The kindly old lady
By Jack Keenan, Contributing Writer
It was an uneventful morning as I pulled up to park my car at a suburban Chicago nursing home. I was quite looking forward to seeing my grandfather, catch him up on family events, visit awhile, and generally gauge the status of his well being. Sauntering through the hallway, I was stopped abruptly by a resident whose kind eyes and soft demeanor I could not ignore. “Do you know when lunch will be served?” she asked. Thinking to myself that this kindly old lady must be someone’s grandmother, I glanced at my watch and replied, “Well, it’s almost 10 now, so I would guess you might have a good hour or so until lunch.” The woman’s expression didn’t change as she spoke softly, ” It’s OK then — I’ll just wait.”
In that moment, those six words tugged at my heartstrings. I started to evaluate why my grandpa was at this place. Isn’t there a better alternative? The place was clean, and the staff seemed quite competent…but it wasn’t home. Flooding my head like a tidal wave, my thoughts went to my grandfather, the kindly old lady, and many of the other patients that were in unfamiliar surroundings just waiting (hoping, perhaps?) for something to happen, even if it’s only the serving of their next meal.
I knew then and most certainly now, that if I had the authority to do so, I would have brought my grandfather back home and hired a competent and quality caregiver. I know the interaction with an in-home caregiver forms a bond — a bond in familiar surroundings. I know that alone would have made Grandpa more content.
Not a month goes by that I don’t think about the look of a gentle soul in that kindly old lady’s eyes. I wonder how her days would have been spent if she had been able to stay in her own home. At the very least, she wouldn’t be asking a passerby when she might be having lunch.