Tuesday evening, the schedule says “join residents at Manor for Bingo 6-8 pm”. I arrive at 6, and the lobby receptionist gives me an updated calendar, saying, “There’s bingo tonight on the 11th floor, but they are eating dinner right now; bingo starts at 710. Do you just want to wait in the lobby, have a cup of coffee for awhile?”
So, enticed by some coffee, I went into the lobby (also where mail is picked up) and sit down for awhile to relax, (which is not so easy for a type A like me to do). I was thinking that I was wasting time for an hour, I should have brought my laptop to catch up on other tasks, etc; and then, as God is fond of doing, surprises in the form of lovely lady residents arrived and started picking up their mail, and came over and introduced themselves to me…before I knew it, I was sitting on the sofa with three wonderful women, who shared their most precious stories with me…that ranged from a new bride on her way to play bridge, leaving her groom upstairs to continue working on a play. (a playwright)…still sparkling and smiling at finding true love at her time of life. Then there was another sweet woman who shared she had been a nurse, taught nursing and was now retired, and relished in telling me about her retirement party (in 1996) where her fellow nurses gave her an autographed book with 71 signatures in it. She shared how she gave vaccinations for schools, and how she used to hug the children during the vaccination, and “always told them the truth that it was going to hurt a little bit”, and one day she was in a grocery store, and a little boy ran up to her and hugged her tight. Her mother was surprised at how much affection he showed, because he’d just had his vaccinations administered by her…”He’s not afraid of you?, she said”. And this sweet woman began her story again about how she always told them the truth and hugged them, and one more time about the book with 71 autographs in it…in her room. Another smiling woman, anxious to introduce me to everyone who stopped by the lobby, began her story…she was a nurse too, had moved out to San Diego to change careers and be with her daughter after her husband died. She had a second career in public health, then retired, and moved to St. Paul’s Manor. She met her neighbor, and they became fast friends and played tennis, went hiking, eventually traveled staying in hostels all around Europe. Then, a few years later, he developed dementia, and ended up in Memory Care, where she visited him everyday. He fell, broke a hip, then fell again, broke his leg. It was a traumatic year for her. He died this past November. “So, you see, Pam, I won’t be joining you for bingo tonight. I need to get to my room and organize some things. I am grieving.” I expressed my condolences for her loss…then, for some reason she told me how she had been in counselling for about 3 months and the last time she went, the counselor told her she didn’t need to come back for 3 months, if at all. That she seemed to be doing “fine”. I sat with her then, put my hand on hers and said, “This is all still very sudden – isn’t it? she nodded. “He was a good friend and you miss him. This will take some time”. she nodded again. I suggested she find a group for grief counseling and if she ever wanted just to talk, I’d be happy to listen. She smiled and thanked me. After I left, got on the elevator to the 11th floor and nodded and said in my heart, “Thank you God for your fondness of surprises when we least expect them. Now I know why you put me in the lobby with time on my hands and your love in my heart.