Working part time as a caregiver for a handful of elderly clients has definitely introduced me to some unique individuals, as well as cementing my belief that each of us are different from the rest; that each of our stories is completely our own, and need to be shared. I have one client who remains as sharp, witty, and caring as she must have been 70 years ago, when I visit with her we chat about our days, our families, the weather, politics, and we people watch. Whether it be on tv, out the window, or in the lobby of her complex; giggling, poking each other, and making less than complimentary comments about some of her neighbors – those that she deems “the old folk.”
Another woman I work with has lost all use of her short term memory, leaving her with only recollections of her past. She seems to recognize me, and we greet with a hug, like old friends being reunited after too long apart. But soon she begins to ask me about my family, and quickly expresses great concern about my lack of a husband and any children. “You’ve got to find a good man soon,” she lectures me daily, “before they’re all taken, have grown beards, or are worn out.” She also explains to me with great care, daily, the importance of marrying a man with money, a nice house, a good job, and most importantly, “he must be a Menonite, or else our children will rot in hell!” *yes, that’s a direct quote*
This morning though, I met with a new client, a gentleman who while older than the rest, appears to be much younger. He’s presently struggling with the early onset of memory loss, and his doctors fear, dementia. While chatting in his comfortable living room, and getting to know each other, we discussed the weather, politics, family, and his daily routines. Then, after a few moments of silence, he quietly asked me, “if you could know, when you’d go, and how – would you want to?” I paused, and told him that no, I don’t believe I would want to posses that knowledge. I’d rather continue as I am, living my life, ignorant to the cause and time of my demise. I asked him what he believed, and he told me that he would prefer to know.
He explained that a few years back he decided that his family, his children, their children, and the babies after that, should know who he was, the life he lived, and the mistakes he made. Thus, he sat down, and in the course of a year, he penned his autobiography – he explained that it came in just under 100 pages, and that he printed copies for 20 or so family members. Pausing, he smiled over at me and whispered, “if I do too much more livin’ I’ll have to change the end.”