Grace for hard times comes in kindness, humor, and persistence.
I just saw in the obituaries that a very special person died. His name was Louie. I met Louie at a nursing home when I was staying there for the five months my husband was in rehab and then Hospice.
Louie was 89 then, but feisty! My first encounter was when I went to the rescue of Louie and his amazing daughter-in-law. She came every day to try to help Louie recover mobility and self-care skills. Louie was a challenge to take care of and he appeared to be purposely sliding down out of his wheel chair with her struggling to get him back up safely, so I came to her rescue. As I bent over to support him on the other side, he quickly kissed me on the cheek. His daughter-in-law was mortified and once we got him safe, apologized profusely. I laughingly assured her that in my eighties, it was a rare treat to be kissed sweetly on the cheek by an unknown gentleman.
My next encounter with Louie was when I was getting an ice cream treat for my husband and had parked my bright red rollator in the hall outside the tiny room with the refrigerator. When I came out, the rollator was gone. I looked up and down the halls and it was nowhere to be seen. Then I spotted the back of a wheel chair propelling itself rapidly down the hall and I sped up to get a better look. Sure enough, it was Louie propelling himself with his feet while he pushed the rollator at an amazingly fast clip. When I laughingly tried to re-appropriate it, he tightened his grip proving that the therapy on his hands was working. A nurse saw my problem and joined us, saying, “Oh, Louie, your hands look cold. Here, let me warm them up by holding them.” As she began to take his second hand, I could see Louie catch on to the trick, so I quickly grabbed the handles and took off down the hall!
Though I didn’t think Louie could speak, as I passed him sitting by the nurses station the next morning, I couldn’t resist teasing him. So, I stopped and said, “Louie, you stole my red rollator yesterday.” Louie’s eyes twinkled as he grinned and said clearly, “Yeah! I did, didn’t I?”
Louie had good days and bad days, but on his good days, I’d see him pushing his own black rollator rapidly across the parking lot making his daughter-in-law run to catch up with him. I often saw him working with a therapy block of things to twist, pull, push, and tie to regain dexterity with his hands.
Then, one evening when Louie was parked in his wheel chair slightly behind a man who had a support for his head and back attached to his own wheel chair, I realized Louie was working intently on loosening the screws that held the support on. I managed to put the other man’s chair with its back against the wall before I warned a nurse about the approaching danger from Louie’s successful rehab.
The last time I remember seeing Louie was a few days before my husband died. I had walked past him crying and when I came back past him, he said in a small voice with such a sad look on his face, “You were crying.”
I realize that if I had been responsible for Louie, I would probably not have such fond memories. But Louie helped me make it through a really hard time. After Covid came, I sent him a few cards kidding him about our encounters. I don’t know if he could read them or remember, but I hope so. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see him again.