Every Wednesday I deliver groceries to the elderly for the grocery store I work at. I have to admit that it is a nice change from sitting in an office counting money and balancing. I get to drive around listening to my music and carrying the bags around feels like getting a sneaky workout in. It has quickly become my favourite day of the week. A day I actually look forward to.
Every Wednesday I learn something new, about these men and women, but also about myself. They’ve shown me what the definition of a meaningful life is, that age is something to be embraced and not feared, that love comes above all, and each week they remind me of all that I have been given and all that I have to look forward to. They are excited when I arrive, grateful for the company and the small chat even if its just for a few moments, and they are patient and kind. In fact I sometimes wish I wasn’t going to deliver groceries and that I could stay and spend the day with them, but I can’t. I am on the clock. Regardless the short visits are still worth the while. I’d like to tell you about some of them. And the ways in which they have influenced my life.
He is easily the most gentle spirited and kind hearted man I have ever met. Each week he makes a point to double check my name to make sure he remembered it correctly. He’s always a little off, but he’s getting closer. I appreciate that he cares so much. He orders a box of clementines every week. After having a heart attack his doctor told him he should eat an orange a day, and the oranges are too hard for his tired hands to peel, so he settles for clementines instead. I get that. When you walk into the kitchen he has greeting cards taped to the cupboards all around. And at a closer glance they are cards not addressed to him, but cards that he wrote for someone else. Each card is addressed to Ellen and is signed Love, Gene. I never got to meet Ellen but I find comfort in knowing that she was loved so dearly by such a special man, and that one day they’ll see each other again.
Each week I’m greeted by her yelling “come in” from the spot on her couch where she knits up a storm. She is always happy, that I am sure of. Whenever I ask how she is doing today she responds by laughing and saying “well I’m still here, aren’t I.” She says she knits for the needy. To me they look like just squares of knitted yarn, but I know she has a plan for them. She says that it helps pass the time, and makes her feel better than watching tv does. Last week a stranger who knew of her knitting was nice enough to leave some yarn at her apartment door. I never thought I would see someone so happy over yarn of all things.
Every Wednesday her dog starts barking at me the second I walk in the door and then when I go to leave, the same dog whines and cries for me not to go. She loves that dog, and it makes me happy that she has him. She refers to herself as “mom” when speaking to him, which also makes me happy. She is so personable and bubbly, even while completely all over the place. Forever frazzled, but eternally smiling comes to mind when I think of her. Last week she wasn’t herself and told me that she hasn’t been feeling well so she went to the doctor. Through tears she shared that he told her she’s having some problems with her liver and her lungs. She hasn’t smoked or drank a day in her life. She told me that you can’t control what life gives you, that sometimes its not always what you expected or had hoped for. After all that she still walked me out smiling and said that she would see me next week.
I think I must admit that she is my favourite stop without doubt. She is strong, and smart and independent and beautiful…. exactly how I hope to be at her age. She received her BA from York University while in her 80s and spends most of her time now caring for her husband who has dementia. She is incredibly tech savvy, probably more so than myself, and the other day she promised to show me how to send free e-cards to my friends and family during my next visit. I always find a moment to sit and chat when I visit Rose. She tells me of how her and John met, about their plans to travel to the cottage one last time this summer, about a meat loaf recipe she saw while watching Stefano on the tv that she’s excited to try. We compare medications, she asks me how I’m feeling, I say great, she says thats good. She asks about my studies, about my future, about my hopes and dreams. Most importantly, on a weekly basis she assures me that I am going to be ok.
When I share my Wednesday experience with my friends and family I often hear about how wonderful it is that I get to do this, or how much these men and women must appreciate the service and the visits, how much they must enjoy the company. And while I do think it does mean a lot to them, yes, it has meant so much more to me. You see, if you haven’t picked up on it from my last two posts I was less than thrilled about returning to my high school job this summer. I thought that after graduating from university you were supposed to move on to bigger and better things. I felt embarrassed and wondered what my peers must be thinking of me, and honestly the reaction of some of those peers was enough to feed those feelings of shame and failure.
But these Wednesdays have changed all of that. Not only have they allowed me to meet such inspiriting and remarkable individuals, but they have reinstated value and a passion in my work. I feel prideful of my small retail job. I may not be changing the world in the way I had hoped just yet, but I am making a small change in somebody’s world. Right now that is enough.