I went to the Mansion Tuesday afternoon to bring Ruth her new fuzzy bathrobe (I received two nightgowns for her today). She was sitting with Madeline, who was reading, and she and Ruth invited me to sit down and talk. I was happy to do that.
Ruth thanked me again an again, she said she wouldn’t have any winter clothes if it wasn’t for me (and the Army Of Good.) Joan joined us.
Sometimes, the Mansion residents ask me exactly who the Army Of Good are, and they are amazed when I tell them I really don’t know, I have only met a very small number of them, most live far away.
Ruth said she was sad, her “hubby” Ken died a few weeks ago. I’m not sure who brought up the subject of loneliness, I think it was Madeline, who grew up in a Bronx orphanage and has spent some time in institutions in recent years.
Madeline ishe is in her 90’s and is most often found doing New York Times Crossword Puzzles. She is often alone.
“We get used to loneliness here,” Madeline said, “this is a great place to live, and they take great care of us. But most of us don’t get many visitors. Some of us don’t have families living anymore, mostly, we have lost our spouses and sometimes, our kids live far away or don’t have time to visit.”
She said she dealt with loneliness by finding her own things to do. “You have to be able to be okay by yourself,” she said. Ruth was in a different place, she said she was lonely because of Ken.
And because her friend, her “Ma,” Peggie, had gone off to Cuba. Joan, who was struggling to follow the conversation, said she missed her husband.
It’s an irony of assisted care, the residents are surrounded by other people, but Madeline said the people that she had shared her life with were rarely there, or never there. It’s the kind of loneliness, she said, that activities can’t make go away.
There is a sense of community at the Mansion, the residents do look out for one another.
There is also an inevitable and perhaps unavoidable sense of loneliness that comes from being on the edge of life, and leaving so many of the things you love behind.
In a sense, the residents are helpless, and quite alone at this point in their lives. I feel very much at home when I am with them, perhaps it is because there is a loneliness in me as well, I connect with it.
We had the nicest talk, the four of us, each in our own place, each with our own emotions. Yet there was a connection between all of us as we sat and talked, an openness and a comfort.
If felt special to me, and I hope, to them.
Note: Some good people are sending used clothes and books and personal items to me or to the house without talking to me first. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t. In general, I prefer to buy the residents new clothes because of their durability or color, and there are many sizing and safety and medical issues relating to their clothing. If not, I can go to local thrift stores and measure things and check their condition.
Most of the used things people have sent are not relevant to the resident’s needs.
Also, we have plenty of books for them to read now, and the residents who wish to go out in the winter (a small number of them) have what they need. I am reluctant to give them used things, most of them don’t fit or need some work, others don’t meet medical and health requirements and have to be given away.
Last week, a huge box of used books, including coloring books already drawn on with many torn pages came. I can’t bring things like that to the Mansion, and don’t want to, I know the sender meant well. Another person send me photos of her attic stuffed with boxes of clothes and said she was willing to ship all of them to the Mansion.
That is not the kind of thing we can use, I do appreciate the thought.
If we do need something, I will ask for it, and thanks so much for caring. If you have any questions about sending something, new or used, it would be better if you contacted me at email@example.com.
I’ll give you an honest answer. Thanks.