I was greeted with a sonic boom of thanks yesterday, as I stepped into the nursing home for my regular Tuesday visit with Daddy. Glenda, the nursing home recreational director, always talks loud. Maybe it’s a hazard of spending your days with the hard-of-hearing.
“I want you to know that those dresses you brought really were appreciated.”
I had no idea what Glenda was referring to. Already forgotten was last week’s discussion in my parents closet, when my sister spoke of taking Mom’s dresses to the nursing home.
“I didn’t bring any dresses.”
Christi & Me -- As Different As Can Be
Walking toward me, Glenda realized her mistake. Once again, she had confused me for my sister. The case of mistaken identity between Christi and I is something that happens frequently amongst all nursing home personnel. For me to be confused for my saintly sister is no problem at all. She, on the other hand, may have an entirely different perspective. But don’t we all have our crosses to bear?
“Ohhhhh. That was your sister that brought the dresses. I just wanted you all to know how appreciated your Mother’ dresses are — four are being worn today. See, there’s one right there.”
With memory now in place, I followed the direction of Glenda’s pointed finger to the lady seated in the wheel chair. Seeing the familiar curved spine with head tucked down toward her chest, my heart filled with joy.
“Oh, Miss Alpha got some of Mother’s dresses. That’s wonderful! Thanks for letting us know. I needed some good news today.”
“Oh yeah. She needed them baaad. Can you believe she didn’t have any dresses?”
This bit of news was surprising. That Miss Alpha should be in such dire need for Mom’s hand-me-down dresses when she, in better days, was the proprietor of Seminole’s finest women’s clothing store is one of life’s little ironies. (And just between us, I don’t imagine she would have been caught dead wearing one of Mom’s still good but everyday house-dresses back in those finer days.) But in the quiet days of nursing home life, these leftover dresses from my mother’s life seem to suit Miss Alpha just fine.
Miss Alpha , you may remember, once kept Daddy company at the dinner table — what with much affection and admiration I called The Quiet Supper Club — in those early days of nursing home life when Dad still took nourishment by mouth. I went over to check on Miss Alpha to see how life was treating her, since it had been a good while since she and I had last visited. It was good to find some things don’t change — Miss Alpha still has nothing to complain about — but then, what woman isn’t doing fine when she’s wearing some new duds?
But before I headed toward Miss Alpha, I leaned down to a different wheel chair to greet my father. Daddy had been waiting for my brother and I in the gathering area. I drew close to Daddy’s shrunken face to see his big shiny eyes and gorgeous smile. “I love you Daddy.” Then my father did something totally out of character. He reached out to take my hand. Then gracefully, he carried my hand all the way to his lips. And then ever so tenderly, Daddy kissed my hand.
For my daddy to offer me his best self — on the day I learned of another father committing the worst toward his child — brought peace to my soul. I didn’t deserve such tenderness. Nor, of course, did that young boy deserve what he received at the hands of his father.
That life doesn’t always give us what we deserve is the human experience. But sometimes, we receive just what we need and peace settles in around us. The gift received is so perfect that it seems to bear a touch of the holy. It was a holy difference that clothed Miss Alpha yesterday; and it was a holy difference in my father than covered my own aching heart.
Both Miss Alpha and I were covered by another’s love. And this… well this is humanity at its best. It’s what life amongst the saints should be, a passing of the peace beyond any I’ve experienced before.
And how I long for this peace to be passed to all. It’s all of our business isn’t it, this peace-passing work of the saints?
“To take each moment
and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.”