Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Care Partner Wednesday--The Milk Police

"We've got a problem."

Megan's delightful British accent and belly laugh were my favourites, but she wasn't laughing today. She pulled me aside with a frown and confided to me in a low tone the seriousness of what they were facing.

Someone at their table for four was wasting milk.

She asked for a full glass of milk each morning, and only drank half of it. Every day. This was wasteful.

I understood that these ladies had lived through the depression. Two of them had come when they were children from Britain as evacuees and lived as guests among Canadian families. All of them knew how it felt to do without and to scrimp to make ends meet. I understood how waste annoyed and angered them. I also knew they were at a point in their lives which some people reach, where their worlds shrink and the minuscule becomes enormous. Still--

Perhaps the problem could be solved with half a glass of milk. Maybe she only wanted a swallow and we were giving her too much. We tried this solution, and the unthinkable happened. She asked for more.

I cringed, listening to the lecture. "You must finish it. You're wasting." This was said in a tone saved for only mortal sins.

When mobility falters and life is lived in one small room, some elders allow their worlds to shrink, and they become petty. They are interested mainly in themselves and their perception of how things should be. They can be difficult to serve and at times, difficult to love. They might isolate themselves and worry needlessly about the minutia of life. Families start to dread visiting as mom only wants to complain.

I'm thankful that this is a choice and not one everyone makes it. Tomorrow, I have the tremendous privilege of speaking at the service of someone who chose to live her final days in a different way. Although she could no longer see and her body weakened until she couldn't walk, she maintained her dry sense of humour and her adventuresome spirit. If something was happening, it just might be fun, and she felt she'd better give it a try. A great friend, she was kind to everyone. The staff who served her loved her and fought for her to have the best quality of life possible. Tomorrow I get to honour her.

Tomorrow also, I need to sit with the ladies before their friend arrives for breakfast and tell them, in the kindest and most respectful way, to lay off. That they're not the milk police. That their friend and how she's made to feel is more important than two ounces of milk.

But there's a lesson here. I can be petty when a co-worker annoys me or a family member snubs me. I can close my door and isolate myself rather than looking for new adventures. As I age, I have a choice in how I live and interact with others.

I choose to not be the milk police.

Care Partner Wednesday--The Milk Police

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