Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coming out of the Dark Ages

Way before Fergie started singing about "flossy, flossy", I met the original Flossie. Before we bought our house, my husband and I lived in the city. Out one window I could see one nursing home, and out the other, another. Every day I would see these old people lined up out front, enjoying some fresh air. They all seemed so very lonely. It made me so sad... Every single day.

At the time, I was working at Astra Zeneca. One day, I received an email about a volunteer program. It was called "the elder buddy program". Basically, they match you up with people in nursing homes that are looking for companionship. Well, one of the nursing homes on the list was the one across the street. I knew that I just had to participate.

That is when I was matched with Flossie. She had a stroke a few years earlier and could no longer live on her own. Because of the stroke, her vision was impaired to the point where she could see, but no longer read. She asked me if I would come by weekly to read her mail to her. She also had a very dear friend who lived in the home with her who recently passed away. The woman's family took her journals and made an autobiography and gave Flossie a copy. She asked me to read to her. So that's what we did, every Thursday.

Each visit, she would share stories of her life. As a child, she had long curly hair, that her father adored. She was a sick child and the doctor made her parents cut her hair. Her father carried the photo of her with her curls until the day he died. Her uncle was one of the first Mummers in Philadelphia and is in the Mummers Museum. She was engaged twice, but never married. She told me that she broke off one engagement because the guy joined the Army and tried to talk like he was a war hero, but when the war ended, and he had never served actively, she told him to get lost. She is a firecracker!

Since she never married, she never had children, but she taught Sunday school and thought of those kids as her children. Eventually, she moved in with her cousin. Thelma and Louise ;) lived together up until her cousin passed away from Alzheimer's complications. She was from Philadelphia, but since her only surviving relatives were from Delaware, they put her in a home away from her home. As her closest friends have aged, it's been difficult for them to travel, and she's gotten lonelier and lonelier.

We made special arrangements for her to come to our wedding. Every time I visit her, she gushes... That's Kristie, my elder buddy, I went to her wedding! She had Thanksgiving dinner with us one year. I just couldn't bear the thought of her being alone in that home.

After we moved, our visits were less frequent, but I still made time to visit with her. My grandmother who recently passed away always told me... "you make sure you take care of her. She is all alone. She needs you."

At the time, the thought seemed ridiculous. What kind of a jerk would do that? Then came the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages, is this past year, where my life has been consumed with all things suck, and all things infertility. The year where I lost sight of everything that was important to me. The year where this topic consumed my every thought.. With plans, surgeries, dr's appointments, more plans, and every other disaster popping up.

It had been over a year since I visited Flossie. I remember our last visit. I told her we were going to try to start a family. Another ridiculous notion.

I visited Flossie yesterday. Part of me was terrified. What if she's sick, in bad shape, what if I get there and something has happened? I Will die of guilt.

Visiting with her made me so happy. Seeing her in good shape left me feeling so relieved. She told me about how a woman that she does not like. The woman has Alzheimer's and while her and a group of women were watching church on tv, the crazy lady pulled her pants down and took a dump right there on a chair, then wiped her ass on the next 3 chairs. She made me laugh. I filled her in on what's been going on. She understands ivf because her niece had it, so that helped. I explained about donor embryo. She told me she was so happy for us, and that we deserve to be parents. She told me she had no idea that all of this was going on.

I would say this past year is the equivalent of being sucked into a black hole. How long have I been here? How did I get here? And please.... For the love of all things holy, get me out of this mess! Visiting with her was the first time, in a long time, that I felt like myself. I am forever grateful for that.


  1. What a beautiful post! I'm so glad you were able to reconnect with Flossie. I love that you have an "elder buddy." I had never heard about that program before, it sounds amazing and good for you for being a part of it!

    1. It is such a nice program! I no longer work for the company that participated, but I have continued to visit her. It's been great not only for her, but for me too! She's such a cool lady.

      I'm not sure what religion, if any you are, but catholic charities may have information. Also, having visited these homes pretty often, most of the nicer ones have an activities director. I'm certain you could reach out to any home explain that you would like to volunteer. Most of them just want someone to talk to. I'd ask for someone who obviously is coherent to be partnered with.

      It is seriously so very rewarding.

  2. I really enjoyed this post. I am so glad you got to connect with Flossie again and got to share your struggles with her. I have wanted to volunteer to work with the elderly because I did when I was in high school and I found it very rewarding. I loved hearing all of the stories from their past. This has given me a renewed interest. So thanks! :)

    1. Im so glad! I have a confession, I even love talking to the people with Alzheimer's. I will never forget the time my sister and mom came to meet Flossie. This woman walked up to us, and started talking. She started fluffing her hair like it was all done up. She told us... "last night, my sister in law came over, did my hair, and I went to a gala." I said did you have fun? She replied oh yes!

      After she left, my sister looked at me, she's a nurse, and said... I hope when I get that age that I'm like her. I looked at her confused. She said, she thinks she went to a gala when in all reality she sat in a room alone, and probably pooped herself. Hilarious outlook.

      This other time, another woman came and knocked on Flossie's door looking for some children. At first, my heart broke, but then she told me that the post office misplaced them. I told her that they would likely ship them tomorrow. She was quite happy with my answer.

      Sometimes, I think they just need someone to talk to. Flossie has a sharp mind, but her body never healed up after her stroke. She's so much fun!

  3. Flossie sounds amazing and I am inspired to check in on elder buddy systems. There are a lot of the grays here in Palm Springs.

    1. They really are a hoot! You totally should.


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