I realize I have expressed appreciation for some pretty random things, and because of that, I feel it’s time for a disclaimer. I don’t want any reader to assume I am not thankful for the truly important blessings IN and OF life because I truly do. When I started this blogging challenge, I thought of the times I say to myself, “Oh, I just love fuzzy robes or rocking chairs or knee-high nylons.” You know – weird things that we have always enjoyed or just discovered.
Those are the kinds of items or experiences we rarely mention when counting our blessings or sharing “thanksgiving thoughts.” But I think people who possess an “attitude of gratitude” are thankful for EVERYTHING – including some silly stuff.
Last night after reading a friend’s “I’m thankful for…” comment on FaceBook, I thought I could categorize my most important blessings into 3 areas: my FAITH, my FAMILY, and my FRIENDS. So today I DO want to write about one of those topics – but just one aspect because its impact is so vast that I think most people could post 30 blogs on this one theme – friendship.
Friends are always important, but even more so when a person does not have any or many family members to lean on, mingle with, or grouch at. My mom’s friend Karen was such an individual. I didn’t know her well, and Mom only made her acquaintance about 5 years ago when she and Dad moved into their adult-living condominium. Because of that, I can’t share too many details about this lonely woman’s life.
Karen was in her 50s when we first met her. Mom and I figured she must have been one of the last of her generation to contract polio as we couldn’t think of many younger who suffered the effects of that deplorable disease. As a result, she could not walk, but she got around on a motorized scooter.
Karen had never married, and her parents and siblings had all passed away. Because of her many health issues, she had a difficult time holding down a job, and so she subsisted on a very limited income. Her dearest companion was her little dog.
Nevertheless, Karen possessed a fun sense of humor that often delighted my mother who was old enough to be HER mother as Karen was younger than my sister and me! But she looked and felt much older, so she fit in well with the residents whose ages ranged from the 50s to the 90s.
Karen and Mom visited ladies from church on a monthly basis. It was their assignment, but they enjoyed going once they got there. Karen always called for the appointments, thus ensuring that Mom was a dedicated visitor. They also played cards together every Thursday – the highlight of the week. After the card games or the homeowners’ association meeting, the two occasionally griped about a card player at the game or a poor decision at the meeting. They may have even grumbled about each other, for all I know.
Mom also drove Karen to the doctors’ offices on occasion – not always an easy task for my 84-year-old mother. In one sentence, she would complain about it and then admit she was glad she did it. Mom sometimes told me she couldn’t provide this transportation service anymore; she was getting too old. But she always did.
One day, Karen called Mom to tell her she canceled her doctor’s appointment so Mom wouldn’t need to take her. A few days later, however, Karen checked into the hospital, and Mom told me she wasn’t doing very well. Whenever we discussed Karen, Mom always added, “She doesn’t really have anybody, you know.”
I soon learned that Karen did have a niece when Mom told me that after a week, her friend was still in the hospital. And then she told me that nearly the entire building had been visiting her. Mom mentioned that she’d probably just call since Karen had so many visitors every day. But Mom didn’t call; she visited her friend and stayed for over an hour.
During that visit, Karen confided in Mom that she wondered if she’d “make it.” She didn’t. Mom called me in tears a couple of days ago, after learning that her friend just died. She felt so bad, and so did I. After discussing a few details – it may have been stomach cancer; a niece was handling the “arrangements;” one of the residents found a home for the dog – Mom added, “Karen didn’t really have anyone, you know.”
Oh, but she did! Karen didn’t leave behind a grieving husband or distraught children. She didn’t precede her parents or her siblings in death. Karen may not have enjoyed many family relationships, but she did experience the happiness that friends can bring into lives. Those people at the complex loved her everyday, including her final days, and they will miss her in future days because that’s what FRIENDS and FAMILY do.
November 26, 2009 at 8:14 PM
Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. Life has it twists and turns and we are so blessed to have traveled this road for so long and with so many loved ones like your friend, Karen.