Friday, September 14, 2012

This is Charity

Lucky has gotten weird about walks. He runs away when I ask him if he wants to go for a walk. So I grabbed him, leashed him and headed out. He pulled me on our route as though werewolves were after him. He didn't stop to pee, sniff, or bark at other dogs. Poor Honeybun, attached to him by the coupler leash, was gagging as he dragged her behind him. It was like he was race walking...This is not the lazy, meandering, plodding Lucky I know. What is going on in his brain? Honeybun never complained. She seemed to know he was nuts, and compliantly let herself be dragged behind him. What a charitable dog she is!

Then I got a call from the Assisted Living Home where Mom K resides. The alarm I had installed to warn the staff when Mom K gets up has a monitor that we put on a high shelf. When people help her up, they push the reset button to silence the alarm. Apparently, Mom K figured out how to push the reset button. So she doesn't call for help using the call button like she *is* supposed to, but gets up alone, turns off the alarm and then goes walking alone like she *isn't* supposed to. And the staff doesn't know she is up and about because she has turned off the alarm system I installed to help alert them.
"The nurse says she seems to be getting a lot better," said Jamie, the manager, when he called, "And she certainly has enough on the ball mentally to outfox us."
This is not the ailing, weak, and confused woman I thought was in that body. What is going on in her brain? But the staff wasn't complaining. They knew she was not malicious, just confused. What charitable people!

Asherel and I were already planning to go to the Home for the "Family Day" bonanza they had planned that evening. So we went a little early. We were told Mom K was eating dinner in her room. The dining room was being converted to a talent show stage and auditorium for the big event. There was to be pie tasting for family and residents during the show. On the way in, I noticed that Carol, the activity director had set up an art show to honor "National Assisted Living Week." The horse drawings from the class I had taught were all framed and neatly arranged. The walls and beautifully set up tables in two rooms were covered with tastefully displayed arts and crafts. Some were by residents, some by their families. It showed so much care, devotion, and effort that I wanted to find Carol and hug her. How tenderly and deeply she valued these residents was evident in the lovely display she had engineered.

We went on to Mom K's room. When she saw us, she looked up from her chicken salad sandwich and said bitterly, "This is charity."
I could tell she was not happy, but I could not imagine why.
"What do you mean?"
"Arvo left me with that neighbor over there," she said, waving down the hallway, "And he left me with no money or food. I was starving. Finally someone came by and offered me this food. This is charity. Arvo left me here to starve."
At this point, Asherel sat down on the bed, which set off the pressure sensitive alarm. I saw that Jamie, the manager, had moved the monitor with the shut off switch to the top of a high cabinet. I had to climb on the bed to shut it off. It was like a car alarm...and loud.
"That was going off all night," mentioned Mom K, "And just now he moved it where I can't shut it off."
Asherel sat on the floor.
"Mom," I said, "The alarm is to tell nurses to come help you. You are not supposed to shut it off. You live here. This is your home. Your wonderful health care insurance pays for all of this, including the food. You don't need to worry about money. You will get meals three times a day. And your neighbor lives in this assisted living center too. Everyone here will get food, and care, and everything they need."

She didn't believe me, but I distracted her with the promise of pie and entertainment down the hall. The three of us went off to the talent show/pie tasting down the hall. First, a large group of the residents did a can-can kick line number. One lady was quite vigorous in her kicks and the lady next to her, who was a small frail little thing started to topple. Jamie caught her and the can-can ended with no fatalities. Next a family member came out and did a magic show. He hadn't done magic in some 30 years but his wife had urged him to trot out his show for the residents' special day. In his first act, he made a cone out of newspaper. Then he began to pour milk into the cone. Milk started dripping out the bottom of the cone.
"Oh-oh, malfunction," he said.
"Was that supposed to happen?" asked one resident loudly.
"No," whispered her daughter.
The magician's other tricks mostly worked and the crowd was delighted.
The key lime pie was top quality.
At the activity leader's prompt, Mom K sang with all the other residents, "You are my Sunshine" and everyone waved homemade little suns on sticks.
"This is our version of a flash mob," said Jamie.

Asherel still had some school work left, so we slipped out before it was over. In the lobby, Jamie and the nurse, Deb were standing, watching the show. Deb, asked me if Mom K liked German food. (Mom K was born in Germany.) They thought she would enjoy an outing to the German restaurant one day and Deb thought she would suggest it to the activity leader.
"Oh Jamie," I said, "The alarm went off and it is LOUD."
"We can go try to turn it down afterwards," he offered, "But do you know what she said when I put it on top of the cabinet? 'I can't reach it there.' I told her, 'Gert, you're not supposed to reach it!' "
We laughed. Mom K was right about one thing. No one had deserted her, no one was starving her, but it was indeed charity.

This is how Webster defines Charity:

1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

Sometimes charity involves letting ourselves be dragged behind another, like poor Honeybun in my crazy dog Lucky's wake. Sometimes charity involves treating old people with declining health, and tangled thoughts as if they were diamonds- precious and of inestimable worth. I think that is exactly how God would want us to treat one another. It is something that this wonderful Assisted Living Center does exactly right.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. -1 Corinthians 13:13

-save a dog-

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