I thought about the many elderly or ill people who are home bound or have no family near. Often their sons or daughters are busy with their own lives, their children, and don't seem to have time to visit. Popping a head in the door to say, "Are you all right?" is not a visit.
After my mother, age 70, recovered from an aneurysm that left her unable to drive and with no short term memory, she still enjoyed her children's visits. Some found it hard to spend time with her because of her loss of memory. I was fortunate that she and I could talk and we loved being together. My sister, Gay, and I often took Mother to the Dairy Queen where she ordered a banana split. She could not eat it all, but it was her favorite and, even though we reminded her that she could not eat all of it, she insisted the banana split was what she wanted.
|My mother in blue and her sister. They had the same birthday, two years apart|
When she lived, to the surprise of her doctors, we took her home and began to program her brain with pictures and tales that eventually brought her back to a place where she knew our names and recognized her home. We had to tell her that her parents and many of her siblings were dead. It broke my heart when she cried. She lived those losses all over again because she didn't remember their passing.
Her memory of her childhood and even early marriage was vivid, so we talked about what she could tell me. Because I am curious and ask questions, I heard all of her stories. She told me about the dance parties in the community each Saturday night when she was young.
"They rolled up the rug and pushed the chairs back against the wall," Mother said. I could see the joy in her eyes when she remembered those happy times. She smiled as she talked. "Coy would walk me to the dance, but he wouldn't dance with me. It was fine with me. I had plenty of boys who asked and I danced until the party ended. Then, Coy walked me to my house. If we stayed on the front porch too long, Mama let us know."
Coy was my father so I knew, even though he didn't dance, they fell in love. He asked her to marry him when she was eighteen.
Mother knew the history of my father's family as well as she knew her own. I learned about my aunts and uncles on both sides. She told me about her little brother who died, and how her mother became very protective of her next son, my uncle Rudolph. The entire family adored Rudy and I understood why. When Mother was in Intensive Care and didn't know anyone, he came to the hospital and visited her often. I can still see him, tall and thin, a slight smile on his face, standing beside her bed feeding her like she was a baby. She didn't know his name, but she knew she loved him and he loved her. I could tell by the trusting way she looked up at him as he spooned soup into her mouth.
I was fortunate to come from loving family and to know that being connected to others is healthy and important to living a long life. For several years Barry and I delivered Meals on Wheels to men and women living alone here in the mountains. Some of them could no longer cook for themselves and the hot meal they received every day gave them nutrition they might not have received if left on their own. However, I think the most important part of delivering those meals was going inside, giving a hug, speaking with them and letting them know someone cared. I think we had a few on our route who saw no one all day other than the people who delivered the meals.
Just that connection brightened their days. All the television in the world cannot replace a human touch and a human voice. Even telephone calls cannot replace the visit of someone who cares.
I wrote a poem about one of the women we saw each month. She was ninety and still able to live alone. I often think about Pamela. You can find that poem here.
If you have the time and are able, delivering Meals on Wheels in your community is a very worthwhile program.