I know you’re only here for the food.
Spicy stories: I’m talking about spice, people. Spices, as in Habanero Peppers and Cayenne, spice, as in Cilantro and Cumin. Spicy salsa paired with sweet, cool mango to offset the fire from the pepper.
Of course, there are the spicy stories that happen in life…
…stories of first dates, stories of marriage proposals, weddings and babies and all the sweet things in between, and the spicy people that tell them.
My daughter and I have been spending a lot of time at a geriatric rehabilitation facility lately. It’s where my dad is. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work. You see, on our first visit there; we walked through a hallway full of old people in wheelchairs, some scooting about with their feet, others napping, head slumped to the side and, some cursing and yelling. I scanned my daughter’s face to survey her reaction. Eyes were wide, as she grasped at my forearm, and hid at my side, doing all she could to avoid any contact. She said it smelled like air freshener and diapers, and she was scared her toes would get run over. I quickly assured her that we were totally safe, and I began to greet the wheel-chaired residents.
Children learn from parental response.
Since that day, we have made friends with several residents, some remember us daily, some don’t. My daughter now looks forward to our daily trips there, and she is brave enough to go to the community room to visit with the nurses and people while I sit with my dad. Most of the time, however we go visit the other residents together. Some days, faces light up when they see us, other days we are scooted off by memories replaying in their heads, which leads me to explain to her what happens to some people as they age.
One lady in particular, (I will call her Maria) took a liking to my daughter. Whenever she sees her, her eyes glisten, like a mother in awe of her newborn baby. She reaches her hands out, scoots forward with her feet in her wheelchair, and calls, with outstretched arms: “Sophia? ” Then, she will speak in fast paced Spanish all the wonderful things grandmothers say. On occasion, we will have a translator nearby, and they will fill us in on the conversation. My daughter and I do our best to communicate in our broken Spanish; “No habla Espanol” Yo No Se” and other standard greetings and replies.
The funny thing is, she speaks perfect English. She saw me once while I was there without my daughter, and told me a story of when her home was robbed, and how she was very sad about it. Somehow, my daughter reminds her so much of her granddaughter that, in her mind, she is Sophia, despite my daughter telling her otherwise. And, that makes her speak only Spanish.
We soon found out that she has been there five years, apparently forgotten by family. No visitors, even on special occasions. So, the highlight of seeing someone- anyone that takes a moment to hear her speak of her memories (even if we don’t understand her) means the world to her. My daughter sees this, and asks to see her on each visit.
There is (I will call her) Susie, perhaps the most joyous senior citizen I have ever met. So full of joy, she radiates. She gets so happy, she will tear up. We will sit and chat with her, she will tell us stories of how she was very sick as a child, and she was in the hospital for a very long time. She remembers seeing her parents cry over her, and she said that it was then and there that she decided she would always be as happy as she could. She said she never understood why they were so sad, while she was the one hospitalized. Of course, later in life she understood. As we visit her, she continues on of how much our visit means to her, of how she can tell we are “like her”, and then she will tear up and explain she’s so happy. My daughter presented her with a stuffed animal one day, I’m not sure if I could ever make anyone as happy as that made her. On occasion, she will remember us from day to day, other days, we go back around with the introductions and the stories- But; one thing never changes: her joy.
There is, I will call her Eugenia: Eugenia is a quiet, soft spoken lady. Perhaps from the south with a slight drawl in her voice, she smiles a big smile, which is beautiful despite the lacking teeth. It is a beautiful smile like that of an infant, gummy and innocent. She scoots around with a walker, and on good days, the arm of a friend. She loves Jesus and is at peace. Content and pleasant, proud and unashamed.
There also is , we have named her, “The Cursing Lady” often times, we will hear her shout a sailor’s dictionary of adjectives, usually toward another resident; often towards a gentleman that is oblivious to her remarks, which fuels her even more. We came across her in the corridor one day, and she smiled and asked if Santa was good to us this year. Graciously, we said yes.
There is (I will call her) Lilly, a sweet, petite elderly woman whom we both love despite the fact of language barriers. If I were to guess, when she was younger-she was the quiet artsy type, because we always find her, sitting alone drawing, sewing, working on embroidery, or another craft project. I usually help her thread a needle and my daughter does her best to tell her she likes her art in Spanish. We visited her in her room one day, and she shared with us family photos and craft projects she was working on. But, again:seldom she has any visitors, although family is in town.
It’s terribly upsetting it is to see loved ones age, there is a hurt that swells in my heart when I realize they will never be how they once were. But, the fact is: they still are here. Just because they are not the same as before, doesn’t mean they no longer exist. It may be hard to see the aging progress, but that’s no reason to rob them of the joy of companionship. Sometimes, you have to put aside how you feel to help others feel better. That’s what we do, anyway. And, funny thing is, the happier they get; the less sad we are over the circumstances at hand. Life is a daily process, making someone else’s day better always makes our day a little sweeter.
A short visit goes a long way.
Oh yes: Salsa:
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced and drained
- 1 mango, diced
- ¼ onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup cilantro, diced
- juice of 1 lime
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 /2 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon sugar or agave
- ½ habenaro pepper, diced fine (use gloves)
- Mix all ingredients, serve with chips or as a topping for grilled chicken, pork or fish