17 Jun Remember the Elderly
Years ago, during a summer break in between college semesters years, I took a job as a certified nurse’s aide. I had never worked so hard in my life. My job entailed bathing elderly patients, changing their diapers, dressing them, feeding them, brushing their hair, shaving the men, and soaking their dentures. There were very few times I was able to sit down, especially with fifty patients and only my brother or another aide to help. After a short while, I memorized the patients’ names, and came to love these patients. While the work was challenging, I loved these dear older people who I came to think of as my grandmas and grandpas. They would tell me stories about their lives and give me advice on what to do with my life. And now, some 22 years later, I still look back on that job as one of the best I’ve ever had.
The only thing that disturbed me about that job was the lack of visitors these elderly patients had. One older woman in her late fifties came daily to take care of her mentally disabled daughter in her late twenties. But aside from that, the visitors to these other patients were very infrequent, almost nonexistent. I could see the sorrow in some of the patients, and sometimes they would cry. Their lives consisted of constant routine with no variation. And when a friend of family member would come to visit, it changed their mood to one of absolute radiance for several days.
For most of my life, I have lived with at least one or two states between my grandparents and me. When I did get to see them during Christmas or in the summertime, it was better than my birthday and Christmas and all of the happiest times I’d ever had in my life, combined. I loved to see my grandparents and spend time with them. And even though we did not see each other as often as I would have liked, when we did see each other, we made the best memories. To this day, I believe I have the best grandparents in the world.
In the early part of 2006, my maternal grandpa passed away. A few months later, my grandma who had been 500 miles away moved only 25 miles away! I was ecstatic! I thought, “Now I will be able to see my Grandma as much as I want to.” My youngest son was four at the time. I would have days where I would say, “Oh, I’m too busy or too tired to visit my grandma.” One day I prayed that my grandma would have and make good friends so that she wouldn’t be lonely. No sooner was that prayer off my lips than I was struck with a condemning thought: “YOU GO SEE YOUR GRANDMA!
For years she has been between 500-1000 miles away from you, and now she’s 25 miles away, and yet you will not make the time to see her.” I quickly repented of my foolishness and made it a priority to see my Grandma every Tuesday or Wednesday of the week. And oh how I have enjoyed spending time with my Grandma. She has such patience and wisdom, and I have gotten to know her so much better through our weekly visits. We talk so much during our visits, that I think I may require oxygen at times. But they are wonderful, wonderful visits. And I feel so lucky to have her close!
For many years, my husband who is the youngest of six was the only son that would visit his parents on a regular basis. He has three brothers and his parents would often complain to him that they never had a visit from their other sons. They wanted to be a part of their lives. They wanted their boys to come visit. As my in-laws got older, one of the other sons recognized that his parents were not going to live forever, and has become vigilant in visiting his parents. For the other two boys, they remain somewhat aloof. It’s a shame too, because I know that no elderly person can or will live forever. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. No amount of remorse or regret that you didn’t visit will bring them back. No excuse will sound good enough.
I have often thought how ironic it is that people will make the time to go to someone’s funeral, even though they rarely (if ever) made the time to visit that person when they were living. Speaking for myself, I would rather people visited me and strengthened their friendship with me while I am living, rather than come to my funeral after years of not seeing me, but remembering “Oh, she was a great friend when we were in high school 25 years ago.”
Make time for the elderly in your life. When I was a little girl, my grandparents took such good care of me. They read to me, took me on rides in their pick up to get an ice cream cone, and just loved me. As an adult, it is my great honor to return the favor by spending time with them and letting them know just how much I love them. They are one of the most cherished blessings in my life.