I never thought I would stay at Brookdale Retirement Residence in Wilton Connecticut! Coming to visit my mom has always meant staying at my brother Michael’s house. He lives 20 minutes away from the retirement home where my mom has lived for the past 3 years. On this day, we were unable to get into Michael and Lisa’s house. Brookdale offered us a place to sleep for the night. We decided to stay.
I love my life. Some of our children make fun of me - for talking to people who I don’t know, for travelling to untouched territories, for staying in simple places instead of ordinary hotels, for doing things in different ways from the mainstream, and for not letting money get in my way. I like my life! I appreciate the things I do and the way I relate to the world around me. I’m comfortable and at ease with my surroundings wherever I am and grasp every opportunity to talk to the people with whom I cross paths.
Imagine, if I didn’t live this way! I would have missed the chance to meet Al Ritchie. He was
sitting atop an electric wheelchair at the mall this afternoon. I was waiting for the chance to sign out a wheelchair so we could walk around the mall with my mom. Al was waiting for help. When I came towards the kiosk, I lifted the receiver of the phone to enquire about help. Within minutes a service man came. He approached Al.
“No, no,” says Al. “First help this woman. I have lots of time.”
“I have time too,” I answered. “Aren’t we both lucky to have so much time?”
“Well…actually,” says Al, with a bit of a shrug, “My doctor just let me know I have 3 -36 months.” As he extends his arms to reveal black and blue bruises, he says, “Take a look at this. It’s from the chemo.”
I’m so sorry,” I say as I gently touch his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” he says. “I don’t care. I’ve had a good life so far. Have you ever heard of the music group The Rascals? Well… I was one of them.”
Al continued to tell me many things about what he did in his life, finishing with, “And I love my children. I have my school bus outside, and I love those kids.”
In the meantime… mom slept.
If I didn’t live this way I never would have played Bingo with the ladies on my mother’s floor! I would never have met Gert with whom I talked for 40 minutes about her deep burning desire to go home. I don’t know how long Gert has lived in Brookdale. And I don’t know who ever comes to visit her and how often she has family coming to hug her and show her love. But I do know that the time we spent together, shared conversation and talked about her, was good. “Home” we determined, “is some place you can find inside yourself.” Gert became a little bit closer to that.
If I didn’t live like this we would have slept in some ridiculous hotel and Paul and I would never have spent the time with my mom and the other residents, singing and clapping and dancing and laughing together after their dinner and before they were sent off to bed! And we wouldn’t have been there at breakfast to see mom’s surprised smile when she saw us waiting for her at her table.
If we didn’t live like this we never would have been able to offer our bottle of home made wine to the nurses who work so hard and share so much love and compassion with the old people who are in their care. Their patience and energy and skill in working with elderly people is fantastic. I know I could never do it for very long.
The other day a Facebook friend of mine posted a quote. It said, “You can always make more money, but you can’t always make more time.” I so get it! I understand. Time to be with others is what it’s all about for me. I want to keep doing this.
One “child” tells me I act like a hippy! He wonders how I do the things I do. He imagines me hitchhiking through India and worries about me couchsurfing in Europe. Even though I don’t really do any of those things, I do do things differently! He might be embarrassed about the fact that I don’t like spending money frivolously and would rather give what I have to the people who need it most in this world, or even that I don’t care much that I don’t have so much money. Staying overnight in a hotel for $100.00 a night isn’t half as much fun as an experience in a Senior’s residence. I would rather do things differently and live deeply in my experiences. I wouldn’t have it any other way!