By: Tammy Andrews
Have you ever been to a nursing home and saw that little ole lady sitting in the corner who never speaks? The one who just sits there and stares quietly at everyone? Every once in a while, she will give you a fleeting empty look, but there’s no recognition, so she looks away again.
Of course, as an active individual, this is depressing to you and you may even try to avoid her altogether because you are busy. But the fact is, if you are fortunate enough to grow old, one day this could be you. But, have you ever sit and thought about who this old mystery lady used to be? About her family, her hobbies, or what her life was like at all?
Did you know that as a little girl, she used to love to play with her Dollie, a handmade rag doll from her Grandma when she was just four years old? Dollie was her best friend and she would take her everywhere. She and Dollie used to help Mommy make biscuits in the kitchen, and she would hold tight to her when her Daddy would give her a piggyback ride. One day, she left Dollie outside and their dog tore her to shreds. She cried for days, and even though her Grandma made her another one, it was never really quite the same.
Did you know her small, stooped frame was once sturdy and strong? She would walk miles in a day’s time, performing her outside chores in record time, and then race her siblings to the creek where they would swim and skip rocks on sweltering days. Playing tag was her favorite game as she and her friends would chase each other around for hours at times. Did you know she once broke her ankle when she fell out of the barn loft, because she was playing there without permission? She thought she would get scolded for it, but her Daddy never said anything….he just held her hand quietly while she cried in pain at the Doctor’s Office.
Did you know those eyes of hers were once a sparkling blue when she gazed at the love of her life? How her eyes would light up whenever he was around and she could never seem to get that silly smile off her face? The butterflies she felt when he kissed her for the first time that never really seemed to go away, even after 45 years of marriage? These same eyes sparkled softly as she gazed at her newborn children, but could also turn as dark as night when she was angry about something.
Did you know that her crippled hands once created beautiful masterpieces with patches of cloth? Her handmade quilts were the envy of all the neighborhood women, as were the lovely frocks she wore. She was quite the talented seamstress and truly enjoyed the task at hand. These hands also turned the pages of children’s storybooks at bedtime and baked the tastiest desserts. These same fingers also scrolled under a scripture as she read her Bible faithfully every night, which provided solitude in times of need.
Did you know her thin layer of white hair atop her head was once a long, gorgeous mane of flowing dark curls? One so striking, that men would stop and stare as she walked down the streets, although she only had eyes for one man. Did you know she once lost this beautiful hair when she was stricken with breast cancer and never really got it back, even though she beat the horrible disease?
As she sits there quietly, no one would ever guess that she was once so overwhelmed with life that she just wanted to run away from it all- From being a wife, mother, caregiver, disciplinarian, cook, and someone’s maid. How she didn’t feel appreciated or loved for putting everyone else first in her life… And then one day, her smiling baby boy brought her a handmade card with “I Love You” wrote out in sloppy handwriting. She was so touched that she cried and hugged him tightly as he looked at her like she was everything to him. This sweet card hung on her refrigerator until she put it in a frame, because she never forgot how this gift came to her at just the right moment in her life.
Did you know that she once had the voice of an angel? That she could belt out high notes while singing in the church choir and sing the softest of hymns to perfection? A voice so smooth that her children would gaze at her until their eyelids drooped every night as she lovingly sang a lullaby. How she would hum softly as she went about her daily chores or when she felt happy about something.
Did you know that one time her feeble little legs were once strong and lean while she danced the night away in the arms of the man she had just vowed to spend the rest of her life with. This was the highlight of her life. She was a beautiful bride with a beaming smile, who felt ready to take on the world. These strong legs also carried her through three pregnancies, and walked the floors with screaming babies on sleepless nights. Sadly, these legs would also carry her to the graveyard in later years, when she said good-bye to her soulmate and one of her darling babies.
You would never guess that behind that blank stare that she was once the queen of her little world. But this quiet creature has experienced more life than you could ever imagine, and in her mind, she still is. Somewhere in her mind, she is still dancing in the arms of her love, rocking her babies to sleep, and singing at the top of her lungs.
So, while you look at her and feel pity for her, just know that she deserves your respect and even your time. For she still craves attention and good conversation; she just doesn’t want to be a bother. She has experienced the highs and lows of life and has been worn down with loss of loved ones. Take the time to stop and chat with her. Listen to every word she says and take it to heart, because you won’t find a better teacher anywhere. I promise you that you could learn a lot.