I spent the day with my 5-year old friend, Luella, yesterday. We did all kinds of fun stuff. First I got a very special manicure, complete with “clown abstract” and “rainbow” designs. Then we played animal shadow games on the shower curtain in the downstairs bathroom – the darkest room in the house.
Then we went to the park where we hung out with some swans, played on the swings, bounced on the teeter-totters, and conversed with a bright yellow caterpillar before heading to the beach for pizza and ice cream.
“What’s your favourite kind of truck?” Luella asked me, Spiderman Popsicle in hand and all over her face. I thought about it for a minute and before I could answer she said, “Mine’s an ice cream truck.” We giggled, sat for a moment silently eating our ice creams, and then she turned to me and said, “I love you.”
One can always bond with kids over an ice cream. Then again, sweet treats work with just about anyone at any age, including myself.
A couple of years ago I took a box of dark chocolates to a 102-year old man I knew. I’d been working as his caregiver for about a month. I had the weekend night shift so my main responsibility was to be there in case he needed anything in the middle of the night.
As it turns out, he did get up one night to use the toilet and subsequently fell and broke his hip. I took the Purdy’s chocolates, his favourite, to him shortly after he arrived home from the hospital.
At 102, Lorne was still very capable of getting himself from point A to point B. He used a walker at home and a cane whenever he came to the theatres where I worked, using the arm of one of his female caregivers to maintain his balance. He even spent 20 minutes a day doing supervised exercises in his basement using weight machines, a treadmill, and a chin up bar.
I was honoured when I was added to his “Harem” of women.
The day I went over to discuss the job with the head caregiver, I played cards with Lorne. Doubles solitaire. I’d never played it before. It’s where each person plays an individual game of solitaire with the option to play your cards on the other person’s hand and their cards on yours.
At one point in the game, Lorne took one of my cards and positioned it incorrectly on his spread. I watched as he did this a few times. I didn’t say anything and chalked it up to his age. Until I tried to do something similar and he smacked my hand away. “Uh uh”, he grumbled. I laughed. The old man was still sharp as a whip and had been cheating all along!
A few days after signing on for the job, Lorne and one of the caregivers came to the theatre. I was supervising the Front of House that day. When Lorne saw me his face lit up. He was normally a bit hunched over and didn’t really speak so when he looked up at me, eyes gleaming, and offered me a piece of his fruit bar, I was instantly smitten.
And I was always taken with the photograph of him on his dresser. He was an attractive young man in the military. It was so interesting to see him now, as this elderly gentleman in need of round the clock care, a man we women were putting to bed each night like a child.
As we turned off the light beside his bed he would say to us, “See ya later alligator”, to which we would, of course, reply, “In awhile crocodile.”
Lorne died not too long after I went to take him his favourite chocolates. He had stopped eating after his hip injury, though I did manage to convince him to have some ice cream with me that last day I spent with him, just sitting, reading the paper in silence together while he was clearly in a lot of pain.
At his funeral, I knelt down, placed some dirt on the tiny spot where his ashes were spread and simply said, “See ya later, alligator.” We had certainly bonded in the short time we spent together, over a game of cards, bedtime rituals, and those sweet treats, just as little Luella and I did over ice cream yesterday.
I enjoy having friends of all ages. I learn a lot from them. Learning patience and understanding as things move slowly or people forget their manners. In fact, one thing I’ve definitely learned is that kids and seniors, while often in need of constant care, are actually a lot smarter than most of us give them credit for.
And heck, when things do get a little rough, there’s always ice cream.