When I sit in the lobby of a local memory-care facility, I see people and sometimes I don’t know if they are residents or visitors. When I first saw Virginia, I thought she was visiting someone. She was well kept and had a radiating smile. She’s probably in her 80’s and has a Betty White kind of look (turns out she’s also takes pride in being a little devilish like Betty – lol).
As I started talking with her, she told me she had come down stairs to hear the music that was going to be played. I noticed that we were sitting next to a piano so that made perfect sense. As we sat there, employees started helping other residents gather in the activities room across from the lobby. I quickly realized that the music would be played there. Virginia, however, had not figured this out even after music could be heard.
As I prepared to leave for my meeting, I mentioned to Virginia that I believed she should join the others where the music was coming from. She thanked me and headed over to the room.
The following week when I entered the facility, I immediately saw Virginia sitting in a comfortable chair. I joined her and said hello. She lit up and said good morning to me. I started some small talk by mentioning the wonderful 80 degree weather we were experiencing in January. She acknowledged my comment with a smile. I then mentioned how the east coast was having some horrible snow storms.
The mention of the east coast immediately prompted her to tell me about how “her man” is dying back in New York. Rather than discussing an emotional situation, I attempted to redirect by asking her if she was from New York. She quickly told me she is from Pennsylvania but she had spent some time in New York where she met “her man who is dying”. She then looked up and saw a shuttle bus out front and said, “I wonder if they will drive me to New York?”
I could tell that she was getting emotional but she didn’t cry. I wasn’t sure what to say or do, so I just listened to her talking about how she missed him and hoped that he would be OK. I tried to comfort her by telling her to remember the good times they had together. I don’t think she heard me.
I then told her goodbye and I started making my way towards the exit. As I was walking away, she thanked me for talking with her. That was nice.
This last week, I was purposely looking for Virginia when I visited the facility. I didn’t see her on my first visit, and this disappointed me. On my second visit that week, I saw her asleep in the comfortable chair. Across from her was a gentleman that was also snoozing. I sat between them but did not wake them.
Virginia soon stirred. I said, “Hello Virginia. My name is Mike”. She seemed confused. I’m not sure if she was surprised that I know her name or if she was still sleepy. Without me saying anything, she instantly started talking about Dr. Bill (the previous week she did not use his name and only referred to him as “her man”) back in New York. She was visibly upset because Dr. Bill is dying and she misses him. This time she started crying. At some point, she also mentioned that she misses her children. From the tone in her voice, I felt like she believed them to be deceased but they might not be. In either case, I think she’s lonely.
I tried to switch the conversation to her children. When I asked their names, she hesitated before she was able to answer me. She then immediately switched back to Dr. Bill. When she talks about Dr. Bill, it is so real that I want to fly her back to New York. I want to help her see him before he passes. But then I remember that Dr. Bill has likely been dead for years.
I sure hope Virginia’s children visit her soon.
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