Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the idea of home

it has been a very intense time in the lives
of my two clients
one now lives in a nursing home as of yesterday
and the other at 96 years of age
had an operation yesterday
and greeted me with a big smile
sitting in his chair
in his home this morning

I am caring for and learning from these individuals
the value of home
watching the pain and anger of my little lady
reacting to being "put into" the nursing home
watching a daughter know that the time had come
and her pain channeled into trying her best
to creatively work with such small space
and within boundaries
put together
a little representation of her mother's

I was honored that she asked me to be part of the
design team: the daughter and me
we spent several hours on Saturday shopping
writing down ideas of what would be good to take
from home
and doing our best to make the space
comfortable and comforting
I loved the experience and happy that my vehicle
worked when she needed a larger space
for transporting

the efforts in the beginning have not been received
how difficult it must be to make the adjustments
away from a large beautiful home that holds so many stories
and especially it held that powerful energy called independence

to age
to be 93 or 96
how extraordinary to have that vantage point on personal
and external history
the upsides are fascinating
the downsides can be grueling
depending on your response or reaction to circumstances
way beyond your control
for example the loss of memory
or use of your body to do the simplest of tasks...
the list goes on as time goes on

yesterday in the nursing home everything was very touchy
like walking on shards of broken glass
and trying to smile your way through it

at one point, my little lady was expressing her anger
verbally in the hallway
her wheelchair needed to be moved in order for another resident
to pass by with her walker
I saw that if I moved another wheelchair it would solve the spatial issue
our walker-lady then made her own move
right up to our little shouting person and said to her:
"If you want to get better and stronger you need to listen to
what people around here are telling you to do.
They are trying to help you.
If they tell you something, just say 'Yes, Ma'am' and do it."
and she proceeded on her merry walker way!

we all became quite quietly speechless at the direct wisdom imparted
from the mouth of one who knew and literally walked-the-walk.

the nurse then said: shall we go to your room now?
and I almost laughed out very loud when we heard a sharply distinct:
"YES, MA'AM" coming from a wheelchair
which held a precious suffering woman
wanting only to go home
fighting inside herself
with her daughter
with her body
with her failing memory that refuses to contain the facts of falling
so many times in the past several weeks...

where is home?
my elderly gentleman and I touched on that topic several times
in the past few days as well

it has triggered thoughts for me
is it a place
a structure
an address
do you own it or does it own you

what have you gathered inside the walls, the rooms, the closets
what meaning do I place on things
what can I let go of
what do I keep and why
are the stories we live alive in the house?
am I happy wherever I am as long as the people I love are there with me?

being with elderly people all the time
the issues of finality come up
some are very candid and humorous about their mortality
about their estates and wills and the hereafter, whenever, wherever
this morning I was so happy to see my elderly friend
with amazing energy after a serious medical event
we joked
I told him that I was really happy that I found him at home this morning
and not chatting it up with St. Peter (he mentioned that as a possible
outcome of anesthesia gone awry or any number of kablooeys)
"We'll save that for another day...."

what do we hold on to
what defines home
we all know you can't take it with you
so you leave it all behind hopefully with joy and harmony guiding the process
being the result of a lifetime of investing your energy and heart

"things" are representational
the physical aspects of a home are extensions of ourselves, our personalities
our affection for others...

I love homes in the natural world
the nests of birds are particularly fascinating and moving to me
just last night I was reading in a magazine how it is a nice idea
to leave a bucket outside filled with bits of string and yarn, for example,
as potential building materials for homes for certain birds
even the smallest of art supplies have meaning once again

I won't get carried away with my robin's nest story
(it helped me through some very dark days)
but I will say that in my discussions about "in the old days"
in the pioneer days
or today
people have made and continue to make homes
as vastly different as a tiny little cottage to a castle
and the thing that really matters is the
that is there
(or not there)
deep inside
the kind of love that goes beyond material
goes beyond definition, permeates the atmosphere,
because it is so vital and spiritual, rich and vast,
eternal and natural
exploding in its own joy
tranquil in its own peace
and the structure is warm, a human nest
a place to rest and revitalize
to create what really matters
that goes way past even our own dreams
a glimpse... a simple glorious glimpse...

I have spent the last four plus years mostly "in homes" really
my own, trying to create a touch of that "glimpse" for my children
a sense of nest
as they prepare and then do fly away...

even at the cancer center, we refer to our chairs in the chemo room as "nests"
and cozy them up as much as possible for ourselves and for each other
many many times I have mentioned that I might as well take a cot there
because it is one of my homes

I work for
"Home Instead"
so that for as long as possible people might be able to
stay in their homes instead
and then when they need to Move On Instead
I want to be there for the transition
as we attempt to create a new nest
from which, yes, they will someday,
fly away


  1. Oh Gloria, what a poignant and thoughtful post this is. So beautifully written...

  2. Dear Gloria...my best to you & blessings for what you are doing to help others. My Mom went through many transitions herself before she crossed over & it's so hard on everyone. Your strength is amazing.