thought about her comment and agreed. Some things there are just no replacement for. It made me realize how truly blessed I was to have my eyesight. And how much I took it for granted.
Mother and Son
The room got silent and I noticed Ms. Eunice seemed a bit agitated. She was obviously still upset over not hearing from her son; his visit the obvious highlight of her days. We both just sat there for a moment, the conversation seeming to drag. The blaring ring of the phone startled us both.
"Maybe that's your son!" I excitedly announced. I picked up the receiver and quickly handed it to her.
"Hello? Hey, Son Where have you been? Why haven't you been to see me today?" The questions rolled off her tongue as fast as a pro pitcher's fast ball, and I chuckled at her as she admonished her son over the phone.
"Oh, you been picking more grapes? Are you bringing me some more? Oh..., okay. Well, Lisa's here and I'm going to give her what's left of the ones you brought me yesterday. So, are you coming up here today? Oh,... okay. I'll see you then. I love ya." She hung up the phone and a smile of relief came over her face.
"He's been picking grapes all day. But he's not bringing them all to me. He had to pick some for someone else, too. He said he was getting ready to take a shower and then come up here" she briefly reported to me.
"Oh, well, good. I guess I better go then and let you rest up before he gets here. Do you want to walk down the hall a bit before I go?"
"No, I don't think so. My son will want me to walk with him - we always walk together when he comes."
"Okay. Well, is there anything I can get you before I go? You know, Ms. Eunice, you can call me anytime you can't get hold of your son. I'll be happy to bring you anything you need!"
"Thank you, Lisa. Is your name on that paper by the phone? You could write it down there, just in case." I walked over to the table, picked up the paper of names and numbers, and scanned the list, looking for mine. It wasn't there. I reached in my purse and found a pen and jotted my name and number on the line right beneath her son's.
"There. It's on there now! You feel free to call me anytime - okay?"
"Thank you, Lisa. I really appreciate you coming to visit me. You come back again soon!"
"Well, I enjoy coming to visit you Ms. Eunice. You know, I'm writing a story about our visits together! I might turn it into a book one day!"
"Lord, I don't know what you could possibly find good to write about an old lady like me!"
"You're a VERY interesting woman, Ms. Eunice! And I enjoy talking to you very much and listening to you tell me about your life! You know, you and I are a lot alike. We've both been through some of the same things in life, and see life in similar ways! "
"Hmpf! she muttered. "Well, I don't see how my life could be interesting!"
"Well, I'll be going now. I hope you have a good visit with your son. I'll be back to see you again next week okay? You have a good weekend and stay out of trouble!" I reached over and gave her a gentle hug. "I love you, Ms. Eunice", I whispered in her ear.
She patted me briskly on the back. "I love you, too, Lisa", she replied. "You come back anytime, okay?" She got up and walked with me to the door of her room, peering out to see if there was any sign of her son, but he had yet to show.
"He'll be here soon", I said, noticing her worried eyes and furrowed brow.
"Yes, and I better go use the bathroom before he gets here!" she announced. Knowing she was still a little unstable on her feet, I stayed behind just long enough for her to go pottie. When she was finished, I hugged her again and said goodbye, hoping her son would arrive soon.
I walked back to the front lobby and out the door of the nursing home. Several other residents were sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch. As I passed by them, I spoke briefly and wished them a good day. They gazed up, nodded their heads and kept on rocking.
I thought about how different our worlds were. I could come, stay a while and visit with a dear friend and then leave, free to go about my day and do other things or go other places. But for most of them, it was a prison, and a place they would probably never leave, at least not alive anyway.
That's why Ms. Eunice hates this place so much, I thought, - AND why she wants to leave so badly; but not because she wants to go back to her "old home", but rather to go to her FINAL HOME....to be reunited with Albert.