||I canít always be happy, but I am always thankful. Lately Iíve been having a tough time with some unresolved and painful issues, and sometimes it overwhelms me. Today, though, I was reminded of how blessed I truly am. Not with wealth or material possessions, but for the ability to share life with others.
I work with the elderly, and they never fail to amaze me. I am constantly in awe of their strength and wisdom.
I accepted a new patient today and went to complete the admission. After finishing and pulling out of their driveway, I realized I was a block away from a patient we used to care for who was placed in a nursing home. I decided to check on the patientís wife, whom I havenít seen in a few months. She was always the crankiest, most cantankerous, tiniest, little tornado of a woman youíd ever meet! All of about 4í9" and barking orders at my staff, calling non-stop with new demands; lots of damage control - let me tell you!
Today I knocked on the screen door and she looked up, yelling at me "Well, get in here then, Iím leaving at 4 oíclock and no later!" Ahhh, the warm welcome of Mrs. X...oh, how I had missed it! I proceeded to ask how she and her husband were doing, if he had adjusted to placement, and if she were getting enough rest. She began to yell about the incompetent staff at the nursing home(do they really notice who we are?), the food she was required to take daily since they couldnít feed him "right"(heís declining & unable to eat much now), the beloved family dog that dislikes her now since sheís away each evening (Iím so very tired and I feel guilty for leaving her), just life in general. The neighbors are horrible here, the mobile home park has gone to hell in a handbasket, and her brand new front car seat has sunken in and she can barely see over the steering wheel. Itís all Fordís fault, I tell you!
I stepped back mentally, as I have to do with Mrs.X. I looked at her 87 year old tiny little body, bent over with severe scoliosis. I noticed sheís lost a little more weight and the house is a little less tidy. I watched her struggle to stand, holding onto the chair rail, and lift her pant legs to show me the new skin cancers on her legs.She tells me her heart is weak and sheís having a difficult time breathing and walking most days. She sits back down and I redirect her to her loving dog; her constant companion and happiness giver.
Mrs. X talks for a while and rambles on about the miseries of life. No matter what I say, there is no changing her mind. How can I possibly change the reality of her existence? So we just go with it and I listen, all she really needs. I mention that I need to go, but was glad to have seen her. She walks me out, stopping every 2nd step with another complaint or grumbling, prolonging our arrival at the door. I tell her to be careful on her drive to the nursing home 25 miles away, and to make sure to drive back safely in the dark tonight. She looks at me with utter disbelief as if to say "Are you stupid girl, donít you listen??". Instead she politely tells me...
"Michelle, I donít drive back. I canít keep my promise to him that heíll die in his own bed; but Iíll damn sure keep the promise that heíll die with me sleeping next to him, holding his hand. I sleep there with him, where Iíve been for the last 68 years".
I choke back the tears, imagining her in a recliner next to his bed, their hands entwined in the dark, and she graciously saves me by barking "Get outía here now, Iíve got things to do!" As Iím walking to my car I hear her gruffly call out "Thanks for coming, donít be a stranger...I donít get many folks visiting me anymore." I turn to reply with my heart big and soppy, and she promptly slams the door . Me and Mrs. X...we always did understand each other.