Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Making Possible

Phylis was in good spirits. Our New Years call to her was so much fun, it was nice to make her laugh. We met Phyl in church in Magog years ago and have kept in touch with her all the years since we moved back to Ontario. On first meeting her, I was quite frightened. She was one of those formitable old church ladies whose lips were made for pursing, not smiling. She could quote scripture with the best of them, though never did.

We met in odd circumstances. Every now and then the United Church women would take the service. The Sunday that Phyl and I became friends was one of those Sundays. In the service each of four women got up and spoke as if they were a character from the Bible. Phyl was last. Picture a tiny, perfect 80 year old woman beginning by saying, "I am not a prostitute ..." I didn't hear much of the rest of the sermon. I sat in shock both at the fact that Phyl knew what a prostitute was and at the fact that she said the word.

I was helping out with coffee that Sunday and when Phyl came down the stairs to the kitchen I saw her and called out to her, "I was so disappointed to hear you weren't a prostitute, I had my money out and ready." She glanced at me smiling and saying, "I hope you can pay in American dollars." And after a gasp of shock, everyone laughed. That was the first thing I'd ever said to Phyl, but it was be beginning of a conversation that has yet to end.

We've been together as friends through the death of her husband and through my hospitalization in Quebec. We've weathered storms as friends and whenever I need to know the source of a scripture, I just give Phyl a call. While still in Quebec we started a monthly pizza club where a few of us got together to laugh and eat pizza. We always picked Phyl up and caught up with her. Leaving Quebec was made more difficult because we knew we'd be leaving a bit of our heart behind.

And it has been hard. We felt helpless when Phyl fell and broke her hip a few months back and was hospitalized, first in Sherbrooke, then in Magog, then moved to a 'rehab home'. It looked like she wouldn't ever get back home. During that time her voice was sad and her memory started to go. But we called anyways. Through the determination that only the elderly seem to have these days, she made it back home. She can't leave her house, there are too many stairs. But she came home. Some people shop for her, others get her mail. But she's home.

It's different talking to Phyl at home than it was a the hospital or rehap center. She seems so much more happy. So content. She never complained about her long hospital stays or her time at rehab. She is thankful for the help she got. But she's glad to be home.

Phyl has a disability now. She can't walk far. She can't do stairs. But what she can do - is live at home. Be her own woman in her own place. There are a thousand decisions she can make every day in her own home - decisions that would be taken from her in hospital care. She doesn't sound captive, though she is house bound. She sounds free. Powerful. Happy.

Those of us who work in care must remember always what we do when we go to work. We make community possible. We make home a reality. We allow people to use the power they have. We make, if we do it right, happy possible.

There is no higher calling.


Belinda said...

"Those of us who work in care must remember always what we do when we go to work. We make community possible. We make home a reality. We allow people to use the power they have. We make, if we do it right, happy possible.

There is no higher calling."
Wow! That's all I can say!

lina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lina said...

ok, so I have far too much time on my hands today - but that's not my comment.
Here goes
Home, what an interesting concept. We have so many people working on what are the right words to use - imagine a world with no more group homes, no more SIL's, and we are all going to work in people's homes - a great concept - aren't we all just happier at home - let's work to make this a reality.

Lily said...

Hey Dave,

I'm still here. Whether or not I have a comment, I'm here reading you every single day. I don't miss a word. In fact I've saved every last word on "Chewing the Fat" (I've always loved your title, even before you defended it in one of your earlier posts!), comments and all... I have a Word document on my computer with all of your blogs on numbered pages and I keep an index of them, too, so I can find what I need when I want to share something important with someone else.

Does that give you some kind of idea of how important your words are? I don't know about other programs, but I know how you've affected the one where I work. Those words on these blog pages are helping to change a culture in a little group home in a little community that doesn't really want us there in Central Ontario. We've got a long way to go, but we're beginning to turn from what still looks too often like a "mini institution" (like a "program")into a place where people can feel like they're "home". It's a group home that's changing from a place where there was too much fear, insecurity and uncertainty, to a place where people are beginning to feel "safe", really safe. A place where promises are kept and simple respect is the virtue that reigns.

I keep thanking you, and encouraging you to keep writing, but really, I should be thanking you for the kids who live there. Their lives are changing and your words are helping a LOT. Once in a while, a little more often than we ever did before, we're beginning to look, I hope, like that "answered prayer" I've heard you talk about before.

Maybe someday, sooner than later, I hope, we won't need the word "group" in there anymore. And maybe we'll forget to call ourselves a "program". We'll just be "someone's home".

God bless you Dave. What you're doing? Influencing people like me who have some kind of power to do what I can to turn a "group home" into a place where people are "home"?

Yup. There is no higher calling.