I used to work in an apartment complex for independent living, low-income, senior adults. I loved the folks there. They were usually pretty direct in the manner they communicated… no reason to be diplomatic… it takes too much time. They also had patience with themselves and their personal physical condition. They would say, “I didn’t do much yesterday. When I got up, I could tell it wasn’t going to be a good day.” They knew their body and saw no reason to push it past it’s capability. They had nobody to impress. Ultimately, I was blown away by their mental toughness, and tenderness of heart. I could tell just how much time it would take them to get up, shower, make breakfast, and get dressed for the day. I always said that you have to be tough to get old. Sometimes the weariness of the effort would affect their attitude, and they could be petty. But, so what… I tried to just let that be. So many times I would listen, respond if a response was needed, or give another perspective about how they might look at the situation. That was part of my job.
Another part was to act as a liason’ between the residents, and services in the social service sector of the local, county, and state government. This part of my job could be challenging in that I always felt like I was casting them into a big pond by referring them to other agencies. But, that was what I had to do, because they needed to maintain their independence in as many ways possible. I could help them fill out paperwork if necessary, but I was responsible for about 175 apartments, so my time could fill up quickly.
I remember one couple in particular, of which I was quite fond. I’ll call them Bill and Wanda. Bill was a very quiet man, in the early stages of alzheimer’s. He had a very dry sense of humor, which I loved. An engineer by lifelong trade, he had provided well for his family until an automobile accident in which they both had been involved had taken much of their nest egg due to caring for their injuries. You could still see his intelligence, yet also see brief glimpses of the oncoming confusion. I remember Bill coming into my office one morning to discuss upcoming changes in Medicare. I tried to give him information regarding what I knew as well as a website he could also access. He spoke honestly, and courageously about the past, present challenges, and future of his condition. He was trying to get their life settled for Wanda, so she would be provided for when he would no longer be capable of doing so. My heart went out to him. He was funny, and gave a joke as well as took a joke. I enjoyed talking to him.
While Bill was quiet and low-key, Wanda was much more boisterous. A good sense of humor, but sometimes just one click too loud… so some people were annoyed with her. If you spent time talking with her, however, you could tell the goodness of her heart. When in public, it would sometimes appear as if Bill were “hen-pecked.” But that was not the case, it was just a case of two very different personalities. Watching Bill and Wanda interact with each other on a daily basis, I was amazed at how much they loved each other. You could just tell it. They dealt with each other very tenderly. Not in a mushy, corny manner that made others uncomfortable, but just very intimate… thoughtful… caring.
There was a window in our office which openned to a wide lounging area in which residents would sit. Folks came to the window to do minor business of one sort or another…. to get change for laundry…. give rent payments…. whatever. I specifically remember Bill and Wanda standing at the window conversing with me. I don’t remember the subject. What I do remember is Wanda looking at Bill as he was speaking, and reaching up with her finger and lightly adjusting the few tendrils of hair on his head so they were in place. It was a very tender action. Being a quiet person, Bill looked just slightly embarrassed, as he continued talking to me and seemed to blush just a bit. I so loved that picture…. tender… unashamed… affection in a marriage that had lasted close to 60 years. It was absolutely beautiful, and I was so happy for them!
Sometimes, God brings pictures in rich focus as to how the original design is supposed to be. The picture inspires hope, that it still could be….