My 98 year old grandfather is sitting in the cafe with his aid when I get there. They are holding court with a table full of residents. It’s so easy to see the deficiencies; the wheel chairs, the drool, the hearing aids, chewing with the mouth full. It’s all outwardly showing for everyone to see. The clock strikes 4pm, it’s afternoon medicine time. The aids roll in and out. The daily flow of the home makes it seem like Bill Murray’s movie, Ground Hog Day.
If you dig deeper, you realize that although their bodies aren’t what they used to be, the residents of this nursing home are fascinating. I asked Mr. Cooper about his life. His father owned a garment manufacturer. He sold to all the major department stores. He eventually had to shutter it when the competition got too steep. Mr. Cooper went to work at Sikorsky for 35 years.
Then, there’s is Regine. She barely talks. All you hear is a whisper. And, she’s missing her teeth, which leaves her with an odd affect to her face. Yet there is more than meets the eye. Regine is in her 90s. She is Belgian and speaks multiple languages. She was an international lawyer, long before woman held those jobs. She reads the New York Times cover to cover every single day. She is always impeccably dressed. Today, she had on a sweater with a matching Matisse scarf. Magnificent! I want to know her more but every time we mention her past, she brushes us off with a wave of the hand. What does that wave mean? I’m too humble to tell you? It was too long ago? It just doesn’t matter anymore? It’s too hurtful to discuss?
I want to interview them all and write a book. Not a book for publication, but a book to fulfill my curiosity. Who are all these people? What did they accomplish in their life? What is the legacy that they are leaving behind?
I hope someday if I’m in the same situation, people will notice me. Notice me for my accomplishments, for the deep love I gave to that which is important to me. I hope people look beyond the physical limitations and want to have meaningful conversations with me. So, I continue to give the gift of asking and listening to the residents every time I’m there. The world goes round and round.