At 89, Eileen is a spunky, cute, white haired, nicely dressed, funny, sharp as a tack, very independent, woman – and in spite of her limitations, very proud and oh so frustrated that she couldn’t do all the things she “used to do — ‘I don’t know what happened but now I can’t do much of anything for myself anymore.’ ” Eileen’s general health is great…it’s just those ‘damn’ legs and feet that don’t work.
Once a week, I’d pick up Eileen from her apartment building and off we’d go on our outing. She’d say, “I won’t take much of your time,” but once we got out, we’d be out about 3 hours. She needed the outing, and I needed to take her. When she wasn’t up to walking, she’d either ride along and wait in the car while I shopped for her, or she’d wait in the lobby of her building while I ran errands for her. She’d interact with the residents as they came and went—the socialization was good for her morale.
We’d go to the bank, the doctor, the market, the Dollar Store, Target to pick up prescriptions where we would look up and down nearly every aisle in the store. Getting out and pushing a cart around the stores was a form of exercise for her. Every time she’d see a little child she’d say, “I wish I could see my grandchildren” and share pictures or stories about them. Her smaller grands live out of state and the older ones are grown, in the area but busy with their own lives.
We’d manage to then get the goods and I’d take them up to her apartment. We became ‘Friday’ friends. I’d call mid-week to confirm and she’d always say, “I didn’t think you’d want to come.” I assured her it wasn’t a burden for me but something I wanted to do.
Eileen’s day-to-day life is pretty solitary. She has a cat — he’s her pal. He greets her with leg rubs and meows when she returns from our outings and she kisses him and calls him “her boyfriend.” He helps keep away loneliness.
At the end of every visit we would sit a minute in the lobby, and she’d tell me how much she loved our visits and our outings and told me how grateful she was that I’m willing to come each week to help her out. We’d hug goodbye, blow kisses to each other and she’d shuffle her way with her walker back to her apartment and her “boyfriend.”
Eileen had a fall a while ago and is no longer able to live alone. She was taken to a nursing home and is now in an assisted living facility. That happened just as the COVID crisis started so she can’t have visitors—but as soon as the cloud is lifted, I will visit her.
My time volunteering with Eileen came to an end but I will NEVER-EVER forget her.
–Sue Bartlett, Sammamish