Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A 15-minute Visit to a Retirement Home

(This is a repost taken from my Friendster blog.)

It was just a short visit.

It touched me spiritually and emotionally.

And it taught me lessons in life.

While penning this blog, my heart is still bleeding. I cried earlier.

Ten minutes ago, Brenda and I went to a retirement home to visit her neighbor named Frances whom I had also met once during the celebration of the Fourth of July at Brenda’s house. She is in her mid-80s. She was rushed to the hospital in Reno for a mild stroke last August and stayed there for almost two months. Every now and then Brenda updated me about her. Last week she told me that Frances was moved back here from Reno but stayed in Harmony Manor, a retirement and a rehabilitation home that is a walking distance away from Frances’ house.

So Brenda and I agreed to visit her for a few minutes after taking long walks. Brenda baked pumpkin bread for her.

When we got there, my heart became heavy that I couldn’t get myself inside the building having thoughts of what I heard from friends and what I saw in movies about the place like this. I had an indifferent feeling. A lady in an open office smiled at us. The place was clean and everything was in order. There were plenty of books and magazines inside. There were more or less five old folks doing something in a kind of living room across the open office. They smiled at us. To me they looked trying themselves to be happy. We headed to Room 406 to see Frances. She was not there but I saw few of her comfort belongings like cute stuff toy, a pretty warmer given by Brenda, etc. We went back to the open office and ask about Frances and she replied that she was in the Physical Therapy room and she showed us the way.

We headed to the therapy room while my eyes were wandering around. It was my first time to visit such place. There were old people coming towards us and they smiled and we greeted each other. There were wheel chairs in every corner. The entrance of each room has label on the names of the patient with corresponding pictures. I saw a picture of a very old man who is trying to project a smile. I could see a child in him. And I remember my grandfather back in the Philippines. He is 95 years old. It made my heart heavier.

The therapy room is like a fitness center. I couldn’t tell what are those exercise equipments inside because they were new to me but I am sure that I saw treadmill. There were televisions in two corners. The patient could watch TV while doing their exercise. I saw Frances and a therapist in the center of a two long round bars that serve as support while the patient do the walking exercise. I could see that Frances was very happy to see us. She smiled widely. We didn’t want to interrupt her so we told her that we would wait and would watch her so we took a seat. While observing her walking too slow and her hands were holding the bars, her body trembling trying to stand stiff while the therapist supported her body, I had tears in the corner of my eyes. I tried to hide them. I could see that she was doing her best just to carry herself for a walk. Oh God, I almost couldn’t stand it so I averted my eyes in the other part of the room. There was an old woman doing her arm exercise and someone came that looked like her daughter. They smiled at me. Frances requested to take a rest to talk with us. The therapist had a hard time putting her into her wheel chair.

I was happy that she still recognized me. We talked. She hardly pronounced a word but I could still understand what she meant. She said her goal is to get back to walk so that she could walk going to her house. She said she was happy that she was moved here thinking that her house is just a walk away from where she is. She said she was excited to use her new dishwasher her husband bought for her. She is excited that her husband is very busy now preparing for her coming home very soon. I was really touched.

After a few minute of talk, we bid goodbye. Brenda hugged her and I held her shoulder before we left. I had teary eyes but I still was able to read these words in the wall that caught my attention: COURAGE, DETERMINATION and ENTHUSIASM. They are visible for the patient to read while they are doing the therapy to encourage and challenge them. It really made me cry until I got back in the car. Brenda said she felt the same way too. In a cracking voice, I said to her that when she and I will get old and sickly like Frances and we stayed in a retirement home, we will just hope that somebody would remember us and would care to visit us. She answered, we will visit each other :) Her answer made me smile with tears. I didn’t know that I am an emotional person. All my life, I thought I was very strong and tough but I was totally wrong. With this experience, I really discovered the other side of me.

When I got home, I shared it to my daughter what had been transpired in my visit to Frances. She listened seriously. She felt sad too and then said “Post it in your blog Ma”. I did.

The lesson I learned is that Courage, Determination and Enthusiasm are not only for those old people who were trying to make their lives longer but also for everyone who struggled to make their lives better and meaningful.

It was just a 15-minute visit but it really touched my heart, my mind and my soul.

I hope this post touches yours too. 

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