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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Colors Through My Resident's Eyes

I looked at myself in the mirror.  My pink skirt suit seemed to reflect my mood that day.  It was intense.  Bright colors lift my mood on dull days—just like that particular winter morning.

My day started well, and the many “good morning” and smiles from co-workers and residents appeared to be a preamble of a splendid day.  

But my gleeful morning didn’t last long.  I ran into Lucy in the hall, a co-workers well-known for her outspoken personality and dark humor.

“You look like a flamingo!”  Lucy said, with a huge grin illuminating her face.  Perhaps her big smirk was not more than a smile, but no one would have convinced me otherwise at that moment.  I sensed she was not expressing a compliment. 

I was at a loss for words.  I managed to control the burning anger brewing inside of me.  I quickly decided it was wiser to not honor Lucy’s unwelcome humor.  I half-smiled and continued walking down the hall, at a faster pace now.

My day didn’t feel like a “good day” after that moment.  And it was the last time I wore what I thought it was a fashionable pink suit.  My “flamingo suit” became a charity donation to a Christian thrift shop soon thereafter.

Months had passed.  One day in the summer, I pulled a new bright-yellow dress off from its hanger in the closet.  I thought the outfit would go quite well with the warm weather and the sunny morning.  To add a professional look, I combined my sleeveless dress with a cute black cardigan.

Once at work, as we waited for our boss to join us and start the morning meeting, Lucy’s voice was heard in the conference room:

“You look like a bumblebee!”

My co-workers looked at me.  No one said a word.  I felt as though a bee had stung me.  Another unpleasant comment from Lucy.  It did bother me, but I projected a cool expression, and looked at everyone, faking a smile. 

I tried to push away the irritating feeling, and not to let Lucy ruin another day.  I eventually became busy and focused on my own work tasks.  

At the end of the day, I headed to the dining room to fill my mug with freshly brewed coffee.  As I walked by, I greeted some of my residents, and was met with sincere and gracious smiles. 

“Hello!” I heard a man’s voice.  I looked around and soon spotted someone waiving at me.  It was Mr. Reynolds, one of the kindest residents in the nursing home. 

I waived back and headed toward the table where he was sat, sipping from a glass of juice.  Mr. Reynolds was an elderly gentleman known by many for his social skills.  The dining room was his preferred place to hang out.  Even though he had early Alzheimer’s dementia, he seemed to recognize me every time he saw me.

“Hi Mr. Reynolds!” I exclaimed, with a warm smile. 

“Hi Hon.”  He smiled back.  I knew he rarely remembered names, so he often used expressions such a “sweetie” or “hon” or “kiddo” when talking with staff.  “I want to tell you... you look very nice.” 

“Thank you, Mr. Reynolds!”  I was taken by surprise as I didn’t expect a compliment about my outfit, not after Lucy’s remark that morning.  “I was told I look like a bumblebee.”

But my resident had a different analogy.

“Oh no... no. You look like a...” Mr. Reynolds touched his chin with his right hand, and looked down, deeply thinking, trying to remember the word he wanted to express. 

“You look like a...” He continued his word search.  I pondered on what word he was trying to recall.  I wondered if I should try to guess it.  I waited, the suspense killing me.

“Sunflower! Yes, you look like a sunflower!”  Mr. Reynolds exclaimed loudly, and extended his right arm up as a sign of victory, flashing a spectacular smile.

“How sweet of you, Mr. Reynolds.” I gave him a gentle hug, and left him to savor the rest of his juice. 

I resumed my path toward the coffee machine.  I reflected on Mr. Reynolds’ kindness, and his graceful analogy.  

His struggle with his memory loss was evident, yet one thing I was certain—His Alzheimer’s hadn’t touched the goodness of his soul.  That I savored while reflecting with my evening coffee.  

"In this treacherous world nothing is either truth or lie; everything depends on the color of the crystal that one looks through" - Ramón de Campoamor (1817-1901)