Stories and reflections from my personal and professional journey.
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)
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I'm usually dressed in black and gray, and I know people who would love to see me in beautiful colors. I love your color choices, by the way.
Perhaps Lucy was jealous. I'm guessing she's offered many "opinions" throughout her life, and hurt a lot of feelings along the way. I'm glad Mr. Reynolds was able to offer a "different" point of view. He sounds like a wonderful man. :)
Doris, I know how unwelcome putdown comments make one feel. But I couldn't help but laugh while reading your post. I learned in a communication class years ago that a "I don't recall asking your opinion" is a good way to stop people like Lucy. Like you, I prefer to walk by and not acknowledge it
My goodness what a story Doris.
What colours did Lucy wear funeral black ???
If she said that to me I would have retorted with a ,"Thank you I am a nature lover". LOL
I am sure those colours look very becoming on you Doris and Mr Reynolds was right, bless his heart.
Lucy would be shocked in India as ladies here wear very bright colours
Guess that both residents gave you a sincere compliment. A flamingo is gracious and elegant, besides from being pink. A bumblebee is very active and busy pollen gatherer, besides from being black and yellow.
A few words can have a lot more depth than those patients ever will be able to express. But Mr. Reynolds sensed that you felt hurt and he did try the utmost for making you feel whole again.
Hugs to you,
A great story Doris, I have changed blog titles from "Welcome to my world of poetry" to Rhythm and rhyme,
I hope you can manage to get it as Internet Explorer don't show it.
Hope all is well with you.
No matter how much we try to ignore sarcasm, it still stings. My grandmother and mother were women who confronted comments of others---not in a mean or physical way, but with their wit and straightfowardness(is this a word?). However, I was never the type to confront others, which worried the women in my family. As I grew older and became better at "having my say," I was known for being "honest." To this day, if someone makes a shrewd or sarcastic remark to me, I will stop, take a good long look at them, especially their eyes, and ask:
1. Why are you so cruel...did someone hurt you so much that you must hurt others?
2. What makes you say such hurtful things to others?
3. Your words are ugly and hateful and I don't like them.
4. You are not a very nice person, are you?
My reply to their words usually fits their comment.
This usually causes them to think about their words and think twice, before they comment about me, in any way. Now, I've made some great friends through my candid questioning of their motives. And, I've made a few enemies, as the given person will never look or speak to me, again. But, I feel like I helped them to see themselves through some else's eyes and heart. Choosing to ignore the person or their words, in my opinion, allows them to continue to hurt you, as well as others and further alienates them. It's a blessing to learn about ourselves, even if it hurts. Thank you, for this wonderful post. I always enjoy them! ~Cynthia
Hi Doris .. I suspect Lucy was jealous - because you can carry such cheerful colours off - you feel happier, the residents love the brightness and perhaps poor Lucy is a grey bird ..
But colour - and perspective .. depends on the eye of the beholder ..
Isn't it interesting how some people are so unkind out of habit, in the name of humor and probably with more than a little jealousy? And how wonderful that a kind spirit can survive progressive cognitive decline? A very touching post.
whatever you look like, you SOUND like an angel! God bless you!
At least the charity shop gained!
It's been a while since I visited, and I'm glad I saw your link today, and here I am. What a beautiful post this is. You should have kept that pink suit. Pink is in, and it is the color of healing. And yellow, I love it. It is my husband's favorite color, who always had a sunny disposition!
You are who God says you are... never mind Lucy. I think she has issues unresolved.
Blessings on your day
I do hope that Lucy reads this and thinks before she comments in future.
Be bold in your colors and self-confidence. Lucy probably wishes she could dress as flashy and get away with it. How nice that the gentleman gave you a ray of sunshine.
Do you think that this Lucy being in a Residence home.
She has senility. Older people do come out with things like that.At this stage in life.
I worked in a nursing home.
So this is what they are like.
Perhaps you took it to heart. She may have had the flamingos to describe the colours you were wearing. That was her way. You got her attention.
I know when I went byy a lady. She would yell out with her hand up. Morning chubby lady. Another would say Hi Smiley. One lady she would say every time. You better lose weight. Your to fat honey. I was plump. I must say. Never the less. I held my breath and replaced a smile. That did the trick.
You know the elderly are like little children at times.
Also they do not see things even with t eye focus. You may have made her day.Even if she never made yours.
Working with the elderly we sure have to beam with self confidence or we are doomed.
I have poped in here many times this month and last to see if you had updated your blogs. Here I am back to read. Good blogs.
I like them all.
Hi Doris, thanks for the smile, reading it again this morning open up my head. Been like a yoyo lately. I know the feeling about comments... my hair my cloths my food are old fashion... they hurts! Not been blogging for a while, to much going on. Want to start a blog just for my picture, but end up open my old blog, can't remember how things work! :-( will do for time being. Hope you're keep well. Mei
I'm glad people like Mr. Reynolds exist on earth :)
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Perhaps Lucy is simply jealous?
Most of the caregivers here are from Kenya, their English not great, I am each day explaining a word to them. "Why is everyone calling me, Betty, today?" Winnie, asked me. "Your top has Betty Bop all over it. She is a famous character from their younger days." Very funny. They rarely know what is on their pre-chosen scrub-attire.
What a refreshing story! Thank you for sharing!
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