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She sat alone in her darkened room.  The curtains were nearly closed, even though it was already mid-morning.  She looked out through the gape between the folds of fabric.  I wondered what she was thinking of as I watched her.

I didn't want to interrupt her reveries.  She looked intent upon something.  But her name was on my list of ladies to visit with this morning, and she looked the very epitome of alone, sitting there in the near dark. 

I knocked and she didn't appear to hear it.  So I knocked again, loudly this time.  The noise felt jarring, more especially so because of the dark room cloaking her.  She started and looked at me.  I could see a jolt of something that looked like fear in her eyes.  Do I know you?  she asked.  Where am I supposed to be right now?  I assured her that she didn't need to be anywhere in particular just now and that I was someone new.  She relaxed visibly.  I could see that she was relieved to know that I wasn't someone she'd already met and then forgotten.  The forgetting plagues her days, my notes tell me.  My notes also remind me to never ask her or her contemporaries if they remembered me.  This question grates against an all-too-painful reality for many of them.  They don't remember anymore and they feel the gap the remembering leaves.  The indignity of it.

I asked her about her children and their children and the change of subject is welcome to her.  I tell her I'm so happy the rain has finally stopped.  She's eager to verify what I say with a look for herself and timidly hints that I might open the curtains for her.  I'm happy to do it and the ambiance of the small room instantly changes.  Yellow overtakes gray.  She has beautiful stained glass ornaments hanging from transparent thread gracing her now opened window.  There are dangling, intricate snowflakes she's crocheted herself years ago.  We talk about her penchant for craft and then just as quickly, her face changes and she tells me that she has no hobbies because she always worked so much in her life that she never had time for anything like that.  I gloss over the discrepancy and ask her about the Christmas cards tacked on her bulletin board.  She tells me that she has lots of friends and though I don't believe it, I'm happy that for this one moment, she thinks she does. 

Her pale blue eyes seem a water color replica of her real eyes.  They're pink-rimmed, as though she's been crying.  I want to weep, but I don't, because I have no right to.  I swallow back that tightening in the back of my throat because it has no place here today.  I see that life has forgotten her and that the young and the vibrant are preeminent.  I think when we value the energy of youth so highly, we forget the beauty in her aged cheeks.  These cheeks look so soft, I wish I could touch them.  The multi-colored afghan laying across her lap captures an important beauty of days gone by.   She tells me she's from Oklahoma and we talk about the circuitous journey that's led her from there to here.  Her story is full and beautiful and nuanced and full of days of bleak gray and jubilant yellow and I look forward to hearing more about it next week.
 


02/18/2011 3:29am

Beautiful, simply beautiful!

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Richelle
02/18/2011 9:00am

Bless your heart, Jenn, for carving out the time in your busy life to spend with these lovely, aging souls who so often are forgotten.

I found myself blinking back tears reading your blog this morning because it hit so close to home - my once strong, stoic, and always completely in control Grandma has become a victim of dementia and is slowly forgetting who we are. It is painful to visit her at times when she no longer knows who I am, yet I still see glimpses of her and the kind, generous, resolute woman I grew up knowing her to be.

I'm quite certain that your time spent in the nursing home will bless your own heart as much, or perhaps more, than those you are there to bless.

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02/18/2011 9:18am

I love reading the tales of your time at the seniors home, Jenn! Keep them coming...

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Jeanette
02/19/2011 8:42am

I am thinking isn't it for these exact reasons we are here, and you living in the reality of your purpose, makes me want to live my life to the very fullest! I love you, your heart, your thoughfulness, your example in all area's. You impress me not only as my big sister but as a woman! Your time in the nursing home is like medicine to my soul as well.

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JoyGirl
02/27/2011 11:01am

Girls, it's precisely because of these sorts of responses (and by extension, obviously, these very sorts of women) that I keep on going in the world of blogging. You are all so kind and so lovely. I'm very thankful for each of you.

Richelle, I'm so sorry for you in the progressive 'loss' of your Grandma. For the first time really ever, I understand what you and yours must be going through. How good of you to just keep on loving her, regardless of how little left of 'her' there seems to be. These are the moments, I think, that really tell us what kind of people we are. You, in short, are wonderful.

Jeanette - I'm really not sure if anyone's ever said anything nicer to me. Big, fat non-surprise coming from you, my tied-for-first place fave sis!

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