By Deborah Zagorski
Back in mid-2014, I was given a wonderful opportunity. I was asked to provide caregiving services for a lovely woman in my neighborhood. This lady and I had been acquaintances for some time and now our relationship was entering a new era. I was going to become my friend’s caregiver, a personal assistant, if you will. My friend, who was given a diagnosis of dementia, was in need of a bit extra support. Little did we know how much this relationship would enhance both our lives.
Like any new relationship, we had to get to know one another better. I would come to her home after lunch and we would begin our day. It was summertime and one of the things we enjoyed doing was taking a walk in our neighborhood. “Did you grab your hat?” I asked. “Please remember your sunglasses.” We walk carefully around taking note of people and dogs and mailboxes that looked as though they were going to topple over. We walk cautiously along the sidewalk noting the unevenness. We venture to our park. The park was redone in 2015 and we had been carefully monitoring its progress during the year. We look at the playground equipment, sit on a bench and take note of the newly planted tree that we believe is planted too close to the gazebo. We soon continue our walk and visit with a friend or two along the way. We go back to her home and have a snack.
My friend teaches me about cooking and also her Chinese culture. We prepare the vegetable that will go with her family’s dinner tonight. What have I learned you wonder? I learned that the stem of broccoli can be shaved and cut and prepared just as the flowerets. Wow! I will no longer throw out those fibrous stems! I know about vegetables, such as gai lan, and how to prepare them. My friend taught me how to use a rice cooker. She knows I get nervous when she uses a knife to chop vegetables and tells me I worry way too much. Another tip she shared with me: add a bit of baking soda to a bowl of water with green beans to “rinse” them before cooking. Awesome tip!
My friend and I are regular indoor track walkers at The Lemont Park District. Three days a week we show our I.D. cards, check in and ride the elevator to the second floor. We see which direction the walkers are moving today. We peek out the door and step out on to the track. We walk at a beautiful pace. We talk and listen to the music playing in the background. Each day we walk one half mile which is five laps. My friend keeps track of our laps using her fingers. One finger down for each lap completed. We have friends at the part district that bring a smile to our faces.
A place that we discovered in 2015 is the public library. We enjoy spending time at The White Oak Library District in Lockport and also The Lemont Public Library. We like the fact that the library is a wonderfully quiet place that is warm and has comfy seating. Each time we visit the library, we use a mental checklist of the items we need. “Do you have your reading glasses? What about a snack?” The two of us are avid readers and my dear friend is a huge fan of Danielle Steel. I feel her excitement when she selects a new novel. I see her emotion as she journeys through her book. I hear laughter and I see tears.
Our time together involves routine but is not exclusively rigid. I get the mail daily. We take care of the garbage and recycling bins weekly. We take trips to the post office, Walgreens, Office Max, etc. Sometimes we watch T.V., Steve Harvey or Ellen, but not as much now since we rediscovered the intrigue of our neighborhood library.
My friend shares stories of her life. Some I hear often, some are new. I listen attentively and really appreciate the beauty that is her life and experience. I’m thinking of writing some of these stories down. I wonder if her family members receive the same information. If not, this would be a wonderful gift to them and this is indeed the legacy of a most wonderful woman.
Please note, my position as caregiver requires me keeping my friend safe and providing for her. I, however, have experienced her caregiving for me and it was amazing. I experienced an unusual numbness and discoloration in one of my fingers. It came on suddenly. I was obviously troubled, so was she. We made a plan to see my doctor and my friend accompanied me on my visit. After an adjustment by my chiropractor, things were looking up. My dear friend kept me calm and cool and was a terrific companion. Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without her.
We share some of those ‘laugh so hard that you cry’ laughing spells. They are so healing. We share tears as she speaks of her gentle-spirited husband and his patient ways and how much she misses him.
When we are together, I am present to her and any and all of her needs. Some days are confusing. I reassure her. Some days are tiring for my friend so that means we take it slow. I am always very aware of moods and mood changes and situations that make her feel uncomfortable. One of the best things I can do is be a good listener. She is wise in her knowledge and life experiences and is so witty and charming. Each day teaches me more and more about unconditional love. Saying that brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.
This week is my friend’s birthday. At first she did not want to acknowledge it, but soon decided we should see a movie together. Great! I have a birthday card in the mail complete with a “Happy Birthday” postage stamp and I have a few choice birthday presents I can hardly wait to give her.
As much as I may make a difference in my friend’s life, she has forever etched her love and beauty and friendship in my heart. Thank you to my dear friend and her family! I have been blessed.
Deborah Zagorski is an Independent Distributor with Young Living Essential Oils and host of A Night of Grace, a monthly prayer group. Her interests include energy healing, crystals, Tai Chi and Feng Shui. If you have comments or questions on this article, feel free to e-mail Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org .