I have “a million” things to do today. I’m putting them aside, though, to do this one thing first: to tell you about a man I met in passing. In my Mom’s nursing home.
I didn’t even catch his name. If I had to guess, I’d say his name might be Bob.
When we arrived on Thursday morning, Bob was sitting in his wheelchair, looking out into the garden. Later, at the luncheon of turkey shreds and other denture-friendly versions of Thanksgiving dinner, I recognized Bob’s back (that’s all I’d seen of him) sitting at the table next to us.
He was with other residents, but was intent on enjoying his food. He didn’t seem unfriendly or withdrawn, but neither was he animated or engaged with his table-mates. I felt a sudden, unexplained but strong, connection with his heart: content, open, full, warm and gold. “Nice guy,” I thought, and turned my attention back to my family.
After dinner an aid pushed Bob’s wheelchair into the lobby, in front of the elevators, and left him there. The elevators were full so we had to wait. In those few minutes I realized that no one was coming back to push him into the elevator and then to his room.
I asked if he needed to get into the elevator. “Well, yes, I’d like to.” So we took Bob with us and found he wanted to go back to the window by the garden. We exchanged “Happy Thanksgivings” that didn’t feel empty or trite and left him back at his post.
If the end of my life turns out to be alone in a nursing home, I hope I remember this day and Bob. That man, with his plaid suspenders and clean white shirt, sure enjoyed his turkey. He enjoyed sparrows in the garden and a squirrel sitting inside the hole he’d eaten in a leftover Halloween pumpkin, cheeks full, still chomping.
Bob didn’t seem sad, bitter, or depressed. He didn’t seem to mind being alone, and neither did he seem to mind company. I got the distinct feeling that he wasn’t lamenting his past as he looked out at the trees and bird feeders. He seemed to be simply admiring God’s work, and rejoicing in a belly full of really salty potatoes and rubbery pecan pie.