My mother stays in the frail care section of an old age home. She is an awesome person who still sings the songs of her time. As her short term memory rapidly fades – it is amazing to hear how she remembers the words of songs like, “Hello Dolly”, “The best things in life are free” and “Fly me to the moon.”
An old age home is like a small village. Everyone knows the next person’s business, their troubles and their joys. There is pleasure, jealousy, kindness and meanness. In some ways it can also be a bit like a pre-school – when the responsible person arrives, the tattle tales come running from everywhere, with their stories!
When I get there to see my mum I am chastised for not being there earlier, get the news of what the nursing home staff have done wrong, and how my mother is doing – how they love her, or how she needs to be cared for differently.
There are two people who always seemed to say the most inappropriate things. One, is Judith, a short bullish lady, with a speech impediment – who simply says whatever is in her mind. And often what she has to say is not very nice. Another, is Harry, who is a great candid observer who says what he sees, and whether I like to hear it or not, it is often true.
Over the months, I have stood up to these people, “on behalf of my mom.” I have bluntly told them to mind their own business. It was my “duty to protect my mom.” They would greet me but keep their distance. And when I got home I would justify what I said to them.
And then my best friend wrote to me and let me know that she did not want to be around me anymore. It cut me to the quick and caused huge shift in who I am, how I see the world and relationships. She showed me through my words that my soul and spirit had begun to die. Nobody really liked be around me – they stayed because it was their duty.
This was the case in many areas of my life, sadly. My rightness caused many people – family and friends – to be with me, at a distance.
I was shocked beyond belief, for without her and my family, my life is simply meaningless.
Fortunately for me I did not rage against her words. I felt the loss – in my heart, as if it had already happened. I could not breathe. I read her words again. I saw the truth in them. And a sweeping change came over me.
It was a change that I began to feel in my spirit, as I took the time to improve my relationships – in my family, friends, long-lost relatives and most importantly with myself and my view of life.
Suddenly my boys were hanging onto me, chatting to me, sharing with me. My in-laws were seeking me out, my beautiful wife was smiling – joking and laughing again. At the swimming pool small kids are chatting to me and challenging me to race them.
I have begun to get fit, walk tall and there is a kindness, in me and a freedom, that is somehow showing through. My wife says I am “on purpose” again. I do not know what it is, but I am reveling in the change.
Back to Judith. When I arrived at the home, she came up to me in her pushy, almost frantic way. Her TV aerial had broken, and she “knew” that my mother did not need her aerial anymore. Please could she have it. Previously I may have found a quick reason, why I should not give it to her.
But somehow my spirit had changed,. I looked at this lady, who I had never liked, and saw her desperation. I said, “Sure, you can have it.” This tough lady looked almost fragile, as she thanked me. I then told the nursing staff, to let her have the aerial.
On another visit – Judith again came up to me and said thank you for the aerial, and that she had not received it. I again confirmed that it was hers and spoke to the staff.
Judith was almost besides herself with excitement. Almost like a little child at her birthday party. She told me her story of being looked after by her pensioner siblings, who were poor and could not buy her an aerial. She had never shared anything personal before. Her life story began to unfold as she kept on walking in and out, talking about her life, where the aerial could be, and who could have taken it.
I told her that even if we could not find it, I would buy her an aerial. Suddenly this tough lady burst into tears, “Thank you. Thank you so much”, she sobbed. She looked shocked as the tears poured down her face. Then surprisingly, she came over and hugged me. I hugged her back. She stood back and burst into tears my heart went out to her and I held her – possibly as she has not been held for many years.
She scurried off again, pushing her wheeled roller, and came back with a bag, as a gift for me. I was deeply touched by the kindness from “mean old Judith.”
The aerial was found later that night, and I installed it in her room, for her.
I now know that every one of these people, Judith and Harry included, are just people looking for some attention and some love. And who better to share that, than me.
This story is as much about Judith, as it is about my change, as it is about my beautiful best friend. I have betrayed her love, care and friendship – with my selfish behaviour. With her letter, her hard true words, she has sparked a new life within me – and I promise I will never let her down again.
I hope in against all hopes, that she finds it in her heart to keep me in her life.