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I walked towards the modest one story building. There was a sign above the large front door that stated The Sunset Home. I realised that the doors were oversized to accomodate people in wheelchairs or needing assistance.
I entered a large room painted a sunny yellow shade with many bright colored pictures and decorations adorning the walls. Artificial flowers set in plastic vases were on the tables. The curtains covering the windows were made in various colored stripes to block out the glare of too much light. Everything was decorated as if to expel any signs of gloom. I noticed that there was nothing of a personal nature in the room, all was intended to offer cheer to a group.
The occupants were anything but cheerful. The elderly men and women were sitting around the room in silence, in wheelchairs or in armchairs, some watching television, others staring out of a window or into space.
I had come here to offer companionship to those who were lonely. These so-called senior citizens had come to this home because they had been productive and useful people and had helped to produce our present society, but now they could no longer live alone.
I saw a grey-haired lady looking vaguely ahead, I noticed that her dull eyes were a light shade of blue and her short hair curled around her head. I approached her and said, “Betsy, tell me, when you were young was your hair a beautiful blonde?” A bright light entered those faded blue eyes as she answered, “You know, I was the prettiest girl in my class. My mama said that I should always wear blue to bring out the color of my eyes. I was popular with the boys and then I married and my children all had blue eyes.” I left her with a smile on her face.
I walked over to the next person. “Annie, tell me where you used to live,” I asked. She hesitated as she remembered, then the words came pouring out. “Dick and I had a lovely house with a garden full of flowers. There was a swing and a ball net and the childrens’ bicycles along the wall. I did all the gardening myself except of course Dick helped me with the heavy work.” As I walked away her hands were no longer idle, she was gladly working with the imaginary soil.
Alice was dozing in a wheelchair, but she had plenty of time for sleep so I tapped her shoulder and asked, “Alice, were you always at home or did you go out to work?” Her eyes opened wide. “Oh my, I was always busy then, I went to secretarial school and then started to work in an office and would you believe I became head secretary to the owner and all that extra salary could buy us lovely things.” The memory brightened her day.
Mary was wearing a ring on her left hand. “Would you tell me something about that ring?” I asked. “Oh yes,” and she straightened up. “I married a wonderful man who owned a bakery. He taught me to serve the customers and I can still smell the bread and cakes baking in the back room. You know I loved working in the shop so much that when the children were born I still found time to go there. I had such a good life.” Happiness was evident on her face.
I noticed that Bob’s legs were never still so I went to him and said, “You must have been a good dancer.” He slowly and carefully stood up, grabbed my arms and together we whirled around as he hummed a tune and became rejuvenated.
Bob had slim long fingers. “Bob, did you love music?” I queried. His gnarled fingers began to twitch. “I started to play piano when I was five,” he boasted. “My teacher said I had a talent. You know, I performed at all the school concerts and guess what, I became a teacher myself.” Pride was evident as he spoke.
Oh, the stories they had to tell as I encouraged each person, those wonderful people who had lived and loved and participated in life. Now is their time to rest, they have earned the right. Of course they will never understand or use today’s technology, but in their active days they helped to develop and provide the modern comforts that we have and enjoy today.
Leave them to sleep in their armchairs, let them dream of their past years, whilst we understand their disabilities and think back and imagine them as the vibrant and attractive people they once were, before they came to Sunset Home.
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