I stopped and talked with a couple neighbors last night. They were coming out of their house as my little dog Ashae, my “Little Buckaroo”, and I were walking by. The husband is recovering from an injury. He’s been going to therapy and riding a stationary bike at home. I asked him how he was doing and he reported that he continues to improve; that he pushes himself a little farther every day. We talked about the importance of staying active, about how health and wellness, like a many other realities in life, are “motion activated”. When I shared about running the “Bank One Marathon” in Columbus years ago, the wife exclaimed, “You ran a marathon!” I explained, “I didn’t always look like this”. Can anyone out there relate?
Allow me to introduce you to Barb, who was sixty-eight when she enrolled in our outpatient hospice program with chronic airway obstruction. Barb is homebound and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around in her home. She may be down but she’s not out. She cooks and cleans from her wheelchair and clings to what abilities remain.
Barb and I, and sometimes her daughter Angie, periodically convene around the kitchen table for coffee and conversation. One day while reminiscing about “the good ole days”, Angie shared, “When mom was younger, she was really hot. The guys were really after mom.” Barb looked me straight in the eye and suggested, “You probably don’t believe that do you? All you probably see is an old woman in a wheelchair, but I didn’t always look like this!”
Barb was one of seventeen children, born to an oilrig worker, a “tool dresser”. She was born in the state of Delaware, but her parents moved back to their hometown of McDermott, Ohio when Barb was six months old. Her father’s work required frequent temporary moves. I asked Barb if it was difficult for her as a child to change schools and she replied. “Not really. I really loved school. I was good at school. I was always advanced so I was the teacher’s pet. When I was in first grade, I went to school in a one room schoolhouse. I was only in the first grade but I helped teach the third graders math.”
Barb enrolled in college at age thirty and earned a degree in business administration with a minor in psychology. Afterward, she took numerous civil service exams, passing all of them, and landing a job with the state examiner’s office, auditing political subdivisions for ten years. She also taught part-time at a local business college, but Barb’s proudest achievement was her box of awards she earned as a 4-H and Girl Scout leader. Barb sifted through the box, pulled out one patch, one medal, one certificate at a time and enjoyed the memories all over again.
Barb concluded, “It’s not a fault; It’s human nature to see people as they are right now. Some people can’t see with their mind’s eye. When you use your mind’s eye you see beyond the here and now; you imagine. Have you ever seen those TV shows about the pyramids and ancient ruins? Can’t you imagine what they looked like years ago? Can’t you imagine them surrounded by palm trees? Can’t you imagine how beautiful they must have been?”
Barbs sentiments reminded me of a poem I’d seen on a bulletin board at a nurses’ station at Mercy Hospital where I worked over forty years ago. It so impacted me that I made and filed away several copies. I gave Barb a copy and when she read it, she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you have a poem that explains just the way I feel.” Barb immediately pasted it on her refrigerator door. Now I’m sharing excerpts of the poem with you: “What do you see nurses, what do you see?…a crabby old woman, not very wise, uncertain of habit, with far away eyes…Who seems not to notice the things that you do, and is forever losing a stocking or shoe. ..Is that what you are thinking, is that what you see…Then open your eyes nurse you’re not looking at me…I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still, as I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will. I am a small child of ten with a father and mother, brothers and sisters who love one another… a young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet, dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet…inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells; and now and again , my battered heart swells. So, open your eyes…open and see…not a crabby old woman (man), look closer…see me.”
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,”(I Samuel 16:6-8).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.