I have a friend named Millie. She is a little old lady. An awesome little old lady. She is 77 years young. She is almost completely blind but still cooks her own meals, lives by herself at home, and walks around her kitchen island to get exercise. She is thin but concerned about letting herself go. She always wears matching outfits, and must have had them a long time if she knows what to put together without seeing them. She watches (well, listens to, anyway) Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights while eating a Banquet tv dinner. She tells stories of her dad who was a music teacher, her husband, her four children, and growing up in Nebraska.
Now, I don't go actively looking for little old ladies as friends. Millie and I just happened to find each other at my work. She needed help getting around the store to buy things, and I like to walk around. I think I was pregnant with Curly Girly the first time I helped her, and at that point walking around really helped me out since I was swelling all up. She walked around the store and I held onto the cart, guiding her around and reading item labels and prices for her. When it came time for her to pay, she had her money all set up where she could find it, and she trusted me with her wallet and checkbook.
I last helped Millie around in June. Her Wednesday visits were habit to me. The other workers "saved" Millie for me, and even if I was on break, she would wait for me to come back. I went on vacation the last week of June, and when I came back, she didn't come in. "Next week," I thought to myself, and worried to myself even though Millie was fairly healthy and active. What if she decided she liked another store better? What if she was broke and needed help (I knew she had hardly any money)? What if she was sick? I waited Wednesday after Wednesday. No Millie. I looked up her phone number and tried to call her. The number had gotten disconnected. At this point I was really starting to freak out.
I went in on Saturday on my day off to pick up some milk and bread. And there I saw her! Millie was there, in a wheelchair, with her daughter in law, doing some quick shopping. I asked her what had happened and she seemed pretty upset. She had some illness that seemed fairly minor to her (her daughter in law seemed to mention it was a little more serious), and got put in the hospital. From there, she got sent to a nursing home. "My kids put me in there!" she said sadly. I found out she was staying fairly close to where I live and I said I could visit her if she didn't mind seeing Curly Girly too, which of course she didn't. Today, I loaded up Curly Girly in the stroller and walked over to see her.
I found Millie in the dining room (tried to get there early but I fail, oops), sitting with a couple friends but looking rather angry. I said "Hi, Millie!" and she sort of snapped at me until she realized who it was. And when she found out Curly Girly was there too, she brightened up. She was really upset to be there, and asked how the weather was, and if we had walked over. She asked how I was, what new things Curly Girly was doing, and how my husband was, and if he had found a job yet. She told me she was doing her therapy every day, trying her best to meet all the requirements to go home. She says she needs to get out in a month or she will lose her house. I don't know the specifics of why she is there or whether or not she will be getting out soon. I stayed there maybe a half hour talking to her, until the wee one got antsy and wanted to leave. We gave her a picture that Curly Girly colored to brighten up her room- I figured even if she can't see it, she would appreciate it, and Curly Girly cutely said, "Byebye! See ya!" and waved.
As we left, I was stopped a few times by little old ladies oohing and aahing over Curly Girly and her hair, and she would wave and say "Byebye!" as we walked away. I felt sad leaving Millie all bummed out, but Cury Girly seemed to brighten the day for a lot of people.
So why am I telling you this long story? Because I wanted to tell you that it doesn't take much to help someone out or make their day a little better. I didn't set out to make friends with little old people. Nursing homes sort of give me the willies a little bit. But I found an unexpected friend, and it only takes a little effort to cheer her up.
My own grandparents (dad's parents) were in nursing homes for many years, but I didn't get out to visit them often. I visited my Grandpa a few times in there before he passed away, but it made me so sad to think of him in there because I knew how much he hated it, and I didn't make it in there often to see him. The last time I saw him was on his birthday, 4 months before he died. We ate little ice cream cups and the nurses went on about his pretty blue eyes and great personality. By the time my grandmother was full time in a nursing home (from assisted living), I had moved 2000 miles away and couldn't readily go visit her. The last time I saw her was when I went to Massachusetts last June to see family. Curly Girly was just wee and non-curly at the time, and no one had met her yet so we were rushing around trying to see everyone we could in just a week. We made the trip to New Hampshire to see my Grandma, and boy am I glad I did. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the last time I would see my Grandma. She seemed in good health, but soon after I went home, she took a turn for the worse and she died 2 months later. Curly Girly had a good time visiting her Great Grandma- she was fascinated with the tennis balls on her walker, and we got a picture of the three of us, which turned out really nice and I still like to look at it. I'm not sure if things would have gone differently if I had known it was our last visit with her; I am just glad that we had a good time and I have good memories of that visit.
Take time to visit your loved ones, young and old, sick or healthy, because you never know when the last time you will see someone will be. Make friends with someone new and unexpected, because you never know when someone really cool will cross your path. And be nice to people, because you never know when you might make a difference or make someone's life a little easier or happier.