24 April, 2009

Living in the moment

I'm still visiting the nursing home here in town a couple of times a week to help give lunch to the patients. Usually my visits there are rewarding, but unremarkable. Yesterday, for some reason, however, the atmosphere was tense. When one woman received her lunch she shouted: HALLELUJA! and an otherwise docile man sitting next to her screamed "SHUT UP!" Two other patients started howling.

If the moon wasn't full last night it should have been!

One woman sitting across from me became suddenly agitated and said she had to leave, that otherwise she would be late and that everyone would be angry with her! Realizing that her appointment was only in her head, I just smiled at her and said not to worry, that she had plenty of time. Her entire body relaxed and she smiled happily. "What should I do now?" she asked. When I suggested she tell me a story from her past she shook her head coquettishly and said "No, that's too dangerous."

There's one guy I really like-- he sits in his wheelchair at a table with about 10 other people who are all completely demented. He can hardly move at all, but there's just something about him and his penetrating gaze-- I have this steadily growing suspicion that he's mentally sharp and trapped in a dead-weight body.

Yesterday when I went over to him to say hello he saw me and started sobbing! Since he can't speak I had no idea what was wrong-- if something physical was bothering him or if he was just generally depressed.

It's funny, because in that kind of situation the first phrases that come to mind are completely useless: "It's going to be OK." or "Don't cry." So in lieu of that I just didn't say anything and sat with him and held his hand while he cried and pressed my hand to his cheek as his tears ran down my arm.

Every time I leave that place I see the world in technicolor. I revel in the fresh air and in the long strides that take me home. I hug my children a little tighter and savor my coffee after lunch. I am reminded to take time to recognize the blessings in my life today, because I will not always be this lucky, this able, this alive!

My experiences volunteering at the nursing home may not always be easy to digest, but my life is definitely all the richer for them.


Goofball said...

wow that sounds like truly rewarding visits.

Anonymous said...

This was very moving to read. May we all have someone like you to be with us in such a time of need.

By the way, I am a fairly new reader. I assume that you are volunteering in a German nursing home. Are you fluent in German? Just wondering because I have been looking for volunteering opportunity in another area of Germany, but I'm just starting to learn German.

Betsy said...

anonymous: Hi! Thanks for your kind comment!

Yes, this is a German nursing home, and I took a couple of years of intensive German lessons before I dared even knock on their door. (That said, it doesn't always help, because most people there speak in a Schwabian dialect, so I find myself saying "Wie bitte?" a lot more often than I'd like. ;-) )

There are other organizations, though, with which you could volunteer. In Stuttgart they have a German - American Women's Club that does a lot of volunteer work, and you don't need to be able to speak German for that. Maybe there's something like that in your community?

If you're interested in German classes I can highly recommend the Volkshochschule-- it's a government-run adult education organization, and the classes I had were very reasonably priced and the instruction was excellent!

Feel free to drop me a mail at dyevushka at yahoo dot com if you have any more questions about German lessons or life in Germany in general!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'll check into these suggestions. :)