This weekend my wife convinced me that it would be a good idea to drive to Washington, Iowa to visit her 90something year-old grandmother. I can't say that I was overly thirlled to give up a Saturday to go, but at the same token I knew it would make my wife and Grandma Daisy happy. We later learned through my wife's father that they were moving Daisy into a nursing home that week so our timing was perfect.
After loading up with coffee and some doughnuts, we set off in the rain through rural Iowa en route to small town America. Our kids were preoccupied with a movie on my laptop most of the way while my wife and I spent most of the 2 hours chatting, which was a blessing - truly.
When we arrived in Washington, the rain was relentless so it looked like we were bound to be indoors most of the weekend. We entered through the smokey main entrance and found her "apartment" at the end of the hallway. We were greeted by an elderly couple from the local Baptist church that had come to visit with Daisy. They quickly grabbed their belongings, handed us a Christian tract, and headed for the door.
I understood why they left so soon. Daisy's hearing had digressed so much we found ourselves yelling at an uncomfortable level to communicate. She offered to turn the TV on for the kids, but the volume was at such an obscene level I quickly turned it off. She later explained that the gentleman next to her apartment moved his bed to the other side of the room because of the volume of the TV. Thankfully my wife's father had ordered some hearing aids that hadn't arrived quite yet.
Daisy explained that because of her hearing she primarily reads to pass the time. I struggled to understand life without being able to hear or much less communicate. My heart started to crack in realizing how lonely this must be for her.
She wanted us to take her to lunch, but unfortunately it's next to impossible to get a wheelchair bound grandmother into a SUV. So the boys and I headed out to McDonald's to get lunch for everyone. Thankfully they had a playground to help burn off some energy.
We ate lunch in silence. I think my wife was thankful because the conversation was already awkward enough and to throw having to yell on top of it made it miserable for everyone.
We offered to take Daisy over to her old cottage to gather any belongings she needed so we pushed her the 2 blocks in the sunshine. Her cottage was a mess and she was very troubled by the way it looked. While it seemed she was able to let go of most of her belongings, her heart was wounded because she took pride in her home. Now this was being taken from her.
"This is really hard to see my house in shambles" she said to me after sitting in her bedroom quietly for 10 minutes.
I didn't know what to say. I yelled, "I'm sorry. This must be very difficult for you."
She watched my littlest playing with some plastic balls that rang from the tiny bells inside. They were toys her cat used to paw around the living room before it was taken to the local animal shelter.
"They won't let me have my cat at my apartment so she's at the Human Society now," she said grabbing a stuffed kitten toy as memory. "He can take those balls if he wants them. I don't need them anymore."
My wife suggested having us go to a nearby park to pass time, to move Daisy from a depressing setting, and to allow my wife to clean a bit. The boys and I wheeled her back down the street, eyeing the dark approching clouds as we slowly walked towards the daycare. Daisy had wanted us to go to the park across town and again we had to shoot down the idea because of our vehicle.
My heart broke even more.
By the time we arrived at the playground and got everyone situated, large rain drops poured onto us. Thankfully a staff member at the nursing home wheeled Daisy to safety as I scooped up the boys and ran. He was a kind gentleman that offered the boys some M&Ms. He later returned with a bowl filled to the brim with candy. Three boys and a gradmother scooped handfuls of the multi-color sweets into their mouths. And we finally enjoyed a moment together.
We didn't stay too much longer as we had plans later that evening we needed to attend to. But as I walked the hallways and met eyes with the lonely, I realized that we as Christians are missing out on a great opportunity to befriend the friendless. God granted me this epiphany earilier in the year when we visited my wife's other grandmother in the nursing home. I really, really enjoyed myself as we conversed with each other and the other residents. Most of these people are at the last stage of their lives and all they want is friendship so that they don't feel alone. The staff at these places are jaded and not compassionate, unlike our Maker. But as my eyes locked with the eyes of the elderly, I found peace and serenity. I found hope to be made new again. I found the face of Jesus.