Story by Ginnylynn Rodriguez
As I struggled through the doors at the Retirement Center, weighted down with my mom’s overnight bags as well as my own, my first sight was several ladies sitting on the couch in the entry as if waiting for some event to be happening soon. I’ve always enjoyed this center when I’ve visited it the few times before. Its rooms are full of light and very open in its design.
Setting my bags down, I went in to see the manager. Pulling his bifocals off his face he greeted me warmly. After explaining who I was and my mom’s name, he said, “Oh, we’ve been expecting you!” He reached up and grabbed the guestroom key and handed it to me. I had called in ahead of time earlier in the week for a “test run” for my mom and I to stay overnight in their guestroom. Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s earlier in the year and my family has been trying to determine where the best place for her to live.
We felt their program of allowing visitors to stay a few nights at their facility would offer her the opportunity to see its setting in a relaxed manner. It also gave us the opportunity to observe others there and get their feedback on the care they are receiving. Mom’s home of 40 years no longer interests her and she’s fearful of staying by herself. We have narrowed our search to two centers, as well as the possibility of her living with my older sister and her husband. In her condition, we don’t know whether she could handle independent living.
In her red knitted cap and red jacket she looked cute even though her confusion on her face was apparent. As a lost child she obediently followed me up the elevator into our room. After I put our belongings away, I was impressed with the decor. Beautiful homemade accessories graced the room to give it a homey touch. It was actually much nicer than the motels I’ve stayed in the past! The entire center looked like a museum with its Norman Rockwell’s pictures, crystal and porcelain figurines and fancy furniture. Slowly we walked the hallways to introduce ourselves to the residents and see where everything was located.
Upstairs, sitting at a table, were four people playing cards. By the looks on their faces, you knew without a doubt, they were serious card players, yet everyone was quick to be friendly to us. One gentleman was nice and had a quick sense of humor and a very old lady sat next to him. Mrs. J had a bright gleam in her eye as she played her cards. Looking at her hands, I knew she had to be VERY old yet her mannerisms and behavior didn’t reflect such a thing. I learned later she was 91. She is a godly woman who is quick to hug and spread her love to everyone who would receive it. She invited us to look at her room and we sat and chatted with her for about 30 minutes. She showed us some of the 30 cross-stitch quilts she had done. She was extremely proud of them. She says she stays active when she is in her room which was not too often. She showed us her lamp that was 200 years old that was gorgeous!
Mom wanted to meet with a friend she knew from her church so we looked up her room number and we paid her a visit. During our stay, her insight and information regarding the center was very valuable and she invited us to dinner in the dining hall. She was quick to explain the routines there and we were very grateful. “Now, if you lay your coffee cup on its side it means that you want tea. BUT…if you turn it right side up-then you want coffee. They only serve it three times during the meal, so be sure you drink it slowly!”
I’m thinking to myself-I need to take notes to get all these details straight in my head!
She says, “When you are through with your dishes, lay them on your left side so the servers can remove them.”
During dessert time, my mom starts grabbing off the food cart. Mom’s friend quickly states, “Oh, we don’t do that! The servers need to do it.”
Mom had quickly grabbed several desserts which turned out to be for the diabetic residents. As I sat in the dining room, I thought of the accumulated amount of wisdom in all the ages represented there. I envisioned the wonderful stories with each person that needed to be told to enrich the next generation. I don’t want our elderly forgotten and overlooked. They’ve invested their lives in so many different ways. Each one of them is like a book ready to reveal a tremendous story.
After dinner, a Brownie troop of 2nd graders entertained 20 of us with singing and sign language. I saw the twinkle in their eyes and smiles on the girl’s faces and it certainly blessed me as they went through their routine. At the end of the program, they handed out carnations to everyone. Later in the evening, we watched eight ladies rehearsing their program with the chimes. The blending of the sounds was heavenly!
Many people forget our elderly behind retirement home doors. In our rush of daily life, we pass them without a thought. The truth is, there lies a treasure waiting to be exposed. If we take the time to invest ourselves in their lives, we would be amazed in what we discover.
I’m very thankful I was given an opportunity to spend time with them and their lives have certainly enriched mine. Their unconditional warmth was given to my mother and myself and will be a memory I’ll certainly treasure.
With the day behind us, we retired for the night. I was amazed at the humor, friendliness and helpfulness we received from people who had been strangers to us. They embraced us and made us feel welcome. I KNOW I’m getting old when I have a great time at a retirement center! If the day comes that I need a place to live, I know their facility would welcome me. I just pray it won’t be too soon!