October 30, 2010

Enchanted - and they pay me to do this?

I tell people all the time, foster kids are like your kids, like my grand kids, they are just kids. Chloe loved princesses just like my granddaughter Lucy does!. Her mother was a wanderer, who meets the wrong guys, isn't very stable and ends up in the wrong places, she makes too many bad choices and comes home one day to find her kids in foster care. This isn't a violent story, it isn't one that makes you cringe at the details, but it is always sad when children are separated from their parent, no matter what the reason.

I never really noticed the movie Enchanted until that day. It was on the TV above my desk, as I arrived at work. Chloe was on the couch engrossed in the movie.  Her arm encirled a giant princess  teapot, that looked bigger than her! Leaning on a magazine she was busy sketching  a princess on a small tablet, mesmerized by the movie. Enchanted is one of those wonderful movies girls adore.  There's lots of cute animals; a handsome prince,  the "True Love's Kiss" guy;  and a princess most girl dream of being.   As Chloe watched on this sad day for her, this simple movie seemed to distract and also rekindle any dream hidden in her heart.

"Don't you love the songs?" she asks  without moving her eyes from the screen.  She looked down only for a minute to work on her princess.
"Yes! I love them!" I tell her.  Who wouldn't I thought!  I could hardly do my work.  The movie's princess creatively makes dresses out of drapes and has her furry friends (even roaches) clean the house. She's kind and oh so beautiful, selfless, full of goodness and incredibly trusting in values few embrace. It was so uplifting and lovely.
When the movie is over Chloe asks if I will take care of her teapot while she goes to lunch.

"Watch it every minute okay?! Don't let anyone even touch it! Promise?  Only you!! No one but you can hold it! Promise??! " I promise, but she asks me several times again before she finally leaves for lunch.  Our nurse asks me what that is about, I tell her.
"They lived in a lot of shelters" she understands now.

When Chloe returns after lunch she stands in front of my desk  and I tell her NO ONE has touched the teapot, not a soul!  She is relieved and tells me,
"I love to talk!" Smiling, I tell her,
"Well me too!" I ignore the low laughter of my co-workers and say, "You came to the right place! What do you like to talk about?!"
"My mom! I love to talk about my mom, she's wonderful!" Chloe says. That is the beginning of a long conversation about her mother, her family and some interesting adventures.  We talk for a long time. Everything is about her mother. No questions, no unspoken judgements, I just work and listen. This child. is so delightful, so honest, so pure, and so untainted.

"Do you know who I want to be when I grow up?" she asks me to guess.
"Your mom?" I am pretty sure I nailed it!
"Nope, like the princess in the movie, and do you know why? " she asks, her eyes sparkling. I try to guess why she's chosen her, maybe her power over the animals, her beautiful dresses, her lovely singing voice, her "True Love's Kiss" guy?
No. no. no...so I give up!
"No...because she's nice, she's good."
"Yes" I agree "She's wonderful, just like you! Yes, I am sure you will be just like her when you grow up!"  The child is pleased with my affirmation.

Before long she leaves with her brothers....I watch her hugging the princess teapot which only she and I have touched.....yes, I think Chloe will be just like the princess ...........I smile as she turns the corner to the elevator..........and they pay me to do this job?!?

October 17, 2010

Goodbye Rita....my sweet Rita

It was days before I was to leave for Richmond and I still didn't have a plane ticket.  I'm a procrastinator but it was getting ridicules!  Prices were rising!  Somehow I think I was  afraid Rita would slip away if I left town, and somehow buying the ticket made it so. For years there were times when I watched her slipping down but she ALWAYS rallied!!   Yes, Rita had this amazing way of surprising us, like a little imp, playing a trick on us. Frank and I often joked that she would outlive us all...and it really felt like that for many years. But we all knew  it was changing.  Lately, as I drove home in the darkness along Quail Roost  Dr I'd  think of the simplest thing and I would begin to cry, soon I was bawling my eyes out....until last week when I asked, myself
     "What is wrong with you Ginny? You cry every time you come down this road!"   Now it would seem obvious to most but maybe  I needed to form the words in my mind.
     "Rita IS dying and I am very sad......"  answering my own question.  I didn't know when, but I knew it was going to happen, and nothing could stop it. Yes, I knew she was old, yes,she was failing, yes she would be in a better place!  YES! YES! YES!!  Rita was my 2nd job, NO!...she was my friend and I hoped I was hers too.  So I was gentle with myself, agreeing it was okay to be sad and I went home and bought the ticket. 

Rita was strong, tenacious, and tough, with an amazing will to live even in that dark place called Alzheimer's Disease.  Was it really dark I often wondered??  I did not know, some days she seemed confused and frightened but most of the time she was quite content.  During our visits, I wanted to bring stability and peace to her heart, through touch, gentle words, stories, and songs. So in the best way I knew how, that is what I did for 11 years, always believing SOMEWHERE there was a connection...a place where she knew she was safe and loved very much. 

Several weeks ago I found Rita in her reclining chair gazing into the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. I stood looking down at her, she seemed so frail and finally I spoke,
     "Rita, are you tired?"  A small tear formed in her eye, just a tiny one brimming to the edge  but not falling on her cheek...and then she gave the smallest little nod.  Was it real, did she understand? Was she trying to tell me she really was tired? I think so. I told her we knew she had fought a good fight, that she was brave and gave us courage.

On October 11, 2010 I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail on a lovely blue cruiser, with my dear, sweet family.  I hadn't taken a real bike ride in 40 years, but that day I rode 17 miles in the most incredible beauty. Beauty that leaves you breathless, engulfed in the Creator's love!! 

When the day ended, waiting for me were the words .... "Rita  passed away this morning".......

Today I am remembering and am so grateful for....
....Rita's faithful loving husband of 69 years who knew how to "raise hell" to take care of his girl
....Rita's caring daughter, my dear friend who has always respected and honored her parents, moving mountains to make their lives rich and good.  An awesome woman!!
....my husband who loved Rita too, and saw visiting her as a privilege and joy...connecting with her in an amazing way.
....Rita showing me that all life is precious
....her singing I Love You Truly, It Had To Be You & Hark The Herald Angels Sing
....the day Rita told me about how she walked alone in the snow to school, and she was so afraid
....Lou crying at Christmas, wishing every elderly person had a loving family like Rita's
....a kind priest
....Rita's incredible creations made of shells from Sanibel
....holding hands in Mass
....this moment
....Rita's hand on mine, saying "It will be alright" as we sat outside on the bench- a word from God
....the last day Rita tried to say her rosary, instead said the Pledge of Allegiance
....her thousand mile days in the PCV walker
....how she liked to sit in the sunshine
....her KEDS
....she never had bedsores
....Rita had few wrinkles at 90
....the way we sometimes laughed together
....the year I explained the meaning  of the Easter holiday and Rita asked in horror if Jesus was okay now
....the young man from the singing group that spoke a blessing over Rita last Christmas
....when she winked at you
....the time she said "Be careful" when I said good-night.
....that there is no end to this list

Thank you LORD for,
....a day in VA when beauty reigned through sadness
....the comfort of the Milky Way
....that two young boys offered genuine consolation
....for a friend who knows suffering and walks with you in sadness
....for a desperately needed text that says  I am remembered & loved on the day I say good-bye to my friend
....Your sweet presence at death

Rita, I never saw this picture of you! Frank says this is your engagement picture.  He said he chased you for two years!!  Wow....that sounds like you. I will treasure it.  I want to remember you always as this youthful young woman, for in truth, it was how I  knew you, full of beauty and spunk, in a body that just grew old.  Yes, that is the girl I know and will always love! Goodbye Sweet Friend!