I go in the morning to help her with breakfast. Sometimes when I get there, she is still sleeping and I sit by her bed until breakfast comes. She will tell you that she never sleeps here, but as I sit by her bed, she is sleeping soundly and I let her sleep.
When she is woken up by the nurse, she is almost always cheerful and says "Heeeyyyyy!" and she gives them a sweet little wave using her fingers on her right hand. And then I come into her line of vision and say "Good morning sweetie". She reaches out to me to give me a hug and says "Heeeyyyyyy! I've been missing you".
When I went to visit Ruth at her house (across the street from us) she would always say the same things to me: "I've been missing you" when she sees me, and "Come back" when I leave. She always said these two sentiments to me, even if the last time I saw her was that morning when I brought her the newspaper. I always felt welcome, wanted and loved.
One day, we were sitting outside in her yard and she told me that my name should have been "Jewel". Because that is what I am. I am a "Jewel" to her*. It's a name she calls me often and she will always tell me exactly why she calls me Jewel.
Ruth was my very first friend here in South Carolina. Our house was built on her property. Ginger was with us when we moved here and I was taking her for a walk when I first met Ruth. She was in her front yard with her granddaughter Katelyn and I went over and introduced myself.
I told Ruth that I am out every morning with Ginger and if she liked, I could bring her newspaper to her door. It was January and it was cold and dark in the morning and I was concerned about her walking on the gravel driveway to get her paper. She said to me, "Well, I suppose that would be alright". It wasn't long after that I started to bring her cookies and the afternoon mail. Soon, I would be taking her to the library, doctors and store. She has been my best friend ever since.
I like to visit Ruth in the morning, at first it was because I was concerned she wasn't eating. The staff at Magnolia Place are all very hard working health care aides and they have a lot of patients to attend to. I wanted to be there so I could help Ruth and I wanted to be sure that she ate. She is doing better and can feed herself, but now it has become something that we both look forward to. Our early morning visits.
I am at Magnolia Place most mornings before the administrative staff arrives. Most of the patients are still in bed, although some are up and in the dining room and hallway. They are in their wheelchairs, put into place and rarely do they move beyond where they are placed.
As I walk the two hallways to Ruth's room, I see a lot of the same residents. I always look them in the eye and smile and say "good morning". Some just stare as I walk by and some smile and return the greeting.
During my 20's and 30's, I was working both full and part time, taking night classes and I was a member of the CT Army National Guard. It sounds like a lot, but now, to me as I walk these halls past the residents, it just sounds like a bunch of excuses. I was not a very good granddaughter and it shames me to I admit that. As I walk the second hallway, I vow to be a better person and give Ruth, my family and my friends my whole heart.
If it is ready, I pick up Ruth's tray off the cart as I'm walking by. I know how Ruth likes her grits, with just a little bit of butter and salt, and that she really, really likes orange juice. The first thing I do when I get her tray is unwrap her juice, put the straw in the glass and hand the glass to her. She doesn't put the glass down until it is empty. The second glass she savors and drinks as she eats her breakfast. She's not a big eater and soon I am taking her tray away.
When I return, I lower her bed, turn off the overhead light and turn on "The Golden Girls". Ruth can't hear the TV, but the characters are always very animated and Ruth follows along by watching their facial expressions. Soon, Ruth will fall asleep, but before she does, I tell her I am going. I don't want her to wake up and see an empty chair. She reaches out to give me a hug and a kiss. She tells me she loves me and to "Come back".
I leave and walk back down the two hallways saying goodbye to the staff and residents I see on my way out. I get in my car, and before I start it, I always take a moment to thank God for this wonderful friendship I have with Ruth. And I thank God for Toni who so kindly shares her mother with me.
I can not change the person I was in my younger years, but I can try to be a better person today. And yes Ruth, I will "Come back". Most definitely.