Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sentimental Journey

Last night at youth group, Tab was setting up snacks just before group started.

She brought E.L. Fudge cookies.

Instantly, a bittersweet smile crossed my lips.

In what seems like a zillion lifetimes ago, I worked as a caregiver for the eldercare agency that still employs me as an independent contracted office staffer.

I'd gotten into the field quite by accident.  A lady at our church was looking for someone to sit with her husband's elderly aunt (she was 95), who was now living in a nursing home and had her first cold.  They wanted a little more care and interaction beyond what the aide staff could provide, just to kind of help her get over the cold, push fluids and juice and stuff, and generally interact with her.  Her mind was still sharp enough that she wanted to get her hair done weekly along with a manicure, and go to the church services the nursing home offered, and to try to escape the secured wing she lived on.  The church secretary recommended me.

It was supposed to be a two-week gig.

I stayed for two and a half years.  I left the job only because my patient passed away.

I loved the simplicity of the employment hierarchy, the knowledge that I was making a visible difference in the life of someone.

I'd hoped I would get another job privately, because I knew the pay would be better.  That turned out to not be in the cards, and I applied to the agency I work for now.

As a new caregiver, I didn't have a regular client schedule right away; I was plugged into the schedule wherever I could fit.

My first regular client was a sweet lady named Polly.  She'd lost her hair due to a high-stress illness, and so one of my jobs was to help her bathe and dress and fluff up her wig after she got it on.  It was only a couple of hours each day, but we developed a relationship.  I would make her lunch.  I knew about her sweet tooth.  I would collect the trash on trash day.  And I would keep her company.  We would do cross-word puzzles together.  We would talk about her daughter's cat, Jasmine, who seemed to control the whole neighborhood.  We became good friends.

And I had five all-too-short months caring for her before the effects of a stroke took her.

Around the time that Polly turned 85 (I told her she could flip the numbers and be 58 instead, which amused her), late summer/early fall had arrived.  The days were temperate and gorgeous.  When the weather was good, and Polly felt up to it, we would have lunch on her daughter's newly-rebuilt front porch.

One such afternoon, we were sitting on the porch, finishing lunch, enjoying the sunshine and the blue skies and the birds singing.

Polly loved cookies, so her daughter almost always stocked some in the house.  I'd brought out a small plate with several cookies on it for us to share.  Today, it was E.L. Fudge cookies: little sandwich cookies with one of four elves pressed into the front, a saying pressed into the back, and chocolate creme in the middle.

Polly selected a cookie.  "Buckets," she read the elf's name.  She flipped the cookie over.  "'Dunk head first.'  Okay, honey," she said, and promptly bit the cookie's head off.

This sent us both into giggles.

Polly died about six weeks after that afternoon, and I grieved hard.  For a long time, I couldn't even look at E.L. Fudge cookies.  The memory was too fresh, the pain too deep.  I'd spent more time with Patsy, but Patsy's decline meant that, after about a year, she mostly slept and occasionally did therapy, and I cross-stitched and watched her breathe.  We hadn't had nearly the relationship I'd had with Polly.  I got a lovely note from her daughter about a week after Polly's death, thanking me for all I did, especially for just plain loving her mom.  (I still have that note.)

I crossed the room at the youth house, stood at the snack table, and picked up a cookie.

Wouldn't you know it...the first one I grabbed said "Dunk head first" on the back.

I swallowed a huge lump of more-sweet-than-bitter emotion and whispered, "Okay, honey," and then bit the head off the cookie.


  1. Thank-You for sharing this touching story.

  2. You write so well and totally share your heart. Thank you!


If you are rude, spiteful, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge just for putting up with you.

Please be nice.