Monday, November 19, 2012

Evie and Lawrence

I started thinking about all the things I have learned from the resident's I had the honor to care for while working at The Woods and thought it would be nice to share some of their stories.  Then I had to think where and with whom should I start.  There's one name that came to mind very quickly. Evie. Her full name was Evelyn Bryant, but people called her Evie.  As you will see I can't think about Evie with out thinking of another man.

When I started as part of the activities/life enrichment team she lived in the assisted living side.  She was funny and full of life.  She went on every outing and participated in almost all of the activities so we really got to know each other.  

One day a gentlemen moved in to the same house as Evie.  His name was Lawrence.  He was a tall and handsome man.  He was so kind and a real mans man.  He was very hesitant to participate in the activities program but eventually I persuaded him.  He also started participating in almost every activity and went on most of the outings.

Over time Evie and Lawrence became quite close.  I think Evie loved flirting with Lawrence especially because Lawrence wasn't quite sure how to react so he would just squirm a bit in his seat.  
One of my favorite activities was when we got together in the evenings after dinner and I read stories from various books out loud while cookies baked in the oven.  When the cookies were done we would all enjoy a warm cookie and listen to one last story.  I ran across a book with the stories of each of the hand carved horses that are part of the Salem Riverfront Carousel.  So one summer I decided we would read through the stories of the horses, who made them, who they were dedicated to and then we would go on an outing to the carousel at the end of the summer. 

The carousel has a ramp for walkers and wheelchairs to get on and then they have benches and things to sit on for those who can't climb up on a horse.  So here we go to our outing.  Of course Evie and Lawrence came along and shared a seat on the bus.  We arrive and unload and all the walkers start wheeling in.  Lawrence with his walker and portable oxygen tank and Evie with her walker, hunched over with it inevitably getting way out in front of her before she could catch up.  The staff at the carousel were very helpful and helped me get each resident up on the carousel.  As I went to get Evie seated on the bench she decided to throw me a curve ball.  "I want to ride on a horse." What? As she starts putting her foot up on the step to climb on.  I think I about had a heart attack at that point.  But then . . . oh yes there is more.  Lawrence wanted to ride on the horse next to Evie, with portable oxygen tank and all.  Now time for heart attack #2.  The good news, they both survived and so did I.  Not only that, but the joy on their faces as they shared this moment together going around and around on a Carousel while in their late 80s early 90s is so priceless.  I feel so blessed to have been there.  So blessed.  I so hope I have that much life left in me at that age.
Just a little more about Lawrence.  He was getting to be quite ill and as it turns out was in his last week of life when Jeff stopped by to visit one day.  I really wanted Lawrence to meet Jeff and Jeff to meet Lawrence. I had grown so close to Lawrence.  So while laying in his bed, no doubt in pain and very weak I brought Jeff in for an introduction.  This man, Lawrence, this amazing man, would not shake Jeff's hand until he stood.  He swung his legs around and was doing all he could to stand, I helped him a little and he reached out his hand to my husband.  This moment brings tears to my eyes even still and I think Jeff's too.  I know that my husband will do the same thing in his old age.  Maybe that is why I had a special fondness for Lawrence.

One more thing about Evie.  One of Evie's favorite outings was to go to a theater in Stayton to watch an old classic on the big screen.  They did this once a month and it was a late night and a free movie so I always invited Jeff to ride along.  Evie thought he was the most handsome man.  She would tease him and flirt with him and make Jeff squirm in his seat.  She called him her date and wouldn't let anyone else walk her to her seat. I loved it!  I would always tease Evie the next day that she couldn't have my man.  I think this bond between them became quite strong because a few years down the road Evie started getting dementia and it progressed the the point that she had to move to Memory Care.  Since I was now working in Memory Care a part of me was of course happy to have Evie back.  But the other part of me feared to see her slip away.  One day Jeff stopped by again and I brought him over to see Evie, and her eyes lit up.  She knew him, remembered his name at a time she was having trouble remembering me.  Sad yes, but such joy that she had built such a fondness of him on the movie dates that she could remember him. 
There was a picture up in her room of Evie sitting in a bikini, with sunglasses on, sitting in a lawn chair with her feet in a kiddie pool while sipping on a drink.  She lived life.  Such an amazing women.

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