I help elderly people, part-time, in their homes. One I have been with for 2 1/2 years is Farmgirl. Her two sons run the ranch now, but she’s lived in her home there for probably close to 50 years.
She’s canned and cooked and her husband planted and grew until he passed away 10 ish years ago. She kept record, in pencil, of all the things she’s canned over the years and it’s an impressive amount of food she’s put up over her lifetime.
Farmgirl has lived alone for awhile now, well unless you count her golden retriever who has the same name as my son. That’s her body guard and best companion. She sneaks him bites of her food and lets him lick her plate clean, although she’s been told not to because the dog is overweight. Also her son and his wife have been staying with her until their new house is finished.
Farmgirl was raised on a farm. Her father had a grove of lemons. She married a poultry farmer, then they moved North and she and hubby planted orchards. She does things the old way. She burned paper waste in her fire (until her son put a stop to that!) and threw old food scraps and peels in the orchard. She used to cook from scratch and got down on her hands and knees to scrub the floors. She was surprised when we informed her we weren’t allowed to do that level of cleaning. And when she wasn’t looking we’d sneak out the mop her son bought for us.
As a young girl, she washed many dishes for the family of 8. So many, in fact, she daydreamed about a contraption that would one day wash the dishes for you and was pleasantly surprised when the first dishwasher went on the market! Of course, that was one modern convenience that she didn’t mind.
Her family, her home, her life, her way! She liked what she liked and well, people that were different were obviously wrong. I didn’t clash with Farmgirl. I just nodded and smiled and listened. Gave a word of encouragement when needed and a joke when it was fitting. And we became the best of friends for the four or so hours I’d spend with her a week. She hated to see me go and was always happy when I showed up. I feel like that was a sign of a job well done. Yes, I cooked and cleaned for her, took her grocery shopping and to the little senior thrift shop, but my real job was brightening up her life by being a support and a friend. A confidante that would just listen and sympathize. We were buddies and laughed a lot.
I managed to snap a photo with her last week. My last week hanging out with her. I wasn’t able to say good-bye. The family didn’t want her to know she had to go live in a home until the day they planned to put her in. It was time.
Knowing it was my last day, we laughed, we shopped, she complained about her family and how people keep butting into her life. I listened and sympathized and patted her arm. On the way back from the store, she looked at me in the car and said, “You’ve been so good to me.” I let her know I’ve enjoyed being with her. At bath time, I promised it would be the last time I bothered her about taking a bath. And as usual, I gave her a hug when I was leaving.
But I’ll always remember little things I learned from her. How her mother tied her nickel in the corner of a handkerchief for Sunday school, and how her Sunday school teacher from 80 years before gave gifts that still were around, that old ways are still good ways, that the country life was the best life and that sentimental things are worth treasuring, that there’s no place I’d rather be than at home.
So the four hours I spent with Farmgirl, I now get to spend at home, caring for my family.
I don’t know how she’s going to handle the new home, not having her bestie (her dog) and leaving everything she’s loved and known, but I pray, God will put someone there to befriend her. The spitfire that she is!
So good-bye Farmgirl.
*Written last fall.