Although I had no relation or obvious connection to her, I visited my friend, who lived at a nearby nursing home, nearly every week. Frail, elderly, and with a diminishing grasp on life, she was a beautiful person to me.
I first met her with my five-year-old sister, whom she immediately assumed was my daughter. I swallowed both my giggle and my pride and graciously accepted her compliment on “raising such a wonderful child, especially in this day and age.” I listened to her speak of her wonderful granddaughters. She told me the plots of her favorite novels, offered me a peppermint, showed me the large-print Reader’s Digest that her daughter brought her.
I gazed at her weathered, wrinkled face, her white hair, her small but bright eyes, and wondered how she had lived her life. I marveled at the idea that this fragile, gingham clad woman had once been my age, had once fallen in love. I wondered how she had made her mark on the world before a yellow and purple striped curtain was her only way to shield herself from it. I pondered what she must have been like before the chatter of her roomate’s visitors and the minimal, polite greetings of the nurses were the only things keeping her company. Before her whole existence was limited to half of a room, white walls, and stale air. Before my visits were the anticipated highlights of her weeks.
Each week, she asked me how my husband and daughter were, and I told her that my dad and sister were great. We chatted amiably about nothing until I had to leave. I gave her a big smile and told her that I would come again soon. Her voice cracked as she told me that my visit was the highlight of her day.
But somehow I knew that it was more. Simply by having a conversation with an elderly lady, I had brightened her life and enriched mine. I know that I’m still young, but even I can tell that I have broadened my horizons considerably just by visiting the local nursing home. Because of Aida, I have realized how blessed I am to have my whole life ahead of me. I can now see what a novel thing it is to have two good legs for walking.
I believe in the power of a human connection.