Friday, April 27, 2007

Well, If Frieda Could See This. . . I just don't know what she'd think!

This morning, someone made me think about the couple of years I spent working in a nursing home. Oh, it seems like a lifetime ago, but those people will always be with me. Now, if the elderly gentlemen in the Men's Club got a gander at that bead on the left, they'd blush and wheel those wheelchairs away just as fast as possible. But, if Frieda were still around, I think she and I would have some interesting discussions about my glass art. Frieda would not talk to anyone from the Activity Department when I first started working at the nursing home. Of course, since I was new, the bosses decided I should get the "opportunity" to do social visits with her. We were a pretty upbeat, positive group, but Frieda was not interested in talking to us or stringing beads on a string or listening to music or anything else. She was mad at the world, or at least at those of us inhabiting her world at the time. Me? I was determined to do my job, and being new on the job couldn't just give up. So, I made my trek to Frieda's room at least three times each week. First, I told her I had to. . . now, she did have a right to refuse services, but she didn't kick me out. She told me she reckoned I could sit down, but she hardly uttered a word while I was there. Shoot, when I was a kid and the neighbors got mad at us, we would smile and wave at them everytime we saw them. I was frustrated, but this grumpy woman was not gonna keep me from finding out what she'd done in life, how she'd gone blind, where she grew up, you name it. In fact, at first, I think I probably peppered her with those kinds of questions. When she didn't answer or grunted a terse "yes" or "no", I'd just rattle on about my own life. If I'd asked her where she grew up and gotten a single syllable answer, I'd start telling her all about Kentucky and living in the country. Eventually, she couldn't resist. She'd been a country girl herself, and she could teach me a thing or two! She did, too. I can't remember all the things she told me about, but I do remember that she was a pretty resourceful wife and mother. The most important thing Frieda taught me was to appreciate the beauty in life. Before long, we were visiting and talking a mile a minute. . . and then she told me a little about going blind. She hadn't always been blind, so she remembered so many things in her mind's eye that her real eyes could no longer see. I became her eyes three times a week. If I asked her to come to the Activity room and join us for an art project, she'd decline in one breath and in the next breath say, "But tell me what you're going to do this time! Describe the colors like you do, and tell me all about it." If I saw some pretty flowers at the apple orchard, she needed to know exactly what color those mums were from the center of the flower to the outer edges of the bloom. My best day ever at the nursing home? Had to be the day we marched in the Pumpkin Parade (I think that was it) and Frieda and I wore matching jester/harlequin satin costumes as I pushed her wheelchair along with the rest of the group. Well, there were other wonderful days, but that one does rank awfully high on the list if it's not number one. I moved away, but someone called me when Frieda died. Some people like to send somber, muted color flowers for a funeral. Not me, at least not for Frieda. She and I had loved color together, and I ordered the brightest color flowers possible from the flower shop. I heard they were very eye-catching, and her daughter sent word that the message was definitely appreciated. There are other people I remember from those days, but today, I just wanted to celebrate Mrs. Frieda-- and I do wish she were still around because she'd love to talk glass (even if it involved naughty "nekkid" women beads)!

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