I was at the desk working on the newsletter, mumbling under my breath about restaurant photos always being too dark, when I heard my name. It was a resident. He handed me a sandwich bag containing what appeared to be Chex cereal and told me to try one.
I hesitated. I didn’t want to offend him, but I don’t consume wheat or sugar. I can handle a little in my system, though; I took a teeny bite. “Whoa, that’s sweet,” I replied.
“How sweet? Too sweet?” he eagerly asked. “The store is out of normal Chex. All they had was this, and it’s made from oats. Is it too sweet for making my secret-recipe Chex mix?”
The next day, I stopped by his apartment to ask him how his mix had turned out and to tease him about giving me his secret recipe. While I was there, I saw a telescope hiding behind his couch. I inquired.
This led to him talking about his background in science. He mentioned that Saturn was going to be large and bright the following week. I asked him if he would like to set up his telescope in the courtyard on that night so he could teach the other residents how to use it and view Saturn. He agreed, and he was right – Saturn was beautiful! The community enjoyed his educational project.
He is very reserved. Wise and dignified. Always ready to offer advice. Straightforward.
I was manning the photo booth at a candlelight dinner. There was a long line of residents and family members waiting for photos. It was a blur between that and all the thousand little things that require one’s attention during a large event.
At one point, I turned around after assisting a resident, and he was standing in front of the backdrop ready for me to take his photo. I burst out laughing. He was decked out in goggle glasses and in a funny pose. “There,” he said. “You looked a little frazzled. I thought that might help you out.”
He enjoys crosswords. The residents do a jumbo crosswords twice a week. He came a couple times but found it rudimentary. He stopped coming but always would ask to see the board after we were done. There usually were one or two words the group was unable to figure out. I had been filling those in, but one day I had an idea. I decided to leave those two spots blank. He noticed right away. “Sometimes we don’t know the answers,” I told him. He started showing up again. He now sits in the back and only answers if we get stuck. A few weeks ago, he asked if he could practice leading the crossword activity.
He brings me his wife’s magazines after he checks the mail. “I just can’t bring myself to cancel her subscriptions.” He started to cry. “Dog gone it! Will it ever stop hurting?”
One is a magazine about local happenings and places to visit – I find lots of good ideas for outings. He beams every time I tell him that I found a great place to take the residents from one of his late wife’s magazines. “She would love knowing how helpful she is still being.”
One hectic Saturday afternoon, a server came to me. The wrong gloves had been sent; there were not any latex-free ones for her hands. I was going to run to Wal-Greens, just down the road, to pick them up when he spun around. He had been walking by and overheard. “I have a box. It’s unopened”, he stated. “Let me get it for you.”
He was excited as he slowly walked toward his apartment to retrieve them. I thanked him several times and offered to replace his box, but he replied, “Oh no. Your face lighting up when I had a solution to this problem is repayment enough.”
He surprised me recently when he came on the lunch outing with us. It is difficult for him to get out; his taste buds aren’t what they used to be, and he’s not big on socializing. But there he was, pulling himself up the bus steps, a large camera around his neck.
He spent the whole time taking photos from every angle possible. He took them from up close. He took them from far away. He told residents to move their heads left or right. Scoot closer. Pull your chair back.
He had the waitress helping him. His food grew cold as he shot from behind the bar, using the counter to steady his camera. I looked up from a conversation at my end of the table and saw that he had the owner of the restaurant holding his camera for him so he could take a time-lapsed photo.
When we got back, he went straight to my computer and began uploading photos from his camera. He sorted and edited. He cropped and rotated. He zoomed in and out. Then he finally said “Ah. That’s the one.” He got up and with a satisfied nod and said, “You mentioned once that the photos you take at restaurants are too dark to put in the newsletter. This one should suffice.”
This resident recently passed away, but I carry with me what he taught me — that it is OK to slow down and enjoy life in the moment. My job is so fast-paced that I am always jumping ahead to what is next or what’s on my to-do list. Now I know the importance of being present, both at work and at home.