(Originally posted on February 4th 2013. Slightly edited, because my writing has improved in three years time.)
There is nothing more beautiful to me than an old married couple.
When I saw this picture, I immediately thought of the Elgin’s, George and Virginia. I served them breakfast and lunch at an assisted living facility many years ago. George liked oatmeal with brown sugar and his daily banana. I never forgot. He would always smile at me and pat my hand. We would chitchat about the weather and whatnot for a few minutes, then I would go about my job.
Virginia liked anything that I put in front of her. She had Alzheimer’s. On a daily basis I would ask her what she wanted.
“Whatever George is having,” she would reply. Some of the time she would eat quietly. Other times, she would spoon her oatmeal into her coffee and wrap her toast in napkins.
“Now mother,” George would exclaim, “just eat your food!”
He would start grabbing at her, trying to get her to stop. They would scuffle a bit and then finally Virginia would give up the fight. I felt bad for George and the frustration he must have felt. His wife of over 60 years was slowly losing her mind and he was scared.
But he adored her, you could tell.
The way he pushed her wheelchair. The way he smiled at her. Despite how angry he got occasionally, he never stopped loving her. He took care of her as he would a child, whispering to her. Chastising her. Every so often feeding her himself. She would let him.
George started getting thinner, eating less and leaving his banana on the table. He had cancer. It went fast for him, thankfully. Within 2 months, Virginia started coming to the dining room alone. She seemed in her own world, talking about someone or someplace named “Shenandoah.”
I found myself feeding her when I could, because the nurses aid’s were always so busy. One morning, she asked me where George was. I said he was sleeping. She seemed satisfied enough.
Each time a resident died, we would have a memorial service. The family attended, plus any residents who were high functioning. George’s son stopped me while I was serving and thanked me for being so good to his dad. He loved that banana everyday and the extra care that I took with Virginia. I thanked him for the compliment and tried not to cry.
I witnessed for the first time how quickly someone can follow their soul mate after death. Virginia started to worsen in a matter of weeks. When she finally started wailing Georges name, the staff decided to keep her in her room. She was disturbing the other residents, who still enjoyed their meals in the dining room.
We had a memorial for her as well.
I learned that there was such a thing as true love. There really is.