Tuesday, July 5, 2016

To Visit or Not to Visit

     A recent essay of mine (click here to view), published in Metro HNL described my eighty-six year old Aunt Julie who is suffering ill health and the recent loss of doting husband and family man Uncle Tani. She specified, “No visitors or phone calls”, because she needed quiet time to recover while she convalesced in a care home. In the essay I described some of my love and appreciation for her, what she'd done and shown me through the years, and my concern that she may have lost her will to live, and that I wished to say “Thank you” and Goodbye”—just in case.
     More recently, I felt called to visit her. I thought she might appreciate it and I didn't want to later regret not having gone and tried despite discomfort I'll feel for having disobeyed her instructions. I felt maybe she didn't want people to see her sick so I envisioned waving a white flag before her open doorway and calling to her and perhaps speaking to her solely hidden from view. And I felt our closeness—never a harsh word exchanged—would encourage a quick reconciliation if offense was taken.
     When I called the care home and asked regarding whether Auntie Julie specified visitor restrictions, the nurse said, “None at all.” The nurse at the sign-in visitor's station was happy to see Jaren and me there an hour or two later.
     A TV blared within. I waved in slow figure eights a white sheet of paper mounted to the end of a croquet mallet shaft in front of the door and called, “Auntie Julie? Auntie Julie?”
     There was no answer so I took a peak in and saw a privacy curtain that shielded her bed from view. I tried again from within with only the flag visible beyond the curtain's end.
     “Who's there?” she asked.
     I stepped forward and didn't recognize the frail elderly woman lying flat on her back in bed. “Auntie Julie?” I asked.
     “Yes,” she said. “Who are you?”
     “Tim. Do you mind a visit?” I then recognized something about her expressive eyes and raspy nasal voice that calmed me.
     It was a brief visit as she said she told my mom she didn't want visitors because she needed rest for her heart. She allowed us to leave small gifts—two scones made by Deanne and a wooden alphabet block wrapped by Jaren in his artwork scribbles that she didn't bother to open—even as she smiled and joked about us being Santa Claus and commented on Jaren being cute and having grown so much.
     She was appreciative—no scoldings—but firm and gentle when she said “bye” twice to prompt our departures.
     “Can I at least hug and kiss you?” I asked.
     In her biggest smile yet, she said, “You can shake my hand,” which Jaren and I did.
     It'd been far better than I'd feared, but far less than I'd hoped. I'd had fanciful notions of talking story for over an hour, sharing about our family, hearing about hers, and making visits with her a regular thing—perhaps twice a month or more. Then again I'd dreaded the shock and hurt of a sharp rebuke. I'd pictured me crying tears of joy for a heartfelt welcome. Regardless, I'm glad that we went and obeyed that simple God's prompting.

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