Apr 24, 2014

Dr. Day's footprint

A long time ago, I worked in a retirement home serving food in the "dependent" dining room. The dining room was small and sat maybe 20 elderly men and women who had a wide array of limitations but could all manage to feed themselves. 

During my serving-the-elderly stint, I saw only a handful of folks come and "go" but they each left a large footprint in my heart. I doubt any of them ever realized that they were helping me more than I was helping them but I remember their names, faces and stories and think of them often. 

Dr. Day was a man who was 101 years old when he passed. I met him when he was 98 when I first volunteered (at the same retirement home) as an activity coordinator. He walked up to the RN desk with his walker and was very confused, looking for something he lost. He was wearing two belts and I remember thinking that was odd. 

It wasn't until 2/3 years later than I got to "know" him better. I say "know" because I mostly just observed him (and the others) because rarely could they, or did they, engage in a two-way relationship. He was a fascinating man. He was smarter than I could ever be. He was a chemist and participated in a study of the effects of flouride in dental hygiene held at IU, resulting in a product called Crest. 

My grandmother (who I am just so overly blessed to be able to still hold so close and dear) told me about him once and I believe she said that my dad and his brothers actually went to the research facility and tested the flouride products. I remember she said they had to spit or else they would throw up. I can't imagine spitting in front of my Nina..

This man, among others (Marriam, Mary Jo, Lily, one lady who hallucinated and saw her mother at dinner the day before she died), hold a very special place in my heart. I don't know why, really, but I think of them so often. I learned lessons from them. They were my favorite people at my most favorite job I've ever had. I remember their faces of confusion and compassion due to my patience with them.

I wonder if any or them knew how they'd help me six years later. I wonder how many impressions I've made on people along the way and what kind of legacy I'm leaving behind. What footprints have I made that I don't know about? Should we let strangers and loved ones know when they leave such impressions even if you can't explain what the impression is? Would you like to know? I think I would. I feel somehow that maybe those "residents" may have felt happy for a moment if I told them that, in some way, I loved them and they really meant something to me.

I think sometimes we forget how important people are. We throw relationships away or push people aside for an electronic device or whatever your current distraction is. Our relationships are fragile and people are what matter. What do we really have if we don't have each other? I hope this can help me (or you) remember to cherish my current relationships and say what needs to be said. Maybe that's what I learned from the Residents. 

(will add photos Saturday.)

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