I have nothing to live for. These were the words that Thelma whispered over and over.
Thelma had Alzheimer’s disease. It had attacked her many years ago, and if I know anything at all; it is that she shouldn’t have to suffer much more.
Her children and grandchildren used to visit quite often; but once Thelma couldn’t remember who those once familiar faces were, visitors strayed and came rarely.
I am Phil. I am her caregiver. I received a call one day from the agency I worked for. I went in for orientation and learned that family had decided they had had enough. If mom/grandma was going to forget who her own family was, then screw it. Someone else could take care of her.
It was a cloudy, brisk day, the first day I entered that home. The drapes were closed. Artificial lighting was all that could be seen. There she was, sitting in a straight chair over at the kitchen table. She didn’t say a word that I, the stranger, had just let myself in with the key given to me.
I walked over to her and introduced myself. She stared ahead, rocking back and forth. She held an old rag doll in her arms and she rocked back and forth on her chair.
I studied her for a moment, as if trying to suck in all the life that once lived in these walls. I said in a whisper , “What a shitty thing to do. I bet this woman loves her family. Instead of learning about the disease and being here in these last months, they throw her off on someone else.”
Day after day, I returned for my normal shift. I tidied the house, did her laundry, fixed her meals. I set up a Christmas tree and asked her if she would like to help decorate it. ” I have nothing to live for.”
“Yes you do Thelma. You have plenty to live for. It is almost baby Jesus’s birthday. Don’t you want to help celebrate his birthday”?
She stopped rocking and her eyes turned to my face. She said nothing, but clung tighter to her doll. I reached out my hand and placed an ornament in it. With my help, she stood, and I guided her to the tree. She looked at me and instead of seeing nothing; I saw a tear, then two.
I placed my arms around her and gave her a gentle hug. With my help, she hung the ornament. There was silence in the room so I started humming Silent Night.
She turned to me and said, “Baby Jesus, Nancy, Rita and John. I asked,” Who are Nancy, Rita and John, Thelma?” She looked me straight in the eye saying, “Children, they are my children. I have nothing to live for.”
Written by my feelings,