Mrs Afton

Afton was an elderly lady that I had the opportunity to care for. She was in her late eighties and had suffered from 2 strokes. She was only able to move one side of her body. She wasn't able to speak and when she tried it sounded like a muffled painful cry.

She didn't like me at first. I had a short boy haircut and wore my hat backwards. I could tell she was a well kept woman held high in social standards. My duties were to get her ready for bed and make sure she had her evening pills. I knew that since she didn't like me that my job was at risk.

Her husband laid in another bed in another room. He was able to move around with help. He also had many bed sores that had to be changed. I wasn't fond of having to take care of an elderly man - let alone any male for that matter so I found myself spending more time with Afton in her room.

She would look at me from that one eye, not being able to turn her head to look at me. She seemed angry that I was there. She just wanted to be left alone. Her muffled grunts and gesturing of her hand would point to the door as if she was desperately trying to tell me to get out.

One night she rang her bell desperately and I jumped up and went in to see what the excitement was all about. She seemed to be in pain. I couldn't understand what she wanted. After several attempted tries to communicate with me she slumped back into her pillow with a heavy sigh. Deep sobs came from within her. I offered her a drink of water and tried to see if there was anything wrong with her machines or tubes.

Afton was a well built woman and upon first glance she didn't appear to be sick or frail. It seemed as though any minute she would sit up and get out of bed. It was so hard to see her paralyzed in her body and not being able to care for herself. I often thought about the emotional hardship that would be - to be of sound mind and not be able to move her body. The stroke left her paralyzed. Frozen in her bed with no escape.

I took a hot wash cloth and gently washed her face. I was crying for her. I took her hands in mine and rubbed lotion on them trying to be as tender as I possible could. She allowed me to do that and our eyes met and although I had no idea how she was feeling or what she was thinking I knew at that instant that she had let me into her world. She was allowing me to be her friend.

We had many more touching moments and when I arrived for duty she would ring her bell as if saying - I know you are here and I want to see you. She would attempt a half smile when I walked into her room and I could see in her eyes the sincerity of her love. The nightly routine now included the hot wash cloth and hand massage. Once I took her a small ivory vase with roses engraved on it filled with tiny wild flowers. She grunted her muffled approval.

My life went on and my schedule changed. I moved and didn't have the opportunity to visit her. Oh how I wish I had made time. She lived for many more years and in fact my mother was able to take care of her for a time. I visited my mom while she was taking care of Afton and I saw that she still had my ivory rose vase. I would like to say that she remembered me but her eyes were distant and I wondered where she was. Was she wrapped in memories? Was she thinking about heaven?

I can't wait to get to heaven. Afton will be there and she will be free from all her physical limits and we will talk as old friends do.


tammy said...

What a sweet story. How frustrating that would be to be like Afton. I'm sure she appreciated you more than you know and will be waiting to thank you when that time comes.

Cynthia said...

What a beautiful story. The smallest gestures can convey so much. How sweet of you to bring her the flowers.

I have a friend who is a quadrepeligc. He can talk but do little for himself. He says that feeling of being trapped in your body is so clausterphobic that it's really hard to get used to. I so hope I'm never called upon to bear that personally.

I had my own 'Afton'- except her name was Martha. A sweet, wondeful woman who I was privliged to know and hope to meet again.

Oh- and my little sis named her daughter Afton. People seem to think she made that name up.