Today we visited a lady in a retirement community. She had polio as a teenager and is suffering the effects of it to this day. Though she is not a woman to be pitied. She is an amazing woman with so much spunk and life left and lots of opinions!
J and I started visiting people in retirement communities in November. My main reason was to foster the love between J and the elderly. He LOVES chatting with older people, giving them attention, and getting the attention back from them. It is a win-win all around. I remember as a child being kind of scared of nursing homes because the older people would stare at me and want me to be around them, they would try to hug me and I didn’t know any of them! SO WHAT. So what if a stranger wants a hug. So what if they want to stare at you. But it bothered me because I was seven or eight years old and I didn’t understand. I want J to understand, and not only understand, but to love these people. That’s all they want is our love. It doesn’t matter if they know who you are. Isn’t that really what we all inherently want in this life? To be loved.
So we started visiting people and J loves it. To be honest, each time I make the phone call to the person we are going to visit, I get a bit hesitant, I start procrastinating and the longer I wait, the more nervous I become. What if they don’t like almost 4-year-old little boys (yeah right…), what if they don’t want us to come visit (I should already know the answer to this one), what if they don’t like to chat (HA!), what if they aren’t all “right up there” (but really, who of us really is?), and on and on my thoughts grow until I become disgusted with myself and pick up the phone. I am reminded instantly that all of these questions are just stupid and silly (as my parenthesis after each one suggests!). 🙂
The thing is, this is just as much for me as it is for J or for these people who are lonely and want visitors. I am learning each time we do this. I learn about me, and I learn about life. Each visit, I have heard amazing stories dating back to WWII. Stories of their husbands going to war or meeting their to-be husband right after they returned. People putting themselves through school, putting their husbands through school, scraping by with hardly anything and at the same time living rich in love. Each of these people is waiting for their turn to meet their spouse in Heaven. 50, 60, 70 year marriages. So many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that sometimes they lose count. Stories of moving from one state to another to make ends meet. Stories of losing brothers, sisters, children, spouses, and parents. Birth stories, graduation stories and baptism stories!
Each time we meet with someone J is like a beacon of light. Not only does the person we are meeting love him, but anyone we pass by or come in contact with at the residence stops to chat. We are spreading love everywhere in a 2 hour period, and you can feel it.
Today, we had lunch with the lady we visited, because it was so wonderful I didn’t want to leave and she wanted me to stay! When we entered the dining area pretty much all eyes were fixed on J. He didn’t even notice. He was SO excited to be eating at a “restaurant.” Not only did the residents all want to meet J, but the staff in the area all came by to say hello too! And if you know my J, he loves to talk to everyone. We were there for a while.
One resident came up to our table to stop and say hi to J. J immediately looked down and exclaimed, “I LOVE your shoes!!” in the most excited voice. I had to check this out, so I peeked around and saw white orthopedic shoes. In my head I’m thinking, “really?” and then I look up and see tears of joy in this woman’s eyes. She responded, “Oh, THANK you!” and looked as if she could leave her walker and skip away. But she didn’t, and she told J she wanted to take him home with her and hold him tight and never let him go. (This would be where my seven-year old self would have freaked!) I watched J to see his reaction and he looked to the side thinking really hard, and then he said, “No, I have to go home with momma.” lol She chuckled and blew him a kiss. J blew a kiss back to her and she grasped her chest with her hands and said, “Oh! I love him so much!” and then they continued to blow kisses back and forth a few times. Then she turned to me and said, “Your little boy has just made my day, week, month, year! My whole year is going to be good now. Thank you so much!”
A few minutes later one of the staff members came by and asked if J liked being there. He responded, “I LOVE this place! Everyone LOVES me here!” Yes, J, and thanks to you all those same people feel the love right back.